I'm sure you remember the joy of show-and-tell day at school, either from your own childhood or your children's. I remember taking a nest and a cocoon. My son had a green vine snake named Slimy that made a great impression. One little girl in his class brought her mother's gallstones post-surgery.
In the Bible, the greatest show-and-tell of all is Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament, God had told humanity about His love and His nature through Moses, the prophets, and the Law or the commandments. In the New Testament, humanity finally saw God through the incarnation of His Son, Jesus Christ. "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory" (John 1:14). Here in the final chapter of 1 John, we are reminded that God not only showed and told of His love, but He also desires for us to be a part of the ongoing showing and telling to the world.
"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" (1 John 4:7-8). This section of John's epistle is the crescendo of everything John had written up to this point. These ten verses are chock full of love: twice John said beloved; love one another is mentioned three times; love is repeated nearly a dozen times. And the simple but utterly sublime statement "God is love" is repeated twice.
John gave us insight into the very nature of God. "God is Spirit" tells us who God is: He is eternal. "God is light" tells us what He is: He is holy, the very opposite of darkness. But "God is love" tells us the why behind everything He does—His motivation: love. Everything He has ever done, everything He is now doing, and everything He is yet to do comes from love.
This passage expresses the whole of the Trinity. God the Father is referenced in verses 7-8. Jesus, God the Son, is mentioned in verses 9-11. And verse 13 discusses the Holy Spirit. John presented God in complete unity in His Trinity, and "God is love" in all three persons.
Deuteronomy 7:7-8 says, "The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the Lord loves you...." He loves who He loves. He does not require a reason, and we do not need a rationale. He just loves. It's who He is.
First, God told of His love. Next, in order for human beings to understand His love, He showed it. "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 the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:9-10).
To manifest means to make visible or shown. Jesus was the manifestation of God's love. Jesus made God visible. To manifest also means to make public. God showed Himself publicly in His Son, Jesus Christ.
The phrase only begotten in verse 9 means unique or the only one of its kind. Truly there is none like Jesus. He is the God-man. There is no other name under heaven by which we can be saved (see Acts 4:12). It's only at the name of Jesus that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord (see Philippians 2:10-11).
Verse 10 also says that Jesus was sent by the Father. The Greek word for sent is closely related to the word apostle, which means sent one. As Jesus was sent into the world to be the apostle to humankind, with the Great Commission the apostles were sent to go into all the world to preach Jesus.
And Jesus was sent here "to be the propitiation for our sins" (v. 10). Nelson's Bible Dictionary defines propitiation as "the atoning death of Jesus on the cross, through which He paid the penalty demanded by God because of people's sin, thus setting them free from sin and death." What mercy! What love!
The Greek word for propitiation is closely related to the Greek word for mercy seat. In the Old Testament, the lid on the ark of the covenant was called the mercy seat. And once a year, the high priest would go into the Holy of Holies where the ark was kept and sprinkle the mercy seat with blood to atone for the sins of the nation of Israel. In the New Testament, Jesus shed His blood to atone for the sins of humanity. Jesus is our mercy seat. No other sacrifice is needed. No other work needs to be done.
Hebrews 9:14 says, "The blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, [shall] cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God." Could your conscience use a cleansing? Because of Jesus' sacrifice, you can meet with God, commune with Him, and have your conscience cleansed. Only then can you serve Him well.
Lord, You chose to love me. You told us of Your love and then showed us when You sent Your Son into this world. Amazingly, You sent Jesus to pay the penalty for my sin. I am free from sin and death because of Your love. Thank You, Lord!