1 John 4:16-21 | Live in Love


Live in Love


1 John 4:16-21

Key Verse 16b


“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.”


Good Morning. Today we will continue our study on 1 John 4. Continuing from verse 16b through 21. And really this is what I am doing continuing from where Nonso left off last week on love.  You see, what John has been doing in this section of chapter 4 is telling us about love, and it’s connection to God and God’s connection to us through love. He seems to be focusing on a few points repeatedly, though coming at them from slightly different angle and establishing a few other points in the process. In fact if we look back at the previous chapters, we see aspects of this passage in them. But now, Just taking a look from verse 7 onwards we see certain points develop. Here is a rendering of the development that might help:


  • God is love.
  • In fact, He is the source of love.
  • He revealed his love by offering his son as a sacrifice for our sins.
  • That love was one way love.
  • When we personally accept that love, we are born again and God begins to live in us and we live in him.
  • And the evidence of this is that we love our brothers.


Of course this is just a simple rendering of John’s tapestry. He expounds on certain points, like the Holy Spirit and God’s judgment, and he even gives us a little test at the end. And we all love tests don’t we?


Let’s commence in Prayer


Our key verse is 16b, let’s read it together. “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.”


So, the passage starts out with this declaration that God is love. I am sure we’ve all heard this saying at one point in our life; a commonly used, but commonly abused statement. What then does it mean that God is love? It means that God’s nature itself is love. It means that love is a defining characteristic of God. Think of water. One thing we associate with water is it being wet. Right? Just as you can’t separate that wetness from water, we cannot separate love from God. They are intertwined, inseparable. But it doesn’t stop here. Let’s do a little jumping.


Let’s read 1 John 4:19. “We love because he first loved us.” Do you see that? Not only is God love, but he is also the originator of love. We love because he loved us. Yes, God loves me and God loves you. As a father toward a child, he has shown his love to us time and time again— in small ways and big ways— though sometimes we don’t recognize it or appreciate it. How many times do we stop to thank God for what he has given us? For our parent’s; for the mere fact that we are alive; For the fact that you have a home; for spiritual people who give us guidance. Or even more simply the fact that you can see and walk? Yes even those are gifts. Just ask the person who has no eyes or no leg how precious these things are to them. We often tend to see life in light of what we don’t have instead of what we do have, and as such miss the things we have right in front of us, thereby missing the chance to appreciate and give thanks for those things. In as much as the blessings God has given us are grand, there is none so defining or all encompassing of his love as the priceless gift of his son.


Let’s rewind to last week a bit and read verse 9: “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” But what was the state of our relationship with God before that? Was it one of tranquil bliss? Was it all Hunky-dory? Was it as simple and innocent as? We are a simple loving happy family living in the woods, and just by chance we  wondered off— So our dad, send our big brother Jesus to find us and save us? No, While we were in a sense lost, this story isn’t nearly so innocent. Romans 5:8 explains our former situation pretty well. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Paul goes on to tell us in verse 10, that we were actually enemies of God. So remarkably, despite being repelled by our sin, despite our hostility to God, God still loved us! If  you want to get a vague picture of this, try loving and hugging a skunk and maybe you’ll begin to appreciate this.


The thing is, in the gospel truth God didn’t just send his Son to help and lead us, but he sent his Son knowing full well and for the purpose of him dying for us. Such is the magnitude and maturity of God’s love for us that He was willing to sacrifice his own son! A concept I still can’t full appreciate, and I am sure you neither. But perhaps a concept the parents among us can better appreciate. But this hurtful sacrifice was made for us because our loving God desired that we be saved if we but only accept his love and all that goes with it.


Look at the rest of verse 16b. “Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” This statement is an affirmation based on the points John had established earlier in the chapter. Let’s break it down for a second. Whoever lives in love lives in God. Is this statement saying in order to be save we need to love? No, we just got done saying we are saved through accepting what Jesus did on the cross for us. We have to consider the writing style and technique when considering cause and effect. The statement used to develop this point earlier on can be found in verse 7. “Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” Before we can do anything, before we can love, we have to been born again. Specifically, we have to be born of God. And the means of this birth is through his demonstration of his love by means of Christ Jesus.


Let’s read Verse 9. “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” We love because he loved us. And that love was one sided. But there is another component to this equation. “Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” What is this whole business about—  “and God in him”? And how do I even know he in fact lives in me? Let’s read verse 13: ”We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.” This is a weighty statement. And as someone who we are fond of is usually inclined to say: “I can preach a whole message on this one verse.” But I won’t! When we are born again God’s Holy Spirit comes to live in us— Changing us— guiding us— strengthening us. Verse 16b speaks of our communion with God’s Holy Spirit and his loving grace and the fruit of love that results from it. This interaction teaches, prompts and encourages us to love; even empowering us to love and much more.


Are we talking about just any kind of love?  Not really! The world has been granted a certain capacity to love; and by worldly love I am not just limiting the field to the lower form of love like Eros love. That is simply lust. No! We are talking about a different type of love besides worldly love. To get an idea of the contrast between God’s love and worldly love, here’s what Luke 6: 32 and 35 say: “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them.” (32) “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” (35)


So it is not the type of love that says you make me happy, so I will love you in return. But watch out, you cross me or do something to hurt me and our relationship is done, well at least until you buy me a car or do something to make it up. But even then I am still holding this grudge over you, I still have one over you and will use it to my advantage when the opportunity presents itself. No, the love here says I love you because He 1st loved me. I don’t love you because you love me but because he loved me. I love you because he showed me what love truly is, by loving me when I was unlovable and despites all my faults. So, I will love you the same way regardless. I will love you with sacrificial love, even if you don’t say thank you in return.


In 1 Corinthians 13 we see what godly love is like. Love “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (6-7) There is so much that comes out of this love that we have in Christ Jesus. We see one such blessing in verse 17. It reads: “In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.” We see that one fruit that we have from our love union with God is that in it’s completed (or perfected [ESV]) form we have confidence on the day of judgment. But, let’s start with confidence.


Many have a sense of false confidence. And this is because they don’t know or accept what Jesus says. Some outright don’t accept him or claim there is no judgment. Some falsely reason, that if God is love then he will take all to heaven. Some think that perhaps if I am good enough and follow some religious set of rules I will be okay on the day of judgment. But scriptures debunks all of these misconceptions.. In as much as one of God’s main attributes is love, we would be remiss not recognizing our holy and just God is way more than that. This is why it is important to know and read for ourselves what the word of God says in its entirety to know who God is and what his word says about such things as judgment. Incomplete knowledge can be just as bad as no knowledge at all. Those with misplaced confidence will turn to fear on the day of judgment. As Hebrew 10:31 says: “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”


We are confident, but why are we confident? Let look at verse 17. “In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.” According to verse 17, it is because we are like him. The him in question is Christ, God in the form of a man— A true example of what it means to love in this world. Look at it this way when God see us it is as though he sees Christ; the righteousness of Christ is imputed onto us. With reference to what we saw earlier, he see us guiltless of sin because Christ paid the penalty of our sin, which was death. What’s more, God demands us to live perfect lives. But hey that’s no problem for me. I am already perfect. But seriously, this is impossible, this is why he imputes righteousness to us through trusting in what he did— as the Bible tells us: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). This is why, I said when God looks at us it is as if he sees Jesus. And once we are in Christ, this confidence is to be had in the good time or in bad. As if that is not enough, because God’s love and Holy Spirit is working in us, as stated earlier, we begin to love with godly love as we are sanctified. And so we are confident.


Let read verse 18: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” We know the character of our God. We know that God would never lie to us. He would not deceive us on such a matter. He has already demonstrated the lengths he is willing to go through for us. And in response to believing and receiving that, we can continue in that love relationship. We can reciprocate that love by having confidence in our God knowing that his grace is enough. And as such we don’t have to fear judgment.


Fear can be so debilitating. We are so caught up in fear of punishment we can’t fully embrace the new life given us. Fear can cause such emotional and horrific dread about what God will do to us because of our sin. We spend our time pining away about how God will punish us for being bad. We sometimes give up on God and everything else saying what is the use. I will never be good enough. Fear just hinders us in our walk with God. As such we can’t come to him in faith or in prayer or serve him well because we are unsure of our standing in his eyes. Is he going to punish me, is he not? Fear can leave us complacent and moping, utterly useless to God. Being unable to commune properly with God and enjoy the peace and happiness that he freely offers in him. If we do fear, that mean there is something wrong with us. We are not fully accepting and embracing God’s love. We need to repent of this. Ask God to help you in this. And be truly earnest and sincere in this matter. But there is one more component to this. The love we receive, we have to pass it on. God being the source, love needs to flow through us on to others. We can’t allow love to stop in us. It can’t be allowed to stagnate. Or else it becomes unhealthy and it can’t be made perfect or complete.


Let’s read verses 19 to 21. “We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. “ We already spoke a bit about verse 19, how God is the initiator of love. How his love was one way. How it was not because we loved him, but he loved us despite our hostility to him. Now let’s take a look at the test in verses 20 to 21. Or you can think of it as a measuring stick as to whether or not love is complete or perfect.


Yes we say we love God, but words are cheap. Loving God is practical, it is not just emotional. How can you say you love God in your words, when you don’t lift a finger to love his children right in front of you. In your relationship, are you envious, are you boastful, are you proud, are you rude, are you self seeking, are you easily angered or are you keeping a record of wrong. Perhaps refusing to make a mends with so and so for a misunderstanding or a fight. Then your love is still not complete. Look to Jesus for help and continue in him until that love is made perfect. Continue in his command to love, which in some ways isn’t really a command at all but the natural progression of love; it is important to bear the fruit of love. And so I close with this. Let’s read our key verse again 16b. “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.”


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