Notes of a Reading on 1 John 4:9-19.

1920 101 We have three aspects here of God's love. First, its manifestations towards us (ver. 9). In our natural condition we are dead towards God, but alive in the world, active enough in it without a thought of God, thinking only of ourselves; sinners, with our backs towards Him. But God was here, come into this world in the, person of His Son, and when we were without one thought of God, God had thoughts of us. We have heard a mother say to her child, "God will love you if you love Him," but this is reversing things. "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us" (ver. 10), and it is this which breaks down the heart. The entrance of God's word brings light into the dark soul. How can we help loving God when we think of God's love to us; not when we were good, but sinners?

Divine love is different to human love in this cardinal difference — I do not love anyone unless there is some quality in that person which commends itself to me. We do not love. a repulsive or uncomely object (I mean, naturally), there must be something — to attract. You may nob discern it, but another does. But on the part of God there was nothing in us to call forth His love — "God commendeth His love towards us, in that when we were sinners Christ died for us." The very entrance of these words is enough to, and does, break the heart. As Charles Wesley says:
"I sink, by dying love compelled,
And own Thee Conqueror."
This then is the manifestation of God's love. A woman once said she never gave God a reason for loving her when she was a sinner, so she was sure He would never cease to love her, now she believed in the Saviour. The law, which was the minimum of a holy and righteous God's requirements from responsible man, never gave life, nor was it given for that purpose. It told what God demanded, but never produced it. The apostle Paul said he was "as touching the righteousness which is of the law, blameless: so outwardly he was on creditable pound, but when the law said "Thou shalt not covet," he could not claim, the fulfilment of that, so was guilty of all. The law shuts up man in unbelief in himself, but shuts up to faith in God. Then God reveals His love. We never could give a reason for God to save us. "Ye will not come to me that ye might have life," the Saviour said. Responsibility rests on everyone to whom the word comes. But we know that unless "compelled" we should have remained as obdurate as any.

Then in connection with this love is revealed God's provision for my sins which now I feel as having a new life, made partaker of a divine nature which feels according to God. So now we have — "sent his Son to be the propitiation for my sins." Thank God! What a Saviour indeed!

The Lord Jesus came to do God's will, and He has made purification for sins. We sometimes speak of the Lord as the "will-less man," but He had a will. Yet that will was to do the Father's will. They were One in purpose, and desire. It was the Father's will for Him to lay down His life, and though He could not, in view of God's abandonment, but shrink from the drinking of the cup, because He is holy, He says "Not my will, but thine be done." All this was in the counsels of God from all eternity. He was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but manifested in these last times. There was no thought of turning the heart of God towards us. God's love was manifested in the gift of the Saviour, as well as was His love, — "the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."

It is not enough to say "God is love," or that "God loves the world." I ask, have you the consciousness of His love to you personally? so as to be able to say "He loved me as if the only one in all the world — let alone any other?" "We have known," says the apostle, "and believed the love that God hath to us." And He has shown His love in giving His Son that we might have life divine life. That is our first need.

Then the light reveals what we have done, our sins are felt, and we are led to cry for forgiveness. We need redemption, and this we have through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. "Through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins," Have we nothing to do to win this? Well, do you believe My testimony? My word? Do you accredit what I say? "All that believe are justified from all things." "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." Having we want also the knowledge of the forgiveness Of our sins, and so is added, "sent His Son the propitiation for our sins." When a soul has divine life it hates its sins for the first time. A natural man wants to fulfil his own inclinations, and does net like to be fettered. The fatal boast of an Englishman, to wit! It does not matter what it is — say, put a prohibition, such as "Smokers take back seats." No, he resents it at once. "Why should I not do as I like!"

Ver. 11. John is writing to fellow believers. So, "Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another." Whilst the law said, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and thy neighbour as thyself," it never got it. Does the gospel tell me I ought to love God? No, it tells me God loved me, and the result of this knowledge in the heart is that we do love God. Love Godward is produced, not exacted. We do it: we love Him. But, then there are those we are called to love, who may be very awkward. We do not like so and so — they are a great trial to us: perhaps we are to them! So there are these peculiarities, and eccentricities, etc., these hindrances in the way, for we do not always behave ourselves. "In many things we all offend" — what, an apostle! Yes. But we are to bear one with another. If I love my brother because he is loved of God, that is unchangeable. I may not be able to go along with him if he is going wrong. "Have no company with him that he may be ashamed, yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother." If he is not keeping God's word, and I did not care for him, I might leave him to himself and the world would call that love. But "Am I my brother's keeper?" Yes. Who was neighbour 1 o him that fell among thieves? We act in a spirit of independency! "If you say anything you will only be getting yourself into trouble." That is thinking of self. The only question is what would please the Lord. There is a time to speak, and a time to be silent. So the Christian is held responsible to walk in dependence on God. Does He care for me in everything? Why should we not realise it? What repose is given to me then! My Father knows.

David was a man after God's own heart. There was no one else in the Old Testament to whom that term could be more appropriately applied: in failure and difficulty he turned to God. If the Philistines come against him, "Shall I go up against them?" Yes, Go." If they come again, he must wait on God again. Then when Shimei curses him (though the sword did not depart from David's house in the government of God), yet he says "The Lord hath bidden him." It was good for David, and God allowed Shimei to give vent to the wickedness of his heart, but David relegates everything to God. Then at the time of the plague — "These sheep, what have they done?" Is not that a high-minded man? — the sweet Psalmist of Israel. No wonder the Spirit of God uses him to express beforehand the Spirit of Christ, and to make David's breathings and cries into a prayer book for the Jews in days to come. The Jews want a prayer book; we do not, for we are indwelt by the Spirit of God. He will be upon, not dwell in, them, for they are an earthly people. We are partakers of a heavenly, calling, and despised on earth.

I was asked the other day what was the meaning of the parable of the unjust steward. It shows the necessity of walking in the light of the future if we are to be received into everlasting habitations. The commendable quality was acting in view of the future. Are we seeking to walk in its light? Prudence is looking ahead. He did unjustly, but the point is, he acted with prudence or forethought. Only as I am pleasing the Lord, am I acting rightly in view of the future — not to be saved, but because I am saved. "No man liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself." We all have to give account. We may shut. God out, but He does not shut us out. Every one must give account. Every one shall bow the knee and every tongue confess Christ is Lord. The devils? Yes; will it change them? convert them? No, but they are bound to know they are before God. I often feel how overwhelming it is to think of the solemn, issues before every one. How earnest it ought to make us to snatch brands from the burning! Eternity! and not to have one kindness shown us there — an eternity of darkness, and God's wrath abiding appalling thought! Yet the Lord Jesus revealed the truth. Did He not speak in accents of truth? He came from heaven in care for me, and I don't care for Him? I did not deserve it, but He did it! Oh, I am His for ever!

Ver. 12. A seeming paradox! The same writer says, "He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" — A thorough incompatibility — you cannot love God and hate your brother. If you hate your brother you are a murderer. If there was no eye to see, and no hindrance, would you not be seen a murderer? Murder is in your heart. You may not dare perhaps to kill, but you would like to! But here, we do love One whom we have never seen.

"If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us." Here is love in operation its second aspect working in me and flowing out to another (vers. 11, 12).

And "He hath given us of His Spirit" — a divine Person given to you and me. We are not men and women only; we have, indeed, spirit, soul, and body; but if believers, something more, something new — a divine Person, making this body His dwelling place. Do we realise that? If we did, should we not take care lest we grieve Him? In your body a divine Person! Yes. Does it not pull us up? We do not know what to pray for as we ought, but He knows, and He is in us, and breathes out unutterable groanings. What a wonderful creature a Christian becomes

People often quote "Judge not that ye be not judged," but that is judging motives and feelings. It is written "Do not ye judge them that are within?" So are we not to judge a person's acts? if a man is not walking as a Christian, but in open sin, though called a brother I am to have no company with him. Because the church of God is holy the saints are called upon to put him out From amongst them. The very fact that he takes the place of being a Christian necessitates he should be put out if walking in sin., etc. The man in 1 Cor. 5 proved himself a Christian because he repented and was restored. God only knows the heart; we must judge by the outward course, "By their fruits shall ye know them."

Ver. 14. When the apostle John brings in "the world" he shows this salvation is not for Jews only — not confined to the Jews, but is world wide. Not that all the world is saved, but He is the propitiation."Preach the gospel to every creature." Will every creature be saved? No, but the gospel is world-wide in its aspect; but it is only "as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become children of God."

Ver. 15. Will every confessor then be saved? No, but John deals with realities. In chap. 1, he says, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" . . . "If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us." There is no middle ground. He looks at things in their essential principles. If I came into this room in the middle of the night in total darkness, I should make a noise, kicking over the chairs, and knocking against the table, but some one brings in light, and I see where I am. So John brings in principles. If a Christian, I am "in the light," and there is no excuse there fore for carelessness of walk. I am responsible to walk according to the place where I am. Walking in the light is not conditional, but is where every Christian is, and renders us inexcusable if acting inconsistently. The word of God does not allow us our own thoughts. "Pass the time of your sojourning here in fear, forasmuch as ye know ye were redeemed" — the very fact I have been redeemed is the ground of my responsibility. I am to walk as redeemed, and the Father takes knowledge of the walk of His children.

You may perhaps have seen a tract with the title "Grace and Government." Grace is one thing, government is another. Was not David overjoyed when he wrote Psalm 32? But what did God say? "The sword should never depart from his house." There is the government of God. God cannot pass over anything. Well, He did in a certain sense pass over, as it says in Rom. 3:25; but that is He refrained from executing iudgment — it was then pretermission; but now His righteousness is shown not in passing over, but in blotting out. In Old Testament times He forebore to enter into judgment in view of the sacrifice that was to be. A Jew never knew forgiveness of sins as the known standing of the Christian. David knew the forgiveness of that particular sin; but not of sins in the sense we do, because redemption was not accomplished. The One that was to come has come. So you see the mistake of taking the language of the Psalms as ours. It is rather the language of pious Jews in the millennium. Do we say, "Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me?" The Holy Ghost came upon them, but did not indwell them until redemption had been effected. The Lord Jesus was anointed, because holy, but we are not anointed until we know forgiveness and the cleansing by blood. Then the Holy Ghost dwells within.

Ver. 15. That is reality. "With the heart man believeth." Ver. 16. That is the ground of it all.

Ver. 17. Here we come to the third aspect. "Love with us," not our love, but God's perfected in respect of us. Ver. 18. You are not afraid of the judgment seat of Christ as to your acceptance. For we shall be glorified, like Christ, before this manifestation. The believer comes not unto judgment as our Lord has Himself declared. And as He is so are we now" in this world!" That is, as I understand it, we are as clear of judgment as the blessed Lord Himself. Judgment is for ever behind Him. He suffered once for sins, and is now glorified on high. So too, for us, who have been justified freely by God's grace, judgment is behind us, for Christ has borne it, and we are clear. "As He is, so are we," soon to be manifested when in glory. We are now accepted — taken into divine favour, in Him, God's beloved One. Oh, the fulness of that love — not our love, but God's love on our behalf. Perfect love, has indeed cast out fear, so that we can truly say, We love Him, because He first loved us. There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. And it is in Him that we stand; we shall be like unto Himself when glorified — the fruit of His toil and of His grace; to the praise of the glory of His grace.

Manifested indeed we shall be, not only to a wondering world when He shall come to be wondered at in all them that believed, but also before this, to be manifested before the judgment seat of Christ for the recognition and approval of all, of everything, we have done, whether good or bad. What we have wrought for His glory down here will then be rewarded; what otherwise in the believer will be seen and condemned not only by the Lord Himself but by us, for we also shall look upon the past according to His judgment. His approval of our whole life and conduct will be our appraisal also, for we shall see all in His light, and according to the fulness of His grace. Oh then, may we, like the apostle, be "ambitious" (2 Cor. 5:9) for that is really how he speaks, "that whether present or absent, we may be well pleasing to Him," walking worthily of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and growing in (or by) the knowledge of God."

" If I am sure that a person loves me, I do not fear him. If I am only desiring to be the object of his affection, I may fear that I am not so, and may even fear himself. Nevertheless, this fear would always tend to destroy my love for him and my desire to be loved by him. There is incompatibility between the two affections — there is no fear in love."