Perfect Love

Title: Perfect Love

Bible Book: 1 John 4 : 7-21

Author: Gil McKee

Subject: Love, Perfect; Christian Love



Today we return to our study of First John; and one of the things we have already discovered is that the subject of love is an important theme in this letter. In fact, a few weeks ago I pointed out to you that in the one hundred and five verses of this epistle, the word love is used fifty-nine times.

The passage we are studying this morning is actually the third time John discusses love. He has already given some strong instruction about love in the second and third chapters. And now here in the fourth chapter he returns to that theme. Let’s read our text together beginning in verse seven. Read Text.

When you first read these verses you are tempted to think, “Alright already John! I get the message! We’re supposed to love one another. Can’t we move on to something else?” But when you look at these verses a little closer you notice a new term John has added to the mix. Four times in these verses he uses the word perfect to describe the love he talks about so much.

John uses three different forms of the word translated perfect, perfected, and perfection. But all three come from the same root word which means “to bring to an end or completion or full development.” In other words, “complete or mature.”

So let’s take note of some of the things John teaches us about this perfect love. First, he mentions…

I. The source of perfect love. (7-8)

John begins by saying, “Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God.” Just as God is the source of life, God is also the source of love. And while God is the source of emotional love and friendship love and physical or romantic love, the love John is talking about in these verses is agape love, that sacrificial, willful, and divine love that can only be produced in a person’s life by God.

That’s why John goes on to say in the latter part of verse seven and verse eight that “everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. But the one who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

A. God is the source of love because He IS love.

God’s very essence and nature is love! And the fact that God is love explains several things. First, it explains why God created us. Have you ever thought about why a God Who has no beginning and no end and Who is totally complete and sufficient within Himself would want to create human beings? Only one reason…because He desired to lavish His perfect love on human beings who would in turn love Him forever. God created us out of His love! God created us because He IS love!

B. The fact that God is love also explains why He gave us the ability to choose.

When He created us He designed us to love and obey Him by an act of our will. In other words, He has made us in such a way that we must choose to love and obey Him. That’s why Jesus said that the greatest commandment of all is for us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We either choose to love and obey God or we choose not to love and obey Him.

C. The fact that God is love also explains His sovereignty.

God allows and orchestrates all the circumstances of life to ultimately reveal His love for us. That’s why the apostle Paul said: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 (NASU) God’s ultimate purpose in creating us was to reveal His love for us and for us to love Him back.

D. The fact that God is love explains the divine plan of salvation.

Think about this for a moment. If God only dealt with us on the basis of His justness, then He would have to convict every one of us of our sin and send us straight to hell. But because even His justness operates through the filter of His love He has provided a remedy for our sin through the sacrifice of His one and only Son, Jesus Christ.

That’s why Jesus spoke those infamous words in the third chapter of the goepel of John: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NIV)

Love doesn’t get any more perfect or complete than that! Aren’t you thankful today that God is love? Aren’t you thankful today that God is the source of perfect love?

Next, John points out…

II. The start of perfect love. (9-11, 19)

Not only is God the source of perfect love but He is the One that got it all started. Verse ten says it like this: “Not that we loved God, but that He loved us…” And verse nineteen affirms it by saying that “we love because He first loved us.”

We are able to love God and others because God first loved us. And verse nine says that God introduced us to His perfect love by sending “His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.”

How do sinners like us, deserving of death, live through Christ? John says in verse ten that it is by the fact that God “sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” That word translated propitiation simply refers to a covering and atonement for our sins.

The apostle Paul explained God’s love to the Christians in Ephesus like this: “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins…But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:1, 4-7 (NASU)

God is not only the source of perfect love but His is the One who started perfect love by loving us even when we were dead in our trespasses and sins. And as a result, John says in verse eleven: “Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another.” 1 John 4:11 (HCSB)

John’s point here is since God, in His great love and mercy, graciously demonstrated His love in sending His one and only Son as a sacrifice for our sin, then those of us who claim to know and love Him should follow His example by loving one another with the same kind of sacrificial love. And He has made it possible for us to do just that because He first loved us. He’s the source and the start of perfect love.

But beginning in verse twelve John goes on the mention…

III. The staying of perfect love. (12-16)

John says in verse twelve that no one has seen God the Father at any time, and since God the Son is no longer visibly present with us, the only way for people to see God’s love is through us. In other words, God’s unseen or invisible love is now displayed through the seen or visible love of believers. Or as one commentator puts it: “The love that originated in God and was manifested in His Son is now demonstrated in His people.”[1]

We’ve all probably heard the old cliché, “We may be the only Bible some people ever read.” Well, that’s true. But think about this: We may also be the only demonstration of God’s love that some people ever see. What kind of demonstration of God’s love have people seen in your life this past week?

I believe that’s why John makes such a big deal in verses twelve through sixteen about the staying of perfect love. The word he uses to describe the staying of perfect love should be a very familiar word to us by now from this epistle – remain or remains. In fact, in these five verses he uses the word six times.

And notice that half of those usages are in verse sixteen: “And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him.” 1 John 4:16 (HCSB)

In other words, the person who continually demonstrates a life pattern of divine and sacrificial love for other people is a person that knows and loves God and remains in God and God remains in that person.

IV. The security of perfect love. (17-18)

Read verses seventeen and eighteen.

I recently heard about a young woman who was getting married but was somewhat insecure and fearful of making such a huge commitment. On the day of her wedding one of her friends who lived in another state and could not attend her wedding sent her a text message for the purpose of congratulating and encouraging her on her wedding day. Knowing that her friend was somewhat insecure and afraid, she text what she intended to be the scripture reference of 1 John 4:18, the verse we just read about there being no fear in love but perfect love drives out all fear, and told her friend to get her Bible and read the verse.

Unfortunately, however, when she typed her text message she omitted the numeral “1” before John causing her nervous bride friend to turn instead to the fourth chapter and eighteenth verse of the gospel of John rather than the first epistle of John. And here’s what she read: “The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.” John 4:18 (NIV)

Well, that obviously was not what the friend had in mind at all and it certainly didn’t offer the bride-to-be any security and comfort. But what John has to say in verses seventeen and eighteen of his first epistle certainly offers believers some security and assurance. (Reinsert Point 4 slide)

Just as a bride can have complete confidence and peace on the day of her wedding, John says that Christians can have complete confidence and peace on the Day of Judgment. The Day of Judgment here simply refers to that day of reckoning when we will stand before the judgment seat of Christ. The apostle Paul spoke of that day in 2 Corinthians 5: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:10 (NASU)

By the way, the word translated judgment seat is the Greek word bema. The bema was a raised platform area where court cases were heard by the chief Roman government official of the day. (Insert picture.) And here’s what the bema, or the judgment seat, in first-century Corinth looked like.

In just a couple of weeks twenty of us from FBC are going to see this bema on our trip to Greece and Turkey. It was to this very bema that the apostle Paul was brought by the Jews to the Roman proconsul of the day for preaching the gospel. You can read about it in the eighteenth chapter of Acts.

So Paul used that very real judgment seat in Corinth to speak figuratively of the judgment seat of Christ that all believers would one day appear before on our day of judgment.

But John says here in our text that those who remain in God’s love and God’s love remains in them have nothing to fear. We can look to that day with confidence. And he tells us why we can have that kind of confidence with this incredible statement in verse seventeen: “…for we are as He (Christ) is in this world.” (Reinsert Point 4 slide)

John has already said in the third chapter “that when Christ appears we will be like Him.” (1 John 3:2) So think about what all that means! God treats us the same way He treats His Son. He adorns us with the righteousness of Christ and someday we will stand before God’s throne as confidently as Jesus does.

So no true believer should fear the coming of Christ. No true believer should fear the judgment day because fear involves punishment, and true believers who are perfected in love will not face God’s punishment. That’s why no true believer fears His return but loves and anticipates His return because “perfect love drives out fear.”

That’s why people who truly know and love God don’t fear death. That’s why people who truly know and love God don’t fear the return of Christ but love and long for it.

Finally, John identifies…

V. The sign of perfect love. (20-21)

John concludes this passage by affirming again, as he already has in chapter two, that perfect love is a sign of true relationship with God. Look at what he says in verses twenty and twenty-one. (Read verses twenty and twenty-one.)

God’s perfect love is a blessing for us to experience in our own lives as well as a wonderful joy and responsibility for us to share with others. Perfect love is a complete and mature love that reflects the nature of God and the work of Christ on the cross that flows through the lives of believers through the indwelling power and presence of the Holy Spirit to all those around us. And as Jesus Himself said in the thirteenth chapter of the gospel of John, it is a clear sign that we truly belong to Him.

[1] John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1-3 John (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2007), 169.


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