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James 1:12 & 1 John 4:1-21 by Robert Dean
Series:James (1998)
Duration:1 hr 0 mins 52 secs

Personal Love for God the basis for Impersonal Love; James 1:12; 1 John 4


In James 1:12 we are promised a crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. This is a critical doctrine throughout Scripture. Very few people take the time to explore what it means to love God, but this is a crucial doctrine, crucial to every aspect, every relationship that we have. If you do not understand the whole doctrine of the believer's personal love for God the Father, if you do not assimilate that into your soul and apply that, then you will never be successful in any of your human relationships because this is a foundational doctrine. It is the basis for all motivation in the adult spiritual life. There are a number of Scriptures that enforce this mandate for us.


Deuteronomy 6:5 NASB "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." The Hebrew for "might" is meod, which has to do with exceedingly, abundantly. When it is used like this as a noun it means with all your strength, power, vitality; in other words, you are to be consumed with loving the Lord your God. This is the mandate for us.


Deuteronomy 11:1 NASB "You shall therefore love the LORD your God, and always keep His charge, His statutes, His ordinances, and His commandments." Notice how loving the Lord is often related to obedience to divine mandates in other areas of the spiritual life.

Deuteronomy 11:13 NASB "It shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the LORD your God and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul."

Deuteronomy 11:22 NASB "For if you are careful to keep all this commandment which I am commanding you to do, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and hold fast to Him."


Deuteronomy 13:3 NASB "you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul." So the love of the Lord is an issue in discerning truth.


Deuteronomy 19:9 NASB "if you carefully observe all this commandment which I command you today, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in His ways always—then you shall add three more cities for yourself, besides these three."


Deuteronomy 30:6 NASB "Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart [spiritual rebirth] and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live."


Deuteronomy 30:16 NASB "n that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the LORD your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it."


Joshua 22:5 NASB "Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God and walk in all His ways and keep His commandments and hold fast to Him and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul."


Joshua 23:11 NASB "So take diligent heed to yourselves to love the LORD your God."


Psalm 31:23 NASB "O love the LORD, all you His godly ones! The LORD preserves the faithful And fully recompenses the proud doer [the arrogant]."


Psalm 97:10 NASB "Hate evil, you who love the LORD, Who preserves the souls of His godly ones; He delivers them from the hand of the wicked."


Psalm 116:1 NASB "I love the LORD, because He hears My voice {and} my supplications."




1 Corinthians 16:22 NASB "If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed. Maranatha."


What does it mean to love the Lord, to have personal love for God?


1)  First of all, we have to realize that we cannot love who we do not know. Knowledge is the foundation to love. It is silly, and it is typical of people today to think that they love somebody that they do not know. There is so much talk today about love that is sentimental and superficial, and if you take that concept of love over into the Scriptures then you are going to totally misunderstand the character of God. To think that God is motivated by some sort of superficial, sentimental, emotional tripe borders on heresy. The love of God and the love that God has for us is far beyond the superficial sentimentalism that passes for love today. The Scriptures clearly represent that love is based on knowledge. Philippians 1:9 NASB "And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment." So your growth in love is based on your development in EPIGNOSIS [e)pignwsij] knowledge of Scripture and discernment, i.e. its application.

2)   You cannot love who you do not know, so you must make the knowledge of God a high priority. That means that you realize that your knowledge of the Word, your knowledge of doctrine, your understanding of everything in Scripture, even things that you don't think are immediately applicable, must be the highest priority in your life.

3)  Personal love of God is directly related to the obedience of divine mandates. That means that you have to know what God expects and what those mandate sin Scripture are. 2 John 6 NASB "And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments." That is, that we live our spiritual life according to His commandments. When we violate those mandates then we are under the influence of the sin nature, we are out of fellowship and in a state of carnality ready for divine discipline. As part of obeying His mandates we are also to hate evil, which means to reject, shun, or avoid all sin in our lives. Hating evil doesn't mean that you have to somehow work up an emotion of hatred toward sin. Hating evil is an idiom for rejecting, shunning, and avoiding sin in your life. Psalm 97:10 NASB "Hate evil, you who love the LORD…" 1 John 2:15 NASB "Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love for the Father is not in him." When we are loving the world we are operating in the cosmic system, and that means we are out of fellowship and in carnality, and the love for the Father is not in us. 


In impersonal love the emphasis is on the subject, the person who is doing the loving. Therefore it does not require personal compatibility or even personal knowledge or acquaintance with the object. It is therefore defined as the consistent function of individual integrity, the integrity of the one loving. Impersonal love is only as strong as the integrity or virtue of the person doing the loving. Personal love for God the Father is the only personal love that we can have that is inherently virtuous because the object, God the Father, is virtuous. We have seen that personal love for God the Father is mandated for every believer.


1 John 4:19 KJV "We love him, because He first loved us." Our personal love for God is based on His prior love for us. His prior love for us began in eternity past. To get to verse 19 the apostle John starts his argument—vv. 19-21 is the beginning of a conclusion of a lengthy line of argumentation or reasoning—in verse 7. The conclusion is to challenge believers with the importance of their personal love for God the Father. To get there he starts with impersonal love for all mankind. 1 John 4:7 NASB "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God." This is the mandate he starts with and he uses that to argue back to personal love for God because this, personal love for God the Father, is the foundation. You can't carry out the mandates in 4:7ff if you don't understand personal love for God the Father, which is at the end of the chapter.


Four points of introduction:

1)  Love for God precedes love for man. You need to learn to love God before you get concerned about your love for other people. One of the biggest problems in Christianity today is the emphasis on human relationships over the divine relationship. People think that if they have a right relationship with people then somehow Christian fellowship will help them solve their problems. So-called Christian fellowship is poorly understood and is equated with just Christian social interaction. For fellowship to be Christian it has to be centred around doctrinal discussion and the focus of that interaction id the person and work of Jesus Christ. That is why in Acts chapter two, verse forty-seven, it says that the early church devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship—the breaking of bread and prayer. The average person looks at that in the English and says there are four things here that they have devoted themselves to: the apostles teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. But that is incorrect. There are only two things listed there and one of them has two things listed that explain it. The only two things they devoted themselves to were the apostles teaching and fellowship. But what is fellowship? Luke knew that people were going to misunderstand what fellowship was. Fellowship is communion and prayer—God-centred. It is not talking about human fellowship with other believers in that passage, he is talking about fellowship with God. That is the issue; that is what they devoted themselves to. The apostles teaching because without doctrine, without knowledge you can't have rapport fellowship with God. And that is exemplified by two things: the breaking of bread which is communion, and prayer.

2)  Only Bible doctrine can build your personal love for God, it is not based on experience.   

3)  The application of doctrine builds your personal integrity which is the basis of all your expression of love, your advance in the Christian way of life leading to the adult problem-solving devices, including personal love for God.

4)  Integrity is the basis for developing impersonal love for all mankind.


1 John 4:7  "Beloved, let us love one another…" This is a verb in the subjunctive mood which is a subjunctive of exhortation. Why are we to love one another? Because "love is from God." What kind of love is this? It can't be a personal love because we can't love every believer with a personal love because we can't know every believer and we can only know a very few believers. We may be acquainted with many believers at a superficial level in a local body, and we can treat them a certain way, but that must flow from something other than our knowledge and acquaintance with them. So this must be referring to an impersonal love.


By saying it is impersonal it doesn't mean that it doesn't lack certain qualities, that it somehow negates kindness and generosity and is just some sort of a stand-off kind of word. That is why it is often referred to as unconditional. The reason we use the word "impersonal" is to distinguish it from personal. Personal means that we have a personal knowledge and a personal relationship with the object of our love. It doesn't mean that love is cold, that it lacks and interest or generosity or kindness; it has all of that, but it is not based on a personal knowledge or acquaintance with the object. So there is no condition that has to be met by the person we are loving in order for us to be kind, generous, caring and compassionate with them.

"…for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God." "Everyone who loves" means that if you are exercising impersonal love then you are a person who loves; "is born of God" because it is impossible for the unbeliever to have impersonal love for all mankind, this is specifically the mark of the believer. Jesus said in John 13:34, 35  NASB "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." So the model for their love for one another is His love for them. His love for them was personal but it was primarily impersonal. So "everyone who loves" is #1, regenerate, and # 2, they know God. Isn't that interesting! Before you can show love for one another, real impersonal love, you have to first know God. You can't just generate this from yourself, it is based on reaching a certain level of spiritual maturity and knowing God. That is why one of the prerequisites for developing personal love for God is grace orientation. Only in grace orientation do we begin to appreciate God's love for us, that He has done everything that is necessary for us, blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies, and given everything we need for life. Then the fifth stress-buster is doctrinal orientation. We must learn the Word of God and begin to orient our thinking to doctrine. The only way you can know God is to study His Word and what He has said. If you do not take the time to study God's Word and to have the mentality of your soul renovated, then there will be no doctrinal orientation and there will be no personal love for God, and if there is no personal love for God, no love for one another. It is an aspect of a maturing believer. Everyone who loves has two characteristics. Everyone who demonstrates impersonal love for all mankind is 1) a regenerate believer, and 2) has advanced to a certain level of spiritual maturity based on their knowledge of God.

1 John 4:8 NASB "The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love." The believer who does not practice impersonal love does not know God. It doesn't say they are not regenerate, it just says they don't know God; they haven't advanced to this level of spiritual maturity yet. They are a spiritual infant, they have very little doctrine resident in the soul. They are either a carnal believer operating on the sin nature a maximum amount of time, or they are ignorant of Bible doctrine.

1 John 4:9 NASB "By this the love of God was manifested [revealed] in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him." The word "manifested" is the aorist passive indicative PHANEROO [fanerow], meaning to reveal, to make clear, to manifest. We have the phrase HE AGAPE TOU THEOU [h( a)gaph tou qeou], a genitival phrase, "the love of God." What kind of genitive is this? Is this love from the source of God, genitive of source, subjective, or is this an objective genitive, a love toward God? It is clear from the passage that what we are talking about is the expression of divine love for mankind. It was revealed to us, i.e. it is coming from God, so it is love from the source of God, it is the subjective genitive or genitive of source. So, by this God's impersonal love toward us was made clear, revealed, manifested to us, "that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him." What does that remind us of? John 3:16. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." We understand divine impersonal love by looking at the cross.

1 John 4:10 NASB "In this is love, not that we loved God…" We couldn't love God, we were dead in trespasses and sins. There can be no personal love for God in somebody who has no regenerate nature, is not filled with the Holy Spirit, and has no knowledge of doctrine. "…but that He loved us and sent His Son {to be} the propitiation for our sins," a repetition and expansion of the idea in verse 9. The impersonal love of God is exemplified in His sending His Son. So this is our model and paradigm for understanding impersonal love.

1 John 4:11 NASB "Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." So whatever quality or characteristic describes God's love for us is what should describe our love for one another.

1 John 4:12 NASB "No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected [matured] in us." Here we have the perfect passive participle of TELEIOO [teleiow], the word that is almost consistently translated "perfect" and never means perfect in the sense of lacking imperfections or lacking sin, but in every case in the New Testament it has the idea of completion, bringing something to completion, bringing something to its intended goal or purpose which has the idea of maturity. The only way we can learn to love God is through the written Word of God and understanding it. "God abides in us." This word "abide" is the Greek word MENO [menw], a word that is very important in Johannine theology. This is a technical word for fellowship with God. How do we have fellowship with God? 1 John 1:9 NASB "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." When we commit sins then we are immediately out of fellowship and the psalmist said, "If I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me." Why? We are out of fellowship. Personal love for God is necessary to advance to impersonal love, and as we are growing through maximum amount of time in fellowship then His impersonal love is matured or brought to completion in us.

1 John 4:13 NASB "By this [the practice of impersonal love] we know that we abide [have fellowship] in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit." This love is part of the fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5:20-22.

1 John 4:14, 15 NASB "We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son {to be} the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God [fellowship]."

1 John 4:16 NASB "We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love [has fellowship in love] abides in God, and God abides in him." Belief is a result of knowledge; it is not irrational, it is rational. Love is never divorced from knowledge. The more you think about what happens at salvation, the more it is taught, the more you are exposed to it, the more it motivates you; and the more you understand the depth and the breadth of all that happens at the cross, the more it advances you in your love for God, you appreciation for all He has done, and the more that spurs you on in your impersonal love for all mankind. John continues to advance in each verse that a maximum amount of time in fellowship under the filling of the Holy Spirit plus the application of doctrine leads you to maturity. A maximum amount of fellowship with God means God produces His love in you in impersonal love.

1 John 4:17, 18 NASB "By this, love is perfected [matured] with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect [mature] love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected [matured] in love."

Then the conclusion; he ties it all up.

1 John 4:20 NASB "If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother [does not exercise impersonal love] whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen." If you say you have love for God and yet you hate another believer, that means you are minus impersonal love for all mankind. Such a person is a liar. James calls this the royal law:  James 2:8 NASB "If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF," you are doing well." This is a quotation from Deuteronomy 6:5,6.

How do we implement impersonal love for all mankind? Remember the model for us to express impersonal love for all mankind is that we must understand divine impersonal love for all mankind. What are the characteristics of divine impersonal love?

1)  It is initiating. From eternity past God took the initiative in grace to solve the greatest problem any human being will ever face. God's love takes charge of the situation to provide the solution necessary to restore the relationship broken by Adam's original sin.

2)  It is aggressive. It asserts itself with confidence and boldness. Because of omniscience God knows all the knowable, He knows the entire problem  and with understanding He takes every step necessary to resolve the problem.

3)  It is humble. Humility seeks not its own personal glory, so God the Son does not seek His own personal glory but takes on the attitude of a servant (Philippians 2:5-10) to do whatever is necessary to solve the problem, including incarnation, sacrifice, and the undeserved imputation of human sin to recover fallen humanity and to redeem them from the slave market of sin.

4)  It is intense. It is a strong and overwhelming desire to achieve the goal of salvation despite all obstacles.

5)  It is steadfastly loyal. God is loyal to the task and strongly desires all men to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Therefore He does not reject or condemn man at the moment he commits personal sin, He is always faithful and loyal in His desire to bring all men to salvation.

6)  It is consecrated. This means to be set apart to a task. It is related to sanctification. Jesus Christ solemnly set Himself apart to the high purpose of being the exclusive means of salvation for the church. As such His love is loyal and set apart to every believer to bring them to maturity after salvation.

7)  It is dedicated. Jesus Christ committed Himself to the task of service, sacrifice, salvation and sanctification.

8)  It is devoted—to give one's time, attention and self entirely to an activity, cause or person. In this case the activity is the incarnation and crucifixion, the cause is the salvation of the world, and the person is every individual in the world.