1 John 4:7-12
The Beloved Disciple
John is called the “beloved disciple” because he seems to have had a special relationship with Jesus (John 13:23-24; 21:20) and because he writes about love so much in his gospel and epistles. And here in chapter four he especially hits this note. He begins, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” This verse informs us of love’s origin, in a word, God. We do not love because we are loving people; we love because “He loved us.”
Now we must be careful to read these verses in the context of the entire letter. The Apostle has been clear that along with loving the brethren, we must confess faith in Christ Jesus (2:22; 4:2-3) and do good (3:4-10); thus, just being a loving person saves no one. Our loving must originate from our rebirth in Christ, indeed, is the only way one may even make a beginning of loving rightly. Our loves and good deeds shall always be tainted with sin on account of our nature. It is our cleansing through saving faith and the renewal of the Holy Spirit which sanctifies our loves and good deeds so that they are done through Christ, covered by him, and made acceptable to God. For this reason, John writes: “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.” Then he adds, “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us”; that is, we can only love one another as God abides in us. So, it is God’s love that saves us from the wrath to come, God’s love that cleanses us from sin, and God’s love that empowers us through the Holy Spirit that makes us loving. It is our rebirth that makes us loving, and being loving that is the proof of our rebirth.
John also reminds us, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” If we wish to know what love is, we must look at God and what God did—He sent His Son who took our place on the cross. This proves that God’s very nature is love. And now he requires the same of us if we will be His children. Yes, our loving is very imperfect, which is why our love must be sanctified by Christ. But as God’s nature is love, so must our natures become love. As God is giving and sacrificial, so must we be in this world. God wants us to be little christs, and we can be because He abides in us. John was called the “beloved disciple.” Wouldn’t it be great to be thought of as the same?