“No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us” (1 John 4:12 ESV).
God is invisible. Paul said so (Colossians 1:15; 1 Timothy 1:17). That does not mean that God is not real. It just means that he cannot be perceived with the natural eye. Though he created nature, he himself transcends nature. He is not a material being though he created all material things. But how may we know that God is real? How can we have a relationship with the invisible one who is unknowable through natural means?
John, in the above text indicates that not only can we know of the reality of God’s being, but that it is possible to have an intimate knowledge of his nature. John is not saying that the condition of God abiding in us is because we love one another but that our love for one another there is seen the evidence of God’s abiding presence. Notice what he says … If we love one another … love is the evidence of God’s being and presence with us.
In fact, John had just said in 1 John 4:8 … “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” By this we come to understand that without love there is no comprehension of God – “for God is love.” If we do not understand love, possess and manifest love of the nature of God’s love, we simply cannot understand God. God is most fully described by this one quality and we can only be like him, can only manifest his image – when we love as he loves.
I once heard a man state that he “almost wished that whoever had said “God is love” hadn’t said it! I almost couldn’t believe what I had heard! To me, that indicated that that individual didn’t really know God. What kind of God would he be if he were not primarily known to us by love? To eliminate love from the nature of God eliminates mercy and grace. There would have been no Savior and no forgiveness of sin. There would be no patience and forbearance which gives us the opportunity to repent and mend our ways when we go astray. There would only be judgmental wrath and vengeance on everyone who makes the slightest mistake in his life. People who see God only in this way do not know God and have no understanding of how to relate to him nor to their fellow man. God is to them only a cold and hard judge.
I wonder if this is not why so many who profess to be Christians seem to have so little comprehension of what the Christian life is all about. That God is love says that the quality of love is a tremendous thing. It is the most wondrous thing in the universe! It is a power like no other – the power to create, the power to heal and make whole. It is the power that enables us to be like God, making us over in his image.
On the other hand, the absence of love makes for a dreary, dreadful, joyless existence. If God had not shown us love, we would have only a miserable existence. There would be no beauty and no hope, only a drab life of purposeless drudgery until we meet a certain and welcome death.
We have the one who is love abiding – living – in us, enabling us to love like he loves. He loves us so much he will not leave us alone. He is always there to show us what he is like and to help us to be like him.
“And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16).
Yes, faith is vital. It is indispensable. Faith is the foundation of the life of the child of God. As long as our confidence is in him we shall not be moves away from him to lesser things.
Hope also is one of the things that remain. Hope is the stabilizer in troubled seas and in times of disappointment. It keeps us from drifting from the goal set before us.
“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil” (Hebrews 6:19).
But love is the greatest of these three qualities. Why? I believe it is because it is the only one of the three things that God possesses. God does not have to have faith. He is self-sufficient and all powerful – there is no one greater than he. He relies on no one other than himself. Neither does he have need of hope. Being eternal, he knows the outcome of all things. He is already in the future.
As we read the attributes of love as Paul lists them in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7a we should remember that God possesses all these qualities in the absolute degree.
“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things…”
The purpose of possessing love of the kind God demonstrates is so that we may become like him. Love is the mark of Christian perfection. When we love like God loves we become mature, grown-up image bearers showing the perfection and glory of God in our own life. We become beacons of light, showing the light of God’s glory into the world of darkness characterized by hatred, violence and self-centeredness.
In this chapter in 1 Corinthians Paul shows the temporary nature of miraculous gifts as contrasted with the enduring nature of love. The gifts were to build up and help in bringing people to maturity “…to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). When that perfection was reached the temporary measures would fade away, being no longer necessary.
That it is this perfection of man under consideration is seen in the contrast Paul draws where he says; “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Cor. 13:11 ). It is not imperfection of revelation of which he is speaking, but human immaturity as opposed to maturity demonstrated by love.
What marks (identifies) one as being mature? It is not being able to speak with tongues or understanding all the mysteries of God. It is not even in doing many “good works.” It is by love that one is known as a disciple of Jesus and as a child of God. It is by loving in the way God loves that we become what he always intended for us to be – full grown, mature, complete human beings. Continuing in love is vital to the Christian. It is, in fact, what the Christian life is all about.
“And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Ephesians 5:2).
When we walk in love as he has loved us, our lives become to him just the same kind of offering as that Jesus offered. Love of this kind is the quality that draws us together and keeps us together as the family of God also.
“But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection” (Colossians 3:14).
No, no one has seen God at any time. But we see the evidence of his presence in our lives and in the lives of other faithful Christians when we evidence love in our attitude and in our actions. It is like Jesus explained to Nicodemus about being born again of the Holy Spirit …
“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8).
If you can’t “see” God, try looking through the spiritual “eyes” of love!