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The Epistles of John (Part 38): 1 John 4:11-12

by Stephen Hebert on Monday - 6 July 2009

in Biblical Studies, New Testament

This is the 38th part in an ongoing series on the epistles of John.

English Standard Version Nestle-Aland 27
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. Ἀγαπητοί, εἰ οὕτως ὁ θεὸς ἠγάπησεν ἡμᾶς, καὶ ἡμεῖς ὀφείλομεν ἀλλήλους ἀγαπᾶν. θεὸν οὐδεὶς πώποτε τεθέαται. ἐὰν ἀγαπῶμεν ἀλλήλους, ὁ θεὸς ἐν ἡμῖν μένει καὶ ἡ ἀγάπη αὐτοῦ ἐν ἡμῖν τετελειωμένη ἐστίν.

Now comes the moral imperative. After learning that God is love, that that love was made manifest in Jesus Christ, and that this love has made things right between us and God, we are called into action with a very simple command:

Love one another.

It should be no surprise that we ought to attempt to do what God does. If Jesus is our ultimate exemplar, then we already have this notion of imitation that is resting on our hearts. However, where this gets interesting is in the notion of God “abiding” in us and his love being “perfected” in us.

We have talked previously about God abiding in us. Here is a list of articles in this series that deal with that issue:

This notion of God abiding in us runs rampant through 1 John. The idea of God’s love being perfected or completed in us was mentioned back in 1 John 2:5, but we didn’t do much with it.

What does it mean that God’s love is perfected/completed in us?

To be perfectly honest, I’m not 100% sure what that means. I do have an idea, and I’ll share it with you.

God created the heavens and the earth. He did this not because of some whim that he had, not because he had a wild hair and decided he would get his grins by messing around with his powers. That would not be in step with God’s character. Rather, he created with a purpose. It may sound anthropocentric to some, but God’s purpose was to have a relationship with the crowning achievement of his creation: Humans.

Humans, created in God’s image, have the ability to think, reason, feel, advance. This is what sets them apart from most other species: their ability to analyze and invent. Because we were made in God’s image, I think we often substitute ourselves for God — we begin to think of ourselves as the masters of the universe because of our ability to create and destroy. We’ve turned the natural order of things upside down.

God, however, offers us the opportunity to set right this natural order by loving him and loving one another.

When we do this two things happen:

  1. We are made aware of our true status as created beings. We are humbled.
  2. God himself comes to live within our hearts and minds and souls.

This is the perfection of God’s love — the completion of that relationship between him and us. Picture an electrical circuit. When the circuit is closed and complete, the light turns on. The same is true of our relationship with God. When the relationship is complete, the light turns on; God’s love is perfected and we shine, standing out amongst those who are still searching for ways to complete the circuit.

Article Series - The Epistles of John

  1. The Epistles of John (Part 1): 1 John 1:1–4
  2. The Epistles of John (Part 2): 1 John 1:5
  3. The Epistles of John (Part 3): 1 John 1:6–7
  4. The Epistles of John (Part 4): 1 John 1:8–10
  5. The Epistles of John (Part 5): 1 John 2:1
  6. The Epistles of John (Part 6): 1 John 2:2
  7. The Epistles of John (Part 7): 1 John 2:3–6
  8. The Epistles of John (Part 8): 1 John 2:7–8
  9. The Epistles of John (Part 9): 1 John 2:9–11
  10. The Epistles of John (Part 10): 1 John 2:12
  11. The Epistles of John (Part 11): 1 John 2:13
  12. The Epistles of John (Part 12): 1 John 2:14
  13. The Epistles of John (Part 13): 1 John 2:15
  14. The Epistles of John (Part 14): 1 John 2:16
  15. The Epistles of John (Part 15): 1 John 2:17
  16. The Epistles of John (Part 16): 1 John 2:18
  17. The Epistles of John (Part 17): 1 John 2:19
  18. The Epistles of John (Part 18): 1 John 2:20
  19. The Epistles of John (Part 19): 1 John 2:21
  20. The Epistles of John (Part 20): 1 John 2:22
  21. The Epistles of John (Part 21): 1 John 2:23–25
  22. The Epistles of John (Part 22): 1 John 2:26–27
  23. The Epistles of John (Part 23): 1 John 2:28
  24. The Epistles of John (Part 24): 1 John 2:29
  25. The Epistles of John (Part 25): 1 John 3:1–3
  26. The Epistles of John (Part 26): 1 John 3:4–6
  27. The Epistles of John (Part 27): 1 John 3:7–10
  28. The Epistles of John (Part 28): 1 John 3:11–12
  29. The Epistles of John (Part 29): 1 John 3:13
  30. The Epistles of John (Part 30): 1 John 3:14-18
  31. The Epistles of John (Part 31): 1 John 3:19–22
  32. The Epistles of John (Part 32): 1 John 3:23–24
  33. The Epistles of John (Part 33): 1 John 4:1–3
  34. The Epistles of John (Part 34): 1 John 4:4–6
  35. The Epistles of John (Part 35): 1 John 4:7-8
  36. The Epistles of John (Part 36): 1 John 4:9
  37. The Epistles of John (Part 37): 1 John 4:10
  38. The Epistles of John (Part 38): 1 John 4:11-12
  39. The Epistles of John (Part 39): 1 John 4:13–14
  40. The Epistles of John (Part 40): 1 John 4:15
  41. The Epistles of John (Part 41): 1 John 4:16–17
  42. The Epistles of John (Part 42): 1 John 4:18–19
  43. The Epistles of John (Part 43): 1 John 4:20–21
  44. The Epistles of John (Part 44): 1 John 5:1
  45. The Epistles of John (Part 45): 1 John 5:2-3

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