Love the Brothers (1 John 3:11-24 and 4:7-21)

Publié le 22 novembre 2020 dans Traductions

Sermon by Pastor Vincent Bourrel


This epistle of John has been compared to a spiral staircase, because it keeps coming back to the same subjects (love, obedience and the truth). Each time he comes back to one of these themes, John takes it further.

He has already said in 2.7-11 that love for the brothers is the proof of our communion with God (of a walk in the light), in 3.10-14 it is the proof of our status as sons, and in 4.7-16, we discover why love for the brothers is the fundamental element for an authentic faith.

Today’s test is a love test. In 4.7-21 the word appears 29 times.

Three times John says that we are to love one another (v. 7, 11, 12), and this is the structure of his argument. We must love one another because God is love, because Jesus Christ is given on the cross, and because the Holy Spirit dwells in us.

The source of love: God is Love (v. 7-8)

We are to love one another because love is from God (v.7) and God is love (v.8). God is the source and origin of love, and all true love stems from him: it follows that whoever truly loves is born of God (lit. was begotten) and knows God. Love is the sign of true knowledge of God and of our birth from above. To love is necessarily to love God since God is love.

God is love does not mean that loving is only one of the many activities of God, but rather that all of his activity is an activity of love. He creates out of love, he rules the world out of love, he judges by and with love.

So we make ourselves known as sons and daughters of God by the love we have for one another. And whoever does not love v.8 has not known God. Brotherly love is not an option you take or not, but it is part of its nature. It would be like a plane that doesn’t fly, a compass that doesn’t point north, or a fish that can’t swim. This is where the test of love is reliable. If I don’t love, I don’t know God.

If we are born of him we at least bear the reflection of his divine nature, we resemble him. If we know him, we know his language, and his language is love.

This is John’s main point throughout his epistle. The nature of God is found in his children. God is light; his children walk in the light. God is righteous; he who is born of him practices righteousness (2.29, 3.7). God is love; he who loves is born of him.

v.4.19-21 So the test is not only in the love we have for God but for our brothers.

No doubt it sometimes seems easier to love this invisible God, whose goodness we know, than our brother or sister whose faults we see only too well. But it is only by loving this brother or sister that we will know that our love for God is not purely imaginary. We take our imagination so easily for our heart. Our love for our brothers and sisters is all the more precious in the sight of God as it is the fruit of a victory over ourselves, a victory won by obedience to his command.

The revelation of love: Christ is given on the cross (v. 9-11)

The love of God, the love with which we must love one another, has been revealed in the gift of his only begotten Son for us to live. Look at v. 10, John says that it is not our love but God’s love that came first and all our love is only the reflection, a response to his (cf. v. 19). This means that understanding his love for us will have a direct impact on how we love God and our brothers. The better we understand the greatness of God’s love for us, the better we love.

The love of God was manifested towards us in that Jesus Christ died for us on the cross (atoning victim for our sins, v.10), so that we might live through him v.9.

  • The greatness of the love of God is therefore seen first of all by seeing the greatness of the one who is given (Jesus, the only and eternal Son, beloved of the Father, only righteous, the image of the invisible God). “A greater gift from God is inconceivable, because a greater gift was not possible. (John Stott).
  • The greatness of his love is also seen in his sacrifice. It is not the incarnation, but the atonement that is the supreme manifestation of love (cf. 3.16a « in that he gave his life »). It is at the death on the cross that we see God’s love for us. In the sacrifice made, in the lowering of himself, even to death.
  • The greatness of his love is also seen in the objects of his love. He loved us and sent his Son to save us, not because we were in any way worthy of being loved, but because he is love. Paul says it in his letter to Titus 3: 3-5 « we were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, enslaved to every kind of lust and pleasure, living in wickedness and in envy, worthy to be hated, and hating ourselves each other. But when the goodness of God our Savior and his love for men were manifested, he saved us, not because of the works of righteousness which we would have done, but according to his mercy ”
  • The greatness of his love is therefore seen in the high price of his own sacrifice for those who are quite unworthy of it. The essence of love is self-sacrifice v. 3.16 Jesus’ self-sacrifice is not just a revelation to admire, but an example to emulate. “We must give our life for the brothers”. True love is not revealed only in this supreme sacrifice, but in even the smallest acts that cost us, that may kill a small part of us. How much do our actions show that we love others? To what extent are our acts of love manifested towards people who are not particularly lovable? Are we as generous as we could be with our money, our possessions, our time?
  • The revelation of the love of God in the person of Christ crucified places us in a v.11 obligation. John Stott said, « No one, after going to the cross and seeing the undeserved and immeasurable love that God showed there, can return to a selfish life » 

Here are some practical aspects for us.

1) God did not love in words only, but in action: he sent his Son. Love is not just words. 

Ch 3: 17-18. A « may God help you my friend or may God rescue you » is an offensive defeat against God. It is through us that God wants to assist the poor, for our good. God sends it to us, and we send it back to God! It is a scandal.

This week Henri Beau passed away, the testimony of brotherly love he left in his memories was not only words and a warm smile but works, time, finance, sweat …

2) The love of God is without consideration. He responds to the needs of the other. God is love from all eternity, he is perfectly righteous from all eternity. He didn’t need to save sinners like us for himself. He loved us so that we could share his glory. To love according to God is to take the interests of others to heart. How can we love others? By serving them without any thought of getting paid in return.

Not for what they might give us in return. Not to ease our conscience, not to satisfy our emotions, not to gain accolades, but because we have been loved that way.

3) True love is sacrificial. God gave his only begotten Son. Jesus loved us by offering himself as a sacrifice to save us. The supreme act of love is to give of ourselves for others. Love is the eagerness to let go of what is of value in our own lives, in order to enrich the life of another. Sometimes what is precious to us is our comfort, our means, our time, our tranquility …

When I am asked for material goods, I give what encumbers me at home. I don’t love, it is the person who rids me who shows love. I’m ashamed but that’s what I do sometimes.

No sacrifice, no love.

Cain’s hatred led him to murder, Christ’s love led him to self-sacrifice (cf 3.12).