Verse of the Day Devotion: 1 John 4:8
“The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” – 1 John 4:8
This verse contains probably the clearest understanding of who God is. First, let us begin by looking at the verse just prior to it. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7. John here is introducing the idea of what love truly is. First, he declares that love is from God. This has the following implications as laid out by the theologian Albert Barnes. First that all true love has its origin in God. There is no other source from which love originates. Second, real love shows that when we love we have His Spirit in us and we belong to Him. And thirdly, it assimilates us to God, or makes us more and more like Him. What he is telling the apostles is based on the truth of what he affirms in our focus verse that God Himself is love. Hatred, envy, wrath, malice all have their source elsewhere than God.
Therefore, everyone that truly loves is born of God; he is a regenerated man. And everyone who has true love for their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and with the lost who do not know Christ, are true Christians. And I cannot put this any better than Albert Barnes put it, so I will quote him here. ‘This cannot mean that everyone that loves his wife and children, his classmate, his partner in business, or his friend – his house, or his farms, or his horses, or his hounds, is a child of God; it must be understood as referring to the point under discussion. A man may have a great deal of natural affection toward his kindred; a great deal of benevolence in his character toward the poor and needy, and still he may have none of the love to which John refers.’ And John is speaking of a love that is toward all, not just some, for this is the love God has. “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man, though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8. And if we have this type of love, then we know God.
Next we come to our focus verse here which says, “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” 1 John 4:8. Here John lays out the idea that God does not just love, He is love. He hates nothing that He has made because He is love. He is an infinite fountain of benevolence and caring for all human beings. And this is the type of love we should exhibit for we have the God that exhibits this living in us. Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount lays this out. “You have heard that it was said, YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48. In this example, Jesus refers to several aspects and displays of love, and then at the end, says we are to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. And that perfection is in love. God is love according to our focus verse, and if we are to be perfect in this, then we are to love as He does, with no favoritism. Whether we are treated good or bad, no matter the circumstances, we are to love them as God loves us.
God is love, and if we want to know God, we must love as He loves. And He has given us His Spirit to help us know Him. And if we know Him, we will understand the kind of love He desires of us, both for Him and all people. Let us all strive to submit to Him and show our love for everyone just as He loves everyone. When we do, love will dwell in us and we will dwell in Him who is love. If we do not love, then we really do not know Him.
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.