True Love Lays Down (1 John 3:16-18)

1 John  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
0 ratings

Unconditional love lays down; conditional love closes up. Learn from Jesus how to love without being hypocritical or manipulative, but to love in such a way that leads people to Jesus.

Sermon Tone Analysis
View more →


Real love is shown, not just spoken. It’s one thing to say something, but another thing to do something.
I read a fascinating short article about the creation of the best-selling Hallmark Valentine’s card in 2016. An 80-person research staff's analysis of Hallmark's 2004 card sales was the initial impetus for the 2016 line. That combines with more than 100,000 annual customer interviews, focus groups and in-store observations to lay the framework for roughly 2,000 cards in Hallmark's core Valentine's Day line as well as another 2,500 offerings through sister brands offered at supermarkets, Wal-Mart and elsewhere.
It said that at one recent review, a production artist presented two Valentines. A typography artist, art director, editorial director and a quality planner who ensures the card meets manufacturing standards order some adjustments: The ladybugs have too many black spots. An ellipsis must be added. Foil lettering would look best in fuscia.
The ladybugs have too many black spots. An ellipsis must be added. Foil lettering would look best in fuscia.
The final tweaks have been made. A Valentine is born.
The best Valentine’s Day card in 2016 sold more than five times more than the other cards. Here’s what it said: "For the One I Love" on the outside. Inside: "Each time I see you, hold you, think of you, here's what I do ... I fall deeply, madly, happily in love with you. Happy Valentine's Day." (
All of that goes into saying just the right thing! Do you think that much about your words before you say them?
Beyond that, do you think about what your actions say? Love is a major theme in 1 John. You’ve heard it, you’ll continue to hear it, and we find a great lesson in this passage about how to exhibit unconditional, sacrificial love.
Love is a mark of a genuine Christian. It is how we care for one another and it is how we might win someone over to the faith.
Yet we all find ourselves in relationships where love is challenging; awkward; maybe seems impossible. How can we live in such a way to find harmony in relationships and glorify the Lord by showing how we have passed from death to life (v.14) and encouraging others to allow that to be true in their lives?
This answer is in the command we read in v.18:


This is contrasted to a degree with only loving in word or talk. It’s not that we shouldn’t speak lovingly to others; we have plenty of Scripture telling us that. But John is telling us that real love is shown, not just spoken— in deed.
Real love is also love that is done in truth. We see two major “love problems” in our world:
Promising much with your words and not following through = hypocrisy.
Doing something for someone, but with impure and evil motivations = manipulation.
You may be sitting here this morning with painful memories of how you have been wronged through hypocritical or manipulative love. I want to tell you that God has a better plan, and has a perfect way for us to respond.
You may be sitting here and you’ll realize that you are a hypocrite and a manipulator. In fact, to some degree, we all probably have been. I want to tell you that God commands a different way to love.
And it comes down to this: we are to love unconditionally, just as Christ loved unconditionally. I want to share 2 realities of love with you from this text in our time together now: 1) unconditional love lays down; 2) conditional love closes up.
Conditional love will be characterized by hypocrisy and manipulation.
Unconditional love will be characterized by the attitude and example of Christ.
Let me explain the two realities now as we learn to love the way Christ has shown us.


V.16 tells us what love is. BY THIS. You want to know what real love looks like? Find it at the cross of Jesus Christ. He laid down his life for us.
Compare with .
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (, ESV) DEMONSTRATION
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” (, ESV) EXPLANATION
The world will tell you all kind of things about what love is, but this verse tells us the perfect example and tells us how we can be enabled to love the same way. It says that Jesus laid down his life for us, and then tells us to do the same thing. The only way to love like Christ did is to be enabled by Him.
This kind of love is unconditional: “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (, ESV)
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (, ESV)

Lays Down

The phrase “laid down” is used here with the sense of giving up, or laying aside a right or possession. It’s directly in line with the use of agape as the word for love in this same verse (v.16).
Jesus chose to lay aside his very life; his right to live. That was love, and it comes with no conditions.
Jesus didn’t wait until people reached a certain level of holiness.
He didn’t wait until people stopped rebelling against him.
He didn’t wait until people stopped being mean to him.
It wasn’t a matter of waiting until people reached a level of deserving that kind of love.
Can you imagine if parents loved their children conditionally? Wait until they reach some level of deserving it— when you start appreciating who I am in your life, then I’ll start loving you properly.
Unconditional love lays down. It doesn’t mean that Christians must accept or condone abuse, or must ignore sin from others. Jesus didn’t do that. People still need to be held responsible for their actions and they will endure consequences for what they do.
He’s talking about the inner motivation of the heart in how we respond to people: do we love based upon a standard someone must earn in our eyes, or do we love based upon a standard God has given every person whom He created in His image?
We know of John Newton for his writing of Amazing Grace. Some of you may know his background: a captain who was once involved in slave trading; A man who did not see all people as being created in the image of God. But the Lord changed all of that in his life. Listen to what Newton is quoted as saying:
300 Quotations for Preachers Having a Heart Filled with God’s Love

The love of God, as manifested in Jesus Christ, is what I would wish to be the abiding object of my contemplation; not merely to speculate upon it as a doctrine, but so to feel it, and my own interest in it, as to have my heart filled with its effects, and transformed into its resemblance; that, with this glorious Exemplar in my view, I may be animated to a spirit of benevolence, love, and compassion, to all around me; that my love may be primarily fixed upon him who has so loved me, and then, for his sake, diffused to all his children, and to all his creatures.

Transition: Jesus is the Exemplar! He showed us how to love unconditionally.
accept or condone abuse.
Unconditional love lays down. Laying down requires sacrifice. It is a sacrificial, unconditional love. And we should do the same. V.16 provides this example, and then v.17 gives us the contrast—a bad example of how to love. Here’s what we learn:


We are given a situation in v.17, kind of like a case study to see if we understand the command to love like Jesus loves: someone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need.
Case study: if you’re the one with the world’s goods, what would you do? Someone needs help with food; transportation; clothing; a need that you are skilled to help with.
Here’s the response to the situation: the one with the world’s goods closes his heart against the one in need. Now, what does that prove? The last sentence of the verse tells us: it proves that God’s love is not in him.
A closed heart is evidence of the absence of God’s love.
That’s a key phrase: “closes his heart” — this is the identifier of conditional love.
Let’s look at this phrase. There’s quite a diversity of translations in English in v.17:
“closes his heart” (ESV, NASB, NKJV)
“closes his eyes to his need” (HCSB)
“shows no compassion” (NLT)
“withholds compassion” (CSB)
“no pity” (NIV)
“shutteth up his bowels of compassion” (KJV 1900)
The word used here is the Greek word for bowels. Moderns translation use the word heart because it is a reference to the innermost place in a person; the seat of emotions. So it’s a reference to compassion.
Notice in the little case study given in v.17 that the person has the world’s goods—he is able to meet the need. We are able to love because Jesus exemplified love and God dwells in us through the Holy Spirit.
So, think about what happens to the heart, the inner most part of a person, when God transforms you. Your heart is regenerated when you come to Christ. You’ve repented of sin, professed faith in Jesus, and he has transformed you into a whole new person. Your heart has a whole new capacity that it has never had before.
You can now practice the fruit of the Holy Spirit, which includes love. When an opportunity to love comes up, the reason why we would not love as we should is because we close our heart; we don’t yield to the Holy Spirit’s promptings to love like we should.
We are not willing to let someone in to our hearts; into our transformed world of grace; we close our hearts to that person.
That is conditional love. There is some reason why you don’t feel like that person is worthy of experiencing the transforming grace.
He made me mad;
He’s lying;
He’s lazy;
He’s rude;
He’ll never change.
We close our heart and don’t love, but instead, we respond just as sinfully as the other person might have sinned toward us by the way we act with no compassion.
Unconditional love lays down.
Conditional love closes up.
Parents, you lay it down for your children. When that child cries in the middle of the night, or constantly keeps coming to you for help, you are laying aside your rights for the moment to love. And you are modeling Jesus to them.
Spouses, you lay it down for your husband/wife. It would often be easier to just do what you would like, but marriage is serving one another. You lay aside what you feel might be rightfully yours in order to love well.
Spouses, you lay it down for your husband/wife. It would often be easier to just do what you would like, but marriage is serving one another. You lay aside what you feel might be rightfully yours in order to love well. And you are building on a foundation established by Christ for your marriage.


Unconditional love lays down.
Conditional love closes up.
Aren’t you glad that Jesus didn’t just say something but that he did something?
Love isn’t just by word or talk. Aren’t you glad that Jesus didn’t just say something but that he did something?
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more