By S.C. Shaw
One of the most common things “known” about God is that He is love. “God is love” is uttered amongst everyone including people who don’t have any interest in following Jesus. Unfortunately, many don’t know what “God is love” means, let alone know where to begin with living in accordance with Him. If we get this wrong, it is a matter of life and death. The most dangerous thing is people having full assurance of faith when it is not secure at all.
My heart behind this blog isn’t to crush your happiness in this ambiguous statement that “God is Love”, but it is to enlighten you to the Biblical truth behind this verse in hopes it helps you respond correctly to God in a way that does give you a life secure in His love and eternal life with Him in heaven.
We see this famous verse in 1 John 4:7
Here’s 7-12 because context is key.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 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. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.”
Right off that bat people fail to see that every letter/the entire New Testament was written to the church, not the individual or to the unrepentant (non-believer). The gathered body of believers is who this letter is written to and we must understand it in that context.
With that in mind, we see that this is a letter from John encouraging believers to love one another because God is love. But still, we must ask more questions. The way God loves is much different than the way we love or even think of love. Then we must begin to know the way God loves so that we can begin to know how to understand it. We must fight the urge to simply slap our own understanding of God, love, or anything we find in the Bible with the way we choose to understand it.
Let us begin here. We see in 1 John 4 that God is love but 4 chapters earlier we see this passage in 1 John 1.
1 John 1:5-10
“This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”
God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. This can help us begin to ask the right questions and start knowing God better in hopes to understand these things.
– “God is light” means what?
In the Bible, “Light” represents purity, holiness, godliness etc. God is love just as much as He is light. So, His love in the light of holiness and perfection is our starting point in understanding what love is supposed to mean.
-What is darkness?
In the Bible “darkness” represents everything ungodly, sin, evil, etc. There is no evil in God whatsoever. In fact, evil is only around because it is the opposite of God. We wouldn’t know “good” unless there was bad. We know how good God is because of the evil we see. Evil is the contrast of God. To put how good God is into perspective, God is so good that He is able to use the evil man choses for good. That means that all the evil man does, God is working for His ultimate plan and ultimate goodness. That’s amazing! He is so far removed from evil that when He uses evil situations, He is able to make the ultimate ending to that situation good. And don’t ever forget that the evil doer is not simply overlooked. Evil is storing up wrath for itself and all who practice it. I am simple pointing out the powerful goodness of God.
-Do you feel like a liar when you read verse 6?
“If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth”
We need to examine our hearts always and make sure we are walking in step with God. How do we know we are walking in step? By reading His Word, fellowshipping with other believers and growing in our faith. We must see the fruits of the Spirit in our lives (Romans 2:5). Those are “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23). It’s not bad to question if we are right with God. But it can be bad to assume we are. Notice how it says “practice the truth”. We will never be perfect until we see Christ face to face. Until then it’s a practice.
-How do we practice the truth?
“Practice” is an action word. If we aren’t able to see our faith tangibly, then I would ask if there is a true faith there at all? God doesn’t just speak, He acts. His Word demands action. His Words create and are action. Action is the most important thing in the world. Anyone can say anything. But to prove, change or respond, is to act. We can’t accurately practice the truth without knowing the Word of God.
-How do we walk in the light?
Again, “walk” is an action word. We can only “walk in” light if we are living as Christ would have us live. What does that mean? Read your Bible. I know that can be simply a buzz word kind of statement, but it is true. If we care enough and seek to grow/mature in our faith, then we must be grounded and well versed in His Word. If we aren’t then we run the risk of falling for every wave of passion and doctrine around. I know the Bible can be intimidating and hard to understand but this is why there are many ways to approach the Bible. Checkout this blog where I teach you how to slow down and grow in understanding intentionally.
-Why is fellowship with one another so important?
God did not just save us out of sin, death and eternal punishment. He saved us to one another. We are the body of Christ and as such, should desire fellowship with other like-minded people. Jesus did not come to simply save YOU, He came to save the church, which is all of us who proclaim the faith. That’s not to dimmish the very real personal relationship we have with Him, but too many of us only have that individual aspect in our minds.
-If we are cleansed from all sin, does that mean we don’t sin anymore?
We are still sinners because we are still in this world. We are still wrapped in this sinful flesh. However, we are under the blood of Christ if we are living in a life sacrificed to Him. As we mature in our faith we mature in our knowledge of sin in our lives. With that maturity comes a desire to be more like Christ. Checkout this song I wrote which is a prayer to illuminate the sin in our minds and help us run from even the temptation of it.
-Who claims they have no sin?
The people of the world today don’t even use the word “sin” anymore. I would suggest that most people don’t even know what sin means. I would, however, claim that most of the world lives by a set of standards that they have made up in their own minds and attempt to live by. But if most people answer honestly, they will say they can’t even live up to their own moral standard. Their only goal is that their good deeds outweigh their bad ones. I love what the 1689n London Baptist confession of faith says about the worlds “Good Works”.
-If we simply confess that we are sinners, is that enough to be a Christian?
Short answer, “Yes”. But that is the first step. The demons know they are sinners too. Even the demons believe and tremble at the name of God (James 2:19). But they forever live with unrepentant hearts. We need to confess our sins, repent and live a life worthy of the Gospel. This is not done in our own power for we have none, but done with the gift of the Holy Spirit who is given to us by God when we follow Christ.
-“If we confess and God forgives us, is that all? I’m good to go to heaven?”
This is the great dynamic of the Christian faith. Many will confess their sin, repent and attempt to live a life for Christ but will have little to know success. This is because there was no true conversion. We don’t just put on a face of godliness and attempt, out of our own power, to live for Christ. To be a “good person” is something that has never been. To be dead, and then to be alive, are two very different places to be in life. If your walk with God isn’t as dramatic as that then I would want to ask some questions. A great question to ask ourselves is “How has our life changed since following Jesus?” If there is not a real answer to that, there’s a problem.
-Again, claiming “no sin”, what’s the big deal?
Sin is the reason why Jesus came. Sin is what has separated us from God. Sin is why Jesus (God) needed to come, die, and rise, so that He could be with His people forever. God’s desire has always been to be with His creation. He doesn’t need us, nor did He create out of any unmet needs. But He desires to share His goodness with His creation. He delights in what He has made. He is unable to have any part with us if we are covered by sin. But since Christ work on the cross, we are able to be covered by His blood and in fact we are the righteousness of Christ if indeed we follow Him. This isn’t by anything that we have done, but by His working alone.
-How do we make God a liar?
God is perfect and does not have the ability to sin. Lying is a sin. How do we make sense of this verse? If we claim to believe and walk with Jesus but live in a way contrary to what He commands in His Word, then His truth is made a joke to the on looking world and within us. God only speaks truth in fact He is truth. But to claim Christ and walk contrary to His teachings and commandments is to make it seem as if God is false or a liar. This is why there is so much confusion in the world today about God, the Bible, Christianity and the church.
-We are to read His Word, but now His Word is in us?
In John 1:1 says “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God.” That verse is talking about Jesus. When we live in the completed work of Christ then we have the Holy Spirit alive inside us. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus. He is the third Person of the Trinity. That means we have the very Spirit of God inside us, if you truly believe and follow Christ.
The best response to understanding a passage like this is “Am I saved? Or “what must I do to be saved?” If those questions aren’t on your radar, then ask more questions. Sometimes we need to plant the seed and let it grow. That is fine. But there is no way to make it to heaven without the repentance and following of Christ. If you’d like to read some thoughts about that question then read here.
Please don’t let my word be the final word on this. Pick up the Bible, read Gospel-saturated books by good authors, read good commentaries on the Bible, pick up Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology”, read the 1689 London Baptist confession of faith and learn from a man’s lifetime of study and meditation on the Word of God. Most of all, trust in Jesus Christ and know what He has given us is whole, perfect and is for our good and His glory. Love you all!