1 John chapter 4

Real Love

“This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. – Vs 10 NLT

John has been talking a lot about living a life where our actions match our confession – where what we do lines up with what we say we believe. And this chapter continues that theme. He hammers home once again that our lives should be characterized by love – for God and for one another. Why? Because love comes from God (Vs 7). The very capacity we have to love is a gift from God and reveals that we belong to Him. It also reveals to the world around us that God exists and is at work in us. “No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love has been brought to full expression through us” (Vs 12 NLT). God has given us His Spirit, who in turn gives us the capacity to love.We give evidence of God’s presence in us through the love that flows from us.

But John’s main point seems to be that we get to experience real love by remembering what God did for us on the cross. He sent His own Son to die on our behalf. Jesus took our place and our punishment upon Himself. He paid the price we could not pay. He wiped clean the insurmountable debt we owed by sacrificing His own life. This is the doctrine of propitiation. Sounds like a big theological term, but it’s really quite simple. It comes from the Greek word hilasmos which means “an appeasing or propitiation.” Verse 10 is translated this way in the New American Standard Version: “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

Back in chapter two, John states, “and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world” ( 1 John 2:2 NASB). The doctrine of propitiation means that the person and death of Jesus Christ appeased or turned away God’s wrath, satisfying His holiness by meeting His righteous demands. In other words, Jesus’ sacrifice made it possible for God to be propitious (or favorable) to us. God is Holy and cannot tolerate evil. In fact, as a holy God, He had to punish evil and mete out justice. That justice demanded death. The wrath of God against the sinfulness and rebellion of mankind could only be satisfied by His just demands being met. Someone had to pay. The problem was that man was in no condition to pay the price that God demanded. So we stood before God’s wrath fully deserving His verdict of “guilty” and His sentence of death and eternal separation from Him. But God stepped in with His own solution. He showed His love by coming up with a perfect plan that involved His perfect, sinless Son.  Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross satisfied all the requirements of God’s justice, turned away His wrath, and reconciled or restored us to a relationship with Him. John says, “That’s real love!” He loved us at our worst. He loved us when we didn’t deserve love. He loved us when we couldn’t love Him back. Paul puts it this way, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8 NLT). So John’s logical conclusion is, “since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other” (Vs 11 NLT). God’s incredible love for us is the motivation behind our love for one another. Just how much has God loved us? “God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him” (Vs 9 NLT).

As John so clearly puts it, “We love, because He first loved us” (Vs 19 NASB). You can’t say you love God and then turn around and hate your brother (Vs 20). “If anyone boasts, “I love God,” and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see?” (Vs 20 MSG). If you are loved by God, and you are, then you should love God in return. More than that, you should love others with the same kind of love He has shown you. As Charles Ryrie so aptly puts it, “To live a love-filled life is to live a God-filled life.”


Father, thank You for Your incredible love for me. I didn’t deserve it. I still don’t deserve it, but I bask in it every single day of my life. Help me learn to love my brothers and sisters in Christ with the same selfless, sacrificial love. So that the world may know that You live within me. By this will they know that we are Your Son’s disciples, if we love one another (John 13:35). Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men