The Necessity of Biblical Love
in the Believer’s Life
(a study of 1 John 4:7-8)
by Bob Burridge ©2020
1 John 4:7-8, (ESV)
7. Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
8. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
The first part of this passage calls us to be loving one another.
1 John 4:7a, “Beloved, let us love one another, …” The is an exhortation to believers.
This biblical kind of love is different qualitatively when compared with what the world calls “love”. God defines the love he calls us to in his written word. It clarifies what our lost soul confuses when left to itself.
When fallen people say they love, it’s centered on meeting needs on a human-centered foundation. It may be that they “love” people and things that bring them a sense of pleasure or satisfaction. They may “love” out of compassion toward those in need because they to want them to be safe, cared for, and have the things they lack. A “love of God” may be primarily an appreciation for how he blesses or benefits them. These are all good things, but they are motivated by a more human-centered outlook.
The love that comes from Christ living in us is entirely different in it’s attitude and in the actions that go with it.
– the attitude: Godly love is deeply and sincerely concerned for God and for one another in a more profound way. It wants God to be glorified and honored for all he is and does. It desires that his people would be restored to their relationship with their Creator so they would live for his glory too, and that they would be blessed by him eternally in Christ. This love hungers to know God’s word so that the person loving has rightful desires, and performs deeds that are truly good as God defines it. It rests in the work and power of the Risen Savior, and looks to the Indwelling Holy Spirit to enable this biblical kind of love. It’s primarily God-centered.
– the actions: Godly love moves us to behave in a particular way. Love for God wants to do what pleases him and glorifies him. It doesn’t make excuses for sin. Love for others sacrificially does what it can to help them enjoy God’s salvation from the condemnation of their sins, and that they would experience God’s care, and blessings.
These attitudes and actions should display the 16 qualities of this biblical love laid out in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. …”
I’ve attempted to define this biblical kind of love this way, “Love is a disposition implanted into needful human hearts by the prevailing grace of God whereby we are enabled joyfully to obey the revealed desires of our Creator; both toward the Lord himself, and toward others.”
That love comes from God as its source.
1 John 4:7b, “… for love is from God, …” More literally, “because love is out of God.”
[The original Greek text, “ὅτι ἡ ἀγάπη ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐστι” in this word order says, “because the love out-of the God is”]
This biblical kind of love comes “out of God”. It originates in his nature. It’s one of his eternal attributes. Within the eternal Trinity there is a shared desire that each of the three persons would work in unison to fulfill all they eternally are in their offices and mutual dependence upon one another to demonstrate their glory.
Our Creator dramatically expresses this love in the redemption of his children. He puts this God-centered love in their hearts as a display of their Creator’s love. It shows us more of what God is. Love in the believer is a testimony to the prevailing grace of God at work in him to sanctify him. When we love in this biblical sense, we do what pleases our Creator toward him and toward others he has created.
Love, as it works in the believer, is the fulfillment of the law, it’s not a replacement of it. Galatians 5:14, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” Biblical law is not limited to the ritual rules and ordinances given to Old Testament Israel that foreshadowed the then future work of the Savior. The concept of “law” in Scripture is much broader than that. God’s revealed moral principles show us how he is pleased for us to think and to behave in every period of redemptive history. When God transforms us by his redeeming grace that genuine type of love is implanted in us. That’s what enables us to live within the moral boundaries our Creator has made known. Our love for God drives us to want to obey and honor his moral and spiritual commandments, and take heed to his warnings. That God implanted love for our neighbors is what stirs us to treat them as we are told in his word.
This love shows who are truly born of God.
1 John 4:7c, “… and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”
1 John 4:8, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
Love is a distinctive that’s present, though imperfectly during their earthly life, in all believers. It’s an evidence of their being made alive spiritually. The absence of this true kind of love is evidence that a person is neither born of God, nor knows him.
Earlier in this epistle John dealt with this same basic principle:
1 John 2:29, “If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.”
Those born of God practice righteousness as their way of life. “Practices” in this verse is a present active participle, “The one doing righteousness.” The Greek concept of the present tense is a continuing condition. It’s more focused on duration of an action than on when it occurs. Dana & Mantey’s Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament explains, “The fundamental significance of the present tense is the idea of progress. It is a linear tense.” (p. 181) “The Progressive Present: This use is manifestly nearest the root idea of the tense. It signifies action in progress, or state in persistence.” (p. 182)
In 1 John chapter 3 the children of the devil are contrasted with the children of God.
1 John 3:9, “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.” Those born of God are not able to be sinning as their practice in life.
1 John 3:10-11, “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.”
1 John 3:14, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.”
Those who are not redeemed children of God are children of the devil. They don’t practice righteousness, and they don’t love their brothers as God describes it. They abide in death. The redeemed children of God practice righteousness, and truly love one another. They have passed out of spiritual death into spiritual life.
Those verses do not mean believers never commit acts of sin. They tell us that it’s not their way of life. They admit their sins. They grieve and sincerely repent of them. They want God to deliver them from offensive thoughts and practices.
1 John 3:23, “And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.” Loving one another isn’t optional. It’s a commandment. The presence of this biblical kind of love is necessary in the believer’s life.
Jesus made it clear that loving one another was a mark of discipleship.
John 13:35, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
This biblical kind of “love” is an inevitable consequence of regeneration. Loving as the Bible defines it is evidence of being truly born of God by grace.
Paul deals with this same idea in Romans 6, particularly in verse 16, “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?”
If we belong to Christ sin isn’t our master anymore. We aren’t sin’s servant unto death, but we’re free from that bondage that kills. We’re set free to actually want to do what God says is right. Our obedience is a work of him at work in us by grace alone. We begin to see God’s word, his law, as a revelation of truth, a way of life.
If this biblical love is present there’s evidence that the separation from God (spiritual death) has been removed by Christ, and that God’s characteristics have begun to produce fruit. Without spiritual fruit there’s no evidence of spiritual life.
Those who don’t love, don’t know God. Their imagined “good works” condemn them because they aren’t done for Christ’s glory. A stranger to love is a stranger to God.
Peter explained how knowing God by grace through Christ makes us partakers of the divine nature. 2 Peter 1:3-4, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”
The reason for a person’s lack of loving is that he doesn’t really know God.
1 John 4:8b, “… because God is love.”
Since there’s no evidence of the divine nature in the one not loving, there is no evidence that God is active in him. Augustine commented on this verse. He wrote, “If nothing were said in praise of love throughout the pages of this Epistle, if nothing whatever throughout the pages of the Scriptures, and this one thing only were all we were told by the voice of the Spirit of God, ‘for God is love’; nothing more ought we require.”
Love is a big word. But it’s not undefined. As God’s word, the Bible tells us what this love is and what it does when it’s present. This true biblical love must be growing in a person if he is really born of God through Christ by grace.
When we love someone, we have a deep concern for them that they would have all they truly need so they can live in a way that joyfully conforms to all that pleases their Creator. Our love for God is our deep desire to appreciate him, to honor him, and to live unselfishly for his glory. God’s love for his creatures is his deep desire to enable them to joyfully display their Creator’s glory.
One further note: The Westminster Confession (Chapter 2 section 1) says that God is without passions. Some wonder how he can be without passions while the Bible says so much about his love. The problem has to do with how the word “passion” is used differently in our present time compared with how it was used back in the 1600’s when the Confession was written.
The English word “passion” comes from the Latin word “passio” which means “suffering”, and the Latin verb “passus”, which means “to suffer or to endure.” It was regularly used of suffering from external forces, influences, or circumstances.
The King James Version of the Bible from 1611 uses the word “passion” three times in that sense of suffering. A good example is in Acts 1:3 where it speaks of the crucifixion of Jesus, that after his resurrection, “… he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days …” The Greek word Luke used when he wrote the book of Acts is “pathein” (παθεῖν), the 2nd Aorist form of the root word which means in this context “to suffer sadly” according to Thayer’s dictionary. Our English word “pathetic” derives from this ancient word. This verse is translated in a different way in the more recent translation of the ESV. There it says, ” He presented himself alive to them after his suffering …”. In that more recent translation of the ESV, the word “passion” is only used for several other Greek words where the context has to do with strong desires, most often sinful ones. The Westminster Confession was completed by 1648, so it used that older meaning of the English word “passion”, to suffer from external forces, influences, or circumstances.
God’s lack of “passions” in the Confession refers to his immutability or unchangeableness. He can’t be compelled by suffering due to external circumstances.
James 1:17 refers to God as “… the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
Psalm 102:26-27 speaks of God saying, “… you are the same, and your years have no end.”
Jesus was fully God and fully man. In his Divine nature he didn’t suffer from things externally imposed upon him. It was in his Human nature that he endured “passion” (suffering) on the cross where he died for those he would redeem.
(Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.)