THOUGHTS FROM JOHN’S LETTERS

THE GOAL OF GOD’S LOVE

John has been saying a lot about love. He has been stressing that those who know Jesus Christ, those who have been born of God, love one another.

He has told us what ‘love’ looks like:

‘God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins’ – 1John 4:8 – 10.

He has told us the reason why God in love sent his Son:

‘we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world’ – 4:14.

And, as we saw a few weeks ago, John has told us what this has accomplished for those who acknowledge the Son:

They are ‘born of God’ – verse 7.
They know God – verse 7.
God lives in them – verses 12, 13, 15, 16.
They live in God – verses 13, 15, 16.
They know, and rely on, God’s love for them – verse 16.

But there is something else that John wants us to know – that God has a purpose, a goal, beyond all of this, a purpose that is his intention for all who receive Jesus Christ. To refer to this goal, this end point, John uses the verb teleio’o – to complete, to accomplish, to consummate, to bring to culmination, to perfect. This is the verb that John used to report Jesus’ final cry from the cross – ‘It is finished’, to indicate that with his death the eternal purpose of God had been accomplished.

In his letter John uses this verb four times, to indicate the accomplishment of the purpose or goal of God’s love, of God’s great loving action of sending his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins:

‘if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him’ – 1John 2:5.

‘if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us’ –4:12.

‘In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment’ – 4:17.

‘There is no fear in love. But perfect (teleios) love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love’ – 4:18.

In 2:5 and 4:12, John referred to one aspect of God’s purpose in saving us: that our lives would be characterised by obedience to his word and love for each other. That when we love others, as he loved us, then truly his image is being restored in us, his love is being demonstrated by us, people are seeing his love in us. In this his love has accomplished its purpose, its culmination, in respect to (1) transforming our hearts, and (2) transforming our attitudes to others.

In 4:17 & 18, John refers to another aspect of God’s purpose in saving us: that we ourselves are restored to a present and permanent, uninhibited, guilt-free relationship with himself – reconciled to him, at peace in his presence, forever. In this his love has accomplished its purpose for us, it has achieved its goal, in respect to our relationship with God himself.

Yes. God’s love is ‘made complete’, it achieves his purpose for us in our interpersonal relationships, when we love one another. That is what John has been stressing throughout this letter.

But, there is this other level, the level of our relationship with God himself that is secured by his Son – by his atoning sacrifice, by his advocacy with the Father. God’s love, that costly, incredible love, has accomplished its purpose, its culmination in us, when we live moment by moment in the deep and powerful reality of that love. Without fear of condemnation. Without fear of punishment. Without fear of the day of judgement. Without fear of God’s wrath.

This restoration of our relationship with God is the multi-faceted salvation that God accomplished when, out of his amazing love for us, he sent his Son. This restored relationship with God is the ultimate goal that he, in an action of incredible love, sent his Son to accomplish.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2022