by Mike Ratliff
34 Ἐντολὴν καινὴν δίδωμι ὑμῖν, ἵνα ἀγαπᾶτε ἀλλήλους, καθὼς ἠγάπησα ὑμᾶς ἵνα καὶ ὑμεῖς ἀγαπᾶτε ἀλλήλους. 35 ἐν τούτῳ γνώσονται πάντες ὅτι ἐμοὶ μαθηταί ἐστε, ἐὰν ἀγάπην ἔχητε ἐν ἀλλήλοις. (John 13:34-35 NA27)
34 “A new command I give to you that you love one another; as I loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are my disciples if you have love one for another.” (John 13:34-35 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1)
Continuing with the theme of self-examination with the goal of having my heart free from all idols, let us look a very stringent test our Lord gave his apostles, which they gave to the Church of how we can have both assurance of our own faith as well as the markers that will be present in genuine believers and absent in those who are false professors.
Let us begin by carefully reading our Lord’s statement and command from John 13:34-35, which I placed at the top of this post. What is the command? We are commanded to love one another as Christ loved us. We are to have this same love for one another, that is, for other believers. The second part of the statement is that this love is actually proof of Christian authenticity. When the world and other believers witness this love exhibited one for another among the brethren, then they will know that those who do that are our Lord’s disciples. Let me say that the opposite is also true. When that love is absent, it is proof that those in that group are not our Lord’s disciples…
This love is defined for us. In v34 our Lord says that this love that marks the authenticity of a believer one for another is the same with which he loved them. Let us look at that love.
7 Ἀγαπητοί, ἀγαπῶμεν ἀλλήλους, ὅτι ἡ ἀγάπη ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐστιν, καὶ πᾶς ὁ ἀγαπῶν ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ γεγέννηται καὶ γινώσκει τὸν θεόν. 8 ὁ μὴ ἀγαπῶν οὐκ ἔγνω τὸν θεόν, ὅτι ὁ θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν. 9 ἐν τούτῳ ἐφανερώθη ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν ἡμῖν, ὅτι τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ τὸν μονογενῆ ἀπέσταλκεν ὁ θεὸς εἰς τὸν κόσμον ἵνα ζήσωμεν δι᾽ αὐτοῦ. 10 ἐν τούτῳ ἐστὶν ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐχ ὅτι ἡμεῖς ἠγαπήκαμεν τὸν θεὸν ἀλλ᾽ ὅτι αὐτὸς ἠγάπησεν ἡμᾶς καὶ ἀπέστειλεν τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ ἱλασμὸν περὶ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν. 11 Ἀγαπητοί, εἰ οὕτως ὁ θεὸς ἠγάπησεν ἡμᾶς, καὶ ἡμεῖς ὀφείλομεν ἀλλήλους ἀγαπᾶν. 12 θεὸν οὐδεὶς πώποτε τεθέαται. ἐὰν ἀγαπῶμεν ἀλλήλους, ὁ θεὸς ἐν ἡμῖν μένει καὶ ἡ ἀγάπη αὐτοῦ ἐν ἡμῖν τετελειωμένη ἐστίν. 13 Ἐν τούτῳ γινώσκομεν ὅτι ἐν αὐτῷ μένομεν καὶ αὐτὸς ἐν ἡμῖν, ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ πνεύματος αὐτοῦ δέδωκεν ἡμῖν. 14 καὶ ἡμεῖς τεθεάμεθα καὶ μαρτυροῦμεν ὅτι ὁ πατὴρ ἀπέσταλκεν τὸν υἱὸν σωτῆρα τοῦ κόσμου. 15 Ὃς ἐὰν ὁμολογήσῃ ὅτι Ἰησοῦς ἐστιν ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ, ὁ θεὸς ἐν αὐτῷ μένει καὶ αὐτὸς ἐν τῷ θεῷ. 16 καὶ ἡμεῖς ἐγνώκαμεν καὶ πεπιστεύκαμεν τὴν ἀγάπην ἣν ἔχει ὁ θεὸς ἐν ἡμῖν. Ὁ θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν, καὶ ὁ μένων ἐν τῇ ἀγάπῃ ἐν τῷ θεῷ μένει καὶ ὁ θεὸς ἐν αὐτῷ μένει. 17 Ἐν τούτῳ τετελείωται ἡ ἀγάπη μεθ᾽ ἡμῶν, ἵνα παρρησίαν ἔχωμεν ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῆς κρίσεως, ὅτι καθὼς ἐκεῖνός ἐστιν καὶ ἡμεῖς ἐσμεν ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ τούτῳ. 18 φόβος οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν τῇ ἀγάπῃ ἀλλ᾽ ἡ τελεία ἀγάπη ἔξω βάλλει τὸν φόβον, ὅτι ὁ φόβος κόλασιν ἔχει, ὁ δὲ φοβούμενος οὐ τετελείωται ἐν τῇ ἀγάπῃ. 19 ἡμεῖς ἀγαπῶμεν, ὅτι αὐτὸς πρῶτος ἠγάπησεν ἡμᾶς. 20 ἐάν τις εἴπῃ ὅτι ἀγαπῶ τὸν θεὸν καὶ τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ μισῇ, ψεύστης ἐστίν· ὁ γὰρ μὴ ἀγαπῶν τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ ὃν ἑώρακεν, τὸν θεὸν ὃν οὐχ ἑώρακεν οὐ δύναται ἀγαπᾶν. 21 καὶ ταύτην τὴν ἐντολὴν ἔχομεν ἀπ᾽ αὐτοῦ, ἵνα ὁ ἀγαπῶν τὸν θεὸν ἀγαπᾷ καὶ τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ. (1 John 4:7-21 NA27)
7 Beloved let us love one another because God is love and everyone who loves is has been born of God and knows God. 8 The one not loving does not know God because God is love. 9 By this was the love of God manifested among us that God has sent his only Son into the world that we may live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that he love us and gave his Son as a propititiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever beheld God. If we love one another, God abides in us and his love has been perfected in us. 13 In this, we know that we abide in him and he in us because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have beheld, and we testify that the Father has sent the Son as Saviour of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him and he in God. 16 And we have known and have believed the love that God has for us. God is love and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. 17 Love has been perfected among us in this; that we may have confidence in the Day of Judgment because as he is we are also in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and the one fearing has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God” and he hates his brother, he is a liar for the one not loving his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this command we have from him that the one loving God should also love his brother. (1 John 4:7-21 Possessing the Treasure Net Testament V1)
There is a great deal of truth in this passage. My brethren, the key to this is v7 and John expands upon it in the rest of the verses. All who are truly born again, born from above, regenerated, have the Holy Spirit and have received God’s nature (2 Peter 1:4). How is God’s nature exhibited to those in him? It is that he loved them before they loved him.
As I have stated in many other posts, I have been a Christian a long time and have served in many churches. I have seen my share of unregenerate Church members at every level. How did others and I know they were unregenerate? Those not in denial of the truth simply followed what our Lord said in Matthew 7:20, “…by their fruits you will know them.” They acted like the world. When these people went out of their way to belittle others in the Body or to do things to elevate themselves or to never show up when they promised to; then when confronted, all that was received back was fleshly belligerence and resentment, not brokenness and repentance.
I also taught youth for a while and learned very quickly that everything was backward. According to what our Lord and the Apostles tell us, the conscience we need to guard is that of our brethren, not that of the unregenerate. When the unregenerate witness how we love each other, they will see God at work in us. However, in these flesh driven churches, the conscience that is protected at all costs is that of the “seeker.” It is totally off limits to confront them about their unchristian behavior in church and then take them aside to share the gospel with them… After a few encounters with angry parents that their children were being made accountable in my classes for their actions, I quit when it was obvious that how that was being handled it was just a lost cause circling the drain. Some of those parents were my fellow deacons.
How did I respond to them? I went out of my way to not offend my brothers and their wives and went about my duties as deacon, but refused to coddle their wild, unregenerate teenagers. Therefore, my wife and I separated from the social side of that church for a couple of years until all of the fuss subsided. Interestingly, the leadership came to me because they desperately needed a mature Bible teacher for the largest adult group in the church. God does work in interesting ways.
I still have many close friends at that church. All of them are my brothers and sisters in Christ. However, there were also some there that I could never get along with because they had a different agenda. I don’t know if they are still there or not. They seemed to be all about trying to use the Church for their own “elevation” or whatever. I always sought the background, but if you have read enough of my posts you know that there is the fiery thing within me that once it starts burning, I cannot hold the word in. Another pastor called it that “ol gift of prophecy,” but I just think I have discernment and I love God’s truth and I love His people and do all I can to protect what they hear that there is no compromise.
Does this make me unloving? Didn’t Paul and Peter rebuke false teachers? Are false teachers our brethren in Christ? No, they are not. This love we are to have for one another is for those in the Body of Christ and those who teach and preach what is false prove they are not genuine and we must confront them. Whose conscience are we to protect, our brothers and sisters in Christ or unbelievers? We are to see to the protection of our brothers and sisters in Christ above all (1 Corinthians 10:28).
Yes, we live in a dark spiritual time. Evangelicalism seems to have been taken over by bunch of punks and fools who disdain sound doctrine as being essential. We can wear ourselves out taking on these people and I have done so as have many of my friends. I have determined that I will continue to teach from God’s Word as I am lead, but that also includes comparing what these apostates and heretics say that clearly is antithetical to the truth of God’s Word and sound doctrine. I will never resort to name calling, but always call for them to either repent or find another occupation as I warn the Body of Christ about them. However, my guiding principle in all of this is my love for my brethren because I have the love of God in me who loves them enough to give his Son to die to become the propitiation for their sins.
Soli Deo Gloria!