1 John 4:8-12
When man attempts to design a god in his own image or redesign the true God in a way that suits him, he often shrouds his god in mystery and distance. A being who is unknowable and unapproachable, perhaps even unpredictable in his actions, must be a real god. Even sincere theologians in an attempt to guard the godness of God have described him as being “wholly other”, totally transcendent. But when we come to the text of Scripture, we find something much different – a God who has spoken in the past “to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.” Heb_1:1-2
Not only has the God of the Bible spoken to us, he has revealed himself to us verbally, pictorially, and physically – through the words of the prophets and of Scripture, the pictures of Old Testament sacrifices and New Testament ordinances, now in the physical manifestation of the incarnate Son of God. In the mystery and wonder of the Incarnation the Father has revealed to us “the exact representation of His being” Heb_1:3, making Himself knowable, approachable, personal.
A. God’s love for His Son vv. 8-9
This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased – Mat_3:17 & Mat_17:5 plus parallels in Mark and Luke. Although John does not include an account of Jesus’ transfiguration in his gospel, he was present there along with his brother, James, and Peter (according to the other three gospels).
Jehovah the Father took infinite delight and pleasure in him as his own Son, who lay in his bosom before all worlds; and was well pleased with him in his office, relation, and capacity: he was both well pleased in him as his Son, and delighted in him as his servant, Isa_42:1 Gill on Matthew 3:17
Joh_3:35 Joh_5:20 the Father loves the Son, the son [who is the object] of his love Col_1:13-14
In Jn. the Lord is always the Son. Because He alone was God’s Son before the foundation of the world, because the whole love of the Father is for Him alone, because He alone is one with God, because the title God may be ascribed to Him alone, He is the only-begotten Son of God. TDNT, on µονογενής
“By the side of thyself.” Jesus prays for full restoration to the pre-incarnate glory and fellowship enjoyed before the Incarnation. This is not just ideal pre-existence, but actual and conscious existence at the Father’s side “which I had” (I used to have). Robertson’s Word Pictures on John 17:5
[T]he Bible introduces love as an interpersonal quality requiring a subject-object relationship that is available in the Trinity because of the Father-Son relationship through the Holy Spirit. The trinitarian God is complete in his love relationship without reference to his creation. The Father loves the Son before the creation of the world (Joh_17:24). The infinite personal medium through whom this love is communicated is the Holy Spirit, and he is the one who pours the love of God in our hearts as well (Rom_5:5). L. T. Jeyachandran, The Trinity as a Paradigm for Spiritual Transformation
B. God’s love for us v. 10
Just as the Father has loved the Son from all eternity, so he has loved the church everlastingly – Jer_31:3 – and drawn her to himself.
out of a state of nature; out of Satan’s hands; out of the pit wherein is no water, the horrible pit, the mire and clay; unto Christ, his person, blood, righteousness, and fulness, by faith to lay hold upon them; unto his church, and to a participation of the ordinances and privileges of it; to nearer communion with God, and at last will draw to eternal glory. Gill on Jer. 31:3
Before creation the Father chose us and predestined us in love to be his adopted children, to be accepted on behalf of His beloved Son. Eph_1:3-6
The Father sent the Son whom he loved to demonstrate his love toward us:
v.9 sent his one and only Son
v.10 sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins
v.14 sent the Son as the Savior of the world
apostello – sent with a commission
The Son’s work was to offer himself a sacrifice for his people, for the sins of the world – not just John’s immediate audience or sphere of influence, but as John later wrote in Revelation: You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation. Rev_5:9 and by doing so reveal God the Father’s love for his people. The Son accomplished this in his Incarnation and especially in his sacrifice on our behalf, that is, his work of propitiation. It is here, at the Cross, that the declaration “God is love” thunders its message to a sinful world.
What does propitiation mean? According to John Murray in Redemption Accomplished and Applied, the person who has sinned must be covered in the sight of the Lord in order for the divine displeasure to be removed. Propitiation presupposes the wrath and displeasure of God with regard to sin and the purpose of propitiation is the removal of that displeasure.
Murray goes on to say that propitiation is not the turning of God’s wrath into love but rather propitiation is the provision of God’s eternal and unchangeable love and the channel through which his love flows. Propitiation is that which is necessary so that God can love us without violating his holiness. You see, the supreme object of God’s love is himself; because he loves himself supremely he can allow nothing to compromise his perfections or his glory. Consequently, the Father appeases his holy wrath against sin in the cross of Christ so the purpose of his love toward sinners may be accomplished in a way that vindicates his glory.
Rom_5:8 God demonstrated his love toward us while we were still steeped in sin – God does not require some predetermined level of goodness to be present in us before He will treat us kindly or treat with us at all. He knew that without his drawing us to himself, we would never approach him.
In March 1953, a gasping Joseph Stalin lay on his deathbead in unberable pain, after a severe stroke that had left his right side paralyzed. His final hours were a slow strangulation: his daughter Svetlana later reported that he choked to death as they watched.
In those final hellish moments, Stalin appeared to be fighting not only death but the God he denied. Though apparently semi-conscious at best, he suddenly opened his eyes and cast a terrified glance upon everyone in the room. Then, as his daughter put it, “something incomprehensible and awesome happened that to this day I can’t forget and don’t understand.” The Soviet leader suddenly lifted himself halfway up in bed, clenched his fist toward the heavens, shook it in defiance as if at the God he had forsaken, and with one unintelligible murmur dropped motionless onto his pillow.
Stalin could not escape the great equalizer. “My father died a difficult and terrible death,” his daughter reflected. “God grants an easy death only to the just.” Paul Kengor, God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life
As shocking as Joseph Stalin’s dying act may seem to us, prior to the Father’s initial tendering of saving grace to us we are all His sworn enemies. Without God’s grace and mercy being lavished on us, we would be no more friends of God than Joseph Stalin.
C. Our love for each other v. 11
Since God loved us in this way and to this extent, we ought to love one another.
Keach’s Catechism Q. 1. Who is the first and best of beings? A. God is the first and best of beings. (Isa_44:6; Psa_8:1; Psa_97:9)
God gave the best and greatest of all gifts to a destitute humanity: He gave Himself. The Father sent his dearest treasure, His Son who “is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” Heb_1:3 for the sole purpose of providing our salvation by his atoning death.
those who are the objects of God’s love ought to be the objects of ours; and if God has loved our fellow Christians and brethren to such a degree, as to send his Son to die for them, we ought to love them too; Gill on 1 John 4:11
Remember how God has loved us:
1. freely – not expecting anything in return
2. lavishly – without reserve
3. graciously – absent any merit on our part
4. when we were unlovely and unlovable
True love is always expressed in action which has the well-being of the other person in view. If we love those whom God loves, then our actions toward them will be designed to build them up, as we pursue the things which make for peace and will edify one another (Rom_14:19), that which will encourage the development in Christian character in others. If we love one another the way God loves, we will act toward one another in ways that will stir them up to love and good works (Heb_10:24).
D. God’s love perfected v. 12
Exo_12:22-23 The blood of the sacrifice does no good unless it is applied – for the Hebrew children, the blood of the lamb had to be applied to the doorposts of the home in order to ensure protection from the angel of death. In our case, the blood of the Son’s sacrifice must be applied to our life and conscience in order that it might be effectual. Our love for one another is the demonstration of this – his love made real and complete in us.
His blood, his sacrifice is sufficient for all who come to him regardless of condition – 1Jn_2:2 Nothing is too much for God to overcome – Heb_7:25.
Such is the vital truth which is now to engage our thoughts. Among all the precious things of God there is not one so precious, so inestimable, so influential, as the “precious blood of Christ.” 1Pe_1:18-19 All salvation, all purity, all peace, all holiness, all hope, all heaven, is bound up in the atoning blood of Immanuel. There is no acceptance for the sinner, no cleansing for the guilty, no pardon for the penitent, no sanctification for the believer, but in the vicarious sacrifice of the Son of God.
The atoning blood of Christ must be precious to the Father, because it is the blood of His own Son. There was an essential, close, and endearing relation between the Victim and the Offerer. Is the blood of a child precious to the heart of a parent? Thus precious was the blood of Jesus to God. Oh, methinks, if ever God loved His Son, He loved Him then! Gazing from His throne in glory upon the dreadful scene on earth, He saw the Son who dwelt in His bosom from eternity impaled upon the accursed tree, suffering the just for the unjust, vindicating the rectitude of His government, and pouring out His holy soul unto death, that He might bring us unto God.
But there was not only the yearning of parental affection in God, but in the sacrifice of His beloved Son He beheld the salvation of His Church fully and forever secured. In that vital stream He saw the life, the spiritual and eternal life, of His people. His everlasting love had found a fit and appropriate channel through which it could flow to the vilest sinner. Divine Mercy, in her mission to our fallen planet, approached the Cross of Calvary, paused—gazed—and adored. Then dipping her wings in the crimson stream, pursued her flight through the world, proclaiming, in music such as angels had never heard, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and good will to men!” Octavius Winslow, Precious Things of God