1 John 3:16-18
While John 3:16 (the most widely known verse in the bible) speaks to us of the greatness of God’s love, 1 John 3:16 explains what love is and how it works. Verses 16-18
Describe our obligation to love, and
Deny that love exists where it is not demonstrated.
(Sounds like a sermon outline!)
The pivotal verse, v. 16, defines love as taking action on behalf of another, that is, Jesus “laid down his life for us,” and that’s “how we know what love is.” Love is volitional not emotional. It does something, not feels something.
The obligation follows: “And we ought to lay down our lives for one another.” To be a follower of Jesus Christ means to share his purpose in life. Since he came to “love” on Calvary’s cross, we are now under obligation to do exactly that. One might say that since he took our place on the cross, we are now to take his place in the world. As his body, we do those things he would do if he were here. We fulfill his desires for those he died for. In a real sense we are “Jesus” in our world, reacting to need as he would, speaking a helpful word as he would, placing the needs of others on the same level as our own as he would. What is the Christian life if not carrying out in every day practical ways his concerns for others? You can’t reflect Jesus if the mirror of your life is covered with little posts on how God could better serve you.
Now comes the illustration. Let’s say that you are blessed with all you need and one day you notice a fellow Christian lacking something essential, but instead of helping, you “close your heart to him” (NJB). John asks in amazement, “How can the love of God be in you?” It just doesn’t make sense. Love responds to need. Remember how it is defined? Verse 16 once again, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” Would Jesus “close his heart” to any need in the Christian family if he were here? But he is here, he lives in each of us. If our faith is real, Christ in us will respond to every need we are privileged to see. We can’t help but respond because that’s what love does.
Strong challenge. How good of John to add, “Dear children” (v. 18), he knows we are still growing up. Then he encourages us to let our love express itself not in mere talk but in action and truth. It can all be summed up with the simple statement, “Love is a verb.”