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New Testament Sunday School Lesson 44: "God Is Love"

John 1, 2, 3

INTRODUCTION:

My Mission President in Brazil gave what I have long considered to be the best definition of love.  He said, "Love is caring more about someone else's happiness than your own."  I have come to believe and see that this description of love is accurate.  Consider the actions of Christ, who loved us and the Father so much that when confronted with the garden and the cross, he carried on.  Remember that he pled for the Father, if possible, to find another way, but went forward in spite of immeasurable pain to do the thing he had been sent to do . . . "Hereby perceive we the love of Christ, because he laid down his life for us . . ." (1 John 3:16, JST).  The will was "swallowed up in the will of the Father" (Mosiah 15:7).

If Abinadi stood before King Noah and had been concerned only with his own happiness, he could have walked away a free man.  "Your Majesty, I probably made a mistake.  I'd like to recall all those unkind things I said about you.  I am sure you are very righteous"  (See Mosiah 17:8).  But Abinadi was more concerned with pleasing someone else than he was with taking care of himself.

But I finish my message; and then it matters not whither I go, if it so be that I am saved [in the Kingdom of God]. (Mosiah 13:9)

Paul suffered stripes, prisons, beatings with rods, stoning and shipwreck.  He experienced perils and weariness and painfulness and hunger and thirst and cold and nakedness, and all of this while burdened with the responsibility to care for the churches (2 Cor. 11:23-28).  But he carried on because of his love, a word he uses 80 times in his epistles.

There are a hundred examples of such love in the scriptures and in our literature.  I think I first began to experience this kind of love when I married and had children.  I knew, holding and loving and watching my family, that I really loved them more than I loved myself.  Like the father who sacrificed his own life to push a child from the path of a speeding car; like the grandfather who attacked a bear with a flashlight so that his granddaughter could get free; like the Savior who freed us from the grasp of those awful monsters death and hell (see 2 Nephi 9:10) the happiness and welfare and safety of my family were more important to me than my own.

The major theme of the three epistles of John is love.  As you read, you will see the word "love" many times.  Watch for teachings about the love of the Father for us, the love of the Son for us, and especially watch for ways in which we can show our love for each other and for them.

John also speaks of the blessings we can expect if we learn to love others in the manner he suggests.  Look for those blessings and ponder their presence or absence in your own life.

As you study the following scripture accounts, ponder the ways in which these scriptures apply to your own life. Reflect on experiences that help you understand the scriptural principles.  Do not neglect to record in your journals those things that the Spirit teaches you as you immerse yourself in the word of God.


I.   THE FATHER MANIFESTS HIS LOVE FOR US BY PREPARING A PLAN BY WHICH WE MAY BECOME LIKE HIM

If you were to use just one word to describe the Father, what word would you use?  What word did John use? (1 John 4:8,16).

What do we learn about love for us in 1 John 3:1, 2?

Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.  Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:1, 2).

How did the Father manifest his love for us?  What did the Father do to enable us to become like him? (1 John 4:9, 10, 14).

In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.  Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins . . . And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world (1 John 4:9, 10, 14).

In what way is the mission of the Son a manifestation of the love for us?

Notice the language of 1 Nephi 11:21, 22:

And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?  And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things.

What ultimate gift will we receive because the Father sent the Son into the world?

And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life (1 John 2:25).
And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son (1 John 5:11).

What other remarkable thing is the Father willing to do for us because of his love?

And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:  And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him (1 John 5:14, 15).


II.  THE SAVIOR MANIFESTS HIS LOVE THROUGH HIS WILLINGNESS TO FULFILL THE PLAN

What is the first manifestation of the love for us that John mentions in his epistle?

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:7-9; See also 1 John 3:5)

What does John indicate we must we do to receive this great blessing? (1 John 1:7-9).

And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin (1 John 3:5).

How does the Savior manifest his love for us in his interaction with the father?

And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.  And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments (1 John 2:2-3).

What does the Savior, as our advocate, do for us?

Notice how the language of D&C 45:3-5 sheds even more light on this remarkable gift of the Savior to us:

Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him—Saying: Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified; Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life.

In what other way does the Savior manifest his love for us? (1 John 3:8). How do the life and teachings destroy the works of the devil? 

What was it necessary for the Savior to do in order to show his love for us in the manner we have discussed?

Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren (1 John 3:16).


III. WE MANIFEST OUR LOVE FOR THE FATHER AND THE SON BY OUR OBEDIENCE AND OUR LOVE OF OUR FELLOW MEN

John indicates that there are three major ways in which we can show our love for the Father and the Son.

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