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I Need More Gospel (8): Building the Structure of the Gospel January 18, 2009

I Need More Gospel! (Sermon 8)

Building the Structure of the Gospel
The Four Corners: Propitiation (2)
1 John 4:7-12

Church in the Boro

Sunday Morning
January 18, 2009
Rob Wilkerson

I. Do you love one another?

A. Defining Love: recognizing a need (not a want) that someone has and, where
necessary, sacrificially giving to meet that need.

B. 4:7a – There is a command here to love one another: agapetoi, agapomen allelous,
which is, “beloved, let’s love one another.”

C. 4:7b – There is a cause for our loving one another: kai pas o agapon ek tou theou
gegennetai, which is, “and everyone who loves has been born of God.” Regeneration,
being born again, is the reason why Christians love one another. We’ve been raised
from the dead, and we can feel what we couldn’t feel before, and see what we
couldn’t see before. I love what Isaac the Syrian said (early church father) back in the
6th century. He said that when Christians love one another they are breathing even
now the air of resurrection.

D. 4:8 – There is a conclusion regarding those who don’t love one another: they don’t
know God, because God is love.

i. It’s God’s nature, an inseparable part of who He is, to love His creatures.
ii. If you don’t love other people, it’s not your nature, which means God’s nature
isn’t a part of your nature. The two natures haven’t authentically met, cause
when they do it completely and totally changes your nature and you do what
God does: love people.

II. Here’s HOW God Showed HIS Love For Us

A. 4:9a, 10a – Initiation: “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, [not that
we have loved God but that he loved us and (10a)] that God sent his only son into the

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I Need More Gospel (8): Building the Structure of the Gospel January 18, 2009

1. God acted First!

John describes the matter of God’s love first negatively, followed second positively. John starts
first with the negative because he’s building up the positive that follows. The negative eternally
enhances the positive. The fact that I didn’t love God makes it all the more incredible and
beautiful that God would love me. This is why the doctrines of grace begin with man’s
depravity, because it enhances and builds up the work of God for us, on our behalf, despite the
way we were, and would have continued to be. God always loves the unlovable, and this is an
inseparable part of His nature.

 Rom. 5:6, 8, 10
 Eph. 2:11-13
 Rom. 8:7

I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew

He moved my soul to seek him, seeking me;
It was not that I found, O Savior true,
No, I was found, was found of thee.

I find, I walk, I love; but O the whole

Of love is but my answer, Lord, to thee!
For thou wert long beforehand with my soul,
Always, always thou lovedst me.


2. God acted SACIFICIALLY! “God sent his only son into the world…”

What greater measure of love is there in history where any other god loved humans so much
that he killed his only son for them. This is what makes the God of the Bible stand out against
the background of the world’s version of god. They are selfish, but our God is selfless and

B. 4:9 – Compassion: “so that we might live through him.”

He wanted us o love forever through Him. Seeing death as the only option for us if He didn’t
act, His love, that inseparable part of His nature, caused Him to act so that we would LIVE!

C. 4:10b – Propitiation: “but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for
our sins.”

Love is inseparably connected to propitiation. Love is the motivation for propitiation. God’s
innate, inherent attribute of love, that inseparable part of who He is, motivated and caused Him

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I Need More Gospel (8): Building the Structure of the Gospel January 18, 2009

to satisfy His anger against us so that we might live through Him, and so that we might be born
again. Remove propitiation and you remove God’s love. Remove God’s love and you remove
God’s propitiation. They are two sides of the same coin, for it was God who propitiated His
own anger at HIS OWN COST, and there is no greater definition of love than this (1 John 3:16).

III. Here’s HOW You Know Jesus Is Your Propitiation

A. 4:11 – Impulsive, Instinctive, Intuitive Imitation: “Beloved, if God so loved us, we

also ought to love one another.”

God’s love for us supplies the motivating power for His people’s love for one another. The
adverb “so” (Greek, houtos) has the emphatic force here that it has at the beginning of John
3:16. “We also ought to love one another,” because we are His children. If the children of God
must be loving because He is loving – not with the “must” of external compulsion but with the
“must” of inward constraint: God’s love is poured into their hearts by the Holy Spirit whom they
received (Rom. 5:5).

B. 4:12 – Invisible Illustration: “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God
abides in us…”

Christians are witnesses of God on earth. While no one on earth has ever seen God, He may be
seen indirectly – with regards to who He is as a person – when His children love one another.
At one time, God was made known to humanity through His Son (John 1:18). But now that
Jesus has returned to heaven with the Father, God is now known on earth through those who
by faith in Jesus have become His children and love one another. “The love of God displayed in
His people is the strongest apologetic that God has in the world” (F.F. Bruce, The Epistles of
John, p. 109).

C. 4:12b – Innate Intention: “and his love is perfected in us.” God’s love, when innate,
reaches its intended goal within us when we sacrificially love other people.

Conclusion on Point III: True love, true agape love, is innately supernatural, not of this world. It
is of God. However, it is a love that has its feet firmly planted in this world. Real agape love
must flesh itself out in practical behavior. But this is only because God first demonstrated real
agape love at the Last Supper, in the Garden of Gethsemane, in the headquarters of Pontius
Pilate, and on a Roman cross at Golgotha (C.H. Dodd, quotes in Bruce).

Use Peter Abelard’s illustration of a cross-section of a tree. Just as the rings emanate from the
center when the tree was born and first grew, so also our love for each other emanates from
that one tree two thousand years ago where love was first demonstrated in a living color,
inerrant, unmistakable way.

John has no place for the kind of thinking that says a person can be a Christian and not love one
another. It’s impossible to him, and he couldn’t have conceived of the thought. The issue for
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I Need More Gospel (8): Building the Structure of the Gospel January 18, 2009

John seems clear: an experience of love from God (whether from His Spirit directly, or from God
through other people indirectly, regardless) generates fresh love. This means, therefore, that
when I feel less love for others (when it doesn’t naturally, normally, instinctively, inherently,
second-nature-like come to me and flow out of me), it is because I have not experiences God’s
love for me in a fresh way.

IV. Conclusion

Last week I mentioned that the sound propitiation made, just before Jesus died, was the Greek
word tetelestai, which means “it is finished.” The word of God in propitiating His wrath and
forgiving sins was finished and completed. What I’m saying this morning is that

You know tetelestai is true for you,

When you also know that agapomen allelous is true of you.
You know that “it is finished” APPLIES to you,
When you show that “love one another” means YOU.

The very thing that motivated God toward people to propitiate His just wrath, is the very same
thing that motivates me toward other people. Or, I know my sins have been propitiated when
the love that caused God to do it for me causes me to love others in the same way He loved me.
Here’s what that seems to look like.

1. Teach people, especially lost people, about Jesus Christ as God’s propitiation.

We rip the beauty right out of the gospel when we start with the positive, the good news.
Remember, what makes the good news good is that it follows bad news. John said, this is love
NOT that we loved God, but that He FIRST loved us.

The beauty of the gospel is in propitiation. Propitiation, according to John is an act God
initiated. And the motivation for that initiation of propitiation was compassion. He loved us!

Propitiation is beautiful, therefore, because it shows the sinner just how MUCH God loved us.
Though He’s angry at us for our sins, His love has overridden that anger so that He can bring us
back to Himself. And that overriding cost Him the life of His Son.

2. Treat people, especially saved people, as if God has propitiated His wrath for them is

Don’t forget unsaved people also enjoy a temporary benefit of propitiation and that, too, can
be taught and shared with them. And with your saved friends and loved ones, looking at them,
thinking of them, and treating them as if God’s anger against them has been propitiated in
Jesus, means that your anger should also probably be considered as propitiated, though your
anger and the reason for it can hardly be compared to God’s anger and HIS reason for it.

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I Need More Gospel (8): Building the Structure of the Gospel January 18, 2009

 Love Your Enemies (Matt. 5:43-48)

 Forgive the sins of others toward you (Matt. 6:14-15)
 Provide for the needs of others (Matt. 25:31-46)

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