SDA Sabbath School Lesson

May 25-May 31

How God Is Love

Lesson 9

Read For This Week's Study: 1 John 4:7-21

Memory Text: "God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him" (1 John 4:16, NKJV)..

Key Thought: "God is love" can be a saying that is used to suggest that God is not serious about sin, or that God will save everyone. The truth is that because God is love, Jesus came and died in our place. True love is tough and costly.

The Truth About Atonement. The Source Of Love The Proof Of LoveThe Results Of Love Perfect Love The Way We Love Further Study And don't miss the Inside Story

Sabbath Afternoon

The Truth About Atonement. In these powerful verses (1 John 4:7 -21), we observe the connection between love and salvation. The truth that "God is love" is immediately linked with the cross - the ultimate proof of the self-sacrificing, saving love of God. God's love is no vague feeling, no meaningless words. Rather, it is active and impressive, striking right at the heart of our sinful selfishness.

What God wishes is to restore what was lost by the broken relationship that is sin-our loving, freely-given trust in our saving, healing, trustworthy heavenly Father. By suffering infinitely on the cross for all human sin, Christ provided the means for every believing human being to be at one with Himself. In this is the atonement that He seeks, the reconciliation of humanity to Himself. By the demonstration of His true nature on the cross as He made amends for all sin, God forever answers the charges against Him (of being self-serving, uncaring, demanding, exacting, cruel). Truly "in the atonement the character of God is revealed." - The Great Controversy, p. 501.

Inside Story

Sunday May 25

The Source Of Love (1 John 4:7,8).

That God is love has become a trite expression. Our concepts of love, colored by the way in which love is expressed in our society, fall well short of the kind of love that describes God. John is not saying that love is a quality that God possesses; love is a definition of His actual nature.

What do you think is meant by the phrase "love comes from God" (1 John 4:7, NIV)? Write down your own ideas.

Does literally all love come from God? As creator of the ability to love, perhaps. But so much of what we call love is so far from the self-giving agape love of God that it is arrogant to identify the marred picture of human love as Godlike. We must be careful not to make God in our image by saying, "Because this is the way I love, God's love must be like this."

Perhaps this is why John under inspiration is so quick to link the love of God to the coming of Jesus in the next verses. Satan has so twisted the concept of love that for many it has become an image of great selfishness or a showy example of human sensuality. God's love is the love spoken of in 1 Corinthians 13 that does not seek self-satisfaction but the good of others (see especially verses 4 to 7).

If God is all-powerful, and is love itself, why can't He win everybody to love Him? Prov. 1:29; Isa. 65:12.

An Adventist student discussed God's love with a non-Adventist university professor. The professor maintained that because God was both omnipotent and loving, His love would conquer all-however long it took. The professor had a scheme of not only second but third, fourth, and fifth chances for sinful humans. Ultimately, everybody would be convinced by the power of God's love and be saved-a kind of universalism.

The Adventist student's understanding was that God's love is greater than that-for it allows rejection. To love is the opposite of force, and to use power to make sure everybody loved Him would be an abuse of God's power. Add to that the denial of choice, and you have a God who imposes Himself on His created beings. He might as well have made us servants without the ability to choose.

For reflection: What kind of love do you see God displaying? What words would you use to describe it?

Inside Story

Monday May 26

The Proof Of Love (1 John 4:9, 10).

What is the proof of God's love for us? 1 John 4:9.

God came to this world to save us. Jesus came "so that we might have life through him" (1 John 4:9, TEV; see also John 10: 10).

Imagine your son is lost in the city. For whatever reason, he has not returned home. You can say, "I love him," but until you go out into the dark city streets, desperately searching for him, your words are empty and meaningless.

God shows His love by His actions. "God has revealed His character in the goodness, the mercy, compassion, and love manifested to save a race of guilty rebels."-Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, March 10, 1891.

Does God love us because we love Him? 1 John 4:10.

No. Love begins with God. "This is what love is: it is not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the means by which our sins are forgiven" (1 John 4: 10, TEV).

'The chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.' Isaiah 53:5. Behold Him in the wilderness, in Gethsemane, upon the cross! The spotless Son of God took upon Himself the burden of sin. He who had been one with God, felt in His soul the awful separation that sin makes between God and man. This wrung from His lips the anguished cry, 'My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?' Matthew 27:46. It was the burden of sin, the sense of its terrible enormity, of its separation of the soul from God-it was this that broke the heart of the Son of God."-Steps to Christ, p. 13.

God will not save us without our acceptance (Rom. 5:17). But in all our talk, let us never try to suggest that we save ourselves.

How does God in love draw us to Him? John 12:32; Rev. 22:17.

"Christ came to manifest the love of God to the world, to draw the hearts of all men to Himself. He said, 'And 1, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me' (John 12:32). The first step toward salvation is to respond to the drawing of the love of Christ. God sends message after message to men, entreating them to repentance, that He may forgive, and write pardon against their names."- Selected Messages, book 1, p.323.

Inside Story

Tuesday May 27

The Results Of Love (1 John 4:11-16).

If God loves us, what do we do? 1 John 4:11, 12.

Though we have not experienced God's love in an actual physical way (for no one has seen God), we still have oneness with God in love that is in a sense more real than human love. Some people wish they could see God so they can experience His love more tangibly. But through the Trinity (note that Father, Son, and Spirit are all mentioned in these verses), we have the highest form of love, spiritual love, which "is made perfect in us" (1 John 4:12, TEV).

How does God impart His love to us and enable us to remain in a loving state? 1 John 4:13-16.

The Holy Spirit in our hearts is the presence of Christ and the Father (John 14:18, 23). As His presence abides with us, His love continues to pervade our lives. When we lose the reigning Holy Spirit, we cease to love. Our fellowship with God by the presence of His Spirit in our hearts confirms our belief that Jesus is our Saviour and enables us to enter true love relationships with others. "The one thing essential for us in order that we may receive and impart the forgiving love of God is to know and believe the love that He has to us. 1 John 4:16. Satan is working by every deception he can command, in order that we may not discern that love. He will lead us to think that our mistakes and transgressions have been so grievous that the Lord will not have respect unto our prayers and will not bless and save us. In ourselves we can see nothing but weakness, nothing to recommend us to God, and Satan tells us that it is of no use; we cannot remedy our defects of character. When we try to come to God, the enemy will whisper, It is of no use for you to pray; did not you do that evil thing? Have you not sinned against God and violated your own conscience? But we may tell the enemy that 'the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.' 1 John 1:7. When we feel that we have sinned and cannot pray, it is then the time to pray. Ashamed we may be and deeply humbled, but we must pray and believe.... Forgiveness, reconciliation with God, comes to us, not as a reward for our works, it is not bestowed because of the merit of sinful men, but it is a gift unto us."-Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, pp. 115-116.

For reflection: You may believe that God is love, but what changes occur in your love when you believe that God loves you?

Inside Story

Wednesday May 28

Perfect Love (1 John 4:17, 18).

How do our ideas of God's love affect our understanding of the day of judgment and punishment? 1 John 4:17 (compare Daniel 7:22).

John tells us that we can have confidence on the day of judgment, not because of ourselves, but "because in this world we are like him [Christ]" (1 John 4:17, NIV). "Those who are truly like the Judge need not fear the judgment!" - SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 669.

John also makes it clear that "love has not been made perfect in anyone who is afraid, because fear has to do with punishment" (1 John 4:18, TEV). If we fill our thoughts with "the horrors of hell" or "apprehension of the apocalypse" or "doom and disaster," we show ourselves not to be relying on God's love.

What is the antidote to the poison of fear? 1 John 4:18.

"We do not need to be slaves of fear. God says to us, 'There is no fear in love; perfect love drives outfear. '

"THE text for all those who fear. In these words are all the answers to the fears of the world. For it is the word of One who is defined as love: God. And in this relationship of love there can be no fear. Fear has to do with uncertainty, with a lack of trust, and with severe doubts as to the nature of the person. But in this right relationship to God (which is based on love) is complete trusting assurance-because the true nature and attitude of God are known and admired.

"Perfect love drives out fear. This perfection of love comes from God. It's not so much our love for God that removes fear, but his love for us. As the next verse says, 'We love because he first loved us.'

"Love here isn't the soft sentimental variety, nor the human form of love. The love from God that removes our fears is a stark, bare and terrible cross. On this terrible torture instrument God's incredible love is demonstrated. . . . Because of what he is and what he does, all reasons to fear are gone.

"As our 'slogan' goes on, 'But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.' "- Jonathan Gallagher, Fear Not? Why Not? (Grantham, England: Stanborough Press, 1988), pp. 95, 96. (Used with permission.)

For reflection: What measures can be taken to cure fear based on expectations of punishment?:

Inside Story

Thursday May 29

The Way We Love (1 John 4:19-21).

"Only by love is love awakened," wrote Ellen G. White (The Desire of Ages, p. 22). Consequently "we love because he first loved us" (1 John 4:19, NIV). We are not to think that we generate love of ourselves, that it is because of our love for God that He responds in love to us. It is the other way around! "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins" (1 John 4:10, NIV).

How does God awaken love in us? 1 John 4:19.

In His great love demonstrated in creation and redemption, God awakens love in our hearts. But most of all, He accomplishes this by His own personal interest in each one of us. Look back over your life, and see the way God has loved you, despite all your rebellion and the tragedies of life-situations. Only as we become conscious of God's great love can we be drawn back to Him. Like the prodigal who became aware of his situation, the foolishness of life with pigs, we need to go back to our heavenly Father. And as we trudge wearily up the road, He comes running to greet us, to welcome us back, not as hired hands, but as fully restored children, welcomed back into the Father's complete confidence.

What incompatibility does John reveal between what we say and what we do? 1 John 4:20, 21.

Once again John emphasizes the need for our actions to confirm our words. We cannot go around mouthing "pious platitudes" about our love for God and then by our attitude show that we hate our brother. "And who is my neighbour [Luke 10:29]?" asked the lawyer. Jesus identified everyone as our neighbor.

If you can be so peverse to hate your visible brother, what of the invisible God? Because God is less tangible, His character is more doubted by many. If we truly believe that God is love, we must love one another. This is God's command (1 John 4:21). Notice the word again! Brotherly love is the vital aspect of our character that God looks for. Why? Because it shows that we care more for others than for ourselves.

For reflection: How can you be sure that you make your actions match your words? Think of real-life situations you have experienced.

Inside Story

Friday May 30

For Further Study:

Compare Romans 5:6-11 with John's discussion of God's love.

Ellen G. White on how God is love: "Pardoning, redeeming love is brought to view in Christ Jesus. Satan had misrepresented the character of God, and it was necessary that a correct representation should be made to worlds unfallen, to angels, and to men.... In Christ we behold the character of the Father, and see the pitying tenderness which God exercised for fallen man, giving his only begotten Son as a ransom for the transgressors of the law. It is in beholding the love of God that repentance is awakened in the sinner's heart, and an earnest desire is created to become reconciled to God."-Review and Herald, March 9, 1897.

"What a love it is that appeals to fallen men! [John 3:16 quoted].... Well did the disciples understand this love as they saw their Saviour enduring shame, reproach, doubt, and betrayal, as they saw his agony in the garden, and his death on Calvary's cross. This is a love the depth of which no sounding can ever fathom. As the disciples comprehended it, as their perception took hold of God's divine compassion, they realized that there is a sense in which the sufferings of the Son were the sufferings of the Father."- Ellen G. White, The Youth's Instructor, Dec. 16, 1897.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What illustrations describe how God is love?
  2. Why is it important to understand that Jesus bore the penalty
  3. How would you prove God's love, to someone who does not believe?
  4. Why can't you be afraid of some and love them at the same time? How does this apply to God?
  5. What exactly is the problem in saying, "I love God",while hating your brother?

Summary: God is love, not merely in what He says about Himself, but in what He does. By dying for our sins and caring for us individually, God awakens love in us. By these means He is able to save us from our sins. Because of God's perfect love, we do not need to be afraid, least of all of God. Through His grace, which enables us to be like Him, we are able to have confidence in the judgment.

Inside Story

Who Will Go?

Robert G. Manners

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I nd who will go for us?'

"And I said, ' Here am I. Send me!'

"He said, 'Go and tell this people'" Isa. 6:8, 9, NIV).

Pastor N. K. Roy had received a call to move his family to the city of Jamalpur, a Global Mission target city in Bangladesh. The residents of Jamalpur are predominantly Muslim, and most Christians find living in such an area difficult. Pastor Roy and his family prayed earnestly to know God's will. He did not want to be a Jonah; he determined to answer the Lord's call to witness in that city.

He traveled to Jamalpur to find a house for his family. When he arrived he asked around and was directed to see a Muslim housing agent in the city. When Pastor Roy met him and told him of his plan to move to the city, the man began asking Pastor Roy -questions about himself. "What is your business in Jamalpur? Why do you wish to live here?" Pastor Roy hesitated. What should he tell this man? If he said he was a Christian pastor who was coming here to convert people to Christianity and raise up a church, this Muslim man might see him as a disturber of the peace and refuse to help him find housing.

Quickly Pastor Roy prayed for guidance and God's blessing. Then he told the agent, "I am a Seventh-day Adventist minister and I have come to tell the people of this city about Jesus."

The agent thought for a few moments, then spoke. "I know of a group of people who live a few kilometers from here who are searching for a spiritual leader. I will be happy to take you to them if you wish." Pastor Roy could hardly believe his ears. This Muslim man would introduce a Christian pastor to people searching for spiritual support?

Encouraged and assured of God's leading, Pastor Roy quickly moved his family to Jamalpur. Then he returned to visit the Muslim housing agent, and the two went to visit the group of people who were seeking a spiritual leader.

Pastor Roy began visiting members of the group and giving Bible studies to those who agreed. In a short time 27 precious souls were baptized. Today a church stands as a witness of God's love among a predominantly Muslim population in Bangladesh, testimony that God can use Muslims, and anyone who is willing, to win others to Himself.

Robert G. Manners is president of the Bangladesh Union Mission.

Inside Story

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Last updated on May 18, 1997

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