1 John 4:9-11
In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world…
In this was manifested the love of God toward us, etc. Our text does not speak of the only manifestation of the Divine love. In many things is the love of God manifested to us - in the beauty, the utility, and the fertility of our world; in the exquisite structure of our souls and bodies; in the apt relations of the outer world to our nature. Nor does our text mention the manifestation to angelic beings of the love of God. But St. John sets forth the richest and most glorious exhibition in regard to us of the love of God. We see here several aspects of the Divine love.
I. IN ITS GREAT ORIGIN. "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us"
1. God's love to man originated entirely with himself. This love in its beginning was all on God's part, and none on ours. We did not love him. There was nothing in us to awaken his love to us. We were not beautiful, or amiable, or meritorious, or good. "But God commendeth his own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." It was our sin and suffering and deep need that called forth his compassion toward us; and ere he could love us with the love of complacency, he loved us with the love of tender and Divine pity.
2. God is the Fountain of all love. Love flows from the essential nature of the Divine Being. "Love is of God... God is Love" (verses 7, 8). As light and heat from the sun, so all true love everywhere flows from him, or took its rise from him. And seeing that he is love, that love is of his essence, the flowing forth of his love to us is the giving of himself to us. But the love of God was manifested in our case -
II. IN THE GREAT MESSENGER WHICH HE SENT UNTO US. "Herein was the love of God manifested in us [or, 'in our case'], that God hath sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him." Notice:
1. The pre-existence of Jesus Christ. This is clearly implied in the expression, "God hath sent his Son into the world" (cf. John 17:4, 5; John 3:17, 34).
2. The endearing relation of Jesus Christ to God the Father. He is "his only begotten Son." The word" Son" alone would suggest that their relation is one of deep affection; but other terms are added, which intensify and strengthen this idea. The Father speaks of him as "my- beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17). St. Paul writes of him as "God's own Son" (Romans 8:3). And St. John styles him "the Only Begotten of the Father.... the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father" (John 1:14, 18); "The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand" (John 3:35). And our Saviour said, "Father, thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world" (John 17:24). It is impossible for us to comprehend this ineffable and infinite love subsisting between the Father and his only Son, or the deep and unutterable joy of their communion. In sending such a Messenger to our world, what a revelation we have of the love of God!
3. The subordination of Jesus Christ to God the Father in the work of redemption. "God sent his only begotten Son into the world." "As thou didst send me into the world, even so sent I them into the world" (John 17:18). The Divine Son cheerfully became a servant that his Father's authority might be vindicated, and his Father's glory be promoted in the redemption of the human race (cf. Philippians 2:6-8).
III. IN THE BLESSING WHICH HE DESIGNS FOR US. "That we might live through him." Notice:
1. The condition in which the love of God finds man. "Dead by reason of trespasses and sins." There is a resemblance between a dead body and the state into which the soul is brought by sin. In both there is the absence of vision, of hearing, of sensibility, and of activity.
2. The condition into which the love of God aims to bring man. "That we might live through him." His design is to quicken men into spiritual life - the life of true thought, pure affection, righteous and unselfish activity, and reverent worship. This life is eternal in its nature. It is not perishable or decaying, but enduring and progressive. And it is blessed. Life in the text comprises salvation in all its glorious fullness. How clear is the manifestation to us of the Divine love in this!
IV. IN THE MEANS BY WHICH THIS BLESSING IS OBTAINED FOR US. "He sent his Son to be the Propitiation for our sins." The best commentary on Christ the Propitiation that we know, is that found in the words of St. Paul, in Romans 3:24-26. Two remarks only do we offer concerning the propitiation.
1. It was not anything offered to God to render him willing to bless and save us.
2. It was designed to remove obstructions to the free, flowing forth of the mercy of God to man. How splendid the expression of the love of God in sending his Son, only and well-beloved, to be the Propitiation for our sins!
V. IN THE EXAMPLE WHICH IT PRESENTS TO US. "Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." The obligation to copy the Divine example in this respect is grounded upon our relation to him as his children. Because we are "begotten of God" (verse 7) we should seek to resemble him. The argument of the Apostle Paul is similar: "Be ye therefore imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in love," etc. (Ephesians 5:1, 2). If we are "partakers of the Divine nature," we should imitate the Divine example.
1. In relation to mankind in general. "I say unto you, Love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you; that ye may be sons of your Father which is in heaven," etc. (Matthew 5:44, 45). He loved us with the love of compassion before he could love us with the love of complacency. Let us imitate him in this respect in our relation to those who are yet in their sins.
2. In relation to the Christian brotherhood in particular. (Cf. chapter 1 John 3:10-18.) Let us evince our relation to the Father, who is infinite Love, by our unfeigned love to our Christian brethren. Let the supreme manifestation in regard to us of his love thus produce its appropriate effect in us. - W.J.
Parallel VersesKJV: In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.