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Love in 1 John

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Much of this series on 1 John has concentrated on the polemic in the epistle against false teaching, sin, and antinomianism. It seems fitting to turn to the theme of love in the epistle. The strongest statement is 1 John 4:8 and 16 that “God is love.” In Greek, it is clear that God is the subject and love is the predicate, so God’s nature and activity is characterized by love yet 1 John would not have endorsed the reverse statement that “Love is God.” The implications for the community are spelled out in chapter 4.

  • God initiated the loving relationship with the newly begotten children and provided a concrete example in sending the Son as a sacrifice for sins. Note there is a clear Johannine distinction between Jesus as the divine Son (huios) and the community as children (tekniapaidia).
  • Christ followers are thus obligated to love one another, obeying the love commandment (cf. John 13:34-35; cf. Leviticus 19:18).
  • God’s love is perfected or completed, reaching its intended goal in the community that loves each other, thus incarnating the love of God in the midst of the world.
  • On the other side of the coin, it is a contradiction to claim to love God who is invisible while hating one’s brother or sister who is visible. This may be either a general statement or a polemic against the opponents who revealed their “hate” by splitting from the community.
  • This divine love gives the Christ-follower assurance on the day of judgement, for love cancels out the fear which has to do with judgement.
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