Part 3 of the Moral Test
by Mike Ratliff
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. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:7-21 ESV)
The New Nature of the regenerate Christian (2 Corinthians 5:17) does not only include the believer’s ability to not sin when tempted, it also is characterized by God’s very nature becoming more and more manifest both within and without those who are Born Again. This comes as a result of the washing of regeneration.
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, (Titus 3:4-6 ESV)
This renewal of the Holy Spirit, being poured out richly on those who have Christ as Lord and Saviour, is the essence of our new birth. It is God’s Holy work of quickening what was dead unto life. Of course the manifestation of this new nature is keyed to our spiritual maturity. The more mature we become, the more we die to self and this world while living for God and His glory, the more Christ’s character will become apparent. In 1 John 4:7-8 we see that the Apostle has returned to the moral test of Love.
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. (1 John 4:7-8 ESV)
John tells us here that God is love and anyone who is truly His will have this love being manifest in and through them. The Greek words John uses here for Love are αγαπωμεν and αγαπη or “agapeō” and “agapē.” One is the noun the other the verb describing love that enjoins a consuming passion for the well-being of others, and in scripture it has as its wellspring God Himself.
“Since ‘love is God’, says John, ‘let us love one another’; the children of God must reproduce their Father’s nature. Those who show such love to one another give proof in doing so that they are God’s children and that it is they (not those who say so much about the true gnōsis or knowledge of God without regard for the love of God) who really know Him. Those, on the other hand, from whose lives such love is absent give proof b that fact that they have never begun to know God, however confident their claims may be. To know the God of love means to manifest His love. ‘God is love’ is a compressed a statement of the gospel as is well imaginable; yet it is not more a reversible statement than is its counterpart in 1 John 1.5, ‘God is light’. ‘Love is of God’; love is divine; but one can no more say that ‘love is God’ than one could say that ‘light is God’. ‘God is love’ is an affirmation about God; while it is a compressed statement of the gospel, it is so in the sense which is spelt out in the following sentence, ‘that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him’. It is this act of God that gives meaning to His love; indeed, it is this act that gives meaning to love absolutely, in the sense which it bears in the Johnannine writings and the New Testament generally.” 1
John tells us here that if one is truly ‘of God’ then they will pass this test of Love. Those born from above, being new creatures in Christ will love as God loves. Of course, this is tempered by how severely we are in bondage to our flesh. The more free we become from that bondage the more God’s love will become manifest in us. The more we commune with Him by both receiving His love and returning it in worship and obedience from a grateful heart, the more we will exhibit this love in our lives.
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:9-11 ESV)
My brethren, every part of genuine Christianity is rooted in these verses. This is the Gospel from the point of view of the Father. The supreme act of God’s love was His sending His ‘only Son’ (μονογενη or monogenēs) . This Greek word means ‘only son’ or ‘well-loved’ or ‘beloved.’ God sending His Son is our blessing. Why? It is the blessing of those who receive life through Him because of His act of being their propitiation for their sins. He became sin on their behalf. Those who receive Him as Lord and Saviour, believing God, receive life. They are both declared righteous through God’s forensic declaration (justification by faith) and are made righteous albeit in an embryonic sense (sanctification). As we become more and more sanctified (removed from the bondage of our flesh) we will take on more and more of our Lord’s character. And because of this John tells us that we should love one another because our Lord is loving them through us.
I have received some comments complaining about the ‘attitude’ of some ‘Christians’ who hold the same ‘doctrine’ that we do here, but are ‘mean as snakes’ and appear to be self-righteous in their ‘judging’ of ‘post-moderns.’ The complaint insinuated that since they hold the same ‘doctrine’ that I do that I had no business ‘attacking’ the theology and religious practices of those I don’t like (post-moderns.) I had to think long and hard about how to respond to this. It is important that we have correct (biblical) doctrine and we ‘do church’ biblically. It is a huge mistake to ‘edit’ the Gospel to make it man-pleasing. In light of John’s teaching here, however, how should we approach this? Should we just try to get along? If we look at Jesus and the Apostles at how they handled these things we have our model. Jesus was very harsh, as were the Apostles, with religious leaders who were false. However, Jesus was very gentle with sinners, preaching the good news of the Kingdom and repentance to them, healing them, et cetera. However, the Pharisees and scribes and Sadducees, among others, were rebuked harshly. We should tell the truth to false teachers with the motive of their repentance. This is not unloving. In fact, it is the essence of αγαπη because it seeks the well-being of those in darkness.
No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. (1 John 4:12-16 ESV)
John tells us here that since no one can see God or our Lord loving (physically), but the world sees their witness of love through the Church. This being so then it is imperative that we manifest God’s love to one another as well as in reaching out to the lost, the sick, the hurting, the vulnerable, the hungry, et cetera. We do these things because we have the Spirit. Those who are Spirit-filled are guided by Him into obedience. This obedience is not just sin avoidance, but is active in sacrificial love.
“Not only is God’s love poured into His children’s hearts through the Holy Spirit; an appreciation of God’s truth has been imparted to them by the same Spirit. The Spirit of love is the Spirit of truth. The Spirit persuades and enables us to believe in Jesus as the Son of God; He communicates to us the new life which is ours as members of God’s regenerate family; it is through Him that we remain in union with the ever-living Christ and He with us; it is through His inward witness that we receive the power to bear our witness in turn. Thus our Lord’s promise in the upper room is fulfilled: ‘when the Counsellor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me; and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning’ (John 15. 26, 27) 2
In v15 we have, “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” This is referring back to John’s doctrinal tests from vv1-6 and 1:1-4 and 2:23, referring to those who are genuine believers. Those who pass those doctrinal tests will also prove to be genuine by abiding in Christ and God. No believer in this life can profess to be sinless. All sin because we still have our flesh and are works in progress. However, as we mature in Christ, walk in repentance and have victory in the battle to mortify our sins we will find ourselves walking closer and closer with out Lord. This is abiding. This will increase our assurance. However, it should concern us if there is not change, if we cannot repent and have little or no desire to do so. This is John’s point. This is why it is essential that we disciple new believers instead of just rejoicing in numbers.
In v16 we have, “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” This is speaking of the result of actually experiencing the love of God. Instead of just believing that God is love, we find in wonderful ways in our lives marked by our faith being exercised and thereby growing. This love comes into the hearts of the God’s children, filling them to overflowing, then it flows out to others. When we witness this in our lives, it will cause us to rejoice. We will then dwell in His love and dwell in Him. God gives us His joy and we are able, thereby, to abide in Christ. (John 15)
By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:17-19 ESV)
John is speaking here of maturing love which is marked by confidence in our assurance. This is God’s good work of assuring our hearts by the Spirit bearing witness with our spirit of our genuineness. The more we mature, the more we are aware of this. Christ was the first fruits of the Kingdom. He became a Man and has provided the one and only way to the Father. All who are His are still in this world are also God’s children and, therefore, have His love and affection. They receive goodness from Him. Those in Christ should not fear the Final Judgment. Why? If we experience God’s love then we should know that we belong to Him. The judgment is to be feared, but it has no power over God’s children. I love v19. Why do we love God and other believers? It is because God first loved us. I asked my son (when he was very young) why he loved me. He replied that it was because I loved him. I expressed that love to him and he returned it to me. Our love for God should be even deeper and more profound. If we mature in Christ as God grows our faith, we will also see the workings of God in our lives that are our receiving of His love.
If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:20-21 ESV)
John closes this test with a very clear statement. It is a fallacy to proclaim that one loves God, but hates other Christians. No, if we have the love of God working in us then we will love the brethren. We may be forced to rebuke some and admonish others, but we do so through God’s love for them.
My brethren, examine yourselves. If we find any ‘hate’ in your hearts for other believers then we must repent of that. We must, instead, rebuke those who are corrupting the Gospel and teaching false things about God and our faith from the motive of their repentance and restoration. If they refuse to do so then they prove that they are not our brethren (1 John 2:19). However, we cannot hate them. No, we pray for them. We never seek to modify the truth simply to get along.
Soli Deo Gloria
1F.F. Bruce, The Epistles of John (Old Tappen, 1970) p107.
2 Ibid., p110.
“If we find any ‘hate’ in your hearts for other believers then we must repent of that. We must, instead, rebuke those who are corrupting the Gospel and teaching false things about God and our faith from the motive of their repentance and restoration. If they refuse to do so then they prove that they are not our brethren (1 John 2:19).”
In other words, ‘If I don’t think exactly like you do and refuse to repent of my sin-filled beliefs (after your scolding, of course), then I’m not really your brother in Christ, and I should be rebuked?’
Are you arguing with me or the Apostle John? Read Galatians and Ephesians and then line your Gospel up with that not what men say.
Sorry to keep commenting on a post that you wrote so long ago…
I’m not trying to argue with you, I’m just not clear on exactly what you mean. In a church divided among denominations, this is an important topic. The fact is that there are many different interpretations of all kinds of things ALL BASED IN SCRIPTURE. It’s real easy to get in a war of words and accuse the other of being a heretic on any point. I just think that there needs to be understanding and a common respect among believers who think differently.
I guess my question for you is, where is the line? What constitutes you being able to “rebuke” someone? I’m not trying to argue theology, here, I just want to know how different someone’s theology can be from yours without being “rebuked?” Because let’s be real, just because you “rebuke” someone based on theology, it’s not going to cause them to change their minds. It’s just going to make them angry with you.
And I’m not saying that church discipline is not a biblical concept, it certainly is. It just seem to me that church discipline in the NT is more about orthopraxy than orthodoxy, and when it is about orthodoxy, it is about how orthodoxy effects orthopraxy.
Again, I’m just trying to understand your perspective….
I understand where you are coming from. This is why we are looking at the 5 Solas right now. There are some fundamental points in each of those 5 that determine exactly what you are talking about. Denominationalism that based on things outside of those points are irrelevant and that is not what I am talking about in what you are referring to. No, it is this that we insist on in concurrency.
Sola Deo Gloria.
I’m going to ask more specifically then…
are Catholics included in “orthodoxy” for lack of a better term? What about emergent-minded folks (I would consider myself as such)? What about open theists (I ask this b/c you seem to be pretty hard-core Calvinist)?
If not, how would you go about “rebuking”?
Again, I’m not trying to get into theology, here. It just seems to me that when people create essential lists for orthodoxy, often times times those lists, slowly but surely, unintentionally expand into the unnecessary items, and people fight about the non-essentials. What is more, one person’s essentials are different than another’s. I guess my point is that it can get into a big hairy mess, if we’re not careful.
Let’s be clear. When I am talking about what is orthodox and what isn’t I am referring to the doctrine of a “Christian” entity. Now, just because someone may be part of one of those entities does not mean that he or she is genuine or not. When I “rebuke” I am not targeting the people, the sheep, in them. No, I am targeting the teachers, preachers, theologians, etc. who are not adhering to Sola Scriptura. As a result they will have a problem with Sola Gratia or Sola Fide and even Solus Christus. As a result they pursue glory for themselves and thereby do not adhere to Sola Deo Gloria.
Does the R.C. Church adhere to Sola Fide? No they reject it and add works to their version of orthodoxy. Does that mean that all Catholics are lost and going to Hell unless they repent? I don’t think so. I have known some R.C.people who were better Christians than some I go to church with. That is God’s purview, not ours.
Emergents, well I have had some interesting debates with some. Their Bible knowledge is shallow and they listen to some really bad teachers and teachings that violate the 5 Solas as well. I find a lot of anger and resentment in most of them and those things blind them. As a result they close their minds to the truth (Biblical truth) in very shocking ways.
Now, if we stick to the 5 Solas as what makes up orthodoxy and refuse to be separate about other things then we will be united. However, if pride enters in then we have the scenario you laid out there in your last paragraph. Does this mean that since men are sinful and can become prideful that we should throw the baby out with the bath water and include apostasy and heresy in with what is orthodox. No, and this is my point. I am a Calvinist, but I have very good friends who know God, serve God, and love Him who are not Calvinists. How can we fellowship? We serve the same God and we all adhere to the 5 Solas, that is how. We refuse to separate over things outside of that.
The reason we can do this is that we seek to obey God, not please men. When we get this backwards we compromise and before long we find that we are out of the will of God and this is when we will have those conflicts you are talking about. For instance, I was watching the news the other day and a reporter was doing a quick interview with John McCain. They showed film clip of John Haggee endorsing McCain. However, Haggee had preached that the reason New Orleans was devastated by that Hurricane was the massive sin problem there. In other words, God was judging the city. The reporter thought that she had a leverage point as she asked McCain to justify receiving that endorsement after he had toured N.O. and spoke of doing a better job in meeting the needs there, etc. McCain found himself in that very position. He was in an inconsistent moral position that he would not have been in if he was not doing all he could do to be a man pleaser. Now I know that this is a secular example, but it is still the same thing.
Let me give you another one. I prayed a lot before I posted Sola Gratia the other day and I did so with some trepidation. Why? Because in that post I contended that Arminians and Calvinists should not separate from fellowship as long as both sides adhere to Sola Gratia. I had some fear that some of my Calvinist friends would object. Well, through posting it, I was very surprised that I did not receive any complaints from the more hard line Calvinists I associate with. The 5 Solas are the meat and center of orthodoxy, not Calvinism or Arminianism and they saw that.
Does this make sense?
By the way, my son graduated from Baylor in 2003.
Sic’em Bears. I’m an ’06 grad.
Thanks for your careful and thoughtful response.
As far as sola scriptura goes – I’m not sure if you would consider me heretical or not. Basically, I’m not one who holds to inerrancy. For me, it would be spiritually and intellectually dishonest to affirm it. I can’t go there. Is the Bible authoritative? Is it inspired? Without a doubt. I just have a problem with historical matters and arguments that claim, “If it’s not accurate historically, then it can’t be trustworthy at all.” Now, I do believe that scripture is our authority in terms of doctrine and practice. But I also believe that we must take tradition and experience into account, unlike some extreme understandings of sola scriptura that would dismiss them altogether. It’s in this that I sympathize with the R.C.C., though I don’t have that belief system.
Also, it seems from your response that you place sola scriptura as the most essential of the five. Correct me if I’m wrong.
On sola gratia, I am in complete agreeance that it is only by the grace of Christ that we’re saved. But I must add that the old grace vs. works debate is futile. Faith without works is dead. And again, I sympathize with the RCC.
But my bigger question is, “Why the 5 solas?” It seems to me that these are extra-biblical criterion for deciphering “orthodoxy.” Not that the 5 solas aren’t useful, don’t get me wrong; I’m just not sure why you use these as the starting point.
If I had to bring this to a larger point, I would say that it seems that your use of the 5 solas stem more from the Reformation (tradition) than from scripture (and this, to me, undermines your use of sola scriptura). Can the 5 solas be brought out of scripture? Sure. But they are certainly not spelled out in scripture as THE essentials. I just think that we as Protestants need to be more honest (with ourselves) about our use and dependence on tradition.
Finally, though, I would agree that all 5 are important, but I would not say that all 5 are the end all be all to theology. The one I would hold as absolutely essential: solus christus.
I now give you permission to trash on me. 🙂
I hope you take this the right way. I have never seen a skeptical Christian who was really a Christian. They always fall away. I pray that that will not be you. Here is a better way to understand the 5 Solas and why they are essential together.
In scripture alone (Sola Scriptura) we find salvation is by grace alone (Sola Gratia) through faith alone (Sola Fide) In Christ alone (Solus Christus) For the glory of God alone! (Soli Deo Gloria)
This is what I mean by this being the core of orthodoxy. Forget religion. Forget traditions. Forget culture. This is what the Bible teaches CLEARLY is God’s will for His Kingdom. Which is more important son, your glory or God’s? You know the answer to that. We exist to glorify Him. So no matter what direction you go with this it all comes out the same.
Do you see what you have done by pulling out Solus Christus and ignoring the rest? It removes God’s glory as essential. It defies the clear teaching of the Gospel from Ephesians 2:1-10. No, it is altogether or you have a split and unbalanced understanding of God and His grace. Read this:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:2-14 ESV)
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1-10 ESV)
My friend, you cannot just have Jesus and not God. You cannot have just Jesus and not be saved by GOD’s Grace through Faith ALONE. And why did God do all of this? FOR HIS GLORY! And where do we learn all of this? FROM SACRED SCRIPTURE.
Well, if this is not convincing then I cannot help you see this. I suggest that you try to understand what I am saying from outside of the emergent confusion. I pray that you see that when you question the veracity of the Bible then you also lose your center and will have your free-for-all, but in the end all you will have is nothing.
First off, I know this isn’t about my glory. I’m seeking after truth just as much as you are. Why the shift in tone?
Secondly, I have no qualms with your concise statement about the 5 solas.
I’ve created a misunderstanding for you when I said Solus Christus alone is essential…
When I say that I mean that all doctrine must be interpreted through his life, ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection. In other words, I’m not making a list of essentials. The other 4 solas are not canceled out in this way, but they are interpreted through Christ. In the NT, JESUS is the Word of God. Christ and Christ alone. God’s glory is revealed through the cross. God’s grace is revealed through the cross. Faith in Christ must be seen through the cross. The resurrection then affirms the way of the suffering Christ, as Paul says. You cannot come to the Father except through the Son. I am not denying the solas, and certainly not God’s glory.
On another, somewhat separate, point, I am not skeptical concerning our faith. I am as sure as anyone when it comes to faith in the crucified Christ, and I am sure as anyone when it comes to faith in the way of Jesus. And I don’t currently know anyone who thinks along the same line of thought who has “fallen away,” as you say (I’m not saying that they aren’t out there, I’m just saying I don’t know anyone). In my own experience, I have seen more people “fall away” who were taught strict inerrancy. Maybe that’s just me.
And let me be clear: I do not have a problem with people who believe in inerrancy. I respect that belief. I just personally can’t go there. My problem is when there is no understanding from their perspective for the other point of view. But these matters are trivial…
My larger concern is why we as Christians cannot fully accept brothers and sisters who are 100% committed to living out the way of Jesus but who happen to think differently on theological grounds. Let us be a community of grace and love committed to the community and kingdom of Christ. This is all that I ask.
grace and peace
You said the following….. ” I do not have a problem with people who believe in inerrancy. I respect that belief. I just personally can’t go there….” ( followed by more confusion).
Do you hear your words?
I went to your blog. I can see that you are ‘Emergent.’ That is a false gospel for the very reason which you have confessed. Since you do not believe the Bible to be 100% truth, then you endorse relativism (that truth is relative to each individual). This breeds half truths which still fall short.
Again, by your own admission you imply that we should accept it when others (like yourself) are willing to compromise the gospel in order to make it relative to each individual. In short, a compromised gospel means that we can come to God on our own terms instead of his. Is this what you believe, Halpin?