The Characteristics of Love

1 John 4:7-11

7Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

This message was preached February 10, 2002 at FBC Toulon, by Albert Harmon. See it at


This is the third section on love (cf. 1 Jn 2:7-11; 3:10-18). (from Wycliffe Commentary)


The subject is one on which John dwells more than on any other-- that of love. His own character especially inclined him to the exercise of love; and the remarkable affection which the Lord Jesus had shown for him, seems to have had the effect to give this grace a special prominence in his views of what constituted true religion. Compare John 13:23. (from Barnes' Notes)

This week Americans will go wild about love. But all one needs do is watch the sitcoms to know that we know almost nothing about love. Love has become what we get out of it. To most people love is merely the satisfaction of a physical and emotional desire.

But in the Bible, love, as God defines it, takes on a whole different aspect. Let us look at love for the Christian.


  1. Let Us Love One Another
    1. For Love Is of God
      1. "Christian love has God for its primary object, and expresses itself first of all in implicit obedience to His commandments, John 14:15, 21,23; 15:10; 1 John 2:5; 5:3; 2 John 6. Selfwill, that is, self-pleasing, is the negation of love to God. (from Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words)
        1. John 14:15 "If you love Me, keep My commandments. 21 "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him."23 Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.
        2. John 15:10 "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love.
      2. He is the fountain, author, parent, and commander of love; it is the sum of his law and gospel: (from Matthew Henry's Commentary)
      3. Resumption of the main theme 1 John 2:29. Love, the sum of righteousness, is the test of being born of God. Love flows from a sense of God's love. 1 John 4:9 resumes 1 John 3:16; 5:13 (from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary)
    2. Everyone Who Loves Is Born of God and Knows God
      1. And ever acts like him; he loves man, and daily loads him with his benefits. He that loveth most has most of God in him; and he that loveth God and his neighbour, as before described and commanded, is born of God, (from Adam Clarke Commentary)
      2. Is a true child of his heavenly Father, for he is made a partaker of the divine nature; and this his love to God and man proves. (from Adam Clarke Commentary)
    3. He Who Does Not Love Does Not Know God
      1. There is no article to love, but to God; therefore we cannot translate, Love is God. God is essentially LOVE: not merely loving; for then John's argument would fall: for the conclusion from the premises then would be, This man is not loving; God is; therefore he knoweth not God IN SO FAR AS GOD IS LOVING: still he might know Him in His other attributes. But when we take love as God's essence, the argument holds: This man doth not love; therefore knows not love: God is essentially love; therefore he knows not God. (from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary)
  2. God Is Love
    1. In respect of agapao as used of God, it expresses the deep and constant "love" and interest of a perfect Being towards entirely unworthy objects, producing and fostering a reverential "love" in them towards the Giver, and a practical "love" towards those who are partakers of the same, and a desire to help others to seek the Giver. (from Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words)
    2. The third of John's three great statements concerning the nature of God (Jn 4:24 (Spirit); 1 Jn 1:5; (Light)). The absence of the article (God is [the] love) indicates that love is not simply a quality which God possesses, but love is that which he is by his very nature. Further, because God is love, love which he shows is occasioned by himself only and not by any outside cause. The word God is preceded by an article, which means that the statement is not reversible; it cannot read, "Love is God." (from Wycliffe Commentary)
      1. John 4:24 "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."
      2. 1 John 1:5 This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.
    3. His nature and essence are love, his will and works are primarily love. Not that this is the only conception we ought to have of him; we have found that he is light as well as love 1Jn 1:5, and God is principally love to himself, and he has such perfections as arise from the necessary love he must bear to his necessary existence, excellence, and glory; (from Matthew Henry's Commentary)
    4. The Love of God Was Manifested Toward Us
      1. That he hath loved us, such as we are: In this was manifest the love of God towards us (v. 9), towards us mortals, us ungrateful rebels. God commandeth his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, Rom. 5:8. Strange that God should love impure, vain, vile, dust and ashes! (from Matthew Henry's Commentary)
      2. Love in the abstract, in its highest ideal, is herein. The love was all on God's side, none on ours. [Not that we loved God]-- though so altogether worthy of love. [He loved us]-- though so altogether unworthy of love. [Eegapeesamen (grk 25), the aorist, Not that we did any act of love at any time to God, but that He did the act of love to us in sending Christ.] (from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary)
    5. God Has Sent His Only Begotten Son into the World
      1. "Love had its perfect expression among men in the Lord Jesus Christ, 2 Cor. 5:14; Eph. 2:4; 3:19; 5:2; Christian love is the fruit of His Spirit in the Christian, Gal. 5:22. (from Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words)
      2. Christ is the only born Son in the sense that he has no brothers (cf. Heb 11:17). (from Wycliffe Commentary)
      3. He has given the fullest proof of his love to the whole human race by the incarnation of his Son, who tasted death for every man. (from Adam Clarke Commentary)
      4. That he has loved us at such a rate, at such an incomparable value as he has given for us; he has given his own, only-beloved, blessed Son for us: Because that God sent his only-begotten Son (from Matthew Henry's Commentary)
    6. That We Might Live Through Him
      1. The whole world was sentenced to death because of sin; and every individual was dead in trespasses and sins; and Jesus came to die in the stead of the world, and to quicken every believer, that all might live to him who died for them and rose again. (from Adam Clarke Commentary)
      2. He alone is our source of life.
      3. We cannot have life except through Him.
  3. In this Is Love
    1. Not That We Loved God
    2. But That He Loved Us and Sent His Son to Be the Propitiation for Our Sins
      1. That he gave us his Son for such service and such an end, for such service, to be the propitiation for our sins; consequently to die for us, to die under the law and curse of God, to bear our sins in his own body, to be crucified, to be wounded in his soul, and pierced in his side, to be dead and buried for us (v. 10); (from Matthew Henry's Commentary)
  4. Beloved, If God So Loved Us, We Also Ought to Love One Another.
    1. "Christian love, whether exercised toward the brethren, or toward men generally, is not an impulse from the feelings, it does not always run with the natural inclinations, nor does it spend itself only upon those for whom some affinity is discovered. Love seeks the welfare of all, Rom. 15:2, and works no ill to any, 13:8-10; love seeks opportunity to do good to `all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith,' Gal. 6:10. See further 1 Cor. 13 and Col. 3:12-14." (from Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words)
    2. Without any reason or consideration on our part, and without any desert in us; we ought also, in like manner, to love one another, and not suspend our love to a fellow-creature, either on his moral worth or his love to us. We should love one another for God's sake; (from Adam Clarke Commentary)
    3. The objects of the divine love should be the objects of ours. Shall we refuse to love those whom the eternal God hath loved? We should be admirers of his love, and lovers of his love (of the benevolence and complacency that are in him), and consequently lovers of those whom he loves. The general love of God to the world should induce a universal love among mankind. That you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth his rain on the just and on the unjust, Mt. 5:45. (from Matthew Henry's Commentary)


This message was preached at FBC Toulon, by Albert Harmon. See it at