Lee lacocca once asked the legendary football coach Vince Lombadi what it took to make a winning team. The book lacocca records Lombardi’s answer:
There are a lot of coaches with good ball clubs who know the fundamentals and have plenty of discipline but still don’t win the game. Then you come to the third ingredient: if you are going to play together as a team, you have to care for one another. You have to love each other. Each player has to be thinking about the next guy and saying to himself: If I don’t block that man, Paul is going to get his legs broken. I have to do my job well in order that he can do his.
“The difference between mediocrity and greatness,” Lombardi said that night, “is the feeling these guys have for each other.”
In the healthy church, each Christian learns to care for others. As we take seriously Jesus’ command to love one another, we contribute to a winning team.
- THE APPEAL FOR LOVE VV. 7-10
If there is a single thread that runs through the First Epistle of John, it is “love.” As I shared with you in the beginning of the series in 1 John, the apostle John, the brother of James, the sons of Zebedee is the author of this letter. John was known among the disciples as the “the apostle of love.” He was the apostle who Jesus loved, the beloved apostle.
The problem that you and I run into when we talk about love is that the English language is limited or constricted that it cannot adequately convey the whole idea of “agape.” The Hebrew and the Greek languages are more colorful and more expressive than the English language. Therefore, bear with me as I explain the nuances of the word “love” in the original language.
There were three basic words for love in the Greek language: Philia, eros, and agape. Philia means affection or friendship between kindred spirits. This word occurs only once in the entire NT (James 4:4). However, the cognate verb phileo is found more frequently; for example it is used of the love of a family (Matt. 10:37), God’s love for the Son (John 5:20), Christ’s love for Lazarus (John 11:3), God’s love for His people (John 16:27), man’s love for Christ (1 Cor. 16:22), and so forth. Eros essentially denotes sexual desire. Eros, however, is self-centered and grasping, seeking its own satisfaction by acquiring some desired object. Eros is not used in the New Testament. Agape, which is the most common word for love in the NT, was practically unknown outside the Bible. Agape according to Trench (a NT scholar) is a word born within the bosom of revealed religion and there is no trace of it in any heathen writer whatsoever. William Barclay, a noted NT scholar explains that agape love is not simply an emotion, which rises unbidden in our hearts, rather it is a principle by which we deliberately live. Agape has everything to do with the will. It is a deliberate principle of the mind. Neil Alexander, another NT scholar defines agape as “spontaneous, self-giving and indifferent to the merit of the object loved.” In other words, agape is sacrificial and unconditional love. When agape is demonstrated the person being loved should not meet any condition or standard. That is the way Jesus loves you and I.
Eros is all take, that is selfish love; Philia is give and take, that is reciprocal; Agape is all give, that is sacrificial. Now let us get into the text.
Brothers and sisters why should we love one another sacrificially? Because love is of God. Love finds its origin or source in God. Love is a distinctive aspect of His being, flows from Him as light radiates from the sun. In view of this the presence of agape, that unselfish and unconditional love in you is evidence that you are a Christian. John puts it this way: verse 7. The word “know” does not mean know something about God. Rather it is experiential knowledge.
Everyone believes love is important, but we usually think of it as a feeling. In reality love is a choice and action as 1 Cor. 13:4-7 teaches.
You can experience this love only in Jesus Christ. In other words, unless you have a personal saving relationship with Jesus Christ you cannot receive or demonstrate this kind of love. Not only is love of God, but also God is love (v. 8). Let me deal also with the opposite assertion.
John says that the one who does not love does not know God. The tense of the word “know” is significant (aorist). This carries the idea that unloving person has not once known God, regardless of what he/she says. If love is not the controlling principle of your life, then not only do you not know God; you have never known Him, never. John is not saying that he who does not love know nothing about God. The Gnostics against whom John was writing may have known many things about God. The point John is making is that the enemies of Christ did not know God. There is a vast difference between knowing about God, and knowing God. Many people know about God but do not know Him. They do not know Him because they have not opened their hearts to Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Maybe you are here but you do not know God, because you have not opened your heart to His Son Jesus Christ. At the end of the message, I will give you the opportunity to come to Christ. God is love in substance and nature. Love is such an integral part of His very essence that He cannot exist without loving. Love is or can never be absent from His very being. God is love but you can never say that love is God. All of God’s activity is loving activity.
Therefore, when God judges; He judges in love. And if God’s judging is in love, His loving is also in justice. Love therefore is a sign of the new birth and righteousness (2:29). If God creates, He creates in love. If He rules, He rules in love. All that God does is the expression of His nature, which is to love. God’s love is holy love; therefore, He never operates in a fashion contrary to His righteousness. Nothing in heaven and on earth would move God to violate His holy law.
The Holy Spirit gives Christians the power to love. The love of God compels us to love others. How well is your love for God displayed in the choices you make and the actions you take? Our world with its shallow and selfish view of love has corrupted and contaminated our understanding of love. People of the world think that love is what makes you feel good. In addition, they are willing to sacrifice moral principles in order to obtain such “love.” That is not real love. If it is love it is exact opposite—selfishness. Therefore, you cannot apply to God the view of love propagated by an evil world. Your definition of love must come from God who is holy, just, and perfect. You and I must learn to love as God does. Do not show love exclusively to those who are from your family, your hometown, tribe, or only your friends. Agape is love without discrimination or strings attached.
Verses 9 & 10 bring out two things: (1) how you and I know that God is love; and (2) the greatness of God’s love. You and I know that God is love because of what He has done (v. 9).
God has shown, manifested, disclosed, brought to light, and made visible His love by sending His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. There have been many manifestations of the love of God. For instance, creation is a manifestation of God’s love. His goodness to the human race is a manifestation of His love. However, God has made His supreme love by the gift of His Son. The sending of Jesus is the revelation of God’s supreme love and the very essence of love itself. It is not your love or my love that is primary, but God’s love.
Therefore, the greatness of God’s love is the gift of His only begotten Son. The word “begotten” means “unique,” “one of a kind.” Jesus Christ is God’s Son in a sense, which no one else is or can be Son of God. It was the sending of such a Son, one so dear to the Father that proved the magnitude of His love for sinful men and women, boys, and girls. Would you as a parent send your only son to die for people who rebel against and are disobedient to you? No greater gift of God is conceivable because no greater gift was possible. The greatness of the divine love is seen in the purpose of Jesus’ mission: “that we might live through Him.”
To live through Him means to have life through Him. Jesus came to bring your life. The greatness of God’s love is manifested by a consideration of the recipients of His love.
God is the initiator of love (v. 10). That you and I have loved God is nothing wonderful. God has loved us who are so unworthy of His love. Because of His love, God gives us the freedom to choose to love Him volitionally or willingly. God is love but He does not coerce or force you to love Him in return. The propitiatory character of Jesus’ death on the cross= the greatness of God’s love. The priceless and self-sacrificing love of God for sinners is evident on the cross. The Almighty in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ humbles Himself and gives up His life on the cross for the sins of His creatures. The word “propitiation” means that there was something in the nature of God that required the sacrifice of Christ on the cross if you and I were to be saved. The wonder of it all is that the same God whose righteous nature required a sacrifice is the God whose love provided that sacrifice.
Now here is the practical truth. Nothing sinful or evil can exist in God’s presence. God is absolute goodness. He cannot overlook, condone, or excuse sin as if it never happened. God’s love does not make Him morally lax. If you put your trust in His Son Jesus, you do not have to bear the penalty for your sins, because Jesus has already born them on your behalf. You can be acquitted; you can be forgiven of your sins today. “And He Himself bore Our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24). Salvation as spiritual healing from the disease of sin. The heavenly Father sent His only begotten Son to die for you and me. The atonement is the preeminent manifestation of God’s love. Jesus coming in to the world to die for you and me is the supreme demonstration of love. The greatness of God’s love is seen in the nature of His gift and its purpose. God gave His precious Son to die for us who were undeserving sinners. You and I did not deserve God’s love.
The fact that Jesus had to die on the cross reveals the degraded condition to which our sins had brought us. Christ came “that we might live through Him and to be the propitiation for our sins,” because otherwise we are dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1; cf. 1 John 3:14). You and I were under the holy wrath and judgment of God. God sent His Son to rescue us, to redeem us not because we are lovable, but because He is love. Therefore, the greatness of God’s love for you and me is the pricelessness of His self-sacrifice for those of us who are undeserving. Nothing else in the world could match up with this manifestation of God’s love.
- THE ACCOUNTABILITY TO LOVE V. 11
In verse 11, John returns to the thought of reproducing God’s love in our lives. In verse 7, John exhorts you and I to love one another. John encourages us to love one another. However, His statement in verse 11 is quite different. Verse 11 deals with our obligation to love one another. The word “ought” can also mean must. In other words, you and me are under divine obligation to love one another. We are under divine compulsion to love one another. The love of God compels us to love one another. We are debtors of unconditional love. We don’t have an option to love. We are under God’s command to love others. We are under moral obligation to love. Indeed we are bound to love one another. John enforces the thought of our obligation to love by pointing to the matchless love of God for us. “If God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
God’s love supplies the incentive and the motivation for you to love one another. God demonstrated His love to us in the giving of His precious Son to die on the cross. This is the example for you and me to love one another.
If you refuse to love one another, then you are not making the response to the love of God, which is a command from God. No one who has been to the cross and seen the immeasurable and unmerited love displayed there can go back to a life of selfishness. In the NT, the opposite of love is not necessarily hatred, but rather selfishness. If a so-called Christians would say, I would not talk to him or her; if you claim to be a believer and you say I can’t forgive him/her it is clear that you have not been to the cross. When you go the cross you die to self and you allow the Spirit of God to live through you. That is why you can love no matter what. We are to love people in like manner as God has loved us in Christ. God has loved us with the cross. If God were to attach a single condition to His love for you and me in Christ, all of us would be doomed. Why? Because there would be nothing we could do to deserve His love. Why then do you attach strings to your love for others? Why do you love only those who love you? Why are you selective in your love for others? Before you say that God doesn’t love you, think of what God has done for you on the cross. Love people as God has loved you.
Maybe you are reading this message, but you don’t know Jesus as your Lord and Savior. All that you need to do is to admit that you can’t save yourself. Ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins. Believe on His name and invite Him to come into your life and He will save you right now. Maybe you are a Christian but sometimes you find it difficult to love. Rededicate your life and ask Jesus to love through you. Maybe, you are a Christian, but your own pain sometimes causes you to doubt the love of God for you. Rededicate your life to Christ and ask Him to love through you.