vs 7 Beloved, let us
characteristically love one another, for love is of God; and
everyone who characteristically loves has been born of God and
characteristically knows God.
vs 8 He who does not characteristically love never at any time knew God, for God is love.
John 13:35 "By this all men will know that
you are my disciples, if you love one another."
It seems John reiterates this point for emphasis. Apart from the
very fundamental truths of the faith, doctrinal correctness is not
the primary measure of whether one is born of God. Rather the
primary measure is love for fellow Christians. You'll find plenty
of alleged Christians who zealously defend their particular
denominational doctrine and make it the standard of salvation, but
who also exercise a zealous illegitimate hatred for any Christian
outside of their denomination. To the degree to which they behave
in this manner, one can confidently say that such alleged
Christians have not been born of God.
Note that to be born of God goes hand in hand with knowing God, a
principle that has been applied throughout 1John. And again, given
the usage of the present tense, rather than than aorist, John is
not referring to uncharacteristic behavior, but to characteristic
In verse 8 "knew" is in the aorist referring to an event, yet "love" is in the present referring not to an event but to a characteristic behavior. When this grammatical structure occurs (as it does also in 1John 1:9), the aorist is interpreted in a timeless sense. Robertson comments, "Timeless aorist active indicative of ginwskw, has no acquaintance with God, never did get acquainted with him. "
vs 9 In this the love of God was reveals at a point
in time toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into
the world, that we might at some time live through Him.
vs 10 In this is love, not that we loved God at that time, but that He loved us at that time and at that time sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Elsewhere it says, "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Rom 5:8 I think the reason he brings this up is that if we are commanded to love one another, we have to understand what is meant by "love". The way the world thinks of "love" is generally much different than what John is referring to here as "love". In fact the American Heritage Dictionary doesn't even contain the Biblical definition of love. It simply associates love with certain feelings or sexual desire. But as I said previously, Biblical love is not simply a "feeling" of affection. Rather it is the willful intention of meeting the real needs of others. As such, Biblical love is measurable by the degree to which you are meeting the real needs of those you allegedly "love". And this is where the cross serves as an example.
Notice in particular that the example of the cross is not one in
which you love those who love you. Jesus said, "If you love those who love you, what credit is
that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them." Luke
6:32 Nor is it an example of loving those who are good
enough to be worthy of your love. Rather it is an example of
loving sinners. If you feel other Christians are not good enough
for you to love, then you're not following the example of the
The particular word for "propitiation" is used only here and 1John 2:2. But it's also 6 times in the LXX, and of these the most description is Num 5:8 which refers to Restitution for a wrong suffered.
vs 11 Beloved, if God so
loved us at that time, we also ought to characteristically love
vs 12 No one has seen God for themselves at any time. If we characteristically love one another, God characteristically dwells in us, and His love has been perfected in us.
There's an interesting fact about the word "so" here of which few may realize impacts the meaning. "So", the Greek word "houtos", does not refer to the magnitude of God's love but to the manner of God's love. Likewise "houtos" is used in John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son ..." The meaning is "For God in this manner love the world .." It does not mean "For God love the world so much"
So also here the idea is not that God love us so much that we should love one another so much. But rather since God loved us in this manner (the cross), in this manner we should love one another. Which among other things means dealing with other people's sins. Likewise Paul writes, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless." Eph 5:25-27 But such an idea is unpopular in the post-modernistic feel good Christian community in which any confrontation with regards to sin or correction is treated as itself being sinful.
"No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known." John 1:18 And in particular we know God's love through his Son and what he did on the cross.
If we love others in that manner, then God's love for us has fulfilled its objective in our lives.
The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources