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God Is Love (Among Other Things) - 1 John 4:7-12

The word "beloved" is a reference to the people of God only, and not to all people everywhere. God's children are loved by Him exclusively.

1 John 3:1-2, 4:7-12; Malachi 1:2-3; Deuteronomy 7:6-8

Jan 04, 2015 12:00 AM

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There are numerous terms in the Bible used to refer to the people of God.  In the Old Testament, a common phrase is “the righteous”, which stands opposed to those who are “the wicked”.  In the New Testament, these same righteous people who believe in Jesus as the promised Messiah are called “believers” and eventually they became known as Christians.  Paul calls Christians “saints”, meaning holy ones, sanctified ones, people set apart by God for salvation.

But undoubtedly the most precious word used in the New Testament to refer to believers in Jesus Christ is the word “beloved”.

John uses the word “beloved” six times in 1 John.
Peter uses it four times in the same way in 2 Peter.
James uses it three times, and it is used by Paul throughout his writings.

Therefore, “beloved” is a common reference in the New Testament to Christians.  We are those particular people who can rightfully claim to be loved by God.  We are His beloved people, the objects of His saving love.  It means “loved ones”, or “those who are loved of God”.  It is not only a noun to refer to a certain group of people, but it is an adjective also to describe what kind of people we are.  We are the loved ones.  God loves us.  We are beloved by God.  

Few people would have an issue with this because most people have come to presume upon the love of God for all people everywhere.  God IS love!  Doesn’t that mean God loves everyone?  All people are beloved, right?

The short answer is, no.  Not like this.  Not like John and Peter and James and Paul are speaking of.  As you know, the Greek word is agape which is a different kind of love, a higher degree of love--in fact, it is a supernatural level of love that originates in God.  It is not like what the world typically refers to as love--a kind of benevolent attitude that passively desires the best for others.  It is not love in the sense of loving family or friends or neighbors.  This love which the New Testament writers speak of transcends all other forms of human love.  

So, no.  God does not love everyone like this.  He loves us like this.  Believers alone are the beloved, the “agaped” people of God, the Bride of Christ, the ones for whom the Good Shepherd has given His life.  This is not the kind of love that people normally speak of.

In the Old Testament, God repeatedly makes the specific point that Israel is loved above all other nations:

[2] “I have loved you,” says the LORD. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob's brother?” declares the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob [3] but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” (Malachi 1:2-3 ESV)

[6] “For you are a people holy [sanctified, set apart, separated from the rest] to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. [7] It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples,

[8] but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 7:6-8 ESV)

Some people refer to this as discriminating love, the love of God that eventually and unfailingly leads to the salvation of all His chosen people, whether they be Old Testament or New Testament saints.  John has already made this point for us in chapter 3--

[1] See what KIND of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. . . . [2] Beloved, we are God's children now, . . . (1 John 3:1-2 ESV)

All of my life, I have heard Christians speaking of sharing the love of Christ with others for the sake of winning them to salvation, for the sake of evangelism.  A more recent evangelical fad among churches seeking to “share the love of Jesus” is to perform community service--washing cars, raking leaves, painting houses and such.  That, supposedly, is a display of the love of of God and of Jesus Christ toward others.

These people mean well, and certainly the Lord has used such efforts to speak to the hearts of others and cause them to maybe visit a church or investigate the claims of the gospel.  

But let me ask this question: How does the love expressed in raking someone’s leaves compare to the love expressed by Christ for His Bride?  What does the love of Christ truly look like, according to Scripture?  According to John?  

Look at the text with me:

[7] Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. [8] Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. [9] 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.

[10] 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. [11] Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. [12] No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:7-12 ESV)

This is, in my opinion, one of the most discriminating texts in all the Bible.  This was not written to unbelievers.  This is not an evangelistic text for the sake of sharing the love of Christ with the lost.  It was written to the people whom God loves, the beloved ones.  The particular and peculiar people for whom God sent His Son to deliver them from His judgment and eternal punishment, and to grant them deliverance and life.  

What does this kind of love look like?  It is the love that is willing to give His own Son so that we might become sons and daughters of God.  It is a kind of love that could only be expressed fully in the context of what God hates.  The extent of this love can only be measured in light of the punishment leveled against the Lord Jesus for our sakes.  

This love is measured not by leaves raked, or windows washed, or snow shoveled, or houses repaired, or oil changes performed.  This love is measured by the crucifixion and substitutionary punishment of the Son of God as a satisfactory payment for our sins.  This is an other-worldly love, from God, toward us, for our redemption.  God puts forth Jesus’ death as the only act of love that would propitiate His wrath against us.  That is the love of Christ.  That is the immense love of God for His enemies, whom He makes His children.

But there are legions of those who want to minimize this kind of love by saying God loves everyone SO MUCH that, not only is He not willing that any of them at all should perish and die in their sins, but rather, He is going to overlook His own hatred for all sin, lay aside divine justice, grant even the unrepentant a pardon, and allow everyone without exception into Heaven, regardless of whether they embrace Jesus Christ as their Savior or not.  Do you remember Rob Bell?  

“The love of God will melt every hard heart, and even the most ‘depraved sinners’ will eventually give up their resistance and turn to God.  And so, beginning with the early church, there is a long tradition of Christians who believe that God will ultimately restore everything and everybody.” 1

Pope Francis said:

The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics.  Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’  Even the atheists.  Everyone!  And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class!  We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all!” 2

And even Billy Graham said, . . .

“[God’s] calling people out of the world for His name, whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world, or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ because they’ve been called by God.  They may not even know the name of Jesus, but they know in their hearts that they need something that they don't have, and they turn to the only light that they have, and I think that they are saved, and that they're going to be with us in heaven” 3

This discriminating love of God for His chosen people, the love which John and others speak of in Scripture, is not confusing.  It is very, very clear.  But obviously, there is MUCH confusion about it EVERYWHERE.  

I want to read a brief story which I picked up months ago.  I’ve been waiting for this text in 1 John and today’s message to read it to you.  It is a good story, and many would say it is inspiring.  They would say it illustrates how we as Christians should share the love of God with others.  In fact, that is the entire intention of the article.  This is how Christians should share the love of God with others (even though Rob Bell and Pope Francis and Billy Graham tell us there is no need to share the love of God because God’s love is SO HUGE that He is just going to save everyone, even if they are just like all those people in Scripture who are condemned by God because of their unbelief).  The title is Love Keeps Reaching Out: (Read the article)

Apparently, this is what evangelism and sharing the love of Christ is supposed to look like.  We diagnose troubled youths with “conduct disorder”, plant the gospel seed, wait for them to accept Christ, and see how their lives are changed.  Jack’s life did change radically.  

It changed so much that he even began working with a Christian Car Ministry outreach to gang members.

What is most troubling about this is what the article does not say.  Nothing about the Gospel message, nothing about repentance, nothing about salvation.  The author says,

“I felt deep gratitude for a love that reaches out through our . . . child and family agencies and changes lives.”  What did he not say?  “I am grateful to God for His saving love and mercy toward this young man.”

If Jack was saved, it is because God loved him and opened his eyes to who Jesus Christ is.  If Jack was saved, it is because God chose Jack, granted Jack repentance and faith, and accepted Jack.  But none of that is in this article.  The title of the article is not God Keeps Reaching Out,  but Love Keeps Reaching Out.  They hardly give God ANY credit at all for this young man’s “changed life”.

What is implied in all of this is that God loves us so much, He changes people’s lives from disorderly conduct, to being decent and good and productive.  And changed.  

Brethren, listen to me.  The Scriptures tell us God has saved us and we belong to Him because He loved us enough to send Christ to fix our “conduct disorder” by dying for us.  And He continues to love us!  He refers to us as “Beloved”!

[7] Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. [8] Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. [9] 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.

[10] 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. [11] Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. [12] No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:7-12 ESV)

John says God is love.  He is not talking about sentimentalism or a sense of good will toward all men everywhere that will finally persuade Him not to exclude anyone from Heaven.  Neither is John talking about a pitiful love that helps us improve our quality of life if we will just accept Jesus.

When John says God is love, what does he mean?  God is the very embodiment of sacrificial love.  He doesn’t just love, He IS love.  God is the definition of love.  His work of redemption is the manifestation of what He is.  He demonstrates the fact that He is love through personal sacrifice, through the death of His Son for the sake of sinners, through the punishment of our sin which satisfies His justice and enables Him to accept us and make us His very own children.  

All of this is the outward evidence of God’s own Person, the manifestation of what He is, namely that He IS love.  Because He is love, He loves.  And He expresses the extent of what He is by the exclusive nature of His love for us, His very own beloved people.  That is precisely how He expressed His love to Israel: by choosing Jacob over Esau.

Brothers and sisters, we are loved exclusively by God in a way the world cannot and does not know.  We are privileged children.  We are the apple of God’s eye.  We who believe are the sole recipients of a special, discriminating love from God which has resulted in our redemption, our justification, and our adoption as children of God.  Christians are God’s beloved.



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