Love is all that matters
1 John 4 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. 4 You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.
15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. 19 We love, because He first loved us. 20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.
In today’s text John says: Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. This text is a great example of the necessity of reading and understanding scripture in context. Many in the world and some in the church would quote these verses as absolute. They say God is love and so, love is all that matters. We need to remember what John said previously in chapter 1: God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:5-8) Chapter 2 also gives us instruction regarding God and our relationship with Him: My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. (1 John 2:1-6) In chapter 3:4-10 John says: Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. So we see, in context, that love is vital but it is far from being the only thing that matters. Jesus Himself says: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments… “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.” (John 14:15;23-24) So obedience is a condition of our love.
Even today’s text begins saying: Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. To confess Jesus Christ, is to confess that Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior. That is to acknowledge the need of a Savior, and so to acknowledge sin. Those who do not acknowledge the need of the Savior, Jesus Christ are of the spirit of the antichrist. The text says these are not from God. Jesus Himself says: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6) It would seem, according to both John and Jesus that there is no middle ground. It is only through acknowledging Jesus as Savior that anyone comes to God. So what about love? If God is love how could that be true? Here is the truth about the love of God and the God of love. “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) Jesus Christ is the embodiment of God’s love. His death on the cross, to redeem us from sin, is the demonstration of that love.
In context then, today’s text does say: God is love. But John continues saying: By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we 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 seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. John continues: There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. What is the punishment and fear that the perfect love of God casts out? It is the fear of judgment against sin. There is no fear of punishment for sin, in those whose sins are forgiven by the perfect love of God, demonstrated in Christ. So, in as much as Jesus is the representation and the demonstration of God’s love, it could be said that “love is all that matters.” Still as 1 John 4:19 says: We love, because He first loved us. Our love is in response to His love. The love that matters is the love that is born out of a response to Jesus Christ and the cross. We are to live through Him.
Today’s text ends saying: And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. This is in agreement with what Jesus Himself says: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” So again, on the basis of loving God because He first loved us and demonstrated that love, that perfect love, by sending Jesus Christ, His Son, our Savior, to die for our sins; out of that love, in response to God’s love for us, we love others, it could be said then that love is all that matters.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ, my Savior and Redeemer; precious Holy Spirit thank You for Your perfect love demonstrated in the cross, Jesus Christ dying for my sins. In response to Your perfect love, because You first loved me, I love. Because of love, I can live through You in righteousness and light, by the power of the Holy Spirit abiding in me. I believe Your love, Your perfect love, Jesus Christ Your Son is all that matters. Amen.