The Certainty of God’s Love

The past year has been stressful and uncertain for many Americans. New variants of the COVID-19 virus still threaten the population. A significant percentage of people remain suspicious and fearful of the vaccine. We hear sad reports of young people who are depressed and suicidal. Businesses have closed for good. Millions of people have lost their jobs.

In these uncertain times, I want to turn readers’ attention to themes and promises of which we may be certain. It is possible to maintain a sense of calm confidence in the middle of this perfect storm of economic disruption, health crises, and social change.

This is not escapism or a state of denial. The problems are real. But so are the promises of God. It is by keeping our focus on him that we maintain stability as we live in this present world in this present time.

This leads me to recommend the writings of the apostle John. John is an apostle of certainty. {Count the number of times he repeats the word “know” in his first letter.) In 1 John 4:7-21, the knowledge of God leads to the certainty of the love of God for us. In spite of everything, we may be sure of God’s love.

God’s love is on display. God’s nature is love. God is the source of love, the essence of love. “Love comes from God” (1 John 4:7). “God is love” (1 John 4:8). The Holy Trinity is a divine inter-relationship of eternal love. This infinite, glorious and loving God is great, but not remote. He has shared his love with us human beings living on this tiny planet. He “showed his love among us” ( 1 John 4:9).

John circles back to Jesus Christ. God showed his love among us when he “sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9). “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Sin results in death and condemnation. Jesus’ sacrificial death results in life for those who believe in him. This is God’s gift of love.

John can write with confidence about this because he was an eyewitness to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. “We  have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14). The Christian faith rests on objective facts which have been verified by the sensory experience of those who were there. These facts are passed along to us by the Lord’s apostles.

He goes further. He says that if we accept this objective testimony about Jesus, God in his grace will send his Holy Spirit to confirm it to us as a subjective witness. “This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: he has given us of his Spirit” (1 John 4:13). “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God” (1 John 4:15).

This acknowledgement of Jesus is a formal declaration of faith in him. It happens when one says “yes” to the gospel. “This is what I believe.” It is reaffirmed in water baptism as a confession of one’s faith in Christ. It happens again when a Christian explains the faith to another person. In the words of the apostle, it is the declaration that Jesus is “the Savior of the world.” It is the acknowledgement “that Jesus is the Son of God”  and that God sent him (1 John 4:14).

These facts prove God’s love. His love is reliable. “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us” ( 1 John 4:16). Reliance upon God’s love gives us stability. It anchors us. It completes us. “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us” (1 John 4:12). “This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment” ( 1 John 4:17).

God’s love is the life-force working within individual believers and through the Christian community. It is the vitality of the church. We are called to be loving because God is loving. “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11). “No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us” (1 John 4:12).

The invisible God is made visible to a watching world when Christians love one another. Frederick F. Bruce wrote, “The love of God displayed in his people is the strongest apologetic that God has in the world.” It is the love of God, costly love, practical love, visible love, serving love, forgiving love, which makes the gospel believable to our neighbors.

“God is love” (1 John 4:16). This is a great certainty for uncertain times.

Pastor Randy Faulkner