1 John 5:2 “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.”
There are times when I’m reading scripture and I’m forced to stop and ask myself what that portion of scripture is really saying.
As a young man I was responsible for memorizing scripture as part of the curriculum my christian school required. I would study the words and verses then at the end of the week recite the portion I was responsible for to my instructor. I was more concerned with getting the correct recitation than I was about growing in understanding of that scripture. Today I’ve learned I need to pay closer attention to what the scripture is saying rather than speed reading the Bible or simply regurgitating the material.
The letter of first John contains many ideas for what it means to be a true believer. John declared his purpose for writing the letter in verse 13:
1 John 5:13 “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.”
The idea was that John was expressing his thoughts to the church with an encouragement to remind them of their future hope, this gives me a foundation to interpret the words as if they were spoken to me.
If I claim to believe in Jesus Christ as my Savior there is a very specific way I should respond.
1 John 5:1 “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.”
- If I am truly associated with the love of Jesus I will demonstrate that same love for others who have been born of God.
If I can’t love others within the church, I am living in a state of separation from God. In other words, the love of God fills the hearts of people living in Him so if I find myself struggling to show love to others then something is causing me to lose that love expressed….namely sin.
Sin corrupts our relationship to God. Sin also corrupts our relationship with others.
The difficulty in admitting my own lack of character when it comes to my relationship to others is the pride that inhibits the restoration of my relationship to God.
1 John 3:14 “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. The one who does not love remains in death.”
John seems to continually hold a mirror up to the church to help them see themselves for who they are. If I cannot find the love necessary for being obedient to God, then I must question whether I have ever trusted in Him at all.
It’s very difficult for someone to question another’s salvation, it’s much more poignant to see it for ourselves. The sign of God’s presence in a true believers heart is the love of God expressed.
I’d like to look once more at vs. 2 but from a NLT point of view “We know we love God’s children if we love God and obey his commandments.”
This scripture seems to be backwards. If I were to write this I would describe it by saying “If we love God and obey His commandments then we will love the children of God”, but John places them in reverse order.
What this implies is that we must first focus on loving God and being obedient to Him. If we focus on loving others first, we will lack the power necessary to fulfill this commandment, the commandment Jesus described as new.
The New Commandment
John 13:34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”
Jesus describes how the model for loving one another was modeled by Him first. But why is this a new commandment?
Prior to Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection, the people of God did not share the same Spirit of God within them. Salvation was made possible by this single event that happened at a very specific time in history.
This is why people who died previously did not go to Heaven, no matter how godly they were. Even though God exists outside of time and space, He entered into our existence and subjected Himself to our reality. The “New” commandment was given because God’s people now have the capacity to truly love one another, a love that is first given by God upon salvation. When Salvation occurs, the Holy Spirit enters into the life of the new believer. The capacity to love begins when God imparts His love unto them.
We cannot spiritualize every event in the Bible otherwise we will continually be pressed to understand what is real and what is not. For instance, post-tribulation adherents believe that much of what was recorded in the Bible regarding last days events was spiritual in nature. They believe they weren’t meant to be taken literally, they were spiritual ideas that had more of a broad based application. People have argued against this position since the ones who believe this have to disregard very specific details that the Bible mentions regarding times and places.
Jesus’ death and resurrection was an empirical event, in other words it was meant for a very specific time in history and was observed by those who lived at that time. Those people who watched Jesus’ life, learned from His teaching, and eventually confirmed His testimony as the Messiah, these are the ones who give testimony to us today through the Bible.
1 John 5:9 “Since we believe human testimony, surely we can believe the greater testimony that comes from God. And God has testified about his Son.”
The testimony of God was evident first during the life of Christ. When Jesus was being baptized by John, God the Father spoke from Heaven declaring His Son to be True.(Matthew 3:17)
When Jesus went up to the mount of Transfiguration, the disciples also witnessed the testimony of God.(Matthew 17:2)
When Jesus predicted His death on the cross He said a prayer that He might have strength and glorify the Father, the Father responded from Heaven how His glory continues to be proclaimed no matter what man may do. (John 12:28)
After Jesus ascended back into Heaven, He left us His Spirit that we may now proclaim His glory.
The testimony of God continues in and through His people today.
1 John 5:11-12 “And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.”
This life that God’s people share today is not for selfish gain. This life is to be expressed toward one another in love and encouragement, I in turn can then become a testimony to the world of God’s redeeming grace.
God has no trouble glorifying Himself, we are the ones who struggle with that representation.
If your wrestling with acting in love for others or for that matter truly showing love to God, then pray…it is those types of prayers that God honors.
1 John 5:14-15 “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”
A prayer prayed according to God’s will is a prayer that is certainly answered. When we pray contrary to God’s will is when we feel God doesn’t hear us. We know God’s will when know God’s heart.
- God’s will is that we love Him and obey Him.
- God’s will is that we love one another.
- God’s will is that we demonstrate His love to the world.
There are many different ways God’s commandments are fulfilled in His people and in each way God directs is how many ways He has raised up each person specifically. You may have been called to preach the gospel to your village, you may be called to share God’s love to the homeless or to go into the most dangerous places on earth and be a light.
Regardless of how God leads, the principles remain the same. We can measure our response to His command. You may be in a time of preparation, you may be waiting for the signal to step out in faith, or for God to open the door.
Loving God can be narrowed down to a very specific guideline….obey Him.
This is how we show love, Jesus first walked in obedience to the Father and now He calls us to do the same.
The end of that journey is eternal life.