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Love One Another

by David Johnson

     It is good to be together again as we look into the Word of God and as the Lord gives us a lesson that we can apply to our lives and share with others.  The title for the lesson is “Love one another” and the text is the first epistle, first letter of John chapter three verses 11 through 20 in the New Testament. Listen to the Word of God.

     This is the message you heard from the beginning. We should love one another. Do not be like Cain who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him?  Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death.  Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer. And you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.  This is how we know what love is.  Jesus Christ laid down his life for us and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need, but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?  Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth. This, then, is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts and he knows everything. This is the Word of God. May he add his blessing to the public reading of his Word.

     The theologian Francis Schaeffer introduced one of his books entitled The Mark of the Christian with these words, quote:  Through the centuries men have displayed many different symbols to show that they are Christians. They have worn marks in their lapels of their coats, hung chains around their necks and even had special haircuts. But there is a much better side, a mark that has not been thought up just as a matter of expediency for use on some special occasion or in some specific era. It is a universal mark that is to last through all the ages of the Church till Jesus come back. And what is that mark? Knowing that he is about to leave Jesus prepares his disciples for what is to come. It is here that he makes clear what will be the distinguishing mark of the Christian. 

     John chapter 13 verses 34 and 35.  A new commandment I give you. Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.

     Now how is this a new command?  Well, the answer is right there in verse 34 of John 13 where Jesus said: As I have loved you, that is, with the quality of agape love which is a sacrificial, unselfish love that uniquely Jesus Christ so perfectly exhibited for us by even laying down his life for mankind, even while we were yet sinners. Such love will keep believers strong in the Lord, steadfast and united, because we must love one another.  It is our Christian trademark, our hallmark, an evidence that we genuinely belong to Christ and our witness to others, to the world that we are believers, that we are Christians, that we are part of the family of God in Christ Jesus.

     In 1 John chapter three and verse 11: This is the message you have heard from the beginning. We should love one another. The beginning here is probably the beginning of the gospel proclamation, because agape love has been a central theme, the godly virtue of love is proof of being born again.  

     In verses 12 though 15 this is illustrated by focusing on the direct opposite of love, that is, hate.  In verse 12: Do not be like Cain.   Cain the murderer of his brother Abel is the prototype of hate. Hate is the extreme absence of love.  Cain was the first murderer.  And why did Cain murder his brother? In verse 12 it says: Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous.  So what or Cain’s actions were evil?

     Let’s consider the text in Genesis chapter four beginning in verse three where it says: In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the first born of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry and his face was downcast.

     So regarding Cain in verse three where it says Cain brought, notice, some of the fruits of the soil as an offering. Notice that Cain’s actions and attitude was just some of the fruit, no genuine inner worship, no genuine love for the Lord, just sort of ordinary happenstance, versus Abel in Genesis chapter four and verse four. But Abel brought the fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. Abel’s attitude and actions were giving his very best, the fat of the firstborn versus simply some of Cain’s offerings, because Abel genuinely worshipped from the heart and loved his Lord inwardly, plainly perceptible to God.

     In 1 John chapter three and verse 13 we have another illustration that John gives and that Jesus used these same words. The world hates you. The world is not born again, does not possess godly, habitual agape love, but is of the evil one and often hates those of God. In verse 14 in stark contrast as Christians it says: We have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers.  That is, believers, Christians, have passed from spiritual death to spiritual life because we are alive, born again, born from above, born anew in our spirits. And loving our brothers especially in the Church is proof positive that we belong to God, not the evil one. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Love is not optional. As Christians exhibiting, exercising love is not part of the basis of our salvation, because we cannot earn our salvation. And, of course, we can never love enough that we can boast in having salvation by loving simply, but love is part of our behavior that which proves saving faith through which we are saved. He who does not love remains in death, that is, spiritual death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer. Well, how so? To murder begins in the heart, a heart filled with hate. The only outward difference between hate and murder is the deed itself.  But the attitude and the motivation are the same.  Both are sin to God.  Humanly speaking the consequences are different between hate and murder, but from God’s perspective hate and murder have the same eternal consequence if not repented of and under the blood of Christ.

     For example, the patriarch Moses murdered. He was a murderer, but he repented of his sin. 

     In verses 16 through 18 we have further illustrations of genuine love. In verse 16 our perfect example, Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  Jesus is our perfect example of agape love, a sacrificial love. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers to sacrifice ourselves for others also. In verse 17 it illustrates: if anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need, but has no pit on him, how can the love of God be in him? Because genuine agape love within is evidence of saving faith within with acts, not just good intentions, but love in action, love beyond sentiment to deeds.  Agape love is not self centered or selfish, but unselfish and sacrificial, proof of agape love. Sentiments must be backed up with action, deeds.

     In verses 19 and 20 these explain the mature Christian’s assurance and peace in salvation in our Savior. In verse 19 it says: This, then, is how we know that we belong to the truth. How do we know? Assurance, belonging to God’s truth. And Jesus Christ is who we belong to, because he is the truth personified in his person, evidenced, for example, by the habitual life of agape love.

     In verse 19b: And how we set our hearts at rest in his presence at peace because we have made peace with God through faith and are growing in the peace of God, fruit of the indwelling Holy Spirit along with the fruit of the spirit of love from which all the fruit flow. 

     So in verse 20 whenever our hearts condemn us—well, why would this happen? The thrust, the context of this passage is about love.  So many Christians are afraid without full assurance, without peace, because they think they don’t love as they or as we should. And we do fall short in our loving of others.  And we feel guilt and our hearts condemn us and our consciences condemn us, which are not all bad things necessarily, but thank the Lord verse 28: For God is greater than our hearts and he knows everything. So what is the point here? There is a higher court than the human heart or conscience.  Because we are not saved on the basis even of agape love.  It is part of the behavioral proof, evidence pointing back to saving faith. But even saving faith is not the basis for our salvation.

     The Scripture says we are saved by the grace of God which we don’t deserve in the first place.  And we thank God that he loves us so much that he saves us even when we don’t deserve it by sending his only begotten Son to be our Savior and we must be in Christ Jesus for eternal life. For life is in the Son.

 

                        David Johnson is minster of Sellersburg of Christ, Sellersburg, IN.




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Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

2 corinthians 1:3-4