The ultimate expression of love for God is Occupation with Christ. The ultimate expression of love for others is virtue-love. John teaches virtue-love in I John 4:16-5:3.
“And we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”
To know the love of God is possible only as a believer grows spiritually by means of the reception and retention of Bible doctrine. The truth regarding God’s love is doctrinal information, revealed by the Holy Spirit to an advancing believer. An advancing believer has learned that God’s love can be exhibited only by a believer who has developed God’s virtue in his soul. We call God’s kind of love virtue-love. Virtue-love therefore becomes a description for the Christian Way of Life. Christ summarized it for us when He quoted the Old Testament, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)
God loves His own integrity whether in Himself or in a maturing believer. Loving His own integrity establishes the potential for a believer to exhibit God’s love toward others. By abiding in God’s love, a believer is residing in God’s plan and God the Holy Spirit is continuing to control their life.
“By this, love is perfected with us, that we may have confidence in the day of judgment: because as He is, so also are we in this world.”
By this refers to what was stated in the previous verse: residing in God’s power system under the filling of the Holy Spirit a believer’s personal love for God and impersonal love for others is maturing. The word for perfected in Greek is “teleios” and means to finish, to complete, to mature or to perfect.
If we reside in God’s power system and continue to advance as believers, we have confidence toward God that we are moving in the right direction. The word confidence is “parrhesia” in Greek meaning an absence of fear. A believer who is advancing in their Christian life has nothing to fear from God, whether at the Judgment Seat of Christ or during their life on earth. The motivational virtue of confidence toward God motivates the believer to exhibit the functional virtue of courage toward people and circumstances. The reason we can develop these virtues is that Jesus Christ developed the same virtues and utilized them to the maximum in His humanity. Now we, under the control of the Holy Spirit, can do the same.
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.”
If a believer is residing in perfect love (virtue-love), they are being controlled by God the Holy Spirit and residing in God’s power system. Within this system fear cannot exist, because there is only confidence and courage within God’s system. The opposite of courage is uncontrolled fear. Fear, which is an emotional sin, destroys love because it destroys virtue and brings with it self-induced misery. Punishment in Greek is “kolasis,” the word from which we get the idea of self-induced misery. The fearful person is punishing himself. If, as a believer, you are confident in God’s attributes and character, you can remain “stress-free” and “fear-free” as a result. Though the pressures of life surround you, your confidence is in God, not yourself or others. As you think Bible doctrine, which must be resident in your soul, you are able to draw doctrinal conclusions and utilize the problem-solving device of Faith-Rest to overcome fear and avoid self-induced misery. If, on-the-other-hand, you fall apart, become fearful and worried when tragedy strikes, you have not matured into a lifestyle of virtue-love.
“We love, because He first loved us.”
John mentioned the pattern for virtue-love, the humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ, in verse seventeen. In verse nineteen John takes us back to the ultimate source of virtue-love, God.
In eternity past God knew all the knowable, which means He knew the personal sins that we would commit, and yet He loved us unconditionally. Because of Who God is, He is able to love from His own integrity the person who sins. We can see from this verse, that Jesus Christ had integrity as deity, which became the pattern of integrity in His humanity, under the filling of the Holy Spirit, as He was able to avoid all categories of sin. How do we exhibit integrity? We do it by following Christ’s example; not as impeccable human beings, but by allowing God the Holy Spirit to guide us and teach us. We use the term impersonal love to describe this integrity and virtue of the spiritually maturing believer who is following Christ’s example.
“If someone says, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar: for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.”
John now gives us a hypothetical story to demonstrate the principle he has just outlined in the previous verses. If a believer alleges to love God and yet he hates his fellow believer, he is said to be a liar.
Personal love for God must always precede impersonal love for others. A believer who is out of fellowship with God through overt or mental attitude sin, has given up the control of his life to his sin nature and Satan’s cosmic system. At this point, functional virtue is no longer operational in his life and he is unable to love his fellow believers or anyone else. This hypothetical believer not only ceases to exhibit impersonal love, he hates his fellow believer. Hatred often comes as a result of staying out of fellowship with God for a prolonged period of time. In a state of reversionism, the believer has removed himself from God’s power system and is living a lie in Satan’s counterfeit system. (John 8:44)
The malfunction and lack of impersonal love has turned to hatred, a mental attitude sin, and has caused this believer to lose the filling (control) of the Holy Spirit, which results in making false claims about loving his fellow believers. John says that it is impossible to love God and not love others as a result. This believer’s claim to love others (who he can see) is negated by the fact that he does not love God (Who he cannot see). His claim is proven to be false. John’s point is that you must develop a love for God before you can love others.
“And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.”
John reminds us of a commandment from God to love Him and to love one another. This is not accomplished by simply telling yourself that you are going to do this or by saying “I love you brother.” You do not automatically love God or other believers after salvation. Loving God means developing integrity and virtue as a result of the intake and application of accurate Bible doctrine over a period of time. In order to learn Bible doctrine the believer must approach God with humility. Humility means the believer is teachable. At first, humility may have to be enforced. This means that you may have to force yourself to submit to the authority and mentorship of the Holy Spirit or to the authority of a pastor/teacher within the local church. After time logged in the Word of God, enforced humility should become genuine. As you learn and apply doctrines, such as, Grace Orientation, Doctrinal Orientation and a Personal Sense of Destiny, your love for God and His Word will no longer have to be enforced; you will be motivated by your personal love for God. This motivation will become functional as impersonal (unconditional) love for all mankind.
“Whosoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God; and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him.”
No one automatically loves God after salvation. The motivation to love others comes as a result of loving God, which must be developed over time by residing in God’s power system. The person who believes in Jesus Christ is “born-again” (literally, born from above). All believers are born of God, but not all believers love God. If the believer learns to love God (personal love), the natural progression is to love all mankind (impersonal love). Both, of course, are potential only, based on the personal volition of the believer.
“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and observe His commandments.”
The development of virtue-love inside God’s power system assures us that we can exhibit virtue-love toward our fellow believers. By first learning to love God, an advancing believer who is continually developing virtue in his soul, will be motivated to demonstrate God’s love toward others. When a believer is obeying the mandates of God through the consistent intake and application of Bible doctrine, he will learn the doctrine of impersonal love and make the proper application. Remember that Christ commanded us to love others as we love ourselves, so begin there.
“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not burdensome.”
If, as a believer, you refuse to keep the mandates of God found in His Word, you will not know or experience the love of God. As you learn about God and His instructions, you will come to know that the Christian Way of Life is not difficult when executed according to God’s plan. The Christian life becomes hard only when we attempt to play by our own rules or those of others, while ignoring God’s perfect plan. Only negative volition will keep you from fulfilling God’s will for your life and developing virtue-love. God never forces His plan on anyone. (Matthew 11:28-30)