1Jn 4:10-11 “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.”
Herein is obviously a compound word. When looking at the definition in the Strong’s, it states the definition of both parts, but in reverse order to the word as it appears. Thinking of it this ways says “Love is in here.” The portion translated as “in” means to occupy a fixed position in time, place, or state, and “here” signifies to (in with or by) this (person or thing).
The form of love (from the Greek agapē [ag-ah-pay]) in this first phrase means affection or benevolence. Webster’s Dictionary of American English (1828) defines benevolence as the disposition to do good; good will; kindness; charitableness; the love of mankind, accompanied with a desire to promote their happiness. Since the scripture tells us that mankind was created subject to vanity (Rom 8:20) and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart is always and only evil (Gen 6:5), we cannot attribute this agapē type of love to men; man is disposed to self-centeredness in all his ways. It is only through and by the grace of God that we display any of the attributes of this agapē love.
The love of mankind and the desire to promote their happiness is fixed. This love is everlasting and therefore covers each generation in the “now” (fixed position in time – Jer 31:3). This love has its origin with God, and God dwells with us (fixed position in place – 1Jn 4:7; Rev 21:3). This love is unchangeable and never-failing because God is love and He is unchangeable and never-failing (fixed in state – Mal 3:6; Deu 31:6, 8). We know that this love is fixed (steadfast) because it is here, in God, with God, and by God, and does not require any support from man in order to exist.
The word translated as “not” in the next phrase of verse 10 is an absolute negative. There is no situation or circumstance in which mankind, left to his own devices, will ever love God. It is impossible for us to love God before He loves us. Love is fixed in God and given to us. This is made manifest to us when we understand that we offended God and did not have the power to make it right. God knew we could not correct the situation, so God sent His Son (gave Him the mission) to satisfy the Father’s just wrath and bring us into a position of favor (propitiation) with our God whom we had offended.
John has already said the he did not write this letter because we don’t know the truth but rather because we do know it (1Jn 2:21). When God reveals His Son in us we know that God loved us when we were yet in our sins and were enmity against Him. We know that this undeserved love appeased His wrath and brought us into His holy favor. We know that this was all accomplished by Him without our assistance or interference. If we know that God loved us without any reservation (even to the point of sending His Son to die for us); therefore, we ought (are under obligation) to love one another in this same manner (also). Our commitment (obligation) to love belongs to God; the evidence that we take that commitment seriously is proved in loving one another. There is no evidence to support any claim of loving God if we don’t love His people.
May we give Him glory for His love by acknowledging that He is love and without Him we cannot love!