Herein Is Love

1 John 4:7‑17  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 5
It constantly occurs to one in reading such passages as the fifteenth verse of this chapter, that although such things are plainly set forth in scripture, yet the truth of it is but little entered into by Christians. “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.” Many would resent the thought of not confessing the first clause, who would be afraid and unable to own the positive result as theirs, which flows from such a confession. They don’t even know what it means— “God dwelleth in him, and he in God.” The real truth and power of the presence of the Spirit of God in us, because we are redeemed and cleansed, is not believed. How little a person believes his body is the temple of the Holy Ghost. Of course I do not now speak of the mere hypocrite; but of one who does really confess that Jesus is the Son of God, the One in whom we trust.
There are those who are arrested by such a thought, and are really unhappy and miserable because they can’t say it is theirs. They are unable to do so because they see their own unworthiness, and they estimate the thing from what they find in themselves; reasoning from what they are to God, instead of what God is to them. This state is dispelled, by the soul being taken off its own estimate of itself, to God’s estimate of Christ. Then Christ takes the place of the estimate of self, and there is deliverance, and the heart is free. God brings the soul who thus groans for deliverance to a crisis, where there is nothing left but being cast completely upon His free and sovereign grace, and then deliverance is known. A death-bed is often an example of this. God’s word not only produces the groan of a soul for this deliverance; but meets the groan with deliverance also.
See the way that God brings Israel to the Red Sea—to a point where they could not get out, then He says, “Stand still and see the Salvation of the Lord.” Israel might have been dreaming of escaping from Egypt or not in days before; here they must learn that none but God can deliver and He does so. He not only produces the groan for deliverance, but brings the deliverance and the joy of it, by giving us the Spirit of adoption in our hearts.
God would have us happy with Himself, and would have us conscious of our salvation. If you can rest tranquil not knowing it, you are in a bad state. Do you think a child would be right to say, “I don’t know whether my father loves me or not, and I am content not to know?” But the delivered heart can say, (v. 16,) and God would have it say, “We have known and believed the love that God path to us.” But it is impossible to know it if I am looking at my own state toward God: for it depends upon the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. When we do not know that, we are not Christians in a true sense; and if so, how are we to love “Christ?” Am I to expect people to live as becomes children of God, till they know they are children of God? Can one be expected to fulfill the duties of wife or child, servant or master, until such a relationship is there? The relationship must exist first. Thus Christian responsibility and duty flow from a relationship known and enjoyed.
“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.” (v. 7, 8.) But you say, “How can this be? My heart is very cold: I hope I love: I hope I have not deceived myself; but I don’t feel I love like this.” You must be a partaker of the divine nature first. You will never understand the feelings of a nature till you possess it. How could you understand angelic nature unless you were an angel?
Verse 9 is the answer to this. Here I get something outside myself altogether. Here I learn God’s love. It is manifested to me. “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.” Now I understand what God’s love is. I don’t look into my own heart to see do I love Him. I find it manifested towards me, a poor lost sinner, outside myself altogether.
Suppose a person is loving me deeply and truly, do I look into my own heart to know that it is so? I may look there to see if I love him; but not to see if he loves me; the more so when he has given me full proof of it, I learn it by his acts. People reason in such a way in divine things; that if they so reasoned in human things, it would be treated as positive folly.
The Apostle’s reasoning in verses 9 to 17 has wondrous beauty. He begins with me, a poor ruined sinner, dead by nature, guilty, and needing cleansing, and shows me that God has thought about me all along the whole way till the day of judgment; and that on God’s side there was nothing but love! I find the whole condition of a man taken up from being a sinner, till the day of judgment. I am dead in sins-He sends His Son that I might live. (verse 9.) Guilty, and He provides a propitiation and cleanses me. (ver. 10.) As a saint He perfects His love in me, by giving me His Spirit to dwell in me for my journey; (verses 12, 13.) so that I have communion and joy by the way; and when I look on to the judgment I have boldness, not “hope,” but “boldness!” Well, I say, and how have I treated Him? Cast Him out of the world when He came in the activity of His love to me! His love is active—and He sends His Son to die. He manifests it thus to me, and this is the return I have made Him! It is “not that we loved God, but that He loved us.”
Now (ver. 11) the exhortation to love, on our part, is in its right place, “we ought (surely) also to love one another.” “If God so loved us,” dead and needing life; guilty, and needing cleansing; when we did not love God, He did love us, and sent His Son that we might live through Him, and have a propitiation for our sins. Wondrous love!
Compare John 1:1818No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. (John 1:18) with ver. 12. In the former, Christ declares the Father as He knew Him “an only begotten Son” who is in His “bosom.” This love is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost. What do we see in Him here below? A holiness that could not be sullied, carrying God’s love into a world where there was nothing but unholiness. It was holiness that nothing could enfeeble, displaying a love that nothing could fathom.
In verses 12 and 13 we have communion, now we have tasted His love, and we can “testify” (in ver. 14), “That the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world;” and then He says, that “whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.” God says this, He does not ask you to think or reason about it. As He does not let you off in passing an opinion as to Yourself, and your own love to Him in ver. 10; neither does He let you off here as to your opinion about Him.
How do you treat the fact of God dwelling in you? He does this by His Spirit. There is nothing tells on the conscience like this fact. How do you treat such a guest? The grace of God in a man’s heart is a tender plant in an unkindly soil which even a light thought will injure—a light thought grieves the Spirit of God who dwells in us. Hence He exhorts us— “grieve not the Holy Spirit of God whereby ye are sealed unto the day Of redemption.” (Eph. 4:3030And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30).)
When Paul speaks of all things being ours, he speaks of death too, being all gain, but he never says judgment is ours. When he thinks of judgment he thinks of terror. But the effect of having judgment before his eye makes him think of others. “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men;” and it is well to test ourselves in view of the judgment seat—when that day comes, hope is all over! There is no good in a judgment seat at all if sinners are not condemned there. People when they think of grace reason thus: “I am a poor sinner, and the cross just suits me.” Well so it does, (though you should not remain there you should go on through the rent veil into God’s presence.) But can you say, “I am a poor sinner, and the day of judgment just suits me?” Al you say, no it does not. Therefore it is well that you should look at it in the face. When you do, how do you feel? Are you trembling and uncertain whether He is for you or against you, because of the sins which you have committed which He would then have to judge? But how has He ordered it? Why, before it comes, He has interfered in another way; He has given His Son to put away the sins He then would have to judge. Thus He has thought of everything all the way through! Very right to have lowly thoughts when I come to the cross with my sins. Lowliness becomes me when I think of God’s blessed Son dying there. But when I think of judgment I have boldness—no lowliness there, because “as He is, so are we, in this world.” Not as He was, but as He is. Am I to wait till the day of judgment to know whether He is righteousness enough for me? God hath made Him to be righteousness for me now! All that I was He has died for; all that I am is seen in Christ before God. Love looked upon us when far away from God in the land of our degradation, and God has provided for us all the way through!
Oh, but you say, does not this make light of responsibility? No, reply I, it establishes it. I can’t be a naughty child until I am a child—very bad when one is so; and hence I judge all in my ways that is unfitted to me as a child of God—is the enjoyment of a relationship which never can be broken, and I have to behave myself as one in whom God dwells.