We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.
(1 John 3:14 ESV)
What a penetrating fact! The Apostle John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, says that love for other believers is the marker of spiritual life or regeneration. Not only that, but the presence of this love is a mark of assurance – we KNOW that we have passed out of death into life. And in fact, a lack of love for other believers is an indicator that we’re not born again. John spends a significant portion of this epistle addressing love and also in his gospel account (Jhn. 13:33-34).
The Significance of Love for the Brothers
Some may wonder why love for other believers is significant. Isn’t it possible to love God without getting involved in the messy affairs of other Christians? Can’t we just go to church, sing our praises, listen to the sermon, contribute to the offering and leave virtually unnoticed and do it all again the next Sunday? Is there any real harm in anonymity? Yes, and here’s why.
1 John 4:7-8 says love is from God and God is love. It also says those who are born of God will love. Galatians 5:22-23 says love, among other virtues, is fruit of the Spirit. In other words, love is a spiritual characteristic of those who possess the Spirit or those who have been born again. Perhaps the strongest argument we need to consider is not just that God is loving, but how God was expressing His love before the creation of creation. I contend that love existed in the Godhead from all eternity. In other words, love existed between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit perfectly before the foundation of the world. The Scriptures speak of the Father’s love for the Son (Matt. 3:17, 17:5; Jhn 3:36; 5:20; 10:17; 17:24, 26; Col. 1:13), the submission of the Son to the Father (Jhn. 4:34, 14:31) and the glorification of Christ by the Spirit (Jhn. 16:14).
But God doesn’t just love Himself; He also loves us. Consider John 3:16 and 1 John 4:10, 19.
Genesis 1:27 says man was created in God’s image and likeness. Genesis 3 records the fall of man, which has distorted, but not destroyed the image of God in man. One of the goals of redemption is to be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29), who is the exact image of the Father (Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3). Therefore, God’s purpose is to have His glory displayed in and through redeemed individuals and one way that glory is seen is how believers love one another. Ephesians 3:10 says the church was created to display God’s manifold wisdom. What a grand purpose! Every believer is called to actively display the glory of God individually and also collectively as part of a local church body by loving other believers and being united for the mission of God. Paul prayed for believers in Philippi that their love for one another would abound so that their lives would be filled with the fruit of righteousness (Phil. 1:9-11).
What Love Looks Like
Biblically, love is doing good to and for others for their good, joy and progress in the faith. Love is not restricted to an emotional feeling, but involves self-sacrifice for the good of others (Mk. 10:45; Lk. 10:25-37; Rom. 5:8; 1 Cor. 13; 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 2:5-11; 1 Jhn. 3:16-18).
On Being Loved
Yesterday and today, my wife and I had the opportunity to visit dear friends of ours and we were loved in various ways. After meeting for dinner at a local Indian restaurant, we all headed back to their place for dessert – homemade carrot cake and coffee. We had a great time catching up and our conversation was filled with highs and lows. As the night winded down, instead of going home, my wife and I headed to their spare bedroom to get rest. Yes, our friends invited us to stay the night instead of driving home late in inclement weather. The room and guest bathroom were prepared to accommodate whatever we needed. This morning, we were treated to a grand breakfast (see picture below) and we enjoyed each others’ company for the next several hours. As my wife and I were about to leave, we all held hands, prayed and talked about the next time we would like to get together.
What a gift they are! What hospitality! What love!
What was more compelling about it all is that our friends are going through a trial now, and instead of being inwardly focused, they bended their love outward to us as an expression of the gospel, their gratitude of our Father’s love and their love for us. As I reflected on our time, I was reminded of the Apostle Peter’s words in 1 Peter 4:8-10.
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.
We were served well by our friends and may the Lord reward them richly for their genuine display of love and the gospel.
Anonymity doesn’t experience these type of blessings and encouragements. Anonymity doesn’t accurately paint a picture that portrays the beauties of the gospel. Anonymity’s root is selfishness and is a poor reflection of the character of God. This is why we need to know others and be known by other believers. We need to love and be loved for our own good and for God’s glory. There is a direct connection between loving God and loving His people.
The only way we can love this way is to first be loved by God and then ponder how Christ didn’t remain anonymous, but came, dwelt, taught, and sacrificed His life for His people.
Grace & Peace,