God is Love – Understanding the Truth in 1 John 4

By lan Warner


One of the most popular ways that people refer to God stems from 1 John chapter 4. People will tell others that "God is Love" and feel really good about this statement.

What many don't know is how far this verse is often taken out of context. The reason God is Love is because of Jesus Christ, and you cannot separate the two of them. 

God is Love is an excellent example of why you should always try to read the bible in sections instead of just taking one verse. You want to know what the text says before and after a verse to understand it better.

When people throw around the term "God is Love," what they are often saying is that God loves all. God loves people regardless of what they do, think, or believe. It may be hard for many to take in, but this is not true.

1John 4: 7-12

 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 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. 10 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. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.


Book: 1 John

Verses: Chapter 4: 7-12

Context: John is writing to assure believers of the certainty of their faith and to push back against the idea that Jesus was not fully human and fully God at the same time. 

Main Point of Chapter: How to Abide in God 

Main Point of Section: Love comes from God because he made the ultimate sacrifice and gave up his son, who lived a perfect life to take on our sins. 

Takeaways: When you read the entire section, you realize that it's not at all saying that God loves all and everything. God is too holy to be in a relationship with sin. For you and I to have a relationship with Him, our sins had to be paid for. When we just say God is love without the proper context, we take away from the saving work of Jesus Christ. 

How God Showed His Love

When you know God, you know love. You understand the depths of love, not because of how great you are or how special that girl is. 

Love stems from God's example of chasing after broken people. 

In the Old Testament, you see time after time that God gives his people a chance to do the right thing, and they keep messing it up.

We are separated from Him because of sin, but he loves us enough to create away. 

That was through Jesus Christ. Verse 10 says, "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."

John 3:16 says, " For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."
God is love, but his love is through Jesus Christ.
 

Most people have no problem uttering the name of God, but the name of Jesus is different. But earlier in the chapter, it tells you how to even test spirits. You know a spirit is of God when it will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

The Gospel is Inclusive and Exclusive 

Here is the cool thing about the Gospel that does not fit the current narrative of this world. The Gospel is both inclusive and exclusive at the same time. 

What this means is that the gift of Jesus Christ is free for anyone who wants to believe and accept him into their hearts.

It's not for any specific, color, country, tribe, or tongue. The great commission is clear, it says go and make disciples of all nations.

At the same time, though, the Gospel is exclusive, and that does not fit the narrative of modern-day society. We want to believe that everyone is good and everyone gets to heaven. That is not what the text says, though. 

John 14: 6-7, "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also, From now on you do know him and have seen him.'"

The Gospel is also exclusive because it's promises are only for those who believe in Jesus Christ. That is the only way, and The Bible makes that clear. 

The Call is To Love Others 

The second thing that is clear from the text is that we all need to love others. God's example of love is sacrificial because he gave up his only Son so that we could be saved. It means that when you love someone, you are willing to give up something. 

  • Time 
  • Talent 
  • Resources 

These are the three things that we can sacrifice to love others. The reason it's not easy to love people is that all of these three things are limited. No one has an unlimited amount of time, talent, or resources. 

That is the point, though. To love others, you have to give up your limited resources. That is true love. It's not about the bubbly feelings, it's about making a choice to sacrifice for another person. 

Here is the kicker of this all. If you don't love, then you don't know God. That is a strong statement, but it's obvious. There is no misinterpretation with this verse. 

When we love others unconditionally and sacrifice for them, it's a reflection of God's character. 

Boast In God's Love to Others 

As you become more mature in your faith in Jesus Christ, you begin to feel so much joy inside because of His Love and Grace.

You understand just how broken and sinful you are, and that the only thing you really deserve is death. Instead, God loved you so much that he sent his perfect son to die in your place.

Talking about this never gets old. It presents a perfect opportunity to Boast in Christ.

People will see you giving up your beautiful talents, time, and resources and wonder what you have in you that they don't. They will feel your love on a new level and be intrigued by how you're doing it. 

It presents the perfect opportunity to praise Jesus for it all. You were once lost and living for things of this world that did not matter, and yet Jesus found you. 

Why not help other people find that same life and grace in Jesus? The better you love others, the more it points to the Love God has for us.

lan Warner

About the author

Ian Warner is a believer, husband, and father of three. He grew up running track in Toronto before earning a scholarship to Iowa State University. At Iowa State, he became an All-American and made the 2012 Olympic team. He currently helps people to build better habits and follow Jesus Christ.

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