by Mike Ratliff
By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:10 ESV)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 ESV)
As I have mentioned in other posts, I am re-reading the biography of William Tyndale by David Daniell. I am doing this because I believe God desires that I do so. I read it over a year ago, but this time I am picking up a great deal more about many different things than I did before. Through this I have seen that there are many parallels between our time and that of the Reformation. One of those parallels is how ungodly and cruel professing Christians can be. Another is how man-made religion has become accepted as Christianity while genuine Christians are few and far between. These genuine believers see the fallacies of the false, man-focused religion going on in their churches. Many have left. Others stay and fight it out.
The Counterfeit Church takes on many forms. However, these forms have one commonality. Since the Holy Spirit takes no part in them, the focus is always on man and experience instead of where it should be. That focus should be totally on God and His glory. This correct focus encompasses the obedience of the saints in making disciples, praying, preaching the Word of God, helping the poor and vulnerable, and ministering to one another in love. Never forget my brethren, we are to be consciously repentant and unconsciously holy. Self-righteousness must become alien to our being and walk.
Many make the mistake of crying foul and accusing some of hypocrisy because they obey God in standing for truth against heresy. We are commanded in Sacred Scripture to earnestly contend for the faith. This includes rebuking those who espouse false doctrine and if they do not repent of that then we expose them to the brethren. This requires that we learn God’s Word by getting into it and it into us. It is only by knowing the truth that we can then know what is not the truth. However, the focus of doing this must still be grounded in love. We love the Body of Christ so we seek to protect it from what harms it, apostasy and heresy, while seeking the repentance of those who are leading others astray. Even so, we cannot be in fellowship with those who hold to heretical beliefs.
I said all of that to lead into the following truth, which is, there are two groups of professing Christians. There are true believers, which are genuine Christians saved by grace through faith, justified and sanctified by God and then there are disingenuous Christians who claim to be true because of their religion or experience. They may be very religious, but their religion is idolatrous. It is not based on justification by faith alone. Oh, they may very well claim that they are saved by faith not works, but they base this on a one time religious experience. Even though they are fruitless (see the second passage above) they still cling to their religion as the basis for their genuineness. The Book of 1 John is a series of tests of this genuineness. Let us take of closer look at one of these tests.
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. (1 John 4:7-12 ESV)
True Christians are the possessors of eternal life. They have fellowship with God who is love and are thereby compelled to love. From this passage we see three “reasons” why it is imperative that Christians love as God does. However, before we begin let us look at the word “love” that John used here. The verb form of “love” in this passage is “ἀγαπάω” or “agapaō.” It is in present tense, subjunctive mood, and active voice. This means that John is saying let us “ἀγαπάω” one another with continuous repeated action. The subjunctive mood suggests that the action is subject to some condition. The active voice says that this command is for the hearer to do. What is the condition that subjects this action? It is “for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” The noun form of love here is “ἀγάπη” or “agapē.” What is John telling us by using “ἀγαπάω” and “ἀγάπη” in this command? The noun “ἀγάπη” means benevolent love. This benevolence, however, is not shown by doing what the person loved desires, but what the one who loves deems as needed by the one loved. We see a very clear picture of this in John 3:16. We are commanded here to love one another this way continually. It indicates a direction of the will and finding one’s joy in loving another this way.
Notice that John tells us that “ἀγαπάω” toward other Christians marks believers as genuine. It is evidence of being born of God and knowing Him. Then John tells us that those who do not “ἀγαπάω” the body of Christ, other genuine believers, does not know God. Why? Because God is “ἀγάπη.” God is the essence of “ἀγάπη,” and no human can “ἀγαπάω” others unless they have been regenerated by God. Christians are given the gift of the Holy Spirit. His work in the heart manifests God’s character in His children. All born again receive God’s nature (2 Peter 1:4). So, we see that the first reason believers must love one another is because of who God is (vv7-8).
The second reason is found vv9-11, “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.” This is, of course, an echo from John 3:16.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 ESV)
John is commanding us to follow the supreme example of God”s sacrificial love in sending His beloved Son to become our propitiation. The Father pouring His wrath in judgment of sin on the cross is the supreme example of His Love. Why did God do this? He did it so that we might live through Him. My brethren, if you do not rejoice in this then something is wrong for this is the good news. This is the gospel. Without this all we have is the bleakness of the Ecclesiastes. However, all in Christ are forever forgiven because their sins were paid for on the cross. Through this God also revealed Himself to us. God’s love becomes manifest to us through what He has done in Christ.
The third reason John gives us that we should love one another is found in v12. “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” We should love one another my brethren because this reveals God to those who do not know Him. When the lost see us loving one another with “ἀγάπη” then it will get their attention. Also, if we “ἀγάπη” one another then God abides in us and His perfect “ἀγάπη” will become even more manifest in us and through us. This is the heart of the Christian witness.
All in Christ are born to “ἀγαπάω,” but to do so requires a godly focus that is humble and without self-righteousness. We will all stand before our Lord in eternity to give an account my brethren, my beloved. I am certain that this “marker” is going to be one of the main, if not the “main,” item(s) that will determine reward or loss of reward. Let us find our joy in obediently “ἀγαπάω,” one another with God’s “ἀγάπη” as a way of life.
Soli Deo Gloria!