Easter 7B: May 28, 2006 – “Love Excelling”

29 May

Text: 1 John 4:13-21

mercy, and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus
Christ. Amen. The text for the sermon this morning comes
from the Epistle which was read earlier.

of the things that have Christians discussing is the Gospel of Judas, a Gnostic
text. Gnosticism’s basic tenet was that
the spiritual is good while the physical is bad. Some Gnostics concluded that
as long as you sang the “Hallelujahs” and “Amens” on your spiritual side on
Sunday morning, it didn’t matter what you did with your body on Saturday night
or in your life during the rest of the week. One of John’s emphases in this letter is to stress that God has redeemed
us body and soul. If God’s love has
sanctified our hearts, that love will radiate into our lives as well. If He has graciously led us to faith and a
change of heart, our outward lives will also be changed, and good works will
naturally follow and showcase that love. This shoots a hole through the Gnostics way of thought and brings us to
the key concept of our text: love.

word “love” is used fourteen times in our text. It is also used thirteen times in the
previous six verses and five times in the following three verses. In English, unfortunately, we are stuck with
one word which covers three distinctly different Greek words: ἀγάπη, φιλία, and ἔρως. The
word used exclusively in our text is ἀγάπη. This
is divine love. This is self-sacrificing
love. This is love which compels me to
do what is best for you, even though it is inconvenient or painful for me.

love from God the Father is not a love that is contingent on what you do in
return. This is true love, given freely
from God to everyone. “For God so loved the world that he gave his
one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have
eternal life.”
Notice that John
doesn’t say that God loved the important people. He doesn’t say that God loved the poor
people. He doesn’t say that God loved
the people of the US.  John says that God loved the world, every
person in the world, regardless of race, age, class, geographic location. God loves the world because we are created in
His image and likeness.

the love of God is given to all who believe, John writes, “If anyone
acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.”
NIV uses the word “acknowledges” but the word that is found in the Greek is
“confession.” Each week, we make our
confession of faith each week in the words of the creeds of the Church. We make our own confession; we acknowledge
that Jesus is the Son of God. Acknowledgement is one of the outward signs that God’s love is alive and
well in the heart of the Christian.
            We know the love God
has for us. “We have known and still
know; we have believed and still believe.” We saw the love of God at the incarnation and birth of Christ in the
manger. We saw the love of God in
Christ’s teaching and we saw the love of God on the cross and in the
resurrection. All of this John says a
few verses before our text: Whoever
does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He
sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.”

concept of remaining in each other could be compared to an electrical
circuit. As long as we are plugged into
the Source of love and power, we have love and power. We’re like wires. Wires are cold, dead, lifeless objects. By themselves, they won’t run your microwave
or heat the oven or light the lamp. But
when you hook a wire up to a power source, it becomes alive. It glows. It gives warmth. You can run your
appliances off it because it has the power and energy of the source flowing
through it. It is a modern version of
the Vine and the branches. We are
connected to God by His love for us, through His Son, Jesus Christ.
a summary of our text, one need only look at verse 19: “We love because he
first loved us.”
It specifies the love which has been
spoken of. It is the overriding love
which comes from the Source, God’s self-sacrificing love for us. It is not our piety, our love, our
dedication, or our commitment. It is
about Jesus and His love, His dedication, and His commitment to us. We know from all of Scripture that love for
God must be with the total heart, soul, and mind. We know too that this love must exceed the
love for relatives and spouse. Therefore,
it has been observed that love for God is essentially faith and trust in His
and trust in His Word comes from hearing the Word of God preached and by receiving
the Lord’s body and blood. There we see
love extended to its fullest: by His sacrificial death and life-giving
love of God defeats fear. “There is
no fear in love. But perfect love drives
out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.”
We do fear when we begin
to trust in ourselves. But help is only
and always solely in God Himself.  That’s
the point of verse 19. We have no fear
because fear has to do with punishment. Punishment
has already been dealt with through Jesus Christ. He took on death that was meant for us upon
Himself. Death has been destroyed
because of the love of God; love that sent His Son to death so that we might
have life.
Christ has defeated death for us, there is still a death for us. One chapter earlier, John talks about loving
and hating our brother. “We know that we have passed from death to
life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer,
and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.”
This again he addresses at the end of our
text. “If anyone says, “I love God,”
yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For
anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom
he has not seen. And he has given us
this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

is powerful language! A person
who says he can love God and simultaneously hate his brother is worshiping his
own fictitious god. The energy of God’s
love, which is constantly flowing through us directly from the Source, will
bear positive fruit whenever it touches another person. If our brother comes into contact with us and
feels no warmth or light, he knows that something is dead somewhere along the
line. We have never seen the Source with
our own eyes, but we can see the objects of the Source’s love, our
fellowman. If His love flows out to
them, and our love is His love, then we must love too. It is a command from Him. The love for God and love for brother are
inseparable. They stand or fall
comes from what Jesus says in Matthew regarding the greatest commandment: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest
commandment. And the second is like it:
‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
The one commandment cannot be without the other, for the Law of God is a
unit, His will is only one. To
transgress the precept regarding brotherly love is to transgress the
commandment to love God.
sent His Son in the flesh because He loves, because He wants us to remain in
Him until the Day of Judgment, where all believers will be united with Christ
for eternity. The love of God casts out
our fears because death has been defeated and we are made alive. Finally, we are left with the love of God
which has touched us so that our love touches others. What is this love? It is the love of God the Father, who sent
His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world, to redeem a lost and condemned people
and to make them His beloved children. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in
Christ Jesus. Amen.

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