1 John 4

Three Portraits of Love

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another … if we love one another, God lives in us, and His love is made complete in us.  1 John 4:11-12

God’s love made complete in us. What picture forms in your mind when you read that phrase? A bride and a groom? A parent and a child? What about a caregiver by a bedside, a soldier on a battlefield, or a volunteer in a homeless shelter?

God’s perspective on “love made complete” may be much different than ours. In 1 John 4, we learn that love (the Greek word is agape) is the joyful willingness to put the eternal welfare of someone else above our personal comfort or physical well-being. That kind of love is not natural; it is supernatural.

John paints three portraits of agape in this chapter. The first picture is God the Father. With joy, He chose to send Jesus to the earth for our eternal good: “He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him” (v. 9). The second image is Jesus. With joy, He chose to become the “atoning sacrifice for our sins” so we could live in heaven forever (v. 10).

The third portrait John paints is unfinished. It represents each of us. John says God’s agape is made complete in us as we love each other (vv. 16-17). The Greek word translated “made complete” is teleioo, which means to “add what is yet wanting in order to render a thing full.”* Every day God is working in us through the Holy Spirit to complete the work of love He has begun in us (Philippians 1:6).

Each person, experience, setback, and blessing we encounter is an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to “add what is yet wanting” in our lives. Daily we can work toward the eternal good in our lives and in other people’s lives. God the Father engineers the opportunities, Jesus’ model of love motivates us to consider the right choices, and the Holy Spirit empowers us to make them.

But the decision is ours. Will we be a portrait of  “love made complete” or will the brass tag on our frame read “love yet wanting”?


Read 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. Using our spiritual gifts is a means of manifesting agape. What are your gifts? How are you manifesting the love of God through them?

Read 1 John 4:15-18, Psalm 56:11-13, and Romans 8:38-39. Why do you think “love made complete” drives out fear?

Read Galatians 5:22-23. How is God using your current circumstances to add the fruit that is “yet wanting” in your life and move you toward “love made complete”?

According to 1 John 4:1-6, how can we discern the spirit of truth and spirit of error? Why do you think John included this topic in his chapter on “love made complete”? For more on false prophets, read the devotion on 1 John 2.

 Denise K. Loock

* Greek Lexicon :: G5048 (KJV). Retrieved from http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G5048&t=KJV

Leave a Comment