Copr. 1997, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.  All Scripture references are to the NIV unless otherwise noted. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard. This lesson can be found at: <URL:>

INTRODUCTION: In 1 John 3:10 John tells us that we should not be surprised if the world hates us.  However, he tells us that we know that we "passed from death to life" if we love our brothers. Our lesson this week further explores this idea of loving our brothers. So lets dig in!


     A. You remember the Virginia tourist campaign slogan: "Virginia is for lovers."  You are in Virginia this morning! Are you better able to love others than those who are not Christians?

     B. Do you know anyone who does not love somebody? (According to singer Dean Martin: "Everybody loves somebody sometime...")

     C. Do you agree that everyone is capable of loving?

     D. Let's turn to 1 John 4:7-8. Read. This tells us at least two things:

          1. If you love, you have been born of God (not necessarily in Virginia) and know Him.

          2. If you do not love, you do not know God.

     E. Compare this with what you just told me.  You think everyone loves or at least everyone is capable of loving. John seems to say that having the capacity to love is limited to those who know God.

          1. Does everyone you know really know God?

          2. If not, how do you explain your answer that everyone you know loves someone (or could love someone)?


     A. This means that you and John are defining love in different ways. Let's read vv. 9-10.

          1. How does God define love? 
               a. Is love just words with God? (No. Jesus' sacrifice is the demonstration of God's love.)

          2. Why does John say in v. 10 that we did not love God?

          3. Look at this then; God sacrificed Himself for us at a time when we did not love Him.

               a. Have you ever seen a person do this? (Not normally outside of the parent/baby relationship.)
          4. Is it typical in the world's definition of love to have one person love and the other person not love them? (No. God loved us before we did anything to make Him want to love us. I am not sure we ever do anything to make Him "want to love us.")

     A. Read 1 John 4:11. Does this mean that we ought to love our brothers in the same way that God loved us? "[S]ince God SO loved us, we ought ..."

          1. Why?

          2. If you agree this means we ought to love our brothers in the same way God loved us, but you previously also agreed that self-sacrifice is rare towards those we do not love, does that mean that Christians have not yet "caught the vision" (or the proper definition) of what it means to love?

     B. Read v. 12. We always say "don't look at your brother" when it comes to spiritual matters. Does John agree?

          1. How can God's love be made complete in us?

          2. Wasn't Jesus' sacrifice complete at the cross?

          3. How does God need us? (John is telling us that we are God's representatives. No one has seen God. But those around you have seen you. You can make God's love to others very real, ie., you can complete a person's abstract picture of God's love.)

          4. Is there a "downside" to this? (Yes. We can also distort God's love. We have a serious responsibility to make God's love complete.)
     C. Read vv. 13-16. Is acknowledging that Jesus is the Son of God (v.15) more than just saying it? 

          1. What do these verses say is involved in having God's love in our life?

               (a. Verse 13: Holy Spirit living in us is proof God lives in us (and we in Him);

               b. Verse 15: If you acknowledge Jesus is God, God lives in you and (you in Him); and,

               c. Verse 16: If you live in love, God lives in us (and we in Him).)

                    (1) Do you see the three "elements" here: Holy Spirit living in us; acknowledging Jesus is God; and, living in love?

                    (2) Are these necessary elements to having God's love?
                    (3) Are these progressive elements to having God's love?
     (1 John 4:10 tells us that God loved us before we loved Him. His love was revealed to us in His sacrifice. When you acknowledge this, it is the beginning of a transformed life. His Spirit lives in you, and your heart is transformed to have an attitude of self-sacrificing love towards others.)

     D. Read vv. 17-18. These two verses talk about a "complete love" ("love is made complete") and "perfect love" and us being "like Him" in the context of the judgment.

          1. Does this mean that our love has to be perfect or complete in order to avoid the judgment?

          2. If not, whose love is John talking about? (God's love)

          3. You have heard of Jonathan Edward's "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." Isn't a healthy respect for judgment a fine tool for converting the unsaved? (No doubt there will be a judgment. But God tells us that if we understand His motives, His attitudes, the principle from which He operates, we will not fear the judgment. If you worship God from fear, you do not correctly understand Him. The proper evangelistic tool to use is God's love towards us instead of the barbecue by the lake of fire! Focus on His death instead of our death.)

     E. Read vv. 19-21. Do we have to love God for Him to love us? (No! He loves us first!)

     F. John has an argument in v. 20, the logic of which is not crystal clear to me. He says, how can you love God - when you have not seen Him - and yet hate someone you have seen? 

          1. Why not?
          2. Don't you know people that you would love a lot more if you saw less of them?

          3. My wife's mother would, from time to time, have "difficult times" with every one of her grown children -- except for my wife. My wife thought the fact that she was the only one who lived 600 miles away (instead of "in town") might have something to do with this.

               a. Do you know of a similar family situation?

          4. If "distance makes the heart grow fonder," what is John's point? (Remember in 1 John 4:8 John tells us that knowing God is the key to loving.  Normally, seeing someone is key to knowing them. It certainly is much easier to know someone you see regularly. God says, "How can you say you love Me, when you have never seen Me, when you do not love those you have seen?"  It should be easier to know (and thus love) those we have seen.)

     G. We have spoken several times about John's "reality checks."Is v. 21 another reality check? (Yes. Acid test for loving God is loving our brothers.)

IV. NEXT WEEK: "VICTORY!" 1 John 5:1-12. Study!