I apologize for the sporadic posts. Ruth and I have been away a fair amount this spring and early summer, but hope to get on schedule of posting every two or three days from now on in. I also want to thank all of you who read the blog on a regular basis. It is a real encouragement to see the blog growing and new people reading.
“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.” 1 John 3:16 While John 3:16 is probably the best known verse in the Bible there is little doubt that 1 John 3:16 should be just as well known.
We live in a world where love has a hundred definitions. Love is cast as emotion, as sex, it is coveted, and it is often selfish. Television, family relationships, movies, and magazine articles define our views of love. While standing in line at the grocery store a while back, I saw a headline that said twenty ways to know your lover loves you. And of course there is the great song, Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover by Paul Simon.
I just looked up a number of articles on line concerning how to know you are in love. Some of the suggestions are the person is the first person you think about every day, the first person you think of when you awake, and the better part of your day is filled with thoughts about him/her. Also suggested is that you are not shy about showing your emotions in public, you rejoice in their imperfections, and you will do anything to make them happy.
The writers of the articles seem to have confused romanticism for love. As well some of the suggestions for knowing what love is are just down right destructive. The idea that you would do anything to make the person you love happy might sound good on paper but can be destructive in real life. Anything is a big word.
1 John 3:16 gives us an insight into how much we are loved by God and what love is in our relationship with our brothers and sisters. To lay down your life for someone in your church family is a far cry from love as thinking of someone first thing in the morning.
Before we look at 1 John 3:16 let’s see the context starting in verse 11:
11 “For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.
12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brothers were righteous.
13 Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.
14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.
15 Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.” 1 John 3:11-15
So, what do we have here? First of all John is making it clear that the message of the gospel is wrapped up in the idea that “we should love one another.” (v. 11) Then in verse 12 we are given an example of a lack of love and that is associated with evil and a hatred for righteousness.
Next we are told that the world hates those brothers and sisters who love righteousness. (v. 13) Then John reveals the amazing grace of God’s love in verse 14. “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other.” Notice, John says, “we know” there is no doubt about it. We have eternal life because we love each other and the love that stretches us to even lay down our lives for those brothers and sisters is because we experience the love of God.
God’s love manifested through the grace of Jesus Christ transforms us. Love from God leads to our love of God and our love of God leads to our love of our fellow believers. In contrast, John points out that to hate a brother and sister is to be a murderer and has no “eternal life residing in him.” (v. 15)
Now let’s take a look at the last few verses of this amazing chapter:
21 “Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God
22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him.
23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us.
24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in Him, and He in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.” I John 3:21-24
These are important verses because they help unravel some confusion about 1 John as a whole. People often quote 1 John in regards to people having to keep the Ten Commandments in order to be saved, but, though it is good to live in accord with the Commandments, this is not what John is talking about here. He makes it clear in verse 23 that to keep the commandments of Jesus is “to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us.”
Verse 24 tells us quite plainly “the one who keeps God’s commands lives in Him, and He in them.” And the way we know we are in Christ is because of the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit that descends upon those who believe, giving them guidance and assurance of redemption. For a fuller insight into the indwelling Spirit take a few minutes to read Galatians 5 and 6.
In fact, Galatians 5:13-14 points out, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
1 John 3:16 reveals that we are loved and then reminds us that God’s love flows through us to others even to the place of our substitutionary death on their behalf. This is a long way from seeing love as sending flowers on a birthday.
The gospel transforms us and rebuilds us from the heart to the head. Grace and love flow where once selfishness and greed lived. This is love.