“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. 12 No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Yeshua is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the Day of Judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us. If a man says, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this Commandment has we from him that he who loveth God loves his brother also.” (1 John 4:7–21) (Also read Acts 8:26–40; Psalm 22:25–31; John 15:1–8) In this teaching we look at a text from 1 John that calls us to love God and one another in what he calls perfected love.
The text has two words in it that make up all there is of religion: love and fear. Pagan religions are founded on fear of their gods. Christianity’s substance however is love. There are four possibilities of the love and fear spoken of by John. First, there are those who have neither fear nor love. They are hardened sinners. They do not love the Lord or fear him. The second are those who fear without love. This fear can be used to lead a person to the Lord. He is looking for a way out of the state of fear he is in. The third are those who have both love and fear. A majority of professing Christians are in this mixed state. Their motivation to serve the Lord is mostly out of fear and not love. The fourth are those who love without fear, which John calls perfect love. It is perfect in the sense of being whole. Such love is not static and finished but developing and alive with virtue. Perfect love is filled with joy.
I.) Perfected love is God’s gift to us. “By this we know that we abide in Him and He is us, because He has given us of His Spirit . . . the Father has sent His Son . . .” (vv. 13–14). We don’t know love or how to love, except that God has shown us. One may wrap the whole testimony of God around this truth and not leave much out! It is the most startling fact of this present age and the most profound hope of the future. Here it is: God is love and God loves us. Forty-five times in these brief five chapters, the love God has for His people is described. In 3:1, “See what love the Father has for us that we should be called the children of God.” In 4:7, “Love is of God . . . for God is love.” In 4:10, we love God but not first, instead, “he first loved us and gave his Son as a sacrifice for our sins.” Of all the benefits God provided through the act of creation, here is the most excellent of all. God is love; and God loves us. I once knew a young man who had a great and wonderful thought. But it was a thought kept secret for a long time. But then, one day to a beautiful young girl, he put the thought into words and said, “I love you.” The thought, at one time concealed, kept secret, became a far more elevated thought, once it took on the flesh of spoken words. God had forever had a great thought and then, at the fullness of time, He spoke it through Yeshua. To the entire world, God is love; and God loves us!
II.) Perfected love overcomes fear. “We have boldness on the day of judgment . . . for perfect love casts out fear” (vv. 17–18). Here is the confidence we have for the Day of Judgment. However one view such a day, the full truth is that someday each of us will stand to face eternity. Death will come. There is no escaping. The greater question is, what then? I realize that death is a fearful thing to discuss, but discuss it we should. I ask this. What are the images you hold of life beyond death? Are they pleasant, hopeful and happy? Or are they foreboding, dark and gloomy and filled with fear? Here is a place our faith makes a difference. The ancient cartographers did their best to chart the courses of the earth’s continents and seas based on their limited travels. In those places where no one had travelled, they drew on their maps fearful images: beasts, sea monsters and dragons. They declared a present and awful danger ahead. How happy then is the hope of faith. In that uncharted place; death and beyond; there are such dismal images. Drawn there is the lovely face of Yeshua Christ, who has gone before us! When the days of earthly life end, we can go like sceptics of any age: “I have no fear of punishment; no promise of reward . . . and I don’t care. This is a fearful leap into the darkness.” There lies ahead the greatest adventure yet. I’m going home.”
III.) Perfected love builds community. “The command we have from Him is this: “those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also” (verse 21). If you love God, you will love one another. Here is the basic image of the Christian home and the Christian Church. Genesis 2 tells of it. The man and the woman were together in a garden. God called to them, brought them into what looks like a wedding service and declared, “For this cause you shall leave parents and cleave to one another . . . and the two shall become one” (Genesis 2:24). These were two different people brought together into one shared relationship. It is the same today.
We enter a marriage from different backgrounds, varied family traditions and practices, carrying into marriage all the baggage of life. We are called to move together in healthy sense of mutual respect and profound appreciation of one another. Their “becoming one,” as the Genesis passage declares, doesn’t happen on the wedding night or in the first year. It might happen in ten years but maybe not for much longer. Such oneness doesn’t mean that one is absorbed into the other, so that one person’s identity is denied and the other’s is elevated. It means the two find commonality in the bond of love that holds them together; under the commitment they’ve made to God. The end result is the grandest experience of grace this side of heaven. It truly can be a bit of heaven on earth. What God intends for Christian marriage God also intends for the Christian Church. We are community before we are anything else. And if we are not community, then we really can’t be much else. It all begins here. John, in the gospel that bears his name, records the prayer of Yeshua (chapter 17).
In it Yeshua prays for the development of such a sense of community among his followers: “Father, make them one even as you and I are one.” But notice the reason. Not so that we can get along better, as important as that may be. The purpose is even higher: “That the world may believe.” Our sense of community may well be our finest evangelism! Perhaps emblazoned across our lives this motto can read: “What happens to you matters to me.”