The text we will study this morning was the favorite text of one of my spiritual heroes William Tyndale, the first man to translate the New Testament into english from the Greek. At the age of 30, Tyndale was the private tutor of a six-year-old named Harry Walsh, son of a Knight of Gloucestershire, in Sodbury. Later in life Harry Walsh recounted with perfect clarity the evening Tyndale informed him that he was leaving the town of Sodbury. Turning in his Greek New Testament to 1 John 4, Tyndale began to read, translating into English, for young Harry.
When he came to 1 John 4:19, Tyndale reminded Harry that these words were the reason he was certain he would enter the Kingdom of God. “why must you go?” asked Harry sadly. “because it is time the people have the Bible in their own language,” Tyndale responded. Tyndale was about to embark on the work that changed the world: the translation of the New Testament into English, along with the Torah and Jonah.
Years later, on an October morning in 1536, Harry Walsh sat by the dining room fire staring out the window. He had just heard the news that his dear childhood tutor, William Tyndale, had been strangled and burned for translating the Bible into English. Taking his wife by her arm, he led her across the room where they both stood in reverent silence before the scripture that was hanging on their wall: “we love him because He first loved us.”
1 John 4:12-21,
12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
The point that John is making here is that no man has seen God at any time, but God today can manifest himself through believers loving each other. John writes to the disciples to give them assurance.
Assurance is based on our:
1. Our confession of Jesus (15–16)
By John writing: “we have seen and testify,” he is taking us back to the beginning of this letter 1:1: “that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the father and was made manifest to us—
John, along with the other apostles, gave us their eyewitness testimony about who Jesus was. We don’t put our faith in fables, tall tales, or speculations that have been handed down by creative thinkers through the years. The Bible is rooted in the reliable, historical evidence of men who actually were there. You can use circular reasoning to prove the reliability of the Bible. Professor Peter Stone along with 600 students from 12 classes decided to calculate the probability of 1 man fulfilling the prophecies about the messiah.
Let’s take 1 prophecy for example. In Micah 5:2, God predicts that the messiah will be born in Bethlehem. They calculated the population of Bethlehem from the time of Micah to the time of Jesus’ birth and then divide it by the average population on the earth during the same period. They concluded that for a man to be born in Bethlehem was 1 in 300,000 or 1 in 2.8 times 10 to the 5 power.
They took it a step further and estimated that the chance of 8 prophecies being fulfilled by 1 man was 10 to the 17 power. This is a number with 17 zeros on the end. Professor Stone put it in perspective, “if you mark one of ten tickets, and place all the tickets in a hat, and thoroughly stir them, and then ask a blindfolded man to draw one, his chance of getting the right ticket is one in ten. Imagine covering the entire state of Texas with silver dollars to a level of two feet deep. The total number of silver dollars needed to cover the whole state would be 10 to the 17th power. Now, choose just one of those silver dollars, mark it and drop it from an airplane. Thoroughly stir all the silver dollars all over the state. When this has been done, blindfold one man. Tell him he can travel wherever he wishes in the state of texas. Tell him that somewhere along the way, he must stop and reach down into the two feet of silver dollars and try to pull up the one specific silver dollar that has been marked. What do you think his chances are? Well, the chance of his finding that one silver dollar in the state of texas is the same chance the prophets had of eight of their prophecies being fulfilled in any one man in the future.”
In another calculation, Stone determined the probability of 48 prophecies being fulfilled in one person. The number is 10 to the 157th power. It’s a number with 157 zeros! Counting at the rate of 250 units per minute, it would take 19 million x 19 million x 19 millions years to count to 10 to the 157th power! Here’s the deal. Jesus fulfilled more than 8 prophecies. He fulfilled over 300 prophecies about his birth, life, death, and resurrection.
But John doesn’t use prophecy to prove his point. He says, you can have confidence in my testimony. Listen to me, “I saw him with my own eyes.” We are not just basing our belief on prophetic words, but on the confession of men. Our confession is proof of our salvation. Confession is the word that means to “agree with someone” or to “say the same thing as someone else.”
How you answer the question posed by Jesus in Matthew 16:15 is the difference between Heaven or Hell. Jesus walked the disciples to caesarea philippi. It was like going to Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras. This was the place that Jewish parents forbid their children from visiting. The trip would have taken 9 hours by foot. The disciples must have been asking each other the entire journey, “are we heading where I think we’re heading.” “if my dad knew we were heading this way, he would be blown away.”
Why was it so evil?
The canaanite god baal-gad, the god of good fortune, was worshiped here in ot times. Later, in the greek period, a shrine in the cave was dedicated to the god pan who was the fertility god of the mountains and forests. At the base of the cliff, people built shrines and temples to false gods.
Jesus brought the disciples here, surrounded by paganism, worldliness, and idolatry in order to ask them “who does the world say that I am?” John the baptist, elijah, one of the prophets. “who do you say that I am?” Peter responded, “you are the Christ, the son of the living God.” Jesus’ replied (16:17), “blessed are you, simon bar-jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in Heaven.” Peter’s confession is amazing.
Let me roll a truth grenade out to you: God is the one who gave Peter the ability to confess Jesus as Lord through illumination. John’s point is: if, in your heart, you truly believe that Jesus is the son of God, sent by the father to be the savior of the world, you didn’t come to that realization on your own. God revealed it to you by his spirit. Your confession is evidence that God abides in you, and you abide in God. Since your confession came from God, your confidence also comes from him.
2. Our confidence on the day of judgment (17–19)
Verse 16, “so we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 by this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 we love because he first loved us.”
“by this,” refers back to verse 16. The reason we can have confidence on the day of judgment is because God is love, His love abides in us, and is perfected in us. The negative is that if we fear his punishment then his love is not perfected in us or we have not loved others as He expected us to. Judgment from God is real. Since he made you, you will give an account to him one day. The state of your soul will determine which line you will stand in.
Unbelievers will approach the great white throne of judgment and will be cast into what Rev. 20:14 calls the “second death, the lake of fire.” We can argue over whether it was a literal fire or figurative all day long. Regardless, you don’t want to spend eternity there. The sentence at this hearing is always Hell. Hell is God giving you your wish. Believers don’t have reason to be nervous. This judgment is for unbelievers only. Born again believers, on the other hand, will be judged at the bema seat. Our judgment is not about our eternal destiny but our eternal reward. We will experience great loss for all of our which were not approved by God. Not loss of salvation but loss of reward.
1 Cor. 3:12,
“now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 if the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 if anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
One author commented about this verse: “none of us serves perfectly, but we don’t want to stand before the judgment seat of Christ and see much of our works on this earth burned up as it were under the fiery gaze of the Lord Jesus Christ. The image of someone standing before Jesus and pressing into his nail-scarred hands the charred embers of a wasted life should haunt each of us and stir us to Godly living.” John inserts this section to motivate believers to serve God now while we still have time. Our confidence comes from God’s love perfected in us. Perfect does not mean free of error. It is the word that means goal or end.
A great reference is James 2:22: “You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected.” Our works perfect faith or bring faith to its intended goal. In the same manner, our love for others perfects love in us. The more you extend love to others, the more you will desire to love others. It’s kind of like a muscle. If you don’t exercise it, muscle atrophy will set in. You will never be able to love everyone perfectly. However, you must love through hurt feelings, setbacks, and circumstances.
We are to love those who are hurtful.
We are to love those who slander us.
We are to love those who steal from us.
We are to love those who hate us.
We are to love the unlovable.
This is how love is perfected in you. There is no other way for it to happen.
As God loves you, you are able to extend love to others. You will experience more of God’s love, and be able to love others deeper.
I read an amazing story that came out of the Korean War. A young communist officer ordered the execution of a Christian civilian. When he learned that his prisoner was in charge of an orphanage and was doing much good in caring for small children, he decided to spare his life, but kill his son instead. The 19-year-old boy was shot in the presence of his father. Later, when the tide of events changed, this same officer was captured, tried, and condemned to death for war crimes. But before the sentence could be carried out, the Christian father pleaded for the life of this communist who had killed his son. He admitted that if justice were followed, this man should be executed. But since he was so young and blindly idealistic, he probably thought that his actions were right. “Give him to me,” he said, “and I’ll teach him about the savior.”
They granted the request. That father took the murderer of his son into his own home and loved him unconditionally. As a result of his self-sacrificing love, that communist became a Christian and is pastoring a church today. Prov. 10:12, “hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.”
3. Our confirmation of love for others (20–21)
“if anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 and this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
John uses liar in reference to 3 tests. The moral test in 2:4, “whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” The truth test in 2:22, “who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the father and the son.” The social test in this text. Anglican Pastor John Stott summarizes the exams: “however loudly we may affirm ourselves to be Christian, our habitual sin, denial of Christ and selfish hatred expose us as the liars we are.”
Listen to me closely, if you sin without conviction, deny Christ continually, or express hatred consistently, you may be lost. If your heart is a headquarters for hatred, you may be lost. I don’t care you have been here all of your life. I don’t care if you helped lay the bricks to construct the church. I don’t care if you served overseas at one point in your ministry. If you don’t love other people, you may be lost.
“but Robby, you don’t understand how difficult it is to love this person. You don’t know how bad they have treated me.” I know how bad they treated Jesus and I know how he responded. So whenever you love those who hurl insults at you, you’re in good company because that’s how Jesus responded. Jesus never said, “love those who love you back, or those who deserve it, or those who have earned it.” He simply said, “love your neighbor in the same way you love yourself.” Sometimes love is a one way street with no return on your investment. Remember, there was a time when Gods love was one directional toward you.
Max Lucado wrote about a shy, quiet little boy named Chad. One day he came home and told his mother he’d like to make a valentine for everyone in his class. Her heart sank. “I wish he wouldn’t do that!” she thought. Every day the children would walk home from school , her Chad was always behind them. The others laughed and talked to each other, but Chad was never included. Nevertheless, she decided she would go along with his plan. She purchased the paper, glue, and crayons and for 3 whole weeks, night after night, Chad painstakingly made 35 valentines. Valentine’s day dawned, and Chad was overwhelmed with excitement! He carefully placed the valentines in a bag and ran out the door. His mom decided to bake his favorite cookies because she knew he would be disappointed when he came home from school. She held back the tears thinking that he wouldn’t get many valentines, maybe none at all. Finally, when she heard the voices, she looked out the window to see the children laughing and having a great time. As usual, Chad was in the rear, all by himself. But today he was walking a little faster than usual. She fully expected him to burst into tears as soon as he got inside. His arms were empty, she noticed, and when the door opened, her eyes welled up with tears. “Honey, I have some warm cookies and milk for you,” she said, but he hardly heard her words. He just marched right on by, his face glowing, and all he could say was, “not a one— not a one.” the mother’s heart sank. “what did you say honey?” Chad responded, “i didn’t forget a one, not a single person!”
The greatest display of love is when you love those who don’t reciprocate love to you.
Who is the tough case in your life that needs your unconditional love? Mom or dad, is it a wayward son or daughter? Is it a former employee? Is it a present co-worker? Is it a church member whom needs to know you love them? Maybe it’s an old friend that you haven’t spoken to in years?
Last week I challenged you to display love to those around you for 7 days. Some of you mentioned that you needed to start the challenge over before leaving the building. Let’s continue the challenge for another 7 days. But I want to add one element. Who in your life needs to know you love them? Who do you need to call? Or text? Or email? Or visit?
Remember, we are never closer to Christ than when we are doing what he commanded us to do. He said, “love one another as I have loved you.”