A Study of 1st John 4:8

“He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” (1st John 4:8)

“God is love.” As we are blessed to contemplate this sublime theme from time to time, we feel a sense of shame. Shame that we are so unthankful; shame that we are so ignorant, and shame that we are so cold and lifeless. Yet, despite this we rejoice that we have a precious hope, little as it may be, that God, in His infinite love, has loved us. There is no price, God being our helper, that we would dare take for this hope. To feel that we were among the unpitied and unloved of God would surely drive us to stark, black despair.

Blessed be His Holy name, we do cling to that hope. It sustains us even though we often feel wretched because of this body of sin and death. We delight to say with the Apostle: “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.” (I John 3:1) Yes, this is a love that surpasses description or interpretation. None is needed! The vilest sinner or weakest saint needs no earthly teachers to instruct him, or to consecrate this truth in his breast; God has from eternity drawn His children to this fountain of sanctification. “The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

It is the love of God that moves the saint to love Him. “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). This love was manifest far before we were capable of loving Him. “Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I swam unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord God, and thou becamest mine.” (Ezekiel 16:8)

This love stirs in the hearts of the little ones, initiating a corresponding love for the things God holds precious. “He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.” (Song of Solomon 2:4) Here arrayed above us is this majestic banner; it is the love of God! We sit down with great delight, and His fruit is sweet to our taste. This is home, sweet home; we desire to be nowhere else in this life. We walk about Zion; tell the towers thereof. We mark her bulwarks, consider her palaces, and think of the loving kindness of God. This spiritual body, thus being fltly framed together, joined and compacted, edifies itself in love. (See Ephesians 4:16) Those loved of the Father deeply love the church which is the body of Christ.

This love of God draws out of us the warmest affections for our kindred in Christ as well as towards our Father, Ephesians 1:15; Colossians 1:4; I Thessalonians 4:9. We are tenderly instructed to love one another with a pure heart fervently (I Peter 1:22), and indeed, we do consider it a special delight, an holy privilege, to do so according to the Spirit’s direction in our hearts. When this holy love possesses our hearts, then we are for that time blessed to know we have passed from death to life (I John 3:14).

When the love of the Father abides in us we are made to hate the world rather than love it as we once did. Then the following counsel is made a sweet pleasure to contemplate: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (I John 2:15) This text holds no impending terrors to those abiding in the love of God.

God dwells in His children. As they are constrained to love one another, the love of God is perfected in them (I John 4:12) and: “Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.” (I John 4:17) All this drives away our fears for: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” (I John 4:18)

When the love of God, and the God of love, sweetly influences our frame we find our passions being weaned from temporal things and blended to eternal verities. Earthly cares subside; the breast heaves for heaven our home. Our affections for the brethren and the New Jerusalem are daily renewed. The sweet doctrines of grace become our daily bread, and the Word of God becomes our friendly companion. Sighs and groanings for the moment cease to anguish us and they are transformed into prayer and praise. Thus we say with the apostle, the love of God constrains us.

“When Jesus with his matchless love,
Visits my troubled breast,
My doubts subside, my fears remove,
And I’m completely blest.

I love the Lord with mind and heart,
His people and his ways;
Envy, and pride, and lust depart,
And all his works I praise.

More frequent let thy visits be,
Or let them longer last:
I can do nothing without thee;
Make haste, my God, make haste.”

When David mourned the death of Jonathan he lamented that “Thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women” (II Samuel 1:26). Such personal relations are indeed wonderful, yet every one of them, however blissful, must surely end in separation, as did the sojourn of David with Jonathan. In temporal things death reigns over all. Not so, however, with the bond of love forged by the covenant of God’s mercy with all them He calls by grace to know and love His Son.

J. F. Poole – 1993

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