Citylight Manayunk | November 27, 2022 from Citylight Church on Vimeo.

Our passage this morning is 1 John 4:7-12 and wastes no time getting to the Big Idea of the text which is:

Love One Another.

(1) God is Love (1 John 4:7-8)
(2) God manifests Love (1 John 4:9-10)
(3) God perfects love (1 John 4:11-12).

Citylight’s very own Nick Dastolfo starts right at the beginning and works our way through the text, verse by verse.


Sermon Transcript

Good Morning, My name is Nick and I’m one of the pastors here at Citylight. It is my joy to dive into God’s word with you this morning. If you haven’t been following along with our sermon series, we just finished wrapping up our series on Galatians and will be beginning our advent series next week.

This Sunday creates a unique opportunity to focus on a separate passage of scripture outside of one of our series. Following our sermon series on Galatians and covering the fruits of the Spirit in chapter 5, I considered focusing more deeply on one gift of the Spirit. In my time of prayer and scripture reading the supremacy of love began sticking out.

Martin Luther, our tour guide as it were through the book of Galatians, talking about the fruit of the spirit said “It would have been enough to mention only the single fruit of love, for love embraces all the fruits of the Spirit.”

In our passage today the verse “Whoever does not love does not know God” implies that how we love one another says much about our relationship with God. Citylight, I long for you, for us, to know God and make him known, and scripture says if we are to do that, we must love one another well. My hope is that this morning we gain a larger view of God’s love for us and how we’re called to bend that out to each other.

Our passage this morning wastes no time getting to the Big Idea of the text which is to Love One Another. Why? (1) God is Love (1 John 4:7-8) (2) God manifests Love (1 John 4:9-10) (3) God perfects love (1 John 4:11-12).Let’s start right at the beginning and work our way through the text verse by verse.


GOD IS LOVE (1 JOHN 4:7-8)

Let’s look again at the first couple verses of our passage, 1 John 4:7-8 – Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 

No matter who you are or where you come from, everyone has some idea of what love is. What it looks like, what it feels like, and what it certainly isn’t. It seems like every other movie or hit song has a love story at the center of it. Everyone knows what love is. But in these verses we’re given another definition of love. One that is short, sweet, and to the point, but also carries truths that are as deep as the ocean: God is love. Let’s wade into those waters a bit.

Many of us, even those of us not as familiar with the bible, probably have heard the phrase ‘God is love’ before. But I imagine that many of us internalize that as God is loving or God is lovely. Both of which are true, but what this is saying is that God himself IS love. Love is who he is in his very nature and essence. Because God is love, every act of love you’ve witnessed or any person you’ve loved is simply a shadow of the even deeper, purer love that is God. It is very human to look at something loving that someone does  and draw the conclusion that person is loving. Here we are flipping the script and beginning with who God is before we delve into what he has done, later in our passage.

Maybe the best way to try to capture the idea that God IS love would be to describe water as being wet. Water in it’s very essence is wet. You can’t have water that isn’t wet. But everything that water touches has that characteristic of it’s essence impressed upon it. Whether it is just a drop or a deluge, water is wet, and nothing can avoid getting wet when met with water. So too is God. You can’t have God without love and you certainly can’t experience him without his love being impressed upon you.

So how should this truth that God is love land on us this morning?  I think it helps to try to specifically connect this to your life right now. Let’s just pause and take a moment to think. How are you doing this morning? What is weighing you down? What has been exhausting? What joys have your heart been carrying? Whatever is currently going on in your life, whether you are ascending to heaven (having a great day) or making your bed in Sheol (having a bad day) do you realize that the hands that hold it all together are of love? 


Tony Evans, pastor in Texas, says that,  “Our God is sovereign. That means there’s no such thing as luck. Anything that happens to you, good or bad, must pass through His fingers first.” Anything that comes to us must first pass through the loving hands of God.

This is comforting but also requires a massive perspective shift. This is what we do, we frequently look at our circumstances and draw conclusions about God. I just lost my job, God doesn’t provide. I’m hurting, God doesn’t see me. Instead, of viewing God through the lens of our circumstances. We need to be looking at our circumstances through the lens of who God is. Who is God? God is love. God provides for my every need (Phil 4:19); I just lost my job; he will provide for my needs in this season. God is near to the broken-hearted (Psalm 34:18); I’m hurting; I can turn to God for comfort. What are you currently facing that you could use to  look at through the lens that God is love?

Interestingly, proportionate to the love of God John also holds up the knowledge of God when he says that anyone who does not love, does not know God. It almost takes you aback a bit by how presuming it is that two two are mutually exclusive. But indeed since love is so interwoven into God’s character you can’t have one without the other. Since this is God’s kind of love, it comes into our life through our relationship with Him. If we want to love one another more, we need to draw closer to God.

So how do we draw closer to God? As a father of two young children, it’s easy to see how they learn and absorb things like little sponges. At an age when relaying difficult or complex instructions is unrealistic, they primarily learn in two ways: Observation and Proximity. Likewise, we learn more and more of God’s love by drawing near. We become more loving by living life in his presence. So back to how you’re doing; still struggling to see your circumstances through the lens of his love? Draw near. Come to him with the empty hands of faith and seek to find him through his word and christian community.

Another interesting idea surrounding the truth that God is love is to consider the fact that the creator God created and pre-existed all things. Before anything ever was, God was. What did this being of love, love before there was anything to love?

John 17:24-26 – Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.  O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Before anything ever was, the love of God firstly existed within the Trinity for itself. This is a relational love that we are invited into and in an overflow of his love, God makes it known to us.




Now, let’s turn our attention to the next verses, 1 John 4:9-10 – In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 

The next two verses John gives us both begin with ‘In this is love’ as a cue that he is about to give us two word pictures of what the love of God is and how it was made manifest. I’ve been told this is far more popular with women, but have you ever gone to get your haircut and instead of describing what you would like you show the person cutting your hair a picture? They say a picture speaks a thousand words. John is painting two pictures of God’s love being manifest and both involve Jesus.

The first says that the love of God was made manifest. What does that mean? Made manifest means that something was made visible, clear, or apparent. Ok, where did it happen? John says this love was made clear AMONG us. It was near to us, up close, with us to see, touch, and feel. This love was the Father sending his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him

The second picture, starts by highlighting the directionality of the love of God. That it is initiating, firstly to us and that in this sending love he sent his Son not just into the world but to be the propitiation for our sins. Now let’s stop for a second and define propitiation. “Propitiation means “averting the wrath of God by the offering of a gift.” It refers to the turning away of the wrath of God as the just judgment of our sin by God’s own provision of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.” – Ligon Duncan

Now you might be thinking ‘why does God’s wrath need satisfying? I thought God is a God of love? Why can’t he just forgive?’

Jesus humbly came to earth as a baby and lived the perfect life that we couldn’t, died the death that we deserve, and conquered sin and shame by taking the full cup of God’s wrath and drinking it down to the dregs. Now there’s no wrath for us, only grace. It’s in this perfect life and act of love on the cross that God made his love manifest.

Now if you’ve been in christian circles long enough describing God’s love through the picture of the cross might seem like old news, but it is constantly repeated because it is the pinnacle display of love. Preacher and evangelist Paul Washer commented on this by saying “countless men of literature – poets and scholars alike – have long attempted to both define and illustrate the nature of love. Compared to the cross, their works are the scribblings of children”

I want to borrow on some work of John Piper’s and highlight just how magnificent the display of God’s love on the cross was towards us by looking at four aspects of the love of God which demonstrate the degree to which he has loved us:

  • We don’t deserve God’s love
    Romans 5:6-8 says that “While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly….but God shows his love in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us. God’s love displayed through the Son is amazing because compared to the spotless perfection that he required and that Christ upheld, we are just depraved wretches with only filthy rags to bring. 
  • God paid the greatest price to love us
    John 15:13 says that “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends”. God’s love displayed through the Son is amazing not just because of the degree to which we’ve been loved, but the deep, deep, costliness of the giving of his only Son. 
  • God’s love does the greatest good possible for us.
    John 3:16 says that “for God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” God’s love displayed through the Son is amazing because of what his love did for us. It didn’t just put a smile on our face or make something bad a little better. He completely changed us and gave us an inheritance beyond compare and eternal life. 
  • God desires good for us
    Zephaniah 3:17 says that “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing”. God’s love displayed through the Son is amazing because of the deep, deep desire he has for our genuine spiritual good.

So how should we apply this? Remember and rejoice. Remember these truths, call them to mind, reflect and meditate on them. Let your heart not grow tired of hearing them. Rejoice! Rejoice because God did show his love in this way for YOU. Yes, God showed his love for us at a corporate level (For God so loved the WORLD….) but he also did at a personal level.

In light of the fact that God is love and has manifested his love through his son Jesus, we’re now  finally ready to look at our call to love one another and God perfecting his love in us.


1 John 4:11-12 – Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. This is saying that God’s love for us ought to motivate our love for one another. If an almighty, perfect God can forgive, love, and embrace such depraved wretches as us how can we not love one another? God forgave far greater a debt and loved us far more lavishly. How could we not forgive lesser debts to express a far lesser love?

John goes on to point out that no one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God abides in us. The implication is that while no one has ever seen God, but if we love one another we make visible the love of God and our abiding in him. Our love toward one another testifies to our trust in Jesus. John 13:34-35 –  A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. This means that our fellowship is not merely a time to hang out but a holy display of God’s love.

But, as we all know, loving each other isn’t easy. We all fail at it and instead of sacrificially serving one another we build up the kingdom of self. Thankfully, God has not left us alone in this endeavor. The verse following our passage says: 1 John 4:13 – By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. Through faith in Christ God has sent the Holy Spirit to indwell us and perfect us in is love. That doesn’t mean we will love perfectly; we can’t, but as we draw near to God, look to the cross the spirit helps us in our weakness. Through the holy spirit we actually become more dear to one another and loving one another out of an overflow of what God has done for us becomes more important than loving ourselves. Tony Evans once said “True biblical love is compassionately and righteously pursuing the well-being of another.” Jesus was the only one to wholeheartedly, selflessly, love others. By abiding in his love and the working of the holy spirit we are being perfected in his love. Both now, as we more and more put to death our selfish desires, but also for the last day as his love will be perfected/made complete in us.

Now, there’s a few ways I’d like for us to try to apply this. The first comes from more of a broader context of 1 John. Let me explain. If you’ve ever studied the letter of 1 John, you’ll notice that it’s not exactly linear and actually a little circular and how John introduces and re-visits themes in his letter. In a parallel passage in chapter 3 John talks about the importance of loving one another and right in between our passages at the beginning of chapter 4 is the call to be diligent against false teaching. I think the point of that getting sandwiched between these two love texts is that we should be holding our doctrinal fidelity in love. It’s easy to be very heavy handed with truth or with love. Sometimes the fervor to defend against error (defend truth) can lend to love being forgotten…or the fervor to love others blinds us to point them to the truth and what’s ultimately loving for them. Citylight, as we grow in our knowledge of God, let’s only and ever do so with a growing measure of love.

The second way I’d like us to apply this is by practically loving one another in our body. Two weeks ago, Matt mentioned some great ways that we can serve one another. Just by sitting here, sipping on a cup of coffee you have already been served by our setup team, hospitality team, and if you happened to find a parking place, our parking team. I could go on that our citygroups, which are our weekly small group gatherings where we primarily practice community as a church, are great vessels to draw close to others as you draw close to God and love one another.

Instead of giving additional ways we can love one another, I’d like to highlight three heart postures of loving one another we ought to have in doing so. Because our love for one another is an overflow of the love that God has shown us, each of these will be things that we saw in our passage that God did, that we should mirror in how we love each other:

Initiating. Verse 10 reads, “not that we have loved God but that he loved us”. The love of God is an initiating love that goes after, runs down the beloved. Our love for one another ought to be marked by this characteristic. If there’s someone in your citygroup, or a neighbor, or coworker going through a visibly rough time, an initiating love seeks to serve them or ask how you can help far before the need is presented.

Lavish. Verse 11 reads, “God so loved us”. This is not a little bit or a rationed amount. God SO loved us. Lavishly, extravagantly, over-the-top loved us. Our love for one another ought to be marked by this characteristic. Next time you’re sending a meal to another family in the church who just had a baby, what would it look like to bless them lavishly over-the-top?

Unconditional. No verses in our passage give any to-do’s, qualifications, or requirements to earn the love of God. Our love for one another ought to be marked by this characteristic. If there is a brother or sister in need, there’s no keeping score. Even if you’re doing 90% of the work or effort by fostering love in the relationship. You are mirroring the unconditional love of God.

In closing, do you remember when I said that the love God has firstly and originally existing within the trinity for itself. That is still the case today, except we are invited into it! Let’s look at our passage again. The Father is in his very essence is love. The Father has manifested his love by sending the Son, his only Son, to die the death we deserve and to pay the price we can’t pay. The manifestation of love, the Son, through the ultimate act of love on the cross purchased the guarantee of our inheritance, the Holy Spirit who is perfecting us in love both now and til the last day! Don’t you see? The love of God is a beautiful interworking of the trinity and because of his love for you, has invited us right into the thick of it. Let’s live out of that love and love one another. Let’s pray.