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Sermon #33 — 1st John Series


      Title:                                 “Herein is love!”


      Text:                                  1 John 4:9-10

      Subject:               The Great Display of God’s Love

            In the Sacrifice of Christ

      Date:                                Tuesday Evening — April 30, 2013

      Tape#                              1st John #33

      Readings:           Cody Henson and Allen Kibby



If God the Holy Spirit will give me his grace and power to preach and give you ears to hear and a heart to believe, we will this night have a most blessed time together in the adoration and worship of our God; and we will leave this place saying, “It has been good to be in the house of the Lord.” — My subject tonight is the love of God. Our text will be 1st John 4:9-10.


1 John 4:9-10 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. 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.


Herein is love! — That is the title of my message. — Herein is love! What a subject! When John, guided by the Holy Spirit of God as he wrote by divine inspiration, looked for a display of love, he looked not to…

  • The Love of Heavenly Angels to God’s Elect, or
  • The Love of God’s Elect for Him, or
  • The Love of God’s Saints for One Another, or
  • His Own Heart’s Love for God and His Saints,

But to the Lord God himself. Looking back to Calvary, looking up to God the Father in heaven, in all the wondrous splendor of his condescending grace and eternal mercy in sending his only begotten, dearly beloved Son into the world to die in the place of poor sinners like us, John wrote with joyful praise, “Herein is love! He seems to be saying, all love is here, love at its utmost height, love at its climax, love outdoing itself. — “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”


God is Love


The Apostle made the statement, “God is love” twice in this fourth chapter (vv. 8 and 16). And it is one of the most tremendous utterances in the entire Bible. — “God is love.” Happy indeed is that poor sinner on earth who can lift his eyes toward heaven and say with John, — “We have known and believed the love that God hath to us.” To know God’s love is heaven on earth. In the New Testament this is set forth not as the privilege of a favored few, but as a normal part of our every day Christian experience. When Paul says, “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us,” he means not our love for God, as many imagine, but our knowledge of God’s love for us. And though he had never met the believers at Rome, to whom he was writing, he took it for granted that the statement would be as true of them as it was of him.


The love of God is that special affection that he has for his people. It is certain that God does not possess passions of love, such as we do. His love is not subject to change. And it does not arise from something outside of himself. God’s love is an immutable attribute of his nature. It is so much a part of his being that without it he would not be God. When John describes God, he says, “God is love.” Now that is not all that God is. He is also gracious, just, holy, wise, and almighty. But all of these attributes are consistent with this glorious truth: — “God is love.”


God’s love implies his absolute purpose and will to deliver, bless, and save his people. The love of God to his people appears in his holy and wise designs and plans for our eternal happiness. God’s love is seen in his eternal choice and determination to sanctify us to himself. His love is seen in the revelation of his will and the declaration of his promises to his own. Even the punishment of the wicked, of those who are the enemies of his church and people, is a manifestation of his love to his elect. As believers, we know God’s love to us because he supports us in life, he blesses us in death, and he brings us to eternal glory in heaven. But the greatest and most wonderful revelation of the love of God to us is that which John describes in our test. — “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”


Proposition: The revelation of God’s love is the sacrifice of his own dear Son in the place of poor, needy sinners, putting him to death that he might redeem us from sin, death, and hell.


The death of Christ at Calvary in the place of sinners is the greatest possible display of God’s love for us. It was for this reason that God ordained the sin and fall of our father Adam to fall, that he might show the greatness of his love for us against the black background of human sin.


Two Texts


The Triune Jehovah has been giving out demonstrations of his love for his elect, in the streams and effects of it, from everlasting. Robert Hawker rightly observed, — “Christ is the first edition of that love; and all the subsequent works are with him, and in him, and through him, and by him.” Our fall in Adam gave occasion for the greater display of that love. But Christ and his Church were one in the womb of God’s love, before the Adam fell in the Garden. We were one with Christ in the womb of God’s love before ever the foundations of the earth were laid.


Look with me, for a moment at two verses of Holy Scripture, one in the Old Testament and the other in the New — Jeremiah 31:3 and Ephesians 2:7.


Jeremiah 31:3  The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee. —— Marginal translation: I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore have I extended loving kindness unto thee therefore


Here, we have God himself declaring, that his love for his been from everlasting. — Now, look at Ephesians 2:7.


Ephesians 2:7 7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.


Here the Holy Spirit tells us that the ultimate object of God’s love for us reaches to everlasting. It is from everlasting to everlasting. It is eternal. As it began from everlasting, so it has run through and still continues to run through the whole of time, and runs on to everlasting! Like rivers arising out of the ocean and running back into it again are connected and inseparably one, so is God’s love toward his elect in Christ from everlasting to everlasting.


But how can we know this love. If, as we read in 1st John 4:12, “No man hath seen God at any time,” how can we know the love of God? Here it is. — “Herein is love!


1 John 4:9-10 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. 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.


Divisions: I want to show you four things from our text about the love of God.

1.      God loves sovereignly.

2.      God loves sinners.

3.      God loves savingly.

4.      God loves sacrificially.




The first thing taught in our text is this — GOD LOVES SOVEREIGNLY. Here is the wonder of God’s love. — “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us.” In order that we may see somewhat more clearly the fulness of God’s love for us, I want to remind of the character of God’s love, as it is set forth in the Word of God.


Independent — The love of God is independent. Sovereign love is independent love. When I say that the love of God is independent, I simply mean that God’s love needs no other object upon which to express itself than his own glorious Being. And when God does show his love to any of his creatures the cause is always in himself, independent of the creature.


God’s love is perfectly happy and satisfied in himself. Love is an attribute of God. It is therefore necessary for God to love. Yet, independence is also an attribute of God. Therefore, it cannot be necessary for God to have an object of love outside of himself.


Indeed, the first, principle object of God’s love is Himself.

  • All intelligent beings love themselves. This is necessary for life. No man is ever required to love another more than he loves himself (Matthew 22:39).
  • God made his own glory the ultimate end of all things, because he loves Himself.
  • The Three Persons of the Sacred Trinity have a mutual and satisfying love for one another.


Someone has well said, “That man is a fool who denies the doctrine of the Trinity; and he is equally a fool who tries to explain it.” So I will not try to explain what I cannot understand. But the doctrine of the Trinity is a point of Divine Revelation, which must be believed (1 John 5:7). The Father eternally loves the Son and the Spirit; the Son eternally loves the Father and the Spirit; and the Spirit eternally loves the Son and the Father. I have said all that to say this: — God’s love is independent. He does not need us, not even as objects of love. If he loves us it is because he wills to love us.


The cause of God’s love toward any of his creatures must lie altogether within Himself. This is plainly set forth in our text. — “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us.” Even if a man could be found who loved God, that would not obliged to love him. If an ant loves an angel, is it necessary for the angel to love the ant? If a beggar loves a princess, is that princess therefore obliged to love a beggar?


We are deeply indebted to God; and we ought to love him continually, and with all our hearts.

  • He is our Creator.
  • His goodness is over all his creatures.
  • He has never done anything but good for us.

But this is the wonder of our text. We did not love God, yet he loved us! While we were his enemies, God sent his Son to save us.


Let me go a step further and say, when any man does come to love God, it is no great wonder. Our love to God is but a very small return for his love to us. — We love him because he first loved us” (v. 19).


Were the whole realm of nature mine,

That were a present far too small;

Love so amazing, so Divine,

Demands my soul, my life, my all.


Infinite — Not only is God’s love independent, the love of God is infinite. Sovereign love is infinite love. As love is an attribute of the infinite God, his love must be infinite, both in its existence and its quality.


Eternal — I’ve already touched on this, but it will bear repetition, frequent repetition, and in this house of worship it will be given repetition regularly: — The love of God for his elect is eternal. God’s sovereign, independent, infinite love is eternal love.

·        God loved us before the foundation of the world (John 17:23-24; Ephesians 1:3-5).

·        The covenant of grace was established in eternity because God loved us.

·        God chose us as his own in Christ Jesus before ever the earth was made because he loved us.

·        Christ was set up as our Surety, Mediator, and Redeemer from everlasting because God loved us.

·        The angels were created because God loved us. He made them ministering spirits sent forth to minister to those who shall be the heirs of salvation.

·        The loved of God for us is beyond the reason and comprehension of man.“He so loved us!”


Immutable — Again, God’s love for us is immutable. Sovereign, free, eternal love is immutable love. The love of God, like God himself, is the same yesterday, today, and forever. It is without variableness or shadow of turning. His love never changes. — Aren’t you glad?


The love of God knows no distinction or degrees. It is perfect.

  • God loves us, even as he loves Christ.
  • God loves all of his people alike.


The love of God neither increases, nor diminishes. There is nothing we can do to gain God’s love; and there is nothing we can do that will cause his love for us to decline.


The love of God can never be changed to wrath, and the wrath of God can never be changed to love. He said, “Jacob have I loved, and Esau have I hated.” And he will never hate Jacob. Nor will he ever love Esau.


What I am saying is this: — God’s love can never be altered by anything outside of himself; and as there is no alteration in him, there is no alteration in his love.


There is no possibility of change in our God (Malachi 3:6; James 1:17). God’s love does not change. It cannot be taken from us; and it cannot be destroyed, neither by us nor by hell itself (Romans 8:35-39).


The famous Arminian preacher, founder of the Christian Missionary Alliance denomination, A.W. Tozer, made these statements about the love of God. — “God must love and will love man until hell has erased the last trace of the remaining image (of God in him). Men are lost now. But they are still loved of God...I believe that God now loves all lost men...(But) the day will come when lost men will no longer be loved by God Almighty...I believe the time will come when God will no longer love lost human beings.”[1]


Such fickle, useless love may be worthy of fickle, useless man, but not of the great and glorious Lord God. Our God does not love today and hate tomorrow! His love is unchangeable! God’s love, like all His gifts bestowed upon men, is without repentance. He will never cease His own to cherish. Those who are loved of God have been loved of God from everlasting and shall be loved of God to everlasting. His love is eternal both ways. He will not depart from the objects of His love nor cease to do them good, for He cannot change (Jeremiah 32:40; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17).


Indestructible — Once more, the love of God for us is indestructible. Sovereign love is indestructible love (Romans 8:35-39). The love of God to his people endures forever. He says, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). Love is the bond union between God the Father and God the Son and all of his covenant people. And nothing can break that bond. — “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it” (Song of Solomon 8:7).


Our God loved us not only when we did not love him, but even when we were positively opposed to him.

  • For many years, you and I were indifferent to God, yet he loved us.
  • Our lives were insulting and offensive to God, yet he loved us.
  • We lived from the day of our birth in rebellion to God, yet he loved us.

We must confess that we are his, not by our choice of love, but by his.


‘Tis not that I did choose Thee,

For, Lord, that could not be;

This heart would still refuse Thee;

Hadst Thou not chosen me.


Thou from the sin that stained me,

Hast cleansed and set me free:

Of old Thou hast ordained me,

That I should live to Thee.


‘Twas sovereign mercy called me,

And taught my opening mind;

The world had else enthralled me,

To heavenly glories blind.


My heart owns none before Thee;

For Thy rich grace I thirst;

This knowing, If I love Thee,

Thou must have loved me first.


Though we are redeemed by his blood, called by his power, and justified by his grace, our hearts are often cold and indifferent, yet his love does not change! No love can be found like the love of God for us. — “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us.”




God loves sovereignly. That’s my first point. The second thing that we see in the text is this —– GOD LOVES SINNERS. We are all guilty, proud, rebellious, and helpless sinners, deserving of God’s infinite wrath. Yet, listen to the sweet sound of our test. — “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but he loved us!”


Our guilt and corruption was great. Who can describe the great horror of man’s sin? Who can adequately portray the corruption and vileness of our race? Who can tell how repugnant sinful man is to the holy God? In the fall of our father Adam, we all became guilty of sin against a holy and gracious God. If ever we are to understand anything of the wondrous mystery of redemption and salvation by Christ, we must first understand what happened in the garden.


God created the human race in the perfection of happiness and holiness in Adam.

  • Adam stood before God in the garden as our father and representative.
  • When Adam sinned, we all sinned in him.
  • All the race is now subject to the curse of the law because of sin.


By the fall of Adam, we all sinned and we all became sinners. His sin was imputed, or charged to us. — “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. …By the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation…For by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners” (Romans 5:12, 18, 19).


We are all born with a corrupt, sinful nature, deserving of God’s eternal wrath, even as we break the womb. Not only are we guilty of Adam’s sin, we sin against God every day, with every thought of our hearts and every breath of our lungs! Sin is what we are; and sin is what we do.

  • All that we do is marred by sin.
  • Even the best works of the best Christians are marred by sin.
  • We sin against God’s love and mercy set forth in the gospel, and against his holiness and purity set forth in the law.
  • Man by nature persists in a course of iniquity and sin.
  • Sin is my name and sin is my game. I am sin.


Every sin that is committed is against the God of heaven himself.

  • Sin is an affront to God’s holy character.
  • Sin is the transgression of God’s holy law.
  • Sin is rebellion against God’s sovereign authority.
  • Sin is the attempt of man to violate God, man’s attempt to rape God and rob him of his character!
  • God alone knows the magnitude of human sin. I cannot describe it.


Do you see how corrupt and vile, sinful, and wretched we are by nature? Yet, hear this – “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us!” Our guilt and corruption was great, but God’s grace and compassion is greater! — “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Great was our sin, but greater far is God’s grace. Great was our guilt, but greater far was God’s love.


Hear what I say, my friends. — God loves sinners! I stand here and preach freely, and without reservation, unbounded grace to the vilest of the vile, to those who have nothing within them worthy of consideration from God, men who ought to be swept away into the bottomless pit, if ever justice is permitted to give them their due. “Herein is love!


Blessed Fall — I have reached the age and perhaps the stage in life that I have quit being concerned about how my detractors are going to take what I say, or what they might do with it. I’m just crotchety enough that I enjoy throwing the goats a can to chew on once in a while, especially if it is helpful to the sheep. So I must go a step further and say God could ever have shown his love to his people, as it is now displayed in Christ, had we not fallen in Adam. I look at the fall from Calvary and say, “Blessed fall! The fall gave the love of God opportunity to prove itself. If God had made ten thousand worlds, and lit them up with all wisdom and power, he could not have so manifested his love to them as he does in the fact that he loves sinful men and women, and loves them so as to make them his own sons and daughters, and brings them to dwell at his own right hand through Jesus Christ his Son. The black background of human sin is the place where the brightest beams of divine love are seen.

  • God loved us before the creation.
  • God loved us before the fall.
  • God loved us after the fall.
  • And the greatest display of God’s love is the substitutionary sacrifice of his Son in the place of sinners.


O the love that drew salvation’s plan,

O the grace that brought it down to man;

O the mighty gulf that God did span,

At Calvary!


God gave His Son, His only Son,

To ransom rebel worms;

‘Tis here He makes His goodness known,

In its diviner forms.




This brings me to the third thing taught in our text. Not only does God love sovereignly, not only does he love sinners, but GOD LOVES SAVINGLY. — “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”


For those sinners whom God loves, he has provided a suitable, satisfactory, saving propitiation. — “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” I want to answer four questions concerning this propitiation.


What is a propitiation? — The propitiatory work of Christ was symbolized in the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament. The High Priest would enter once a year into the Holy Place to offer a sacrifice for the atonement of sin. The blood of the sacrifice was sprinkled on the mercy-seat, the lid of the ark, which contained the broken law of God. By the sprinkling of sacrificial blood on the mercy-seat, the broken law was covered and the sins of the nation were atoned. God’s wrath was thereby ceremonially appeased. — Christ has, by his one sacrifice for sin, appeased God’s wrath, satisfying the demands of the law once and for all. He is our Propitiation.


Why did Christ become our propitiation? — Someone may ask, “If God is so loving, why did he not just forget about man’s sin? Why did he not just say to the guilty, ‘You have done wrong, but I freely forgive you?’” That sounds very good. But it was not possible. If God had done such a thing, he must have ceased to be God. You see, God is not only loving and gracious; he is also holy and just. He is willing to be gracious and to forgive sin; but in the forgiveness of sin, he must be just. Redemption by Christ is not only an act of grace. It is the greatest possible display of infinite, inflexible justice.

·      If God had not required a just propitiation for sin, then sin would have appeared insignificant, and divine love would have seemed but a small thing.

·      If God had not sent Christ to be the propitiation for sin, then God’s justice would not have allowed the forgiveness of sin. His justice must be satisfied.

·      If God had not sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sin, then we would never have known the wonder of his grace and his condescending love. Through the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ, we see the condescending love of the eternal God. — God the Father condescends to sacrifice his well beloved Son. — God the Son condescends to become our propitiation. — And God the Holy Spirit condescends to bring the forgiveness of sins to the hearts of men whom the Son has redeemed.


How was Christ made the propitiation for our sins? — Through his substitutionary sacrifice, the Lord Jesus Christ has become the propitiation for our sins. He is the Priest, he is the Sacrifice, and he is the Mercy-Seat. Being our Priest, he stood between the offended God and his sinning people. Being himself the infinite God, his divinity was the altar of sacrifice. And the sacrifice he made was that of his own glorious humanity.

·        The Son of God himself bore our sins in his own body on the tree.

·        Upon Immanuel’s head the fulness of divine justice was poured out.

·        And now, God and man are reconciled.


Propitiation means reconciliation. The Mercy-Seat is the place where God meets with sinners. This is the place where God was reconciled to his people. And this is the place where God’s people are reconciled to him. Sinner, if you would meet the God of glory, you must meet him in the Mercy-Seat. And that Mercy-Seat is Christ, “the Propitiation for our sins.”

·      Christ is the place of mercy for sinners of every kind.

·      Christ is the place of mercy for sinners of every race.

·      Christ is the place of mercy for sinners of every age.

·      Christ is the only place of mercy.


What has Christ done as the propitiation for our sins? — Through his death, Christ removed all the sins of his people. By his death, our Lord Jesus satisfied the demands of the law. By his death, the Son of God satisfied God’s infinite wrath. By his death, our incarnate God, our Redeemer satisfied all our needs.

·      We need pardon, and Christ obtained it.

·      We need righteousness, and Christ brought it in.

·      We need cleansing, and Christ secured it.

·      Through the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ, all his people are safe. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.”


Complete atonement Thou hast made

And to the utmost farthing paid,

Whate’er Thy people owed:

Nor can His wrath on me take place,

If sheltered in Thy righteousness

And sprinkled with Thy blood.


If Thou hast my discharge procured,

And freely in my room endured,

The whole of wrath divine:

Payment God cannot twice demand,

First at my bleeding Surety’s hand,

And then again at mine.


I say those redeemed by Christ are safe, as sure of heaven as though they were already there, because through the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ, they are all forgiven. God in justice cannot punish those in hell for whom his Son died!


Hear ne, now, — You can never know God’s love and the forgiveness of sin until you come to trust Christ. He alone reveals the Father’s infinite love.




God loves sovereignly and God loves sinners. God loves savingly. Now, in the last place, I want you to see that — GOD LOVES SACRIFICIALLY. We rejoice to know that God loves sinners. And I delight in the fact that every sinner whom God loves he will surely save. And the method by which God will save sinners is the sacrifice of his Son. — “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”


1 John 4:9-10  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. 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.


Here is the climax of God’s love. He sent his Son, his only begotten, his well beloved Son into the world to die in the place of his people. Oh, what love is this! “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” God did not begin to love us because Christ died for us. No! He sent his only Son to die for us because he loved us!


Could we with ink the oceans fill,

And were the skies of parchment made,

Were every stalk on earth a quill,

And every man a scribe by trade —

To write the love of God above,

Would drain the oceans dry,

Nor could the scroll contain the whole,

Though stretched from sky to sky.


Time fails me. But if I had the time to do so, I do not have the ability to describe the great sacrifice of God’s love. I will simply ask you to turn back to Genesis chapter twenty-two and follow with me as we look at one beautiful illustration of God’s infinite, sacrificial love. It is portrayed in the story of Abraham and his son Isaac at Mt. Moriah.


Abraham offered up his only son, whom he dearly loved. So God gave his only Son, the Son whom he loved, to die in our place. As the Lord commanded Abraham, so he did — “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of” (v. 2).


Abraham rose up early in the morning to make this great sacrifice (v. 3). So the God of heaven rose up early in the morning of time to offer his Son as a sacrifice for us, in the covenant of grace. He was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.


The Scripture says of Abraham and Isaac, “They went both of them together” (v. 6). Abraham was resolved to slay his son. He made every preparation for the sacrifice. And Isaac was willing to obey his father’s command. So it was that God almighty was willing to slay his Son. He made every preparation for the sacrifice of his Son. And Christ our Lord was willing to die in accordance with his Father’s will.


Abraham lifted up the sacrificial knife to slay his son. — “Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his Son” (v. 10). Even so did the Lord our God. He lifted up the sword of justice and slew Christ in the place of his people.


And now, by virtue of his voluntary sacrifice, Christ, the seed of Abraham, possesses the gates of his enemies. — “Thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life unto as many as thou hast given him.”




I am done when I have made some practical applications of this subject.


Children of God, rejoice in this love. With wonder, awe, amazement, and humility give thanks for God’s great love.


O love of God, how strong and true!

Eternal, and yet ever new,

Uncomprehended and unbought,

Beyond all knowledge and all thought.


We read it best in Him who came

To bear for us the cross of shame;

Sent by the Father from on high,

Our life to live, our death to die.


If God so loved us that he gave his only Son for us, we may rest assured that he will give us every good thing (Romans 8:32).

·      In love he holds back no good thing from us while we live.

  • In love he will withhold no good thing from us when we die.


Here is a soul comforting truth. — “God is love.” To them that are in Christ Jesus, he is all love.

  • For us his justice is love.
  • For us his holiness is love.
  • For us his glory is love.


When the Lord our God brings us to heaven, he will bring us to a world of love. All who here know the love of God are taught of God to love. — “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” And soon, in heaven, we shall love one another as we ought.


To you who are yet unbelieving, I have a word also. I heartily commend to you the love of God. — “Herein is love…Hereby perceive we the love of God…God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us!” Who can resist this love? May God the Holy Spirit overpower your heart with his amazing love, and bring you to Christ.





Don Fortner








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[1] The Tozer Pulpit, Volume 8, pp 23-25