Thursday, July 19, 2012

Love By God’s Definition (1 John 3:11-24)

1. Introduction:
In our previous article we studied 1 John 2:28-3:10. There we saw the first line of demarcation that John gives for the protection of the Church from Satanic counterfeits through being able to determine who is and who was is not a child of God. We identified the first line as the line of righteousness vs. sinfulness.

We saw in our previous discussion that, in verse 10 John drew a backward-looking conclusion and a forward-looking conclusion from his arguments and teaching. The backward-looking conclusion, which had to do with his previous teaching, was that the first test is: sinful conduct. Those who practice sin are not God’s children. Period!

John then gave a forward-looking conclusion, which becomes his premise for what he is about to teach us in 3:11-4:21. This teaching on the second line of demarcation is divided into two sections (3:11-24 and 4:7-21) with a parenthetical teaching on discerning of spirits between them (4:1-6). Today we will examine only the first of these sections on the second line of demarcation. According to John this line is – The visible presence of divine love in our lives – love by God’s definition.

John introduces this truth in verse 11 with the great message that Jesus gave on His final night- “This is the message you heard from the beginning. We should love one another.” What kind of love is in view here? John is going to tell us.

2. We See a Love That Comes From Above (v. 11):
When John points back to Jesus’ message of loving (Grk- agapao) one another, he says a mouthful in a few words. You will recall that John records in his Gospel more of Jesus’ words on that final night before the Cross than any other of the Gospels. What he recorded is that Jesus gave a very important and clear command, “A new command I give you, have Divine Love for one another. As I have Divine Love for you, so you must have Divine Love for one another” (John 13:34, Author’s translation).

When Jesus says in John 13:34 and in John 15:12, “This is my command.“ The Greek word for Command is entole. This is one of the strongest words Jesus could possibly use. It is a military term used to give the one all-important command, the prime directive of all the orders. It also means this is the sum-total, the most important thing yet said. When a general wanted to make the prime directive of their mission clear, he would say, “This is the entole…” By means of this, and for this purpose, all else will be done.

In John 15:17, Jesus uses a related word to leave a final impact on His disciples. The Greek word for command here is entellomia. It comes from en and tello. En, which is a prime prefix that means to do something from a fixed position or by means of or, more forcefully, “from this fixed (commanded) position.” Tello (which comes from tellos) means a point aimed at, to set out for a definite point or goal. So, when Jesus uses the term entellomia, He is saying, “This is My Commanded goal for you to aim at. This is all-important!”

2.1. Agape is not of this world. It comes only from God. Some may wonder why Jesus would make so strong a statement concerning what seems to be horizontal command. But you must remember that He did not say that we are to have human love for each other, but divine love (agape). This is really a vertical command with a practical, horizontal application.   

Jesus knew we could not love each other in this way on our own. We would have to come to Him for divine love. But He also wanted us to know that the goal of this divine love is to be seen on the practical level, in our relationships to each other.

2.2. Jesus has bound His disciples to treating each other in a way that will daily send them to the Father seeking divine empowerment.

2.3. This is why divine love is the hallmark of a true Christian. As Jesus said in John 13:35 following this command, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have Divine Love for one another” (Author’s translation). This is the very thing Jesus prayed for a few moments later in His High Priestly prayer in John 17:20-26. He prayed that His Church would be brought to complete unity through divine love, “So that the world may believe that you (Father) have sent me” (v.21). 

A lot depends on our possessing this divine love, the whole issue of Jesus and His kingdom being made known to humankind.

John begins by telling us that a true Christian must have divine love for his brothers and sisters. If he does not, he cannot love God (cf. 1 John 4:19-21). This is the message that Jesus taught from the beginning to the end.

3. We See a Love That Has No Rivalry (vv. 12-15):

3.1. John points out - Rivalry tends to murder (v.12). Cain is the example of rivalry polluting love.
3.1.1. There is murder of body. Cain murdered his brother physically.
3.1.2. There is murder of character. We can murder by slander and hatred.

3.2. John points out – Those with a spirit of rivalry will lash out at those more righteous than themselves (v.12). This is why Cain murdered his brother Abel. 

3.3. John concludes – Rivalry is the way of the world (v. 13). The world is of the spirit of Cain – Cain’s, the Bible warned us, “Children, do not be surprised at the world’s hatred” (cf. John 15:18-25, 16:33, 2 Tim. 3:12).

3.4. John points out – Assurance of our salvation comes when we are free from the ways of death (v.14). Love is the way of life. Hatred and strife are the ways of death.

3.5. John concludes – Hatred and a spirit of murder go together, but eternal life will not mix with them (v. 15). John points us to God’s definition of this Love, which brings such assurance of salvation and eternal life.
4. We See a Love That Is Defined by the Person of Jesus (vv. 16-20):
John is now concerned that we understand God’s definition of divine love. So he points us to the standard with the words, “This is how we know what Divine Love is…” (Author’s translation).  That standard is Jesus Christ himself.

4.1. Jesus love is a sacrificial love (v. 16) – John doesn’t pause in making the highest possible application of this principle. If we have divine love, which is the spirit of Jesus himself within us, then we will do as He did. He laid down His life for us. Then it follows that we should be willing to lay down lives for each other.

4.2. Jesus’ love is a love of demonstration (vv. 17-18) – This love chooses action and truth as its mediums to communicate, not mere words. It doesn’t speak without doing and it doesn’t speak without meaning.

4.3. Jesus’ love is a love of assurance (vv. 17-18) - These actions of love bring assurance even when our heart is confused or accused by the enemy. We can be at rest, lives. We could never live this way without Him!

5. We See a Love That Offers Up Obedience (vv. 21-24):

5.1. In verses 21 and 22, the statements - “hearts do not condemn us” and “because we obey his commands and do what pleases him” must go together in our thinking. They mean the same thing! Only obedience gives us a life free from condemnation. “We have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask” is in the context of a life of total obedience; one who seeks His glory first.  

5.2. John becomes very emphatic (v. 23) – The English phrase “this is his command” is in the Greek he entole hautou. “He” is the definite article “the” and Greek entole means “prime directive,” and hautou is a strong term for “His” emphasizing “belonging to him.” This is John’s emphatic way of saying, “And this is the specified with Jesus. The commands are – 

“Believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ.” Make Jesus the Foundation of our hope and power to live in divine love.

            “Love one another as he commanded (entole).” The Church is His Body, so to love the Church is, to love Jesus Christ. To not love the Church is to fail to love Christ.

5.3. John then gives the personal (subjective) witness to this assurance (v. 24). The Spirit of Jesus Christ is the spirit of divine love, truth, and obedience (Rom. 5:5, 8:16, John 14:15).

6. Conclusion:
Where does this second line of demarcation find? Do we pass the test of Divine Love?


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