(Please read 1 John 4:19-5:5 in your preferred version of the Bible. I used the NIV.)
Real love can be identified by three unmistakable qualities.
- The life a real lover is marked by love.
Our love originates in God’s love for us. Verse nineteen continues the thought began in verse eight: WHOEVER DOES NOT LOVE DOES NOT KNOW GOD, BECAUSE GOD IS LOVE. Real love originated in God. This means that we are to love in the way God has loved us; unconditionally and universally.
Love for one another is the “flip side” of loving God. Love for God & for others is not divisible. IF ANYONE SAYS (v. 20) is the Elder’s reference to the false teachers that have plagued the church. The falsehood of their teaching is exposed by their lack of love.
A genuine experience of God is always verified by a loving character. In this way, love is a test for truth. While they are separate commands, you can’t have one without the other. If someone claims to love God, but hates (has no love) for their brother, then their claim is proven false: HE IS A LIAR, John wrote.
No one can really love God – who is spiritual and invisible – and have no love for their brother, who is physical and visible. The opposite is also true: you can’t truly love others until you have God’s love in your heart.
Love is more than a feeling; it is a command. As V. 21, whatever God commands is the ultimate necessity. So when the false teachers claimed a personal experience of God as the authority of their teaching, their lack of love betrayed them as false. WHOEVER LOVES GOD MUST ALSO LOVE HIS BROTHER is linked with Jesus’ love commands (see Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28; Luke 10:25-28).
Belief in Jesus is where real love starts.
Verse one set forth the doctrinal distinctive that separates real lovers from false ones: EVERYONE WHO BELIEVES THAT JESUS IS THE CHRIST.
– JESUS refers to the human side of our Savior’s nature. As per Christmas, He was born into our human family and lived a human life.
– CHRIST refers to the divine side of our Savior’s nature. He is God & man at t same time.
– Failing to believe one or the other or both disqualifies you as a real lover.
Those who affirm this faith are BORN OF GOD. Jesus said that in order to be saved, a person must be born again. Belief in Jesus as both God and man is the first step toward being born again.
- The life of a real lover is marked by obedience.
Loving others is demonstrated by obeying God. We show our love for God by loving each other.
– This is true in a relational sense. When we worship together, part of
worship is fellowship; strengthening relationships. When we serve together, part of service is fellowship; it unites us in a common cause.
– This is true in a spiritual sense. Being united in Christ, believers share the Holy Spirit who joins us to God and each other. Paul wrote that we share the mind of Christ. While this doesn’t seem to guarantee agreement on specifics, it guarantees a common purpose.
– This is true in a moral sense. As individuals & as a group, we aim to do the right thing in the right way at the right time. God’s love deals with sin by forgiving it, not by making excuses for it.
Obedience is the way we express love for God. To encourage us, the Elder adds, AND HIS COMMANDS ARE NOT BURDENSOME. This is a point he made four times in the Gospel of John (14:15, 21, 23; 15:10) and two other times in his letters (1 John 2:3-5; 2 John 6).
This is true for at least three reasons:
– God has issued His commands to love out of love. Forgiveness and forbearance are implied.
– God has empowered our love by the Holy Spirit who illumines His word and motivates us.
– God has put us together with one another to educate, encourage, and share the work.
- The life of a real lover is marked by victory.
We were told in verse one how to be BORN OF GOD. In verse four we’re told what happens to people who are BORN OF GOD: we overcome the world! In this letter, overcomers are identified by:
– Doing what is right (2:29).
– Avoiding what is wrong (3:9; 5:18).
– Loving one another (4:7).
In John 16:33 = “I HAVE TOLD YOU THESE THINGS, SO THAT IN ME YOU MAY HAVE PEACE. IN THIS WORLD YOU WILL HAVE TROUBLE. BUT TAKE HEART! I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD.” To John, the WORLD is the system of negativity and evil that has aligned itself against God. The WORLD can be intimidating and/or tempting, but it has no power over people who are BORN OF GOD. We’re no longer part of that system.
There’s nothing in us that make us overcomers; it is another act of grace on God’s part. The way we access the VICTORY Jesus won is by FAITH. In that sense, FAITH is the victory (v. 5). The VICTORY is available only to HE WHO BELIEVES. Only the people who have a right relationship with God share in Jesus’ VICTORY. The VICTORY is based on a specific belief; ONLY HE WHO BELIEVE THAT JESUS IS THE SON OF GOD.
A central truth about Jesus Christ is that He is both God and man. Those who affirm this truth have VICTORY over the WORLD. This is essential because God said so, and because our salvation requires it.