Posts Tagged ‘1 John 4’

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. 

In this the love of God was made manifest among us,

that God sent his only Son into the world,
so that we might live through him.
In this is love, not that we have loved God

but that he loved us
and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
No one has ever seen God;

if we love one another, God abides in us
and his love is perfected in us.

1 John 4:7-12

– – – – –



In this well-known passage on God’s love, we see in the ESV that John uses love (or the beloved) no less than 15 times in six verses.  It is love, love, love all over this passage – “love one another”; “love is from God”; “God is love”; “if we love one another… his love is perfected in us”; etc.


But in the midst of this treatise on the love of God, we find in v10 the reason God can love us – “In this is love… [He] sent his Son to be the propitiation (satisfaction) for our sins.”  Propitiation – “a sacrifice that turns away the wrath of God and thereby makes God propitious (or favorable) toward us” (Grudem, p.575)a.


Those who have placed their sins under the blood of Jesus find God propitious toward them.  His just wrath on their sin has been fully satisfied by the sacrifice of his pure Son.  The modern hymn Before the Throne of God Above gets it right, “God, the Just, was satisfied to look on Him and pardon me.”


There is absolutely no trace of wrath left in the Father toward those who approach his throne, clothed now in Christ’s righteousness, not their impotent own.  Every last drop of wrath toward the believer was spent entirely on the Son.  What remains is only love, love, love toward his people.  Even when we don’t walk in our new natures, but instead give into the influence of our old man – when we sin against God – we can turn to Him in repentance and be assured of his Fatherly love toward us.  He may chasten us, true, but it is always done redemptively as we might with our own children – with our greater good in mind, coming from his all-knowing wisdom.


In this truth, the child of God can find assurance that what the sovereign God allows in his or her life is born solely from God’s unfailing love for them.  Our circumstances may prove hard to bear, but that is not the same thing as loss; God wastes nothing.  Under his watchful care, it can only work us good in our earthly lives or in eternity to come.


Of course, it must be mentioned that those whose lives are not hidden in Christ – who have not, by repentance and faith, applied Christ’s blood to the doorpost of their sinful hearts (cf. Exodus 12:13) – must bear the wrath of God in their own bodies.


Oh, but for the child of God – what a sweet and cherished doctrine is that of Christ’s propitiation which won the Father’s favor for us.


Ah… this is love.



a “Systematic Theology.” Systematic Theology, by Wayne A. Grudem and K. Erik. Thoennes, Zondervan, 2008, p. 575.

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Because of parent conferences, I missed the Billy Graham broadcast My Hope America which was aired on his 95th birthday (11-07-18).  I was glad to find the video, though, which not only features Dr. Graham, but Lecrae Moore and Lacey Sturm.

I grew up watching the Billy Graham crusades.  Whenever they were aired, my dad would call us from various parts of the house and  strongly suggest we watch with it only takes a little bit of your time or it won’t hurt you to watch, etc.  I never told my parents that I actually responded to a crusade call during my elementary years and wrote to Billy Graham, Minneapolis, MN (that’s all the address you needed) to get follow up material.  I include that incident in my testimony, believing that even at that age, God was making himself known to me.  Fast forward several years to June 1987 when Dana and I had the privilege of being counselors at a Billy Graham crusade; driving 70 miles south each of three days to where Billy Graham preached and Cliff Barrows led the choir (and Johnny and June Cash brought special music one of the days).

I no longer hold to popular decision theology.  I have come to see that regeneration precedes and produces faith; not the other way around.  God is not the responder, waiting and hoping for people to respond in faith to his Son.  Unless the Holy Spirit shines the light of truth into my darkened understanding, I am dead in my trespasses and unable to respond in faith to the cross of Christ.

We are indeed “saved through faith” and “faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.”  “This [faith] is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (see Ephesians 2:8-9 and Romans 10:17).  Just as the world needed the Word of God to speak it into being, so too, we who are dead in our trespasses, need the same Word of God to quicken our hearts before we can be made new and respond to him (see John 1:1-4 and Ephesians 2:5).

For me, God began to turn his light of truth on in my heart over several years, but for many, like those at a Billy Graham, Louis Palau, or Greg Laurie crusade, it may feel like one puts their faith in Christ and is then made a new creature.  We are unaware in that moment of the Holy Spirit’s work in helping us to “put the pieces together” and in the necessity of his call which prompts us to repentance and faith.  Almost everyone at the time of conversion feels as if they “chose” Christ, especially, I’m sure, those who pray a repentant “sinner’s prayer” as Billy Graham invites.  Only after, are many made aware through Scripture, that it was always Christ’s first move in their hearts that brought them to the realization of his saving work on the cross.  It’s been likened to light that comes on immediately when a switch is flipped.  Only with further study, we note there was a necessary outside source acting upon the switch, to close the circuit, and to bring about light.  Our faith and regeneration often seem to come simultaneously, but it was God first regenerating our wills and our minds to bring us to the point of faith.  “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

Charles Spurgeon put it this way:

“…When the gospel comes to some, they fight against it, and will not have it, but where men receive it, welcoming it, this is a sure indication that there is a secret work going on in the soul, and that God has chosen them unto eternal life. Are you willing, dear reader, to receive Christ? Then there is no difficulty in the way; Christ will be your guest; His own power is working with you, making you willing.”

The cross has always been an offense to many.  It is not given to us to know who will receive or reject it.  It is ours to hold out the Word of God and to unashamedly profess the gospel “for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).  Likewise, in hearing the Word of Christ and desiring to receive him, one need not wonder if the gospel is meant for them or not.  The font of such a desire is the “secret work going on in the soul” as Spurgeon put it and Christ assures us, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37).


[There is an answer to the title conundrum too–what came first the chicken or the egg?  Genesis 1:24-25]

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trinity II
Orthodox Christianity holds to the doctrine of Trinity, that the one, true God is one being in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Early church Fathers (ex: Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, and Turtullian) refer to the Trinity and Trinity was later affirmed in the various creeds of the early church (ex: the Athanasian Creed). 

The Trinity is generally recognized in Genesis 1:1-3.  As God, the Father, creates the heavens and the earth, we have the Spirit of God hovering over the waters and Jesus, the Word of God, commanding the world into being, culminating in their decision to “make man in our image” (Genesis 1:27).   Likewise, Trinity is seen at the baptism of Jesus.  Upon coming up from the waters, the heavens open to reveal the Spirit of God descending upon him and the voice from heaven declaring Jesus to be God’s beloved and pleasing Son (Matthew 3: 13-17). 

Jesus, himself, directs his followers to make disciples and to baptize them in (or into) “the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19-20) and the well-known benediction, written by Paul to the Corinthian Church reads: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14).  Beyond these are many passages that link Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to the Godhead (Ex: In John 10:30, Jesus declares that He and his Father are one; in Acts 5:3-4, The Holy Spirit is equated with God; etc.).

Despite the centrality of the doctrine of Trinity to the orthodox Christian faith, we don’t often consider the implications of the Trinity and why Trinity is good news for us.  Enter Michael Reeves whose nine, one- to two- minute messages have led me to worship anew this wonderful, all-lovely, triune God.  Summaries of his nine messages are included below (and in two subsequent posts).

Messages 1 through 3 include:

“The God Who is Trinity”
“Trinity and Our Good News”
“The Heart-Winning Trinity ”

#1 The God Who is Trinity

In John 20:31, John says he writes his gospel so that “you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”  The call to “believe in Jesus” is a call to believe in the triune God because Jesus is the Son of God the Father, and the Anointed One—the one anointed with the Spirit.

#2 Trinity and Our Good News

In the Trinity, we have a father, eternally loving his son through the Spirit.  What if God were a single person?  If He were not a father, eternally having a relationship with his son?  If that were him, then for an eternity past, He wouldn’t know what love is or what fellowship is and we couldn’t say “God is love” (1 John 4:8).

He would be a God who wouldn’t have fellowship to share with us.  What’s more, not knowing fellowship, would He know how to be gracious, how to love others?  “I think I’d fear God only, and I wouldn’t find my heart won to him.”

#3 The Heart-Winning Trinity 

Some people think Trinity is some little add-on to Christianity, but when we talk about Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we’re talking about who God is… and to know this God is life, according to John 17:3, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” 

There are people who can’t believe in God or who see God as a heavenly dictator—people like Christopher Hitchens who did not want God to even exist.  “If [Hitchens] is right, that God is just a ruler without love, I’m not sure I want God to exist either.  But if God is a father, eternally characterized by loving his son, and He wants to welcome us into his love; well, wouldn’t you want this God to exist?  This God is true; we should want to know Him… He is so beautiful.”


For more on the Trinity from Michael Reeves you can listen to his 22 min. podcast called “Delighting in the Trinity.”

Michael Reeves (@mike_reeves) is an author and the theological adviser for the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship (UCCF) in the United Kingdom. He oversees Theology Network, a theological resources website, and was formerly an associate minister at AllSoulsChurch, Langham Place.

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