“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” ~ 1 John 4:8
Explanation of the Text: In light of current events and definitions, this verse is extremely important in setting the foundation for any worldview. John writes that God is love. This means that love is not a mere definition of God or His character, but instead God defines love. To understand this, the verse requires a personal view of God (1). With a personal view of God, we can understand (and experience) the love that God is. This also means we can understand what this verse speaks of. If God is love, then anything that exists apart from Him cannot truly demonstrate love. That means that the world, the culture, the nation, or the court system does not define love, but God does.
When we understand that God is love, then a number of things come into focus for our biblical worldview:
- We begin to understand the reason for creation,
- we begin to understand the reason for human choice,
- we begin to understand God’s providence,
- and we begin to understand God’s plan of redemption (2).
As the world seeks to define what love is, we as Christians not only know that God is love, but we also have a personal relationship with Him and thus a full experience of God’s love.
Examination & Application of the Text: As we think about the significance of the statement that God is love, we must not be overcome by any other definition of love that excludes God. The world will often accuse Christians of being unloving, and it can be easy for believers to succumb to this pressure. We know that we are not perfect and will fail, including in our action of love. However, what the world fails to understand is that God is love, and thus whatever action God takes is one of love. Therefore, if He chooses to judge or discipline someone, that is still an act of love. For us, that means that any action we take on behalf of God must be done with God if we are to truly represent Him to an unbelieving world.
Secondly, if we are children of God then our life should automatically reflect that love. God’s nature is love and therefore we can logically conclude that the knowledge of God should lead to love for others (3). Our actions must be ones that are always governed by love. If they are to be governed by love then they must be governed by God. It is reflective of a heart attitude that is set upon God and out of that flows His love into whatever we do.
Questions to Consider:
- How would you define love?
- Does your definition include God? If not, perhaps it needs to be redefined?
- How do you display love?
(1) Raymond E. Brown, The Epistles of John, Anchor Yale Bible (London: Yale University Press, 2008), 515.
(2) John MacArthur, 1, 2, 3 John, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 2007), 166.
(3) Stephen S. Smalley, 1, 2, 3 John, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1989), 238.