Walking In Love
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
In this the love of God was manifested toward us that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another’
No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.
1 John 4:7-12
Last week, we looked at some practical ways of loving our brethren. Today, let us touch upon another aspect of ‘walking in God’s love’.
HAVE YOU SEEN GOD?
In the above passage, John says that no one has seen God at any time. The perplexing question that arises is why John would talk about the invisibility of God in the context of brotherly love. People try to explain saying that when we love others, we are able to love the invisible God. However that is a wrong understanding.
Let me explain to you the reason quickly.
Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind and soul and then to love our neighbor as ourselves. Therefore, the route to love the invisible God is not by loving others; because Jesus has set the order of love as – loving God first and then our neighbors.
That brings us back to square one – What did John mean by saying that no one has seen God at any time?
If we read verse 8, which says that God is love, and then read verse 12, which says that no one has seen God at any time, we will get the answer to the above question.
So, essentially John is saying that God who is love hasn’t been seen by anybody.
This truth opens up another significant question. If no one has seen God then how can we claim to have been born of Him? In other words, how can we be certain that God is who He claims to be, that He has saved us and that He is a God of love?
There are three things that give us the assurance of the knowledge of God, His Salvation and His living presence in our lives.
SEEING JESUS CHRIST
SEEING GOD WITH OUR EYES
The Bible at numerous instances state that no man has seen God at any time. John 1:18 says, ‘No one has seen God at any time’. 1 Timothy 6:16 says, ‘who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see’. The Old Testament lists in many places theophanies, that is, ‘the appearance of God in various forms to men’. God did not appear in His Holy self to anyone. The Son of God appeared as an angel to Abraham, Lot and many others. But even those interactions that men of the past had with the angel of the Lord, do not qualify as ‘seeing God’.
Our knowledge of God is not based upon external things but it is based on that which is revealed in and through Jesus Christ. We can’t go looking for God with our naked eyes.
In John 14:1-4, 7-11, Jesus says, ‘Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him. Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father and it is sufficient for us. Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? ‘Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves’.
Jesus was telling His disciples that if they looked at Him then they would see God the Father. It didn’t imply a direct, immediate contact or vision with God. Rather, it referred to the knowledge that comes through looking at Jesus and His life.We need to look no farther from God’s Son Jesus and His death and resurrection to see the Father.
Further, in this uncertain world, we are constantly trying to grasp some strong foundations. Now, if we claim that Jesus is our only rock, it is important that we know Him to be real and alive, right? Human beings are a species of people that see and believe. We see Thomas, the disciple of Jesus, refusing to believe that Jesus had risen until he saw Him face to face and put his hands in Jesus’ wounded side. Jesus rebuked him and said, ‘You saw and therefore you believed. Blessed are those who do not see, yet believe’. Jesus was referring to us. He was proclaiming that we, who would believe in Him as the Son of God that lived, died and rose again for our sins, without having seen Him face to face, would be blessed. The word ‘blessed’ means ‘empowered to prosper’. Jesus was saying that if we believe in Him we will succeed in life.
There is a point that John has in this teaching. He was cautioning the first century Christians (and those of today) that are bent upon ‘making God show them His face’. They will fast and pray to get God to reveal Himself through direct encounters. This results in heresies and wrong teachings. Let me share an example in this regard.
A mentally ill woman was brought before a preacher to be prayed for. He was told that she had been hearing ‘voices from God’. So before praying, he asked her if she had always wanted to hear audible voices from Heaven. She replied that was true. He told her that the devil is very good at mimicking God and trying to lure people away with ‘God’s voices’. He told her that he would pray for her only if she agreed to not chase after these voices and experiences and to live her life trusting in God. The point that I am making is that God definitely can give us visions and speak to us but He certainly does not want us to run after them.
Therefore, we can see God and hear His voice not necessarily by a direct vision but by listening to every word that Jesus speaks and action that He performs. We will then begin to see this invisible God who loves us.
1 John 4:12 is translated by many Bible versions as, ‘No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwells in us’.
Let’s see what John means by ‘God dwelling in us’. He says that if we find ourselves loving our enemies, praying for our persecutors, or hoping and praying that things go well for them, then it means God is dwelling in us. Humanly speaking, it is impossible for a person to continuously love someone who gives us a hard time and ruins our lives. So, demonstrating love to our persecutors is possible only with the intelligent agape love of God that dwells in us. It was that intelligent love by which Jesus loved us while he was crucified. Stripped, beaten, mocked, humiliated, Jesus was hung on a Cross and crucified like a common criminal. He looked at the jeering crowd and saw their enslavement to Satan. They were blinded by the devil. Therefore, out of great compassion and love, Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’. So, as followers of this Jesus, when we behave and live contrary to our animal instinct, it will become the assurance of God’s agape love and of His real presence in our lives.
I knew a man who was a reformed thief. He was a ruffian who was saved and became a follower of Jesus. Soon after his Salvation, he started walking the streets and witnessing Jesus. Another man got irritated hearing his constant ‘preaching’ and caught him by his collar and asked him to prove where God is. The first man grasped the other’s hold on his shirt and released his hand from his collar. He said, ‘Take a good look of what is inside of me. That’s God. If it was not God who dwells in me, then you wouldn’t be going home with your hand intact’.
Often, we reduce God’s work of Redemption of our souls through Jesus Christ, as just a ticket to Heaven. Now, I am not saying that forgiveness of our sins is not important. It certainly is the beginning of our new life. But God wants us to return to the Christ likeness that we had when He first made Adam in His image and likeness. Hebrews 1:3 says that Jesus is the express image of God. Romans 8 says that God wants to conform us to the image of His Son. So when we become more Christ like, we will reflect the Father God. The old Creation that God made was corrupted by sin. But the new Creation, that is us, is being redeemed through Jesus Christ. As we live and love like Jesus, we reflect God. It may not be an instant change. But as we are transformed daily by the power of the Holy Spirit, God’s love is being perfected in us. One day we will become conformed to the image of His Son.
Let’s look inside our hearts. When we see glimpses of progress, we can be assured that the loving God is working His love inside us and changing us to the very image of His Son.
So, let us look at Jesus Christ and His Redemptive work for us on the Cross every day. Let the agape love that flowed freely on the Cross dwell in us. Finally, let us see the love of God that is being perfected in us constantly through the power of God’s Spirit. Then we will be assured of this invisible yet powerful and loving God’s presence in our lives.