My whole “theology” of “live in Love, find your true reward,” finds its root in 1 John 4:15-17. It reads, “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God—God remains in Him and he in God. And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. In this, love is perfected with us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; for we are as He is in this world.” The Greek word for “remain” in verses 15 and 16 is menō. It is translated by the NASB and ESV as “abide.” Thus we see that the one who abides (lives) in love abides (lives) in God.
However, I will explain my plan for the next few (many) entries to this blog at the end of part 3. It is important first to spell out what liL fytr entails. Living in love with the result of finding your true reward can come across like works-based salvation if we’re not careful. A quote from Martin Luther that David Platt shared on Friday during Secret Church 2016 helps to provide a check to this possibility:
“The law is divine and holy. Let the law have its glory, but yet no law, be it never so divine and holy, ought to teach me that I am justified, and shall live through it. I grant it may teach me that I ought to love God and my neighbor; also to live in love, soberness, patience, etc., but it will not to show me how I should be delivered from sin, the devil, death, and hell. Here I must take counsel of the gospel. I must hearken to the gospel, which teaches me, not what I ought to do, but what Jesus Christ the Son of God hath done for me: that He suffered and died to deliver me from sin and death. The gospel wills me to receive this, and to believe it. And this is the truth of the gospel. Most necessarily it is, therefore, that we should know this article well, teach it unto others, and beat it into their heads continually.”
If we focus on the fact that the one who lives in God is to live in love, but miss the point that comes prior: “God is love,” then we are doing a great deal of damage.
The Bible starts with the word “God.” His love is shown clearly in the first verse of the Bible. He wanted fellowship with someone other than the other members of the trinity (note “wanted” and not “needed”), so He created the world. In this world, the one thing that made it very good was when man and woman were created (Genesis 1:31), and this is because they were the ones He could love. (Now you might object: “animals were created on the sixth day too. I love animals! Don’t they have a part to play in the ‘very good’ thing?” I “love” lots of things: baseball, pizza, cats. But I can’t have a relationship with any of them. Not even a cat. When I say I love cats, it basically means I pity them for their misperceived sense of entitlement and think they’re cute. They can’t talk to me; I can’t really talk to them.) God created Adam and Eve and had a relationship with them (cf. Genesis 3:8-10, and think about the same situation only pre-fall).
God wants a relationship with people. His very character is love (1 John 4:8, 16). The problem of course is that humanity is now (post-Genesis 3)—at our very core—unlovable. This is why relationships between people have friction and often fail. Selfishness—my wants and “needs”—is innate in our beings. (Proof: watch a child steal a toy from another child; you didn’t have to teach them that; it comes naturally.) But because of the three words in the phrase we are dissecting in this post (“God is love”), it doesn’t have to be a problem. God’s very essence is love. And that essence of love is from God. God means “Ultimate being; holy, holy, holy; on a completely different plane from the rest of everything.” So God’s love makes our love look like hate in comparison. God’s love can overcome the fact that we are unlovable. God’s love is described in Ephesians 2:3-5, “We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and by nature we were children under wrath, as the others were also. But God, who is abundant in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah (Christ) even though we were dead in trespasses.” We are alive because of God’s love. I call it “living from love.”
Paul continued in the book of Ephesians in chapter 3 to describe our response to the radical love of God. Verses 17-19 say, “I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” This is a charge that should occupy much more of our time than it does. God loves us as far as the east is from the west, farther than the north is from the south, beyond the moon, and deeper than the Mariana Trench. It should blow our minds all the time because He loves us so much. This is what it means to say that God is love. He loves you and He loves me.
“But how do I know that?” you ask. Both Paul and John answer that question. The beginning of 1 John 3:16 says, “This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us.” Romans 5:8 and 8:32 make very clear the extent to which God loves us: “But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us! . . . He did not even spare His own Son, but offered Him up for us all; how will He not also with Him grant us everything?” We will look more in depth in the upcoming posts at what this means for our lives, but for now the Bible is clear that God loves you.
If you want to know how to know that He loves you, I would point you back to 1 John 4:15. God is love, so He sent His Son to die on the cross as the sacrifice to cover all of our lack of love (SIN). However, it’s not a free for all. There is a condition on this love. Faith is required. This faith leads to a confession. That confession is laid out clearly in 1 John 4:15: “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God—God remains in him and he in God.” Or, put slightly differently, “Whoever confesses, ‘Jesus is the Son of God’—God remains in him and he in God.” The confession is that Jesus is the Son of God. The confession is that Jesus is who He claimed to be. The confession is that Jesus is the most worthy being in the universe of our love and affection, and all else is a cheap imitation.
So the question I leave you with is, “Is this your confession? Do you know the love of God?” If not, make that your confession! I plead with you.
Soli Deo Gloria