1 JOHN 4
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7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
The writings of John are an unequaled epitome of divine expression on this subject. He tells us that God is Love, that He dwells in Love, and that Love is of God.
All the inspired writings testify to this. Even as God in all His works was motivated by Love, so do we find it the keynote of His messages to man.
It is, perhaps, difficult to realize and appreciate, to the extent which we should, the great Love that God has demonstrated. We may not easily regard our all-powerful Author from this point of view. We see Him as great Jehovah-omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent -- creating and sustaining all.
But let us dwell on the marvelous extent of the affection He bears His children. Through His Love, in the beginning, He made man in His own glorious likeness, placed him in pleasant and beautiful surroundings, gave him dominion over the whole earth and provided him with all he could reasonably desire, and more than he proved himself worthy of, for it was not long before he manifested both disobedience and ingratitude.
He fell, but in administering the forewarned punishment, God's Love was again evidenced by tempering the sentence of death with a ray of Hope and the assurance of the ultimate extinction of sin.
But man fell again, and so the history follows. God, with Love and patience inconceivable, repeatedly returned to him as repentance was manifested, and led him anew to the way which, if faithfully pursued, would bring him life.
This Divine affection led Noah into the Ark, and called forth Abraham to become a great nation. It guided this same nation, rarely appreciative or obedient, into the promised land, and watched over them there. They were assured of His protection and Love, but it did not inspire them to obedience.
"Because God loved you,"
-- Moses was told to tell them --
"He hath brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of bondmen."
But even before they had reached the land, and while miraculously sustained by food from above, they murmured against their divine Deliverer.
We cannot but marvel at the infinite patience that the Lord revealed -- humoring them, comforting them, and ever protecting them, when in a moment, He could have destroyed them all, but did not for the Love He bore their fathers.
And, continuing on, His Love completely pervades their subsequent history throughout the Old Testament, in which, too, is apparent a continuous and beautiful foreshadowing of the greatest manifestation of that all-embracing Love, the fulfilment of which is reserved for the New -- *
10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Although it assumes such magnificent proportions, it is far from a blind, misdirected indulgence as is often the unfortunate case with earthy parents. It is Love administered with an incomprehensible intelligence, chastening when necessary, rebuking when necessary, but always for our ultimate benefit.
It is ever-vigilant, guarding, and guiding, but it does not rob the recipient of character. It is true that God is our Refuge and our Strength, but we must remember that:
"Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth."
And It is --
"By much tribulation that we must enter the Kingdom."
No less remarkable is the Love that controlled every act of our great High Priest, His perfect Son, who -- at the end of a life spent in untiring and unselfish service for his brethren -- submitted to crucifixion that these brethren whom he loved might have life and have it more abundantly. Here, too, we find the words of John the deepest and most expressive --
"Greater Love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
"Hereby perceive we Love, because he laid down his life for us."
Whenever we consider the extremes to which the faithful followers of Christ were led by their Love for him and the Father, we are invariably pursued by uneasiness and misgivings as we compare our meager services with theirs. Christ's requirements of his followers are clearly given in Luke 14:26:
"If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple."
"And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple."
This they gladly and unhesitatingly did, and we find them saying in childlike Faith, as he showed them the Father's purpose --
"Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee."
Are we not disquieted by the unfavorable comparison of our sacrifices with theirs? They made God's service the only interest in their lives. They gave up everything for it. For it they were reviled, despised, persecuted, scourged, imprisoned, stoned, and often put to death.
What do we do to compare with this, with our many pleasures, peaceful lives, and unmolested worship?
Consider especially the sufferings of Paul. We are all familiar with them as they are enumerated in 2nd Corinthians 11:23-27:
"Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft."
"Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one; thrice was I beaten with rods; once was I stoned; thrice I suffered shipwreck; a night and day I have been in the deep."
"In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren."
"In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness."
For the Truth's sake, and in the service of God, have any of us ever even once had an experience like this? But Paul's weary existence was FULL of such. And he says:
"I have suffered the loss of all things and do count them but dung that I may win Christ" (Phil. 3:8).
Looking back twenty centuries to the far distant scenes of Biblical history, is it not much too easy to regard the things said, done, and endured in an illusionary and unreal light? We read of them persecuted and pursued from city to city, but always preaching, without fully realizing the magnitude of their distress.
But if we picture them as men whose love of life and pleasure was just as strong as is ours; and to whom hardships, sacrifices, losses, pain, and weariness were just as difficult to bear as they are for us; men who enjoyed reviling, scorn, and contempt to no greater degree than do we; and to whom the world was just as hard and real as it is to us -- then the full measure of their love is clear.
It may be argued that these early brethren received greater strength, greater signs, greater guidance and greater revelation than we -- but were they really so much more highly favoured?
Which is more comforting -- to see Christ disappear in the clouds, and look forward to a persecuted existence of painful waiting, or to have irrefutable assurance that his return is imminent, and our redemption draweth nigh?
Which is more encouraging -- to see the Jews scattered and dispersed in God's wrath, or to see them regathered by His guiding Love?
Which is more strengthening -- to have God's purpose foretold or to see it fulfilled and almost completely consummated?
True, theirs was the comfort of the presence and companionship of Christ, but if our faith is as it should be, his spiritual presence should be as comforting to us; and remember, too, they carried on after he had left them, and were faithful unto death. John confidently wrote:
"There is no fear in love, for perfect love casteth out fear."
Ample proof this is, to be sure, of the vital importance that the disciples attached to the possession of this quality, but it is not necessary to resort to inference to draw such conclusions, for divine command is stronger on no other subject.
That we must evidence and exercise love constantly and continuously is the theme of countless exhortations in the New Testament.
Consider the reply of Christ, when asked which was the greatest commandment. He told his interrogator, a querulous Pharisee, to love the Lord with all his heart, soul and mind, and his neighbour as himself, for on those two commandments the whole Law rested.
"Love," said Paul, is the one word that fulfills all the law.
Quotations such as these are innumerable and how could it be otherwise when Love was the very heart and foundation of the Gospel they preached? Do we wonder why John was particularly cited as the disciple whom Jesus loved? We need not if we consider his character.
No other gospel than his evinces such a deep and loving understanding of the Master, no other epistles are so replete with exhortations and commendation of Love, and no other disciple was more wholly animated by the fervour of his affection for the Lord.
What better example could be cited of the fulfillment of Christ's assurance that "He that loveth Me shall be loved of my Father, and I will Love him and will manifest myself to him."
It was to John, we remember, that Christ made his last, most wonderful manifestation -- the visions of the Revelation.
Thus is Love established as the primary and paramount virtue, the most nourishing and upbuilding of the fruit of the Spirit.
Though none would doubt, in the face of the foregoing evidence, Love's essentiality, there may be diversity as to its interpretation. In fact, the general conception is far from that Love idealized by the Scriptures.
There are many that think that Love is completely fulfilled if a benevolent and kindly but passive attitude is maintained before all, and who consider their duty to God amply discharged if they worship Him and ascribe to Him all wisdom and power.
True, these are inseparable from Love, but this is not what Love fundamentally means.
Love is not merely worship, adoration, and awe. It is not that passive quality it is all too often represented as. It involves and necessitates unquestioning obedience, unselfish sacrifice, unswerving devotion, and untiring service:
"This is Love, that we walk after His commandments."
The Love God requires is preeminently service:
"By Love SERVE one another."
-- we read, and this is the true meaning of --
"Love thy neighbor as thyself."
John pleads (1 Jn. 3:18):
"Let us not Love in word, but in deed and truth."
If God merely looked upon us with tender and affectionate regard, and took no further care for us, our plight would indeed be a sorry one. But God, to whom the nations are as a drop in the bucket, has highly favored and shown us the way of life, and watches over our welfare every moment.
When we think of the millions who live and die in ignorance of these things, we realize how greatly blessed we are. Ours is a very responsible position, for each of us has been chosen from thousands to receive this revelation from God.
And it is a saddening and sobering thought that the handful who are called are "many" when compared to the few who are finally chosen. But John assures us that we may have boldness in the day of judgment if our Love is made perfect.
If Christ had been content to preach charity and goodwill, and had not the Love which led him to lay down his life for his brethren, our Hope would at best be meager and dim. But Christ's interpretation of Love conformed perfectly with God's life time, selfless service.
It may appear absurd to say that all that is required to be recipients of God's promised glory is Love, but not when it is realized what that Love entails. It must be of the same purity and exalted holiness as that which the Father Himself has evidenced.
Such Love is not a natural human attribute. It plays no part in the mind of the flesh. It must be the result of a victory of the spiritual over the carnal.
Love bestowed upon one who returns it brings no credit or reward to the donor, for, Christ tells us, even sinners do that. But, he continues, "Love your enemies," by which he means:
"Do good to them that hate you."
-- not just think or wish good. This to all men, and much more so to the Brotherhood.
As incidents arise to test our character and fitness as vessels for God's glory, the human and natural impulse which immediately presents itself knows nothing of Love, but would seek instant vindication and redress.
This must be overcome, even as must be the invariable tendency to interpret doubtful actions in a bad light, for even assuming that this interpretation be the correct one (as it rarely is) -- still our course is clear, and Love practiced at such a time affords the only reliable proof that our battle with the flesh is a winning one:
"Love covereth a multitude of sins."
The whole scriptural theme is summarized In Paul's words:
"By Love serve one another."
-- continuously and without respect of persons or thought of thanks or appreciation, remembering that if we Love one another, GOD DWELLETH IN US; and that service to the least of these is service to the Lord.
It will not always bring Joy as the world conceives Joy; it will not always be productive of peace as it is now known, but, if this course is truly and faithfully pursued, the quiet, comforting Joy of a loving and malice-free heart, and the tranquil, confident peace of a conscience pure before God, will be ours in this present time, and in the world to come, life everlasting.
Finally, let us remember Paul's admonition to be rooted and grounded in Love, that Christ's parting words to his faithful followers may be fulfilled in us:
"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have Love one to another."
Bro Growcott - The Fruit Of The Spirit