on to another church for something different.]
I asked myself this just this week, “Do I really need to deal with this topic again?” After all, you all have certainly demonstrated a great deal of love towards us over this past week. For which we are very thankful.
But the fact of the matter is, yes, I think it is important. I think you will agree that it is far too easy for us to forget that this is our chief duty before God. And I sincerely believe that the only reason why John stresses it so is because he knows that the embers of our hearts can turn cold rather quickly.
He was obviously writing to a congregation that was failing to see the necessity of loving one another. John needed to stoke their hearts and affections. And the way he does this is by repeating the message over and over. And as he calls us to love he give us reason after reason why we must do so. It is almost as if he is simply trying to add more and more kindling so that the flame of love might be increased all the more.
And in our passage for this morning we see a few more reasons added to the list. This time, as he calls you to love the brethren, he zeros in on God’s love.
Really, our eyes are lifted heavenward to see the love God displays in himself, in his Son and in us as his people.
In the first part of our passage, verses 7-8, John says that we must love one another because of the love God possesses inherently.
I. We must love because of the love God has in and of himself [7-8]
Read it with me. It says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
Now you see what John is saying here. He’s saying that Christians love because they have this personal connection to the Lord. We’ve been born of God. We know him [i.e. we have a personal relationship with him]. And since love comes from God and since God is love there is absolutely no way that we can do otherwise.
A couple of weeks ago Caleb spoke on the attribute of God’s love in our Confession of Faith. There you saw something of the overwhelming beauty of our Lord. Caleb reminded us that our when it comes to love, no one does it better than our God. That is because his nature is love. As light is in the sun, so love is in our God.
This is not to neglect the other attributes in God. Don’t think that John is saying that God is only love or that God’s attribute of love is greater than any of his other attributes. Not at all. John is simply stressing this attribute for this particular point that he is making. He is singling out the fact that God’s nature is to give of himself. His whole orientation is to bring about the blessing or good of others. And since we have a relationship with the very source and fountain of love, John says, “How can it be that we do not love?”
Think about it this way, if you come to have a personal relationship with a light socket, what’s going to happen to you? You will be filled with the same charge that that light socket possesses. And if you come into contact with anyone else while connected to that light socket, then they are going to experience something of the same jolt.
That’s something of what John is saying here. That which you are connected to should influence you and how you relate to others.
Perhaps we could draw upon the language of biology that John uses. My wife thinks that my daughter is a direct reincarnation of myself. There are some things that are obviously biologically inherited. She has a rather high pain tolerance, like I do. Her energy level parallels mine. And much to Elizabeth’s chagrin, she even has the same weird sense of humor.
This is my child. She has been born of me. She knows me, and so she has come to share some of my same traits.
The same is true when it comes to our relation to the Lord. If we truly are God’s child—if we really know him the way a Christian should, then we will demonstrate something of the love that is inherent in him.
But that’s just one reason why we should love one another. We must love because God is love. He has love in and of himself.
You’ll notice though, that after John talks about the love God has inherently, he talks about the love he has for us. His love in Christ.
II. We must love because of the love God displays in and through Christ [9-11]
In verses 9-11 John speaks of Christ’s sacrifice. And what he’s trying to do is get you to see the sheer grandeur of his love.
You know, it’s one thing to say that a guy is rich. But it is a whole other thing to see just how much money he has or see how much he can purchase with that money.
And that is what we see in these verses. John shows us how great God’s love is by telling us what he did to purchase our salvation. He wants to overwhelm you with the measure of his love, so that you will be moved to love each other. As verse 11 says, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
Well then, how great is his love? You can begin to see the immensity of it in verse 9. John mentions that God sent his “only Son” into the world.
I do not suppose any of you would be inclined to give up any of your children. It would be heart wrenching to lose just one of your offspring. But if you only had one child, certainly losing that child would be even greater in its sensitivity.
If you have multiple children, you sort of have to split your affections between them. Not that you love any one less, but you have to share your love and split it between them. But if you only have one child, then all of your love has no other place to go. That child becomes the center focus of your affection. And so you showered your love upon them and cherish him in a particularly high way because he is the only one.
To have to part with this child would most likely be even more heart wrenching because of his increased endearment to you. Perhaps you have even seen TV shows or news broadcasts that do this. Your emotions ache more when you see someone lose their only child.
Yet God did not spare him. And when you remember that He sent his one and only son into the world, to be mishandled by men, and ultimately killed, you have to say “What love!”
Add to this the extremities that Christ underwent. Verse 10 says that Christ came to be the “propitiation for our sins.” You might have a different word there. Perhaps you have a translation that says “atoning sacrifice” or “expiation.” None of them are words we use in common parlance. The word means “an appeasing” or “something that satisfies.”
Yesterday some of us went out to the Radar’s for Joy’s party. When I got there, I was quite hungry. I got to propitiate my hunger with the delicacies that they served up. They encouraged me to do my part to help clear out some food and I was happy to oblige.
Well, John is saying that Christ’s sacrifice appeased God’s appetite for justice. The wrath that God has due to our sin was completely satisfied because Christ gave his life for us.
Now think about this in regards to the love of God. Many people misrepresent God’s love. They think, “God is so loving that he would never create a place called hell.” But this is to distort God’s love. It is to make it something that it is not; a love that is flimsy and over-indulgent.
Here we see that his love is not like that at all. We even see that it is a greater kind of love than that. It is a love that would not hold his son back from the terrible violence of hell. It is a love that is greater because of the sacrifice involved.
Is this not a great love?
But that’s not all. The love God is highlighted in that he gave his only Son, and that he sent him forth to undergo the torturous pains of hell. But John says, “Wait a minute!” That he would even love you is something! Look at verse 10, “In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us.”
He’s saying, “It’s easy to love God. God is very lovable. There’s nothing not to love about God. But that’s not true when it comes to you!” You are not very loveable. Because you are a wretched sinner, there is nothing in you that would draw God’s affections naturally.
John’s reiterating something of what Paul says in Romans 5, “God shows his love for us in this, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
You know, the greatness of your love is shown in what you are able to love. They say, “He’s got a face only a mother could love.” But really, if mom could see you the way God does, she wouldn’t love you.
The fact that God would even dare to glance at you, let alone crucify his only son for you, should show you the great measure of his love.
And the application is easy to make, “Since God so loved us, we ought to love one another.”
John brings up one other reason why we must love one another. He says we must love one another because of the love God reveals through us.
III. We must love because of the love God expresses in and by us 
When we love one another something glorious happens. God works through it to manifest his own love. He even reveals himself by it.
Look at verse 12. He says, “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”
Now get what is being said here. Since God dwells in us, something of his very own nature comes into view when we love one another.
You young people know that you can’t see God. He is a Spirit and does not have a body like we do. But John says that there is a way we can become acquainted with him. We can grasp something of God’s nature when we see his people loving one another. When we interact the way we are supposed to interact, then God becomes visible to those who might not otherwise see him.
I believe F.F. Bruce says it well in his commentary. Bruce says, “The love of God displayed in His people is the strongest apologetic that God has in the world.”
I think that this is what Peter gets at when he talks about the women submitting to their unbelieving husbands. Peter says that these unbelieving husbands can be won without a word simply by the conduct of their lives.
How can this person be won to Christ without a single gospel word being spoken? How can they know God if it be not through the Scripture? It is through the unvocalized preaching of our love.
I’m glad to have the opportunity to serve this congregation. I look forward to having the opportunity to expand the ministry of the church, particularly when it comes to doing some outreach. I have a deep desire to do some evangelistic work.
But no matter how important it is to be going out to the highways and byways to preach the gospel, it is no less important that this church be knit together in love. When someone enters this community of believers, it should be as if they walk out of the cold of night. The love that they see here should be in direct contrast to the lack of love that they experience in the world. In drawing near to us, they should see something different—something divine. It ought to be the character of God himself that they detect in our midst.
We've been focusing on this notion of love for quite some time now. And it will come up again in future messages. However, I personally think that this is John’s best argument.
I began by talking about how John keeps mounting up reasons for us to love each other, like putting kindling on a fire. I find that this is not just putting a few sticks on the fire to help it grow. Every now and again I’ve seen guys take oil and dump it on their camp fires to increase the intensity of the fire.
I find that this passage is like pouring oil on the argument. We have had the opportunity to consider the very nature of God—how he is pure and infinite love. We also considered the greatness of that love as it is shown in Jesus Christ. Then, to top it all off, we are told that we can be that which causes people to see the invisible God.
I pray that these glorious truths would be oil upon your hearts—the fuel that will make your love for each other burn brightly.
This story is only funny because there is an element of truth to it. Our churches are typically characterized by this divisive kind of spirit—a spirit that is contrary what we are called to here.
Unfortunately, our churches are not typically characterized by love. That is why it is good to return to the subject this morning.
I began last week by saying that the passage that we are looking at is here in the heart of John’s epistle. It is, you might say, the core of his message. The message of love is sprinkled throughout the letter. But here in the exact center he devotes his attention in to the topic in greater detail.
It is good that I didn’t have time to cover all the material last week. It is good to come back to it again because it is important to stress this message as much as possible. This is to be a place where love thrives. Love is to emanate from us in abundant measures. It is to be our defining trait as Christians.
Jonathan Edward preached a famous sermon entitled, “Heaven is a world of love.” In that sermon he explains how love is perfected in heaven. As you read it you can’t help but think how grand the world to come will be. But we must never forget that we are to make every effort to replicate that realm here on earth. John says here that the church is to be a world of love.
We can see that in the verses with which we began this morning. In verses 16-18 John deals with the practice of loving one another. He dives right into the practical ramifications of this love. And he puts it in no small terms.
I. The practice of loving one another [16-18]
When it comes to the practice of loving one another, you can sum what John says in these verses with just one word: sacrifice.
In verse 16 he points us to the quintessential act of love—the atoning sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. He says, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us.”
It is interesting the way he puts it too. He’s saying that this is not just the highest expression of love, but this is how we know what love is! This is what defines love for us.
Now understand that this is the answer that man has been searching for since the beginning of time. John has solved one of the most perplexing philosophical questions that has ever faced mankind. The greatest thinkers throughout time have tried to define and understand this thing called love. However, it has been an elusive mystery. And the reason is because love cannot be truly understood by intellectual examination alone.
To really understand love (to really be able to show love!) you have to experience the divine manifestation of it. You can’t look it up on Wikipedia. You can’t simply go to Webster’s Dictionary and think that you know what love is. The only way to know what love is to understand it by way of personal encounter with the redeeming work of Jesus Christ. You have to experience the overflow of God’s love as it is found in the crucifixion of the Son of God.
I wish I could say more about how important this is. Because there could be so many marriages that could be saved if people only knew what love was. There are so many children who would not be estranged from their parents if those families had only grasped this truth. I see so many today who just don’t know what love is. And all their relational problems would be solved if they simply came to understand what Christ has done on our behalf.
So many in the world today define love in a different way. They define it more in terms of infatuation. They think of love as attraction. Somehow something or someone catches their fancy—it makes them feel a certain way, and they are attracted to it.
But as soon as the emotion wears off the attraction dies. The relationship disintegrates.
John’s saying here, that’s not love. Real love goes way beyond personal attraction. John’s saying that the kind of love that we are to share is sacrificial in nature. It doesn’t give a hoot about your personal feelings or level of attraction. Real love isn’t even about you. The orbit is completely different. It is focused on the gain or good of someone else. And if it does have anything about you, it is about what it may cost you.
That’s what we see in Christ, is it not? Jesus laid down his life for you! He demonstrates love in that he was willing to sacrifice his very life for your eternal welfare.
I thought about this in terms of my vacation that I just took. There were some days that were just excessively hot that week. Temperatures were sitting in the 80’s and 90’s. When it was the most uncomfortable part of the day, I didn’t want to venture out of the house at all. On the other hand, Lake Michigan’s temperature was in the 60’s! It was a lot like swimming in a bucket of ice! I couldn’t get up the gall to go in it with my daughters most of the time.
If you think about it, the conditions were much worse for Jesus Christ. Do you think it was easy for him to step out of his domain in heaven? Waiting for him beyond those doors were the ice cold hearts of men and the scalding hot blaze of God’s wrath and curse.
Yet out of his love for you he left his heavenly home. He underwent all the miseries of this life, even death itself; in the form of crucifixion, and he did it for you.
This is the love we know, and that is the kind of love we are to show. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”
When it comes to the practice of loving the brethren, it is to be extended in the same manner. Hopefully you grasp the full weight of this. I don’t want you to let those words pass by lightly. We are to be ready to imitate our Lord and give our very lives for one another.
You might say, “Yes, I’m ready to give my life for them.” But what John says next really gives some definition to what he means. In verse 17 he gives a practical illustration. He says, “But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?”
In other words, you can die daily by making these smaller kinds of sacrifices for one another. And if you think about it, if we are not willing to make these smaller sacrifices, could we really be willing to die for someone?
I think that John chooses one of the hardest things one can do next to giving up your life. For some people, parting with some of their hard earned income can be like parting with a limb.
I like what Martin Luther said regarding this. He knew how hard it was for people to begin giving regular offerings to the church. In speaking of converts to Christianity he said that it typically takes 6 or 7 years before God baptizes their wallets.
It’s true. It is very difficult to part with one’s money, especially after working so hard to gain it.
Of course, this is just one area where we can show this kind of sacrificial love. John generalizes it in verse 18, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” In other words, let’s not just say we love each other. Let’s really show it.
Mark and I were talking just this week about the whole health care debacle that has just transpired. We were talking about how this is the future for the church. Once again, Christians will be called upon to bear one another’s burdens when it comes to health care. Not just financial burdens (which I know this church has had a history of doing), but providing bedside service for those who are hurting or perhaps even dying.
Perhaps this is even why the Lord has allowed this turn of events: so that we may truly be knit together as we ought.
As these things begin to transpire, and even now, let us be thinking about how we can practice the sacrificial love that God calls us to display.
And as we do, I want you to know that you shall reap the benefits of it. Yes, don’t think that doing these things will not be without its reward. Loving the brethren will profit your spiritually.
In verse 19 John moves from talking about the practice of loving one another to the power of it.
II. The power of loving one another
He says, “By this [i.e. by these sacrificial deeds of love] we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him.”
He’s saying that your acts of love had a certain amount of power. As you love others, your love will in turn help you when you question your faith.
You may remember last week I talked about the principles of loving one another that John lays out in verses 11-15. One of those principles I mentioned was that love is concentrated in the true believer. John said up in verse 14, “We know that we have passed out of death into life because we love the brethren.” I mentioned briefly the fact that our love for one another is evidence that we can look to when we are struggling with the assurance of our salvation. Or if we want to know if we really are a Christian or not, John says all you have to do is check and see if you are loving the brethren.
Now we went on to talk about how this implies commitment to a particular church. But I want to return to this notion of assurance. This is something that I want to make sure we are clear on. It is common to have doubts about your faith.
If you need proof of this, just look at verse 20. John says, “For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.”
John says that our hearts, sinful as they are, can get the best of us sometimes. It is understandable why we go through this: We all sin. We all know that we are not supposed to sin. We all know that God hates sin and judges those who sin. If that is the case, it is obvious that deep down inside we will start to think, “How can I be a Christian?”
What’s important to see is that John seems to say that he himself goes through this. He says, “Whenever our hearts condemn us.” He uses the first person plural, and seems to say that he too knows what it is like.
So if you are struggling with whether or not you are a Christian, just understand that this is something that is not untypical. It is something that is quite common. And maybe even take comfort in the fact that the apostles (of all people!) struggled with it from time to time!
And what does John say that we should do? To get out of that rut John says look at your love for the brethren. “By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him.”
Our love for the brethren is to be an evidence of our faith. That we have committed ourselves to a local church should be an indication that our faith is real. That we do pray for them and are genuinely seeking to assist them should be something that confirms us in the faith.
John even goes so far as to speak of it in terms of our union with Christ in verse 24, “Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him.” This is not saying that our keeping of the commandments makes us to abide in God. No, that can’t be. If it were up to us, God would run from us. (After all, this is why our hearts condemn us. We are sinning too much).
He’s saying here that since God abides in you and you abide in God, the natural outworking of this is the keeping of the commandments. To some degree, the life of Christ is evidenced in you and that should be an indication that you are of that stock and breed.
There is a building in Constantinople called St. Sophia. Originally it was designed to be a church. Unfortunately, now it is used as a mosque. But when it was first constructed, it is said that the architect had them mix large amounts of musk into the mortar. Since they were saturated with the sweet smelling perfume, the walls of the church gave off a pleasing aroma to all who entered. And even now, after a thousand years, the fragrance can still be detected. Because the perfume abides in the bricks, the bricks give off the aroma.
John’s saying here that if the fragrance of love can be detected in you, then you have all the evidence you need to know that the source of love abides in you.
Loving acts of sacrifice will have that kind of power.
So if you find yourself wondering about your state of salvation, don’t wallow in it. Just look at the record of your life. Think about how these people. Think about what they mean to you. And let the fragrance of your love be that which sets your heart at ease.
It is said that every time Alfred Lord Tennyson went to publish a book of his poems the publisher had to purchase an extra supply of l’s and v’s. It was because this poet had an unusual infatuation with one particular word: love. You could say that the print shop was not used to that much love.
It is my hope that this church exudes love like Tennyson’s poems. May this place be so saturated with the sacrificial love of Christ. And because it is may it be that no one questions their eternal state.
of Reformed theology. I wanted to stress the love that should characterize a truly Reformed church.
Today I want to do that with all of you. I want you to understand what we are called to as Christians. Being Reformed means nothing if we are cold and disinterested in one another. We can be as pure and clean in our doctrine as any of the greatest theologians, but if we lack love we have missed all the intent of Scripture.
John presses that upon us in the passage that is before us. Throughout this epistle he emphasizes the idea of loving one another. And in the passage before us, we have an extended discussion on it. Right here in the heart of his epistle as if to say, “The central focus of this book—the meat and core of what I want to communicate is this: You must love one another.”
I believe the passage can be divided into three heads. In the first section he deals with some general principles having to do with our love for one another. Then he deals with the practice of loving one another. Then he wraps up the chapter by talking about the power of it.
I had every intention of dealing with the whole chapter today. But as I was preparing this morning, I found that my manuscript ran long. So I’m going to pear things down and just deal with verses 11-15.
So let’s focus on the principles that John lays out in regards to this topic of loving the brethren. The first principle that I want us to be aware of is that this love for the brethren is commanded by Christ.
I. Love is commanded by Christ
This is exactly what is stated in verse 11. “For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.”
In other words, ever since you started running in Christian circles, this is the refrain that has been repeated over and over. You have been taught that you are to love each other. This is something that was handed to us through the apostolic teaching. Christ himself said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another.” In another place he says, “These things I command you that you may love one another.” And again, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for a friend.”
These are just a couple statements that I came up with without much research. And it shows that loving one another is nothing other than a divine imperative.
However, we could go back even further. The text may suggest that this isn’t referring to the beginning of your Christian walk or even since the time Christ walked the earth. In the next verse he cites Cain. So he may be saying, “This is the message that you have heard ever since the beginning of time.”
This could be a way to interpret the verse. It is simply stressing that God’s ways have never changed. Ever since the Garden of Eden God has commanded us to pour out our affection for one another.
I want to stress this. I don’t think I need to spend a lot of time on this point. I believe we all know that we are commanded by Christ to love one another. But let this permeate your mind: We are under divine obligation to do this. Do not take that lightly.
Some of you might be in rebellion to God right now. You’ve been holding a grudge against someone who is sitting in this room. You might be one who has not been very loving towards another brother or sister in Christ. Your language and demeanor has been rather cold or stand off-ish. If that is the case, you need to recognize that you are breaking God’s law, and you need to repent of that.
You are commanded by Christ to love that person. Don’t think that this is something you can fudge on. When it comes to life in the body of Christ this isn’t optional. You are not allowed to pick and choose who you love and who you don’t. Christ commands you to love them. And so you must.
Again, I don’t think I need to stress this too much. I think it is obvious that we are to love one another. There probably isn’t anyone in the world who does not know that. Even the heretics would agree with me on this one.
The point of departure is found in the next verse. After John tells us that love is commanded by Christ, he shows us how love is contrasted with Cain.
II. Love is contrasted with Cain
Look at verse 12. Here we find another principle that should guide our understanding of our love for one another. He says, “We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother.”
Now the original language here is interesting. It is a little difficult and the editors of our Bibles try to help us by putting a period after the 11th verse and starting verse 12 with a new sentence. However, the Greek does not have periods. All of them are inserted by our Bible translators to help us. So, techinically, it could be read like this, “This is the message we have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother.”
It could be one sentence like that. And verse 12 could be modifying verse 11. So it is telling us how our love should look. Or at least, how it shouldn’t look.
It is my belief that John is saying that Cain thought he was doing the loving thing in murdering his brother. Now that sounds absolutely bizerk, I’m sure. But that seems to me to be the thrust of the passage. Cain was attempting to show love when he shed that blood.
Now certainly, this was a self-love that had captured his heart. The way he treated Able was a perverted kind of love. It was due to his love for himself, which clouded his love for his brother.
I think what is happening here is an echo of what we find in the book of Proverbs. In the Proverbs it says, “The love of the wicked is cruel.” That is to say, since men are lead by their own thoughts and intentions, rather than the law of God, their love that they think they are showing ends up hurting people.
I remember a story about how a couple was cited for the way they treated their dog. The owners had indulged their chocolate lab’s appetite so that it weighted well over 150 pounds. The thing had become so fat that it could barely walk. And when it did, it had to rest every few steps because it couldn’t bear its own weight.
Now there is no doubt in my mind that these people thought they were good pet owners. They were just letting their little pooch eat all he wanted. But that is wicked. That is some sort of cruel and unusual punishment. That’s not regarding the life of the beast. It is a violation of God’s law. It is not treating your pet in accord with what God’s word says about gluttony & proper health.
But you can think what was going through their minds, “Awe, look at the little poochy eat. What a good boy!”
The point is that there are different standards for love. And our love must be contrasted with the rule that Cain used. Our rule must be different than the world’s. Our love must be governed by the law of God and not our own selfish and wayward intentions.
So remember that. As you love one another, make sure you are consulting the Scripture. Don’t just think that you are doing someone a favor. Our love must be affectionate in that it is Christ centered love.
You could easily see someone here saying, “Well, that person wouldn’t want me to talk to them anyway.” Is that the way Christ tells us to treat each other? Of course not. Unless it is a petty thing that we should overlook, we are to go to them and settle our disputes. If we can’t, we bring it to the elders. Christ lays out for us how we are to deal with the problems we have with one another. He shows us what love is. Anything else is hatred and murder.
Yes, that’s right. It is murder. Look at verse 15. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer. John is reflecting the language of Jesus here. In the sermon on the Mount Jesus talks about how hatred is the root of murder. And to hate someone is to be a murderer at heart. It is to have a murderous spirit.
And, ultimately, it reveals our true status spiritually. And that gets to the last principle mentioned here. Love is not just commanded by Christ and contrasted with Cain. John also shows us that love is concentrated in true belief.
III. Love is concentrated in true Christians
He says in verse 14, “We know that we have passed out of death into life because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.” Then in verse 15 he says, “You know that no murderer has eternal life in him.”
John’s point here is that the mark of a true Christian is his love for the brethren. Love is concentrated in a Christian. His life will be one that displays kindness and shows tenderness to others who are aligned with Christ.
Of course, he is going to show love to everyone. That’s obvious. A contrast is drawn here though. In the verse before John says that those who are decedents of Cain—those who are unregenerate and still under the power of Satan, will not have this spirit. Their tendency is to hate those who love Christ. They may never shed their blood, but they have that murderous spirit in that they don’t have our welfare in mind. They would think it just the better if we didn’t exist!
Not us though. If we really are a Christian, our lives will be marked by our love for one another.
As a matter of fact, this is one of the ways we can determine if we are a Christian or not. We’ve seen before that John gives us various tests whereby we can find out whether or not we are truly united to Christ. Here is the test of love for the brethren.
Are you struggling with assurance? Are you wondering if you are really a Christian? It is a common thing. I would say that the question enters our minds on occasion. If it is something you are dealing with, John says “Look at yourself.” Look at your life and the way you are treating other Christians. Can you say you have an affection for them and that you are concerned for their welfare? This then may be the confirmation that you are needing.
I don’t want to say much about this now. John returns to this thought later on in the passage. So I think it would be best to tackle that one later.
However, I would like to say this. Throughout the history of the church, this has been one reason people have stressed membership in a local church. Really, it has never been much of a question. It has always been assumed that you will associate with a church. But, logically speaking, if you are going to love the brethren it necessitates being associated with the brethren!
I say this because there is a widespread tendency today to be unaffiliated with a church. It is common for people to float from one church to another, we sometimes call it church-hopping. And there are others who have given up on church attendance altogether.
I understand why. There is a skepticism of authority that permeates our culture and a lot of people have had bad experiences with the church. And so people can be inclined to shy away from church membership and attendance.
I have seen this with a lot of people who are inclined towards home education too. After all, if there ever were people who were skeptical of governing authorities, its us!
But we should not let those things deter us from participation in a local church.
I understand that I am preaching to the choir. But I want to make sure the young people hear this. And you too, just in case you catch wind of this spirit that seems to be growing in many Christian circles.
It is imperative that we choose a God fearing church and remain committed to it as best we can. We are to be marked by our love for our brethren. And that necessitates regular interaction with the brethren. And the only way we can truly do that is through membership in a local church such as this.
In conclusion, let me just say that this topic of loving the Brethren was so important that Francis Schaeffer said that it should be one of the distinctive marks of the true church.
Since the time of the Reformation theologins have said that the marks of the church are the pure preaching of the word, the right administration of the sacraments, and church discipline. They are right in saying that. When a church compromises those things, it ceases to be a true church of Christ.
But I think that Schaeffer was right too. Love is also that which distinguishes a true church of Christ. The preaching of the gospel is to move us to love. The sacraments show us what love is and remind us of our duty towards one another. And you discipline people because they are not being loving as they should.
You might say then that love is the chief mark of the church. It is the one to which all others point.
And so I will put the challenge to you. Christ’s commandment could not be more clear. You must love one another. You must show the world that you are not of Cain’s linage. You must show the world that love really is concentrated in you.
So I will end where I began: Let love be the defining feature of this church. May you show the world that Love is the basis and constitution of this church.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.