Dr. Mark Scott wrote this treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson. Scott teaches preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri. This lesson treatment is published in the July 2020 issue of Christian Standard + The Lookout. (Subscribe to our print edition.)
Application: “Make the Most of Your Co-Opportunities,” by David Faust
Lesson Aim: Live out perfect love by letting God live in you.
By Mark Scott
God often has more important stuff going on inside of us than around us. Make no mistake, God lives in a high and holy place and is concerned about worldwide events. But he also does some of his best work in the individual souls of those who are lowly and contrite of heart (Isaiah 57:15). God’s love and God’s Spirit work in concert to produce a more mature disciple (Romans 5:5). This great “love” passage—1 John 4:7-21—mentions that word 27 times.
Perfect Love Is Possible Because God Loves
We must start with a sidebar: “Perfect” does not mean flawless. That is impossible in a fallen world filled with fallen people. But it does mean “complete” or “mature.” With God’s help (his indwelling Spirit), we certainly can love more completely.
We must first acknowledge that God’s love for us has nothing to do with us. He loves because it is his nature to love. Twice in this glorious passage we are told that God is love (1 John 4:8, 16). We are also told he first loved us (4:19). He is the original lover. This is such an important starting point: We can rely on his love (4:16).
Perfect Love Is Possible Because God Sent Jesus
Bob Goff’s first book is entitled Love Does. Love is measured and filled with knowledge and discernment (Philippians 1:9), but it is never passive—it just does. God’s love had to show up in some tangible way. And it showed up in Jesus of Nazareth. God sent (a key word in John’s Gospel—20:21) his one and only Son (John 3:16) into the world. God’s love, which we did not deserve, literally came down in Christ.
And this love coming down was salvific. It was effectual. It accomplished something we could not accomplish on our own. God sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice (propitiation—that which averts punishment) for our sins. This is no less than a reference to Calvary’s cross. Scholars love to debate how to articulate models (ways of thinking) about atonement, but at the end of the day, when Jesus died on the cross, God called it “good” between heaven and earth. Perfect love stems from a regenerated nature.
Perfect Love Is Possible Because God Gave His Spirit
God’s love is not profound because he gave us a gift. God’s love is profound because he gave us himself. The Holy Spirit living inside of us is measurable evidence of God’s love. This is mentioned twice in our lesson text (1 John 3:24; 4:13). When people acknowledge (confess) that Jesus is God’s Son (4:15), God comes to live in them and they in God (4:15). The Holy Ghost becomes the Holy Guest. Romans 8:1 said there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. But the whole rest of the chapter does not discuss us being in him—it discusses him being in us. Believers always speak and act as people who are inhabited by the Holy Spirit. We have internal help from God to love.
The Holy Spirit living in us is subjective. But the work of the Spirit in our lives is also objective (or measurable). People can see evidence of this. In fact, while God cannot be seen (4:12; Exodus 33:20), the fruit of him existing in our physical bodies can be made complete when we love others.
Perfect Love Is Possible Because God Commanded Us to Love
Make no mistake about it, love can be commanded—and in some form, it is commanded (or referenced as something we do) six times in our text (1 John 4:7, 11, 16, 18, 19, 21). When we obey this command to love, we show we are born of God and know God (4:7). When we obey this command to love, we show that God lives in us (4:12, 16). When we obey this command to love, we live in victory and take confidence (boldness) in the day of judgment (4:17, 18). When we obey this command to love, we are like Jesus (4:17). Fear incapacitates perfect love, but perfect love drives out fear (4:18). Everyone will stand before God on the day of judgment (1 Corinthians 3:12-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10), but people who love God and others will not be afraid.
The real litmus test of loving God is loving others. It is high treason and hypocrisy to claim to love God, whom we have not seen, and not love others, whom we have seen (1 John 4:20, 21). We can love others because the lover of our soul lives in us.
Lesson study ©2019, Christian Standard Media. Print and digital subscribers are permitted to make one print copy per week of lesson material for personal use. Lesson based on the scope and sequence, ©2019 by Christian Standard Media. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.