1 John 3:16-18
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 and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth (NIV).
Our mission is to turn people from the pursuit of sinful desires to be fully committed followers of Jesus Christ. As we seek to fulfill this mission, we will necessarily be involved in closing the gap between correct teaching and correct living. We must not say, “We know the truth,” unless we are diligent in the practice of truth. For example, there is something drastically wrong with the person that says, “We stand for God’s law!” and yet fails to love his or her professed brother in Christ, because isn’t love for one another Christ’s new commandment? And if a person will not obey the Son of God when he commands his people to love one another, isn’t he or she “a wicked antinomian” (as some pompous legalists like to accuse others)?
In order for us to function in a Biblical manner, we must join correct teaching and correct living. We must never allow an option (“Choose truth or love!”) In addition, we should not expect that correct teaching automatically produces a changed way of life. The Spirit of God must make the truth alive with power in the heart.
The Holy Spirit begins with practical definition of love (3:16a). A Christian knows that true knowledge begins with the reality of God, the counsel of his word, and the surpassing glory of his works in creation and salvation. So we say, a proper understanding of love requires knowledge of Christ’s atoning work.
The Bible always starts with the holiness of God. Apart from that truth we lack any reference point to understand why the death of Jesus Christ could ever be any kind of a demonstration of God’s love. However, once we now that God’s own holy character requires him to oppose what is sinful and evil, then we can begin to comprehend the reason that the cross of Christ is the most amazing proof of love the universe has ever seen. If you do not start with God’s holiness, was Christ’s death…
- The act of a martyr?
- A zealous but overdone example?
- A senseless display of cruelty?
If you start with God’s holiness, then Christ’s death was…
The only way for sinners to be right with God!
We must remember this as we think about our friends and neighbors who are strangers to God’s saving love. It is too easy for them to bring up something like a devastating earthquake in some part of the world and then ask, “How can you say that God is love? If God is love, why does he permit such suffering?” Instead, the Bible begins with the facts of God’s holiness and human rebelliousness and then says, “You can see the love of God in the death of Jesus, the Son of God, for rebellious people.” This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (1 John 4:9-11 NIV). Now obviously, you cannot be blunt and tactless when you raise this point, because that would not be love. But the point must be gently and kindly made.
You can quickly get yourself in deep spiritual difficulty if you do not begin with the cross. Suppose you measure God’s love by nice, pleasant things you have. But what if you lose those things? Has God stopped loving you? The only way out is to repent of your error and turn back to the truth. There’s only one way out of a dead end street, which we have a lot of in my area. You must turn around!
Christ’s love for us is the revealed standard of love. Since Christ’s death on the cross, we have a completed revelation of what it means to love. Now, we are to love as he loved us. I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (John 13:34-35 CSB). Because of all that we have in and through the Lord Christ, we are to imitate his love. In this way redemptive grace both sets the parameters of and energizes love.
We must lay hold of the truth that we are to love one another at all times with the same kind of love that Christ loves us.
Grace and peace, David