Reading John is a little different than reading the other Bible authors. For example, Paul's style is to go from point to point, A-Z, beginning to end. Paul utilizes an introduction works his way through topics, themes, and ends with a nice conclusion, much like you would expect when reading a letter. John on the other hand tends to jump around from topic to topic revisiting themes, commands, and subjects throughout 1 John.
"Beloved, let us love one another," John reminds us again in 1 John 4:1. We have already seen this command, this encouragement, this reminder in 2:10, 3:11, 3:14, 3:16, and 3:23. It is almost as if John is saying, "What we got here is a failure to communicate, some men you just can't reach..." or "ARE WE CLEAR! ARE WE CLEAR!" or using his best Jackie Chan voice, "Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?"
Chapters 1-3 have been mostly focused on us, our behavior, the spiritual "tests" to clearly help us understand if we are saved or not, to give us assurance of our salvation (1 John 5:13). Here are just a few..."if we walk in the light....if we say we have no sins...you may not sin....if we keep His commands...whoever loves...whoever hates...do not love the world...abide in Him...let no on deceive you..." and this is precisely the main purpose of the letter to give everyone who reads it full assurance of their salvation and to point those who aren't saved directly to Jesus as the only means for salvation from our sins.
If chapters 1-5 are the "body" of John's letter I would have to say that chapter 4:7-21 is the heartbeat of the letter as it is not so much about you and I as it is about the nature, character, and glory of God. In these short 14 verses John uses "love" at least 25 times and God/Jesus/Son 25 times.
"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God," James 1:17 tells us that every good and perfect gift comes from God and God's love is both good and perfect. 1 Corinthians 13:4 gives us but a glimpse of the perfection of God's love
" 4Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends."
Love comes from God and love and God are inseparable because "God is love" (4:8, 4:16). You and I are incapable of love apart from God. All love comes from God for the believer and the unbeliever. Because we are each created in the image and likeness of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit we each have inherent value, dignity, and worth, and we each have the need to be loved and are given in His likeness the capacity to love. The love that believers and unbelievers have for their friends and families, husbands and wives, as well as children come from God. It is through God's grace and mercy that we know and have love and even in unbelief and rebellion God is merciful and gracious when He does not need to be. Apart from God there is no love and without Jesus you and I are incapable of love.
Juxtapose the perfect love of God (1 Corinthians 13:4) with our own love. Without Jesus we are impatient, unkind, we get jealous, we are braggarts, we are arrogant, rude, and every day and every one is Burger King as we seek to have it our way, we are irritable, resentful thinking about how things could have been, we take joy in the defeat of others, we are indifferent, we want proof of everything, we tolerate little and our love is conditional and temporary with the attitude of Janet Jackson, "What have you done for me lately?"
"Whoever loves has been born of God and knows God." A major component, indicator of the new birth is our capacity to love others. "anyone who does not love does not know God." How and why does John say this? Can't I love God and know God without having to love everybody? Do I really have to love all those guys in my Sunday School class? Isn't it natural for us to gravitate toward people just like us? To people who we like and who like us? Why in the world would John say "anyone who does not love does not know God" ? Because God is love.
You can't know God in a personal, intimate way, have a relationship with Him, have Jesus totally change your live, be crucified with Him, give you a new heart, make you a new creature, see His magnificent love generously poured out at the cross as the blood flowed from His head, hands, feet, and side, as Jesus hung between two thieves dying for our sins, as His precious blood paid for all our sins out of love and still look at others without love. You just can't do it as the two are incompatible.
"God is love" and God made His love appear right before our eyes. vs9 "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." This was a one time historical, factual event this was God's mission not a mistake to come into the world, to live without sin, to completely identify with every temptation and struggle you and I could ever face, and to be the one time, perfect atoning sacrifice for all sin. And God showed His unconditional, perfect love toward us as revealed in the giving of Jesus, His only Son vs10"In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loves us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." God is real, love is real, love is from God, God is love, God appeared before us in Jesus and Jesus reflects God's perfect love for us. The reality is that God knew that you and I would not love each other as we should and that we would not love Him as we should and those are sins that Jesus died in our place for.
vs11"Beloved, if God so loves us we also ought to love one another." Why is this so important? Why does John keep hammering on this one point? Beating on this drum? vs12"No one has ever seen God" Just as Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15) reflecting God's perfect love, imaging God's greatness to us, so are you and I to reflect the love of Jesus to those around us. Because we cannot see God it is the fruit of our lives and the love that pours forth from our hearts that will bear the witness to who God is. We will either give a true accurate testimony to the love of God or we will bear false witness against God driving others away from God. Gandhi once said, "I would have become a Christian if I had never met one." And Mark Twain once commented, "If Jesus were to return today there is one thing he would not be, a Christian." People will be driven away from God if we do not love and they will be drawn to God "if we love on another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us." because they will see God in us and this is only made possible through the wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit, who Jesus called our helper. vs13"By this we know we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us His spirit."
vs14"And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the savior of the world." John remind us of his own encounter with Jesus (1 John 1:1-4) that he has heard, seen and touched Jesus in the flesh. vs15"Whoever confesses that Jesus is the son of God abides in Him and He in God. 15 So we have come to know and believe the love that God has for us. 16God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God and God abides in Him."
vs17"By this is love perfected with us," By Jesus coming the flesh, dying for our sins, God raising Jesus from the dead, this is God's love in action. You and I confessing Jesus as the Son of God, God giving us His Holy Spirit to live within us changing us, conforming us to the image and likeness of Jesus giving us the capacity to love each other, this is the complete, total, perfect, picture of God's love and it is the love that will draw lost people to Jesus and save a dying world.
Paul said his only confidence was in the cross of Christ and so you and I should have a humble yet wonderfully confidence in our salvation through God's love as He forgives us of our sins through the blood of Jesus. vs17"By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment because as He is so also are we in this world. vs18There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment and whoever fears has not been perfected in love." We don't put our confidence in our works, what we have done or not done. We don't find peace in how good we have been, what positions we hold, no, our confidence comes from Jesus, knowing that only He is "the way, the truth, the life" and that if we have fear of judgment, fear of punishment then there are areas of our lives that we have not fully turned over to Jesus to save us from because His love perfected in us means we will have no fear of His judgment.
vs19"We love because He first love us." It never begins or end with us. It is all about Jesus. Apart from Jesus we are incapable of love. It is Jesus who creates, Jesus who gives us life, Jesus who holds everything together, Jesus who died for our sins, Jesus who pursues us when we run from Him, Jesus who loved us first and for that we should sink to our knees praising Him, worshiping Him, following Him, adoring Him loving Him, and following Him.
vs20"If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. and this commandment we have from Him; whoever loves God must also love his brother."
Love comes from God, God's love is good and perfect, God is love and God and love are inseparable. To know God is to know what true love is and to love others. We see the love of God when we look at the cross. We know firsthand the love of God through Jesus as He saves us from our sins, and we experience the life changing love of God through God's Holy Spirit dwelling within us, changing us to conform to the image and likeness of Jesus as we gain the capacity to love others in a self sacrificing way. You and I love God not because we searched after God but because God pursued us, God loved us first. To know God means we know love and we come to follow the 2 greatest commands to 1. Love God and 2. love people and we keep them both because they are eternally linked together. We can be righteous, walk in the light and we can possess sound doctrine but without love no one will see God in our lives because without love God does not live within us!