By Stan Brown
I John 4:19 We love, because He first loved us.
Love continues to be John’s theme. Most modern translations read We love, because He first loved us. The New King James reads We love Him, because He first loved us. There is little practical difference between the two as John is stating that all love is sourced in God and we cannot truly love without understanding His love. This climactic verse concerning love states it concisely. This verse might be considered to be a succinct statement of the Gospel message itself so we will examine it from that perspective. In his gospel John writes, For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
Love always begins with holiness. It is meaningless apart from God’s righteousness. Love flows out from the presence of God who is absolutely righteous in His intrinsic character. He is not some namby-pamby, weak willed One who does not care what we do. He loves us supremely to the point that He wants to provide fellowship for us as we walk in the light of His holiness. Indeed, He desires that we heed the admonition of Peter as he quotes from the book of Leviticus, 1Pet. 1:16 because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”
God’s holiness demands eternal punishment for sin. God’s love provided the propitiation (satisfaction) for that sin through the blood of Jesus His Son. Love begins with God as He gave his one and only Son. John has just written, 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 (4:10). We respond to that love by believing in Him (everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life). So, we thus have eternal life but God offers more. He offers us the opportunity to love Him and love one another as He loves, We love, because He first loved us.
Thus, this is the Gospel message in its simplest form. God first loved us and provides us the opportunity to delight in His love as we become His conduits of that love to one another. In his Gospel, John takes it beyond just spending eternity with God as he quotes the words of Jesus, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him (John 14:23). In his epistle, John describes it as the abiding relationship of we in Him and He in us.