Ep. 16: We Love Because He First Loved Us - 1 John 4
May 18, 2020 Speaker: Jeff Brewer
Topic: Encouragement Passage: 1 John 4
Hello, Hope Fellowship! Welcome to our podcast “Full of Hope: Encouraging One Another with the Word of God,” where we seek to regularly equip the people of Hope Fellowship with truth from Scripture in order to help us cling to our Savior during troubled times.
Last time we looked at the love of God from John 3:16. Today, we’re going to look at 1 John 4 and consider how the love of God is a powerful motivator for loving others. Love is so prevalent in 1 John 4 that it caused William Tyndale to say, when he came to this chapter, “John sings his old song again.” And sing he does! John, in just these fourteen verses alone, uses some form of the word love 27 times! He wants God’s love and our response to provide some assurance to the believer.
In verse 8, John wrote “God is love,” which means, as John Stott wrote, “All his activity is loving activity.” It is a concise definition that shows us that all of who God is the standard for true love. And this love is seen most clearly and fully in the person and work of Jesus.
Read 1 John 4:9–10:
“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
We don’t define love by professing or demonstrating love for God—love is defined by how God shows us love in how he has revealed his Son—“that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Propitiation is a word that means averting wrath and bestowing favor. Jesus’s death averted the wrath of God due to us for our sins by taking it upon himself at the cross as our substitute. This act not only took on the wrath of God but also bestowed his favor—we are able to understand and enjoy the love of God.
When we understand this love, God doesn’t intend that it just stays in our hearts. He intends for it to spill out to others. He puts it concisely in verse 19: “We love because he first loved us.”
Thomas Manton said, “Love is like an echo. What it receives, it returns.”
The love we see at the cross did not originate with us—we are only reflecting, or echoing, the love that we have seen at the cross back to him or to others—a self-sacrificing, others-focused love.
For the Christian, since the cross is at the heart of God’s love for us and is at the center of Scripture, love should be the predominant note of our lives. In the church, we should be marked by love in our fellowship with one another.
The world loves those who give something to us—whether that be intimacy or care or just a good feeling for helping someone. Here’s Paul Tripp’s definition of love based on God’s cross-centered love:
Love is willing self-sacrifice for the good of another that does not require reciprocation or that the person being loved is deserving.1
Christian love for one another is a self-sacrificial love. That’s the kind of love that shows forth the power of the cross in a person’s life. If you are a Christian, you have been loved with the ultimate in self-sacrificial love in Christ. He is now calling you to lay down your supposed rights and what you think you deserve or who deserves what you have and love for the good of others and the glory of God.
But let’s be honest—we all fail at this. We’ve hurt others and we’ve been hurt. We all have longings for love from others that are not fulfilled completely. What we expect in love from others is not what we always receive, and the love we would expect to receive is not what we give. So what do you do when you fail at loving others or you are hurt by others by not being loved the way you would like?
Two things to focus on today when we feel this way: We return to the cross, and we have our expectations shaped by the cross.
We return to the cross quickly and often. We remember the love we have been shown and we keep that love as the ultimate standard for love—not our broken promises or unmet expectations.
We keep our expectations in line with the cross. In other words, don’t expect to receive love that can only be fulfilled by God. We don’t love others so that they will change into what we want them to be, but rather we love them because of who they are in Christ. And for those who don’t know Christ, we love them with a Christ-like love that loves them enough to show them who they can become in Christ not who they are at present.
Again, John Stott summarizes it well:
The unseen God, who once revealed himself in his Son, now reveals himself in his people if and when they love one another.2
He has shown us his glory in the face of Jesus Christ and now we are visual aides of Christ’s love to all those around us.
And so, Hope Fellowship: remember, we have been shown love in Christ at the cross—let’s be a people who display this love to others as we love them. We love because he first loved us.
See you next time.
- Paul David Tripp, What Did You Expect? (Wheaton: Crossway, 2004), 188.
- John Stott, The Letters of John, (Downers Grove, Intervarsity Press, 2014), 166–167.
Music by Joseph. McDade https://josephmcdade.com Used with permission.