1 JOHN 3
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1 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.
It is fitting that he should begin there for, as he tells us, the love of God for man is the root and well-spring of all our love for God and for each other. It is the motive and force behind all love.
God's love for man, as supremely manifested in His only begotten Son, is the transforming power and incentive of all holiness and righteousness --
"We are more than conquerors through him that loved us" (Rom. 8:37).
"The life I now live, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loves me and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20).
"The love of Christ constraineth us" (2 Cor. 5:14).
'We love, because He first loved us" (1 Jn. 4:19).
Beginning chapter 3, and arising from the thought of this marvellous manifestation of God's love in calling us, as weak, erring mortals, to be His children in glory, the apostle stresses how this hope and promise must lead us to holiness, how out of place and out of harmony any worldliness or ungodliness is with this divine relationship. *
2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
How consoling and cheering is it, then, amid all the evils of the present state, that God hath found a ransom, who is willing and able to deliver us from the power of the grave; and not only so, but that "at the manifestation of the sons of God " (Rom. 8:17-25), when He shall appear in power and great glory, "we shall be like Him: because we shall see Him as He is" (1 John 3:2). Then will the saints be "changed into the same image from glory," now only a matter of hope, "into glory," as seen and actually possessed, "even as the Lord " Himself was changed, when He became "the spirit giving life," or "a quickening spirit."
Elpis Israel 1.2.
3 And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.
For acceptable walk in the Truth, and for ecclesial health and harmony and a state of true mutual spiritual joyfulness to which we as the sons and daughters of God are freely invited, it is necessary that the Spirit's teachings on the subject of love be continually and repeatedly presented before the mind.
The love which the Scriptures present to us as the fundamental characteristic of godliness is not a natural thing. It is contrary to all that is natural. It is purely a spiritual thing. It is a divine, transforming, unearthly principle of life.
It is a power and force that overcomes and subdues all that is natural. It is the "bond of perfectness" -- the bond -- the binding together -- the uniting, the unifying power of perfection -- unity of perfection -- perfect oneness -- based upon the only possible basis for perfect oneness -- an enthusiastic mutual striving toward perfection. *
8 He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.
9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
'... nevertheless, the apostle John says, in another place, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us;" "All unrighteousness is sin;" but there are sins unto death, and there are sins not unto death, for which we may obtain mercy and pardon, if we confess them before the mercy-seat. "If any man see his brother sin a sin not unto death, he shall ask, and He shall give him life for them that sin not unto death."
Those who have in truth been born again and are in reality the children of the kingdom, will not be guilty of heinous offences, or outbreaking sins; but still they may be, and frequently are guilty of trespassing against the commandments of God in a greater or less degree, according to the differences in their natural organizations and temperaments; but is it permissible for them to continue in this state of trespassing during the whole of their course? Assuredly not; shall we sin because grace abounds? asks Paul-God forbid. The son or daughter who desires to stand high in the love and favour of their Father, cannot do this. We must not rest satisfied with the idea that we shall escape condemnation along with the wicked; it is not only necessary to abstain from committing sins; there are virtues to cultivate, and graces whereby to adorn the gospel of Christ.
The Ambassador of the Coming Age, Aug 1867. p186-187.
If this seem inconsistent with what John says -- ("Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God"--1 John 3:9) -- it is only because the particular sense of John's word is lost sight of through not attending to the contention of those he was confuting.
"These things", he says, "I write concerning them that seduce you." These men, in the language of Jude, "turned the grace of our God into lasciviousness": that is, made the fact of justification by grace through faith a reason for "continuing in sin that grace might abound" (Rom. 6:1).
In contradistinction to those, John maintains that the man who holds the hope of seeing and being like Christ at his coming, "purifieth himself as he (Christ) is pure" (verse 3) -- lives not in sin as other men do: cannot do so, for the seed of the word which brings forth fruit in harmony with itself, is in him and remains in him.
It is morally impossible for a man believing the truth to live in rebellion against its demands. Such a man, begotten by the truth and changed by the truth, will necessarily love the truth and all things connected with the truth -- the God of the truth, the sons of the truth, and the principles, obligations, and commandments of the truth. Such a man "cannot" live as the world lives, which is controlled in all ranks by" the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life".
The universal law of affinities will make him stand apart from a system so alien to all that he loves, admires, and hopes for. He cannot sin in the sense contended for by "the evil men and seducers" whom John was writing against.
Law of Moses.
10 In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.
Any ill feeling to any of our brethren cuts us off from relationship to God.
"For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another."
We notice that he divides all mankind into two relationships -- the children of God and the children of the Devil.
This is a very sobering thought -- if we are not one, we are the other. There are no neutrals --we are either of the Seed of the Woman -- that is, of Christ in harmony with the mind of Christ, or we are of the Seed of the Serpent.
And he gives two identifications of the children of God --
1. Doing righteousness.
2. Loving his brother.
Let us try to fully realize the prominent and vital place this matter of loving our brethren is given in the commands of God. We find that John returns to it again and again...*
11 For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
Any aim short of perfection is not unifying, but dividing and breaking up. No group can have true unity unless it is wholly and wholeheartedly dedicated to the pursuit of divine perfection.
And Love is the "bond of perfectness." Unless we as a group mutually possess this bond together, we might as well go our separate ways -- because we shall never have any true ecclesial unity or spiritual life without it.
Let us face this basic fact of ecclesial life. If we are not prepared as a whole body to love each other with a pure heart fervently, then our assembling together is utterly meaningless; we are just another poor little lost group among millions of others. It is worse than meaningless -- it is a sad, pitiful delusion -- destined only to failure.
The Body of Christ is not a lot of little isolated individual compartments. It is not a limited association merely for form and convenience -- it is one intimate, closely-knit intensely interdependent unity --
"By one Spirit are we all baptized into one Body."
"The eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of thee."
"God hath tempered the body together ... that the members should have the same care one for another." *
13 Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.
Our meeting... has a meaning which is appreciated by those only who understand the truth, and by few of them as it ought to be. By the world without, it is regarded with quiet scorn. They see in it nothing but an idle ceremony-an effete piece of sacerdotalism- the lingering shadow of an ancient superstition.
They may respect those who persevere in it from week to week; they may approvingly regard them as at least persons of sincerity, who act consistently with their professed convictions: but their respect is mixed with pity for what they consider weakness, and regret that honest purpose should be thrown away on what they regard as a bootless enterprise.
Their feelings are also strongly tinctured with a resentful contempt for the implied condemnation of their own position; for of course our being right involves that they are fatally wrong. Indeed, this implied condemnation is at the bottom of all the hostility ever shown by the world towards those who walk in the way of God. "Only admit that we are right also," say they, "and we will agree to differ": but this is just what the believers of the Gospel cannot do; hence the traditional "enmity."
We have to thank God that we live in a day when the world has no power to give practical effect to its hostile feelings against the friends of Christ.
Bro Roberts - Breaking of Bread
14 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.
Here is a simple, but deeply searching test that we can each apply to ourselves, to see if we really have passed from death to life -- to see if we really are "in the faith," or just living a lie.
Do we find ourselves powerfully moved and motivated by love, kindness, concern, gentleness, sympathy, patience, and desire to render comfort and service to all our brethren? Not just a limited few who happen to please us and appeal to us, but to all --especially to those who seem least lovable -- these are the ones most in need of patience and guidance and brotherly kindness.
If this is not honestly true of us, then we must face the implication of John's searching words --- we have not passed from death to life -- we are not "in Christ" -- we are not "in the faith" -- we have not properly learned the Gospel -- we have not entered the divine family -- we are still "children of the devil," *
15 Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.
16 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
"By this we know love," or "From this we learn what love is" -- "that he laid down his life for us."
When the Scriptures speak of love, they do not mean some puny little part-time hobby...
love in the true, scriptural sense is not the flabby, shapeless, foggy sentimentalism as presented by the churches of the world, but a clear, precise, careful adherence to specific divine instructions based upon a pure zeal and affection for God...
Love, in the scriptural sense is a tremendous, all-consuming passion for goodness and service to others -- and if we haven't got it we are not the children of God. John goes on --
"And we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren."
Not just be willing to face death for them in some very unlikely far-off emergency -- but give our whole PRESENT lives for them.
The next verse should be imperishably engraved on our hearts. It carries the seeds of a deeper, broader, more world-shaking revolution than this planet has ever yet seen -- *
17 But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?
It is for each alone to search his heart and, as standing in the presence of God, to decide just what, and how much, that statement means to him, remembering that it is impossible to obey it too much, but fatally easy to obey it too little.
"WHOSO HATH THIS WORLD'S GOODS, AND SEETH HIS BROTHER HAVE NEED -- HOW DWELLETH THE LOVE OF GOD IN HIM?"
And let us remember that the Scriptures are not speaking of little, conscience-salving, token handouts, but on the large scale of the love of Jesus --
"Love one another, as I have loved you."
Are we BIG enough to be children of God, or are these teachings too vast and noble for our petty, selfish, earthy natures to rise to? *
18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.
There is much -- SO much -- talk about love, but where shall we find that life-giving, self- sacrificing love of which John speaks as essential to salvation? Is it the rule among us? Are we the children of God, or is our "love" that of word and tongue, such kind words of sympathy --
"Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled -- we are so sorry to hear of your trouble, we hope everything will be all right. We'll come and see you again."
What a noble feeling it gives us to be so kind and sympathetic "in tongue and word!"
"Let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth."
There is a terrible reckoning in store on the matter of selfishness and unfaithful stewardship. *
19 And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.
IF we are living and rejoicing in this divine love which the apostle has so beautifully described. *
20 For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.
Do our hearts condemn us as we measure ourselves by this one and only way of life? *
23 And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.
Nearly twenty times in this epistle this same command is emphasized -- that we MUST love one another. It is the key and theme of the whole epistle. *
*Bro Growcott - Bond of Perfectness.