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 (1 John 4:7-8).
God's Love and the Christian’s Faith
In 1 John, John roots the assurance of the Christian using the interplay between external evidence and the internal testimony of grace. Christians, if they keep the commandments of Christ, John argues, can know that they abide in Him. To abide in Christ is the result of the work of the Holy Spirit at work in the Christian. The Holy Spirit provides assurance that the people of God belong to Jesus, but never operates apart from outward evidence of faith. The presence of the Holy Spirit is discerned both by His internal testimony and by obedience to the commands of Jesus given through His apostles (1 John 4:6).
Some of the other commands of John include belief in the Son Jesus (1 John 3:23; 4:1-5) and love for one another as Christians (1 John 3:23). Love, to John, is a critical mark of the Christian who has genuine faith. Those who have not been born of God do not know God, nor can they know that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Love is essential to the nature of God. Those who have become partakers of the new nature (2 Peter 1:4) are the people of God. They alone increasingly reflect the holy and loving character of God and love others. The transformed hearts of Christians respond to the call of God to love one another.
John is addressing those in 1 John who thought love made God too personal. Many today follow along with John’s original audience believing “God is love” but do not believe what the Bible teaches about the rest of God’s character. Such people often recoil at the idea that the way to heaven is narrow (Matthew 7:13-14) and restricted by Christ only through Him (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).
When Christians speak of the love of God, we are not minimizing the other characteristics of God. For example, the simplicity of God tells us the love of God never operates apart from the holiness, mercy, omnipotence, justice, or other divine attributes. It is loving, therefore, to seek justice and demand holiness, but never to do so at the expense of mercy. What these points highlight for the Christian is that we need the help of God and the wisdom He provides to apply His love into every phase of our lives.
God's Love: His Discipline
Within God’s perfect love is the reality that God chastens those whom He loves. Hebrews 12:5-7 reminds us, “You have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:
My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives. If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?
Christians should both expect and embrace the discipline God gives them. The divine discipline of God is intended to help the people of God grow in a relationship with our heavenly Father. Revelation 3:19 states, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.”
Throughout the book of Proverbs, Solomon speaks about a father disciplining and correcting their children out of love. To the biblical writers, rejecting correction from the Lord God is to walk in the way of foolishness and wickedness. To walk in the light according to the biblical writers is to accept correction, repent, and become wise. Such Christians understand that the loving embrace of God involves the guiding rod and staff wielded by the Chief Shepherd, Jesus.
God's Love: Jealousy
In Exodus 34:14, we find the command, “worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” John Frame in Systematic Theology explains, “God’s jealousy is not inconsistent with his love or goodness. On the contrary, his jealousy is part of his love.”
The Love of God and the Christian’s Security
In Romans 8:31-39, Paul writes about the love of God and how down to the nanosecond the Christian is held secure in His sovereign hands. Only those who are truly Christ’s will be held until the end, for they have true faith in Him. Times of doubt may come, and the storms of life may assail them, but if we belong to Christ, we are held by Him and will belong to Him always. Such biblical truth should cause Christians to draw near humbly to the throne of God to know and grow in the love of God.
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Dave Jenkins is the Executive Director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the Executive Editor of Theology for Life Magazine, and the Host of the Equipping You in Grace Podcast and Warriors of Grace Podcast. He received his MAR and M.Div. through Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. You can follow him on Twitter at @davejjenkins, find him on Facebook at Dave Jenkins SOG, Instagram, read more of his writing at Servants of Grace, or sign to receive his newsletter. When Dave isn’t busy with ministry, he loves spending time with his wife, Sarah, reading the latest from Christian publishers, the Reformers, and the Puritans, playing golf, watching movies, sports, and spending time with his family.