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Testing the True and the False
1 John 4:1-21
We have in our opening verses some important admonitions, and also some important instructions.
1. Important admonitions.
(1) "Believe not every spirit." Some people seem always ready to take up with anything that comes along. They forget that there are two spirits that work among the children of men. As our verse says, "Many false prophets are gone out into the world." These false prophets and teachers, in as far as they can, imitate the true.
You will remember the words of God through Paul: "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ, And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers be transformed as the ministers of righteousness."
What then shall true Christians do, in the midst of so much that is false? Here is our second admonition:
(2) "Try the spirits whether they are of God." But how may we try the spirits? Well, for one thing, we may try them by their works. One cannot gather grapes of thorns, nor figs of thistles. A bitter fountain cannot bring forth sweet water. Therefore by their works ye shall know them.
There is, however, another way, which is the right way and the best way. Bring your doctrine concerning Christ and lay it down and see if they measure up to its statements.
First, you confess that Jesus Christ is God manifest in flesh. Do they so confess Him? We said one time, "A man who denies the Deity of Christ is yet in sins."
Second, you confess that Jesus Christ is coming in the flesh. "For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an. antichrist" (R. V.).
2. Important Instructions. These are written for us in the Second Epistle of John. How are we to act toward these false spirits? Shall we fraternize with them? Shall we welcome them to our feasts of love, and fellowship with them in spiritual things? Here is God's Divinely given word: "If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not unto your house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds."
In Second Thessalonians we have this command: "Now we command you, brethren, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us."
This is an age of denials. Everything vital to the faith is being cast away. Shall we prove traitors to the faith, and to the Lord? God forbid!
The Holy Spirit wrote expressly, "In the latter times some shall depart, from the faith." What then? Let us prove ourselves good ministers of Jesus Christ, "nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine."
I. THE POWER OF THE VICTORIOUS LIFE (1 John 4:4 )
1. Overcoming saints. The first two chapters of Revelation speak of the seven overcomers . There are seven special crowns to these seven groups who overcome in their conflict against the world, the flesh, and the devil.
We urge every child of God who reads these words to stop and ask himself If he is, in truth, an overcomer.
A certain believer said to me, "I am sometimes up, sometimes down, and mostly down." Is this as it should be? Do we concede that there is no place of victory in the life of the saint? Must we be forever the slaves of sin and Satan? Must we be forever under the power of our sinful self, the old man?
Does the Blood of Christ save us from sin's penalty, only to leave us dupes and slaves to sin's power? Do we cry "O wretched man that I am"? Do we drag around with us a body of death, a body that we cannot shake off?
If the above is the story of our lives, we are living far beneath our privileges, Victory is cars, if we will take it.
2. The key to victory. Here it is: "Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world." This Scripture grants that Satan is great, but it affirms that Christ is greater. It also states that Satan energizes men. The Christian also has an energizing power which worketh in Him. God did not leave His children alone to fight the battles of life. He plainly teaches that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost who is in us. He also tells us that He will take up His abode in us, and that the Father will also enter in.
With the Triune God within us, there is nothing in the line of overcoming which may not be ours. Power belongeth unto God, and it belongeth unto us when we claim it.
II. A DESCRIPTION OF THE UNREGENERATE (1 John 4:5 )
1. There are three things said of the unsaved
(1) They are of the world. We would not need to go far to prove this. The treasures of the wicked are in the world. Their hope is in the world. Their heart is in the world. There is a statement in the Book of Ecclesiastes that describes them perfectly. It is this: "Under the sun." Twenty-nine times the words occur. The man of the world never gets above the sun in his vision.
(2) They speak of the world. Their conversation betrays them as being earth-centered. They talk about mundane things. Where their treasure is, their heart is. Where their heart is, their speech is.
(3) The world heareth them. They use the language of the world. They speak of the things of the world, and the world hears what they say.
2. There are three things said of the saved:
(1) We are of God. Our beginning is of God, because we were born by the Spirit. Our continuance is of God, because we walk in the Spirit. Our aim is of God, because we live for the Spirit and the things of the Spirit. Our power is of God, because the Spirit enables us. Our great consummation of life is of God, because we will dwell with Him eternally.
(2) God heareth us. We know this because our prayers ascend to Him, and His answers are relayed to us. Our conversation is in Heaven, He hears us when we praise Kim and magnify His Name. He hears us when we preach and publish abroad the glad tidings. He hears us when we make our requests known unto Him.
(3) He that is not of God heareth not us. We can easily tell whether a man is of God, and of the truth, for if he is of the truth his ears will be open to our testimony concerning the truth. If he is not of God he will not hear us, but will be ready to follow the spirit of error.
III. WHERE LOVE WAS BORN (1 John 4:7 )
We are going to give, you a little poem which we wrote recently on this very line:
True love was bora in Heav'n and came to man,
Hid in the breast of Jesus Christ, the Lord:
It was a love no human e'er could span,
A love by God and angels all-adored;
That love was seen in doing others good.
It carried mercies o'er Judea's hills;
A love that in the God-man only could
Have been expressed to banish human ills;
That love came forth from God for us to be
A sacrifice for sin, to save the soul,
And lift us up to dwell with God on high;
That love loved on, where earthly loves all flee,
It loved the loveless, loved from pole to pole,
It loved in death, though it can never die.
1. Love is of God. The love that dwells in the heart of a believer is not a love that was begotten of the Adamic man. It is the love that came down from Heaven. It is the love which is of God.
It is written, "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts." Remember that it is not a love toward God. but it is the love of God. We are possessors of His love. He puts His joy in us. He gives us His own peace, so we may not marvel that He gives us also His love,
2. Everyone that loveth is born of God. We love others because the love of God Is in us. We love with His love. He loves through us. If we do not know God, we cannot know His love, and if we do not have God, we cannot have His love. Do not ever say you are going to try to love so and so. Stop trying and pray, "O God. put Thy love in me for so and so."
3. Let us love one another. If love is of God, and everyone that loveth is born of God, then everyone that is born of God will love others. It is by this that all men will know that we are His disciples. He that loveth not knoweth not God.
IV. THE MANIFESTATION OF GOD'S LOVE (1 John 4:9-11 )
1. The love of God is distinct from human love. We know that men love their own. They love the things of the world. However, the love of God is a higher, holier love. When we think of love from the Divine viewpoint we think of Ephesians 2:1-22 where it says: "But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, * * hath quickened us together with Christ, by grace ye are saved."
Human love centers in those things that are lovely at least in the things which attract and hold us in their power. Divine love loves the unlovely, the things which do not attract or please. Let us study, therefore, the manifestation of the love of God.
2. The love of God is manifested in the gift of His only begotten Son. This gift was given to sinners, to the unlovely, the unrighteous, that we might live through Him, even through the Son of God.
3. The love of God is manifested because He sent His Son to be the Propitiation for our sins. This carries with it all the agonies of the Cross, the bitter cup which He drank for us.
When rivers cease their course to run,
And seas are dry;
When nevermore shall shine the sun
To light the sky;
When mountains all have turned to dust,
And rocks are gone;
When gold and silver turn to rust,
He still loves on.
His love will never let us go,
Though all else fail;
He still loves on with overflow
Love doth prevail;
Nor life, nor death, nor anything
Can sever me:
Thou lovest on; to Thee I cling
V. HOW WE KNOW WE ARE SAVED (1 John 4:12-14 )
1. We know we have never seen God at any time. God is a Spirit and they who worship Him, worship Him in spirit and in truth.
2. We know God dwelleth in us. We have never seen Him with the naked eye, but we have felt His presence in us. We have felt His love throbbing within our bosom.
Christians have a love that will not let them go, a love to the fallen, to the lost in sin; a love to the man and woman who lost their virtue; a love to the heathen who dwell in darkness across the seas.
3. We know that we dwell in Him. We know we are in Him for the simple reason that He is in us. and because He hath given unto us of His Spirit. Within our inner being there is something which cries, "Abba, Father."
We know He is in us because, in the night hours, He gives us a song. We often hear Him, as, with a quiet, still voice, He whispers words of love and cheer.
4. We know and have seen and testified that the Father sent the Son. The world may not know this, but we know it. The world may not believe it, but we believe it. We know that Jesus Christ came to be the Saviour of the world, He shed His Blood upon the Cross that we might live, How thankful we. are that the Christian life is not a think-so, or a guess-so life. We speak the things we do know, and testify the things we have seen.
Christianity to us is experimental. It is real. It is genuine. We regret that the old days, when saints told their experiences in the prayer services, are almost past.
VI. THE BELIEVER AND HIS CONFESSION (1 John 4:15-17 )
1. The confession of Jesus Christ accompanies real salvation. There was a woman who touched the hem of Christ's garment and sought to slip away. Christ, however, said, "Who touched Me?" And when she saw that she could not be hid, she came and told Him all what had been done unto her.
In Romans 10:9 it is written: "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved."
Then it says: "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."
The teaching of the above Scripture to us is that he that loveth the light, will come to the light. When real salvation comes into any heart, the lips are unstopped. The words may not be many, but they will at least proclaim that something new has come to pass. The Lord said: "Go * * tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee." Not all saints are called to preach, but all saints are called upon to confess that Jesus is the Son of God.
2. What the confession reports. It reports, first of all, that Christ is the Son of God. Secondly, it confesses its faith in that Son. 1 John 4:16 says: "We have known and believed the love that God hath to us."
The first chapter of John's Epistle says: "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of Life." You will grant that when something such as that expressed in this Scripture has happened to us, we have something to talk about.
VII. THE MANIFESTATION OF THE LOVE OF SAINTS (1 John 4:18-21 )
1. Love is seen in that fear is gone. There is no fear in love, for perfect love casteth out fear. In fear there is torment. Therefore, be that feareth is not made perfect in his love.
The child who dwells in perfect love has no fear of his parents. When, however, he has disobeyed and has done wrong, immediately there is fear. He will hide away.
That is exactly what Adam and Eve did. They hid in the trees of the garden. They ran away from God. Sin always brings separation and fear.
2. Love is seen in our love to God. We love Him because He first loved us. He that loveth God is born of God and knoweth God. Christianity is not a life built around a system of rules. We are not Christians because we go to church, because we have memorized a creed, and we go through a form of service. We are Christians because we have believed with our hearts and because we love our Lord.
3. Love is seen in that we love our brother. 1 John 4:20 says: "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar." If we love not our brother whom we have seen, think you that we can love our God whom we have not seen?
"Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above."
When we have the love of God in our hearts, we cannot hate our brother. The commandment which we have from Him is that he who loveth God love his brother also.
The created always recognizes the touch of the creator. In a certain quaint town, much delight was taken in a set of unusual chiming bells In the cathedra! tower. The music they made was a delight to ail who heard. One day, however, to the sorrow and disappointment of the whole town, the bells refused to respond to the efforts of the sexton to set them ringing. The sexton could not locate the detect. Experts were called; but it seemed no one was able to discover what the trouble was, or where it lay. Time passed, and the sorrow of the people grew keener.
One day an old man appeared. He said he could fix the bells. Doubting his ability, they at first refused to listen; but when he persisted, consent was finally given. Up the tower he went. In a short time the chimes were pealing forth. "Who are you?" was the question they thought pertinent at the time. "I am the maker of the bells," was the calm reply.
God's Wonderful Love Story
John 3:16 ; 1 John 4:7-19
We wish to give our whole attention today to one verse of Scripture. It stands before us as an unfathomable river of blessing. Some one has called John 3:16 "the Gospel in a nutshell."
Let us notice for our first statement The Great Lover.
Who is it that so loves the world? It is God. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, the Divine Trinity loves us, and yet John 3:16 is speaking particularly of the love of the Father because the verse says "God so loved * * that He gave His * * SON." Let us then think of God, the Lover, for a few moments.
1. The common conception of God. To the carnal mind, God is often a tyrant who is driving men to hell. The heathen spend much of their time trying to propitiate an angry God. The medicine men and the dancers of wild tribes all imagine that God is a God of terror. We have read of as many as thirty-six thousand babes who have been ruthlessly murdered in order to appease the imaginary wrath of the Almighty.
In India the babes are thrown into the Ganges with the same argument. Even in a so-called Christian country, and sometimes in pulpits, God is described as a God of wrath, while His Son, Christ, is pictured as seeking to placate His anger, and to induce Him to love sinful men. Not for one moment would we overlook the fact of "the wrath of God" being "revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men." However, by the side of this we would place the God of love, who was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.
Even in John 3:16 there is a vision of the wrath of God in the word, perish. However, the verse, as a whole, is love superabounding over wrath. It is love finding the way out, and showing how God can be just and yet the Justifier of those who believe.
2. God's part in redemption. God knew that man would sin, and therefore before He created him, He gave Jesus Christ to die for sin. The Bible says that Christ was "delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God." He was "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." God the Father is the great Lover of men. While He is a holy God, and cannot receive into His presence the unclean; while He is a just God, and cannot justify the guilty, yet He planned redemption in such a way that He could satisfy the righteous demands of the Law, uphold the honor of His justice, and save the lost. In all of this, one thing is seen, and that is our next point.
3. God, the Lover of men. As we think of the Almighty, the Creator, the Provider of the human race, we think of Him with a love that absolutely surpasses knowledge. It is in the Book of Titus that we find these words, "But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared * * according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour." In this Scripture the Father and the Son are spoken of as our Saviour. We think of Jesus loving us, and He did, but God loved us supremely.
I. "GOD SO LOVED," OR THE DEPTH OF HIS LOVE (John 3:16 )
"So" is the biggest little word in the Bible. Included in the word "so" are all of the agonies of the Cross, and all of the riches of God's grace; in the gift of His Son, are all the depths, the heights, the breadths, and lengths of grace.
In Ephesians 3:18-19 Paul is praying for the saints that they may "comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge." Did you ever try to fathom an unfathomable depth? Did you ever try to know the unknowable? That is just what Paul prayed we might do. After his prayer he said, "Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory."
How the little word "so" remains with us. We revel in its beauty. The love of God is a love that knows no end. It is a love that never fails. It is a love that loves unto the end. Many waters cannot quench His love. Neither can the floods drown it. This should all be true of our love to Him. It is certainly true of His love to us. "Having loved His own * * He loved them unto the end." To know Him is to love Him, because our love is born of His love. We love Him because He first loved us. Because of His love, we ought also to love one another.
O what love now enraptures my soul,
O what grace doth my spirit control;
For the Saviour is mine, and His love-light doth shine;
And the billows of joy o'er me roll.
O My Saviour is more than a friend,
And His love knows no change to the end;
'Neath the smile of His face, and the wealth of His grace,
All the beauties of Heaven do blend.
II. THE WORLD THE OBJECT OF HIS LOVE
It is easy for us who are saved to want to monopolize God's love. That God loved us, we know. That we love Him, we know. However, the love of John 3:16 is His own all-inclusive love. It is His love to all of the world.
1. God's love to Israel set forth. In the Old Testament we read concerning Israel these words: "[He] did not set His love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; * * but because the Lord loved you." Here is a gripping statement, God did not love Israel because of what Israel was numerically, nor in any other way. He loved them because He loved them. There is something about the love of God that is indescribable and incomprehensible. When God tried to tell His people why He loved them He simply said because He loved them. Call "because" a woman's reason, if you want to, but here it is God's reason.
2. God's love to the Church set forth. Christ loved the Church, and bought it with His Blood. "For we know the love which God hath toward us." In our Scripture for today there is much of the love of God toward His own. God loves, because God is love. God manifested His love toward us.
3. God's love to the world set forth. In Romans 5:8 is this statement. "God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." In Revelation 1:5 is a verse that is, perhaps, still more striking: "Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His Own Blood." That is, God loved us before He washed us.
He loved me when, a sinner,
I trampled on His love,
He loved me still, though straying,
I spurned His Home above;
And still He loved; and loving,
For me He bled and died,
Then loving on and wooing,
He drew me to His side.
III. HE GAVE HIS SON THE GIFT OF HIS LOVE
When we speak of the supreme Lover, we delight in speaking of the manifestations of His love, of the gift of His love, and of how He proves His love to us.
1. He loved us and gave all things richly to enjoy. When God created the Heavens and the earth, He commanded the earth to bring forth fruit. When God filled the earth with beasts and birds, fish and creeping things, in all of this He was working for man. He was storing the earth, and even the air with everything which man would need, and He saw that it was good.
2. He loved and gave us the Word. What a marvelous gift it is, God's love letter is God's revelation of things to come, God's expression of His heart toward men.
3. He loved and gave us the Holy Ghost. In Luke 11:1-54 we read, "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?" What a gift is the Paraclete!
4. He loved and gave us His Son. He gave Him as a teacher. He gave Him as a healer. Jesus went about doing good. All of this was the gift of God. The supreme gift of the Son, however, was that He gave the Son to be our Sin-bearer. "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. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins."
IV. "WHOSOEVER" THE EXTENT OF HIS LOVE
There is one great joy, and that is that the love of God is all-inclusive. Rich and poor, peer and pauper, good and bad all come under the word, "whosoever."
An old blacksmith was trying to read John 3:16 . When he came to the word, "whosoever," his knowledge of letters was too circumscribed. He could not make the word out. He read, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that * *," and then he desired so much to know the next word. He laid his book aside awaiting the return of his daughter from school. He put his finger on the word, when she came in, and said, "What is this, daughter?" She said, "It is 'whosoever,' and it means me, or you, or anybody else." He clapped his finger down on the word as though it might get away, and said, "Thank God, that means me!"
1. Whosoever signifies that Christ tasted death for every man. No man is lost because there was no provision for his being found. No man is lost because his sins knew no atonement, Christ died for all.
2. Whosoever means that God sent His messengers to every man. The command was, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature." None are excluded.
"None are excluded thence
But those who do themselves exclude;
Welcome the learned, the polite,
The ignorant, the rude."
3. Whosoever includes every son of Adam. It is an all-embracing word. It is not a question of whether you are invited, it is a question of whether you want to believe. Sin and shame, in Him will find a Saviour who can save to the uttermost.
V. BELIEVING IN HIM, OR THE RECEPTION OF HIS LOVE
1. There are some who spurn God's love as manifested in Christ. Isaiah 53:1-12 must stand before us as an exponent, not alone of God's saving grace, but of man's sinfulness of heart. Isaiah 53:3 says, "We hid as it were our faces from Him; * * we esteemed Him not. * * We did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. * * We have turned every one to his own way." Oh, how vile is the heart that rejects the Son of God! If men in their sin were rejecting an enemy, it would be different.
In the second chapter of Romans there is a statement like this: "Not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance." The man who despiseth God, despises the riches of His goodness, of His forbearance, and of His long-suffering.
2. Those who accept His love. Not all spurn it. In Acts it is told how "some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not." To believe in Him, is to turn to Him. We believe it was Robert L. Stevenson who wrote, "Oh, my friend, teach me to be thine."
The story is told how when Caesar saw Brutus, his own familiar friend, come to him with a dagger, it quite vanquished him. How can we help but love Christ? How can we refrain from believing Him? "We love Him, because He first loved us."
VI. "SHOULD NOT PERISH" THE ASSURANCE OF HIS LOVE
1. Men are under Satan's power. Jesus Christ came to open the prison bars, and to set the captive free. This was God's gift, and He does not want men to remain trapped by the devil.
2. Men are sin-driven. There are not only dangers from without, which engulf sinners, but there is the power of the flesh within, the sinful self that holds men captive. God loved us, and gave Christ to deliver us so that we should not perish under the reign of self.
3. Men are hell-bound. The wicked shall be cast into hell, and all nations that forget God. God loved us and gave Jesus Christ, His Son, that we might not perish, and become engulfed in the powers and darkness of the pit.
We delight in that wonderful story of the Good Shepherd who went out after the sheep which was lost. He stayed out until he found it, and when he found it he put it upon his shoulders, and brought it home rejoicing. When we think of the love of God in Christ, we think of a love that will not let us perish, that will not let us go.
"O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee;
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in Thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be."
Let us close with that wonderful statement which was written by the Holy Ghost, "I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." This is the love of God which assures us that we will never perish.
VII. "EVERLASTING LIFE," OR THE CLIMAX OF HIS LOVE
How unfathomable is the word, "everlasting." Some one has suggested that eternity might be described by a bird which carried the grains from every seashore to some distant planet, and this one grain each year until all was gone, and then eternity would just have begun. This life is everlasting.
1. There is included the city of gold, the new Jerusalem, the new heavens, and the new earth. These will be the abode of the saints forevermore. We shall dwell where sin and sorrow, sighing and sickness, penury and pain, can never enter. We shall dwell in the city of light. We shall walk in the Garden of God, and eat of the fruit of the tree of life, of the tree which bears twelve manner of fruit. We shall pass down by the river of the water of life, clear as crystal.
2. There is included the reunion of the saints. This is for all those who are in Christ, they shall live forever together, knowing as they are known forevermore. From the east, and from the west; from the north and from the south, they will come, and sit down together in the Kingdom of God with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and with the redeemed.
3. There is included God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. No more of separation; no more of isolation, but eternal fellowship.
Love is Heaven's great gift. God's love in its endurance is well illustrated by a mother's love.
The end came happily to Mrs. Ellen Brown because the son for whom she had waited and watched for ten years was at her side. Today he followed her to the grave.
Everybody in Newburgh knew the sad-faced little woman who had haunted railroad stations and boat landings for a decade. Often she went across to Fishkill to watch the arrival of the New York Central trains.
"I am waiting for my son," she told those who questioned her. "He will come back to me some day,"
Richard Brown was only seventeen when he left his home. His mother never heard from him.
A month ago Mrs. Brown became grievously ill and was taken to St. Luke's Hospital. The doctors knew that she would not leave it alive. Each morning she asked whether there was news from her son. They knew that it was the longing to see him that kept her alive.
A week ago Richard Brown returned to Newburgh. He went to the hospital. There was no surprise in the little mother's face, but only a great joy.
From that time she failed rapidly. She died with her boy's hand in hers, with peace and happiness in her heart.
J. W. C.
The Love of God Chapter
1 John 4:7-21
We have always thought of the thirteenth chapter of I Corinthians as the Love Chapter. However, we have in the Word of God another chapter which is filled with the love of God. That is the fourth chapter of First John. This latter chapter predominates in God's love toward us, but it also stresses our love one for another.
1. The love of God toward the whole world. John 3:16 tells us that God so loved the world. This is not a love of the lips, but a love of the heart, a love that is genuine.
When we remember that the constituents of the world are the children of the wicked one; that the whole world lieth in darkness even until now; that the world knew not the Lord Jesus when He came; that the world is corrupt to the core; we are more than amazed that God "so loved the world."
In Romans 5:8 , however, we read that "God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
In the first chapter of Revelation, we read, "unto Him [that] loved us, and washed us from our sins." Accordingly, He loved, us before we were washed, The love of God toward the world of the unregenerate is a love that stands ready to lift up the fallen, to heal the helpless, to save the lost. It is the love of compassion of forgiveness, it is the love which culminated in the Calvary work of the Son of God.
2. The love of God toward His own children. This love is distinct from and different to the love of God toward the wicked. The Bible tells us that we should seek to know the "height and the depth, the length and the breadth, of the love of Christ."
The Bible cries out, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" The response is, that nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. We delight in that Scripture which describes the longsuffering of God's love. "Having loved His own * * He loved them unto the end."
God does love the world. He does love the sinner. But He has a special and a peculiar love toward His own.
We delight in that expression in the seventh chapter of Deuteronomy, Deuteronomy 7:7 , where we read, "The Lord did not set His love upon you, nor choose you, because you were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people": nay, it was not what was in us, but what He could put in us; it was not what we were, but what He could make of us, that made Him love us.
Somehow or other, Deuteronomy 7:8 is the best of all; Deuteronomy 7:7 says, "The Lord did not set His love upon you," because, of what ye were; Deuteronomy 7:8 says the Lord did set His love upon us, "because He loved you." The word "because" is claimed to be a woman's reason. If one asks her why she does so and so she says, "Because." Because, however, is also God's reason. He knew that we could not fathom the reason for His love, so He just said, that He loved us, because He loved us.
I. THE EXPRESSION OF HIS LOVE (1 John 4:9 )
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.
Some people delight in speaking of God's wonderful gifts toward men in His natural creations the sun, the moon, the stars, and the heavens above; the earth, filled with everything for a man's needs: this is their conception of God's love, and God did give us all things richly to enjoy, because He loved us.
1. The gift of His Son, however, is the climatic manifestation of God's love toward us. We do not marvel, that the angelic host broke loose with the praise when they saw the infant Christ, lying in the manger. That Christ who came down from Heaven above, was sent of God.
The reason the Son was sent into the world was that we might live through Him. He did not come primarily that we might behold the Father in Him; He did not come merely that He might show us how to live; He came to give us Life. He came to lift our feet out of the miry clay, and to place them on a rock.
There is a wonderful story in the fifteenth chapter of Ezekiel, wherein God came to His people Israel. He describes Israel as cast out, unloved, and unpitied. There were none to have compassion upon them, when He passed by. Then He came unto them when they were in their blood, and said, "Live; yea, [He] said unto [them] when [they were in their] blood, Live."
In Ephesians we read of how we were dead in trespasses and in sins but how "God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, * * hath quickened us, * * and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together [with Him] in heavenly places."
With these words stated the Holy Spirit cries out, "For by grace are ye saved." Thus it was that God's love and mercy quickened us, gave us a new Life; raised us, gave us a new position; seated us, gave us a new fellowship.
When we contemplate what we were in sin, and what we are in grace, we cannot but break forth with paeans of praise, for the love wherewith He loved us.
II. THE DIVINE CONTRAST (1 John 4:10 )
Our verse says, "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins."
1. The frailties of human love. Sometimes we talk of our love to one another, of the depth of our love for so and so, of how much we love God. Our Lord, however, says, "Herein is love, not that we loved God."
We delight in singing, "My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine." We delight in. telling about how, for Him, "all the pleasures of sin we resign." We ardently sing "If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, 'tis now." Yet, our text says, "Herein is love, not that we loved God."
2. The marvels of the Divine love. The text continues, "Not that we loved God, but that He loved us." Perhaps both in testimony and in song we should speak less of our own love, and more of His, We should not parade what we are, or what we do, or how we love; we should magnify what He is, what He did, and how He loves.
3. The Divine love, seen in the Mercy Seat. This should be the theme of our song. "[He] sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins," We see ourselves as sinners, undone, corrupt, vile, worthy of death. We see in God's love for us the basis of His love that basis of love is the Cross of Christ, because the Cross of Christ provides for the propitiation of our sins. The word "propitiation" suggests the Mercy Seat, where we may come, and plead His grace.
Hereafter when we stand at the foot of Calvary's Cross, when we see our Saviour hanging there, despised and rejected of men, let us cry, "Herein is love!" Hereafter when we behold the Man, thorn-crowned, smitten, Cross nailed, let us reverently say, "Herein is love!"
Hereafter when we hear the cries of the Cross, "Father, forgive them"; "To day shalt thou be with Me in paradise"; "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" let us bend the knee and bow the head, and say, with all the fervor of our being, "Herein is love."
III. THE CALL OF GOD'S LOVE (1 John 4:11 )
How stupendous, how filled with meaning are the words, "Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another." Think of it, and ponder its message.
1. "If God * * we ought also." Shall we take a lesser exemplar than God? Shall we try to love as the world loves, or as God loves? Shall we try to live as the world lives, or as God lives? Shall we imitate man, follow man, or shall we imitate and follow God? Shall we walk in the steps of those who are frail and weak and fallen; or, shall we walk in His steps? Shall we let the mind be in us which we find in our brethren, or shall we let the mind of Christ be in us?
To us there Is something marvelous in the fact that the Bible tells us that if God does this or that, we also should do the same. Can the human equal the Divine?
2. "If God so loved us, we ought also to love one another." We now come to the heart of it. It is God's love to us which we must have toward one another. We are asked to love our brother as God loves us. We do not know how you feel, but we feel like throwing up our hands in despair.
There is just one little word in the key verse which staggers us; that is the little word, "so," It is the same word we find in John 3:16 , "For God so loved the world." In our verse it reads. "God so loved us." That little word of two letters, the word, "so," seems to measure all of the height and the depth, all of the immensity of the love of God. That little word seems to carry us to the depths of hell, from whence God has saved us, and then to the heights of Heaven's bliss, to which God will yet lift us. Spanning this immeasurable space, we read God's "so" loved us.
God next looks at us and says, "We ought also to love one another." Beloved, we are at a loss to answer God. We simply cannot love one another as He loved us.
IV. HOW WE MAY LOVE OTHERS AS GOD LOVED US (1 John 4:12 )
No man hath seen God at any time. "If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us."
We can only love one another as God loves us, by God's dwelling in us. Now let us go back to 1 John 4:7 : "Beloved, let us Jove one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God."
Years ago A. B. Simpson came to our city (Macon, Ga.). He taught us to sing:
"Live out Thy life in mine,
By Thy wonderful power.
By Thy grace every hour,
Live out Thy life in mine."
After Mr. Simpson had taught us this verse, he also taught us to sing,
"Live out Thy love in me,
By Thy wonderful power
By Thy grace every hour
Live out Thy love in me."
When we try to love our brother with our natural Adam-begotten love, we will always fail. We must love because His love is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost.
If we love with our love, if we live with our life, we will surely fall short. When, however, His love lives in us, we will love as He loved. And when. His life is dominant in us, we will live as He lived.
We have not seen God at any time, nor can we see Him in our flesh and live. However, we may know His love. Our beings may be filled and thrilled with His love.
Once more we ask your attention to 1 John 4:7 , "Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born, of God."
The love which we have, must be a bestowed love. In chapter 1 John 3:1 we read, "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God." This is a love bestowed upon us and it is wonderful. However, what we need is the love of God bestowed within us.
O Heavenly love, my heart subdue,
Come, dwell in me;
With Heavenly love my life imbue
Come, dwell in me:
Scatter within Thy love Divine,
Then will I love with love like Thine,
O reign in me.
V. THE CLIMACTIC STATEMENT (1 John 4:16-17 )
The last sentence in 1 John 4:12 , the verse which we have just considered, reads, "His love is perfected in us." 1 John 4:17 begins with the statement, "Herein is our love made perfect." This is indeed interesting. Let us see if we can discover how this love is perfected.
1. Consider the love that God hath to us. This is taken from 1 John 4:16 . The Apostle says, "We have known and believed the love that God hath toward us."
2. Consider the fact that God is love. This statement is found several times in the Epistle of John, but it is never more beautifully environed than it is here. The reason God loves us, is because "God is love." God is inherently love. Some people have thought of God only as a tyrant driving men to hell. Men go to hell because they are despisers and rejecters of the love of God. God passes the death judgment upon man because he will not believe in Him that he might have life. God is a holy God, and cannot welcome into His Presence-Chamber the unholy. God is a just God, and cannot forgive the guilty. God, however, is love. Even the man who is lost, is a man who is loved.
3. Consider the fact that God dwelleth in us, and we in God. When God dwelleth in us love dwelleth in us. All of the attributes of God dwell in us. On the other hand, if we dwell in God, we dwell in love. He that keepeth himself in the love of God keepeth himself in God.
Now we can read 1 John 4:17 : "Herein is our love made perfect."
We can almost hear the Lord Jesus say, "Abide in Me, and I in you." If we abide in Him, we are abiding in everything that is lovely and beautiful; in everything that is full of joy. He Himself has said, "As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you: [Abide] ye in My love."
If we keep His commandments He says, "Ye shall abide in My love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in His love," This is the first step of perfected love our abiding.
The second step of perfected love is His abiding in us; then will we keep that other commandment, "That ye love one another, as I have loved you."
VI. THE PLACE OF NO FEAR (1 John 4:18 )
"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love."
In discussing perfect love, God stops to give us a test whereby we may know whether our love is perfect; His love, perfected in us. He tells us several things.
1. There is no fear in love. He who stands in awe of God; he who is afraid to approach unto God, does not know that God is love. The smallest child will fly into the arms of its mother because there is no fear in love. The wee laddie will cling to his father, and feel himself safely sheltered in his father's arms, because there is no fear in love. The lassie will go the ends of the earth with the young man of her heart's choice because there is no fear in love. The child of God who keeps himself under the shadow of the love of God, is never afraid of God. It is for this reason that Christ said, "If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love."
When there is sin and disobedience in the heart, there is a fear of God, not but that God is love, but that a rebellious soul cannot be at peace in the arms of love.
Love casteth out fear because love seeketh the face of the Beloved, trusts the Beloved's power, basks under the Beloved's wings.
Love casteth out all fear because love is never afraid to dwell in the secret chambers of her Beloved.
The Shulamite said, "Saw ye Him whom my soul loveth?" "I sought Him, but I found Him not. I will arise now, and go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways I will seek Him whom my soul loveth." She was not afraid of her beloved. She cried, "Come, my Beloved, let us go forth into the field." She cried, "I am my Beloved's, and my Beloved is mine: He feedeth among the lilies."
When we love Christ we long for Christ. We seek for Him as seeketh the hart for the waterbrook.
2. He that feareth is not perfect in love. if we are afraid of God, afraid to approach His presence, afraid to hear His voice, it is because we are not perfect in love. Fear hath torment, but there is no dread, and no torment, when we love God and we dwell in His love.
VII. HUMAN LOVE TO GOD PUT TO THE TEST (1 John 4:20 )
"If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?"
1. Another of man's vain boastings. The Epistle to John frequently uses the expression, "if we say,"
"If we say that we have fellowship with Him."
"If we say that we have no sin."
"If we say that we have not sinned."
Here is another one, "If a man say, I love God." It is so easy to boast of our love to God. just as it is easy to boast of our other virtues. However, God will not stand for a false parading of pious cant. He who boasts his love to God must remember that if a man love God he will love his brother also, and that if he says, "I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar."
2. The second great commandment. The first commandment is that we should love God. This is supreme. The second great commandment is that we should love our brother, as ourselves. The commandments cannot be read in reverse order. There are so many who are forever saying, "My religion is to love my neighbor as myself." No man can love his neighbor as himself, until he loves God; because he must have the love of God perfected in him, before be can love his neighbor as himself.
Let us sit down and consider the depths of the meaning of the first four commandments which reveal our duties toward God. These commandments are summed up in one word, even this, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with ail thy strength, and with all thy mind: and thy neighbour as thyself."
The second great commandment is like unto it. It includes the sixth commandment written on the second table of stone; and it is summed up in this one word, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."
There is much in. the Epistle of John on this line. We are taught that "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." We are also taught if any man "seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion [against] him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?"
"Knowing who the dear Lord was, the society to which He was accustomed in Heaven, its sweetness and purity, beauty and intelligence, I wonder many times how He could endure the disciples who clustered so closely around Him. I. have sat in a boat on a warm day with Galilean fishermen on the Sea of Galilee, And they were no sweeter, nor any cleaner, two thousand years ago than they are today. I don't think our blessed Lord "liked" them any better than I did. But, then, He "loved" them, which is quite different You cannot force yourself to "like" disagreeable people. But you can love them dearly. For that is a command. And it's easy for a Christian to obey. It isn't for anyone else; no. That's one of the tests of Christianity. Rev. R. J. Burdette.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on 1 John 4". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18