Today: [1 John 3:] The Outworking of God’s Love in Us. In chapter 3 of 1 John the apostle insists that love and obedience must be walked out in the life of the believer. It isn’t enough to believe doctrinally or conceptually the truth of God. We must walk out what we believe, and the primary way that manifests is by our love one for another.
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[1Jo 3:1-24 KJV] 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. 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. 3 And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. 4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. 5 And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. 6 Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. 7 Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. 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. 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. 11 For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 Not as Cain, [who] was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous. 13 Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you. 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. 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. 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? 18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. 19 And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. 20 For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. 21 Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, [then] have we confidence toward God. 22 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. 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. 24 And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.
Chapter 3 begins with the apostle extolling the virtues of the love of God as the basis of our sonship in the kingdom. One of the significant challenges of Christian culture is to represent itself to an uninterested world. John states that the world doesn’t know or understand the believer because it didn’t understand Jesus Himself. This statement is reminiscent of John 15:18 by the same author quoting the words of Jesus:
[Jhn 15:18 KJV] 18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before [it hated] you.
What might we conclude from this? There is a concern that the church remains relevant to contemporary culture. Even conservative journalists and religious leaders are declaring that the church is dead because of declining numbers and lack of enthusiasm for attendance. The suggestion is if we are not drawing the world’s interest there is something desperately wrong. Let us remember then the words of John and Jesus. The world will hate the true church. It doesn’t understand faith and never will. We cannot measure our validity by how popular we are or how much positive coverage we get in the press.
We are the sons of God John declares, and upon His appearing, we shall be more like him than we are today. We shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is. This v. 3 tells us is the purifying hope of the believer. If we sin we are transgressors, but Jesus came that He might take away our sins. The measure of our knowledge of Christ is not how carnal we can be and still claim to be a Christian. When He shows up in our lives, the result will be a life lived beyond the contamination of personal iniquity and sin. A revelation of Christ that is unaccompanied by a pronounced emphasis on personal holiness is not genuine.
Jesus came to take away sin, and if we abide in sin, it is (v. 6) an indication that we have not seen Him neither do we know Him.
Here is the deception (v. 7). If we have appropriated the righteousness of Christ, it will make itself known to us in our character. If sin is resident in our lives, it is of the devil who sinned from the beginning. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil; therefore if He is indeed manifested in our lives, there will be an indication of it in our godly character. If we are born of God (v. 9) we will not sin. This emphatic statement is not consistent with contemporary Christian thought. Today we think that no one is perfect and everyone sins without exception. To aspire to sinlessness is seen as hypocrisy but this is precisely what John is advocating we set our sights on. If we are born of God John declares – we cannot sin. In this are the children of God and the children of Satan manifest.
Why is John making these statements? Because even in the first century there were those that took the position “let us sin that grace may abound.” What then is the qualifier? If we say, we have the righteousness of God and do not walk in love toward our brother we are in error. The commandment Jesus gave from the beginning was that we love one another (v. 11). The literal meaning of the word love here implies we are to “be satisfied with, the honor, to receive, to greet and to treat one another preferentially.” In other words, we are to be indifferent one of another.
Cain (v. 12) was indifferent to his brother Abel. He only thought of himself and the quality of his sacrifice. As Cain hated Abel, so the world hates us. That word “hate” means to “love less.” People in the world will insist that they don’t hate Christians because they are ambivalent toward the faith, but this indifference is the very definition of what the Bible tells us constitutes hatred of God and hatred of the believer. If we are indifferent toward one another or toward the things of the Father that constitutes us as God-haters.
How do we perceive the love of God? We perceive the love of God by the degree to which we are willing to be inconvenienced in preference one of another. Jesus laid down His life for us; hence we lay down our lives for our brothers. John makes a very personal application here. If we have this world’s goods and see a brother in need and are indifferent and uncaring the love of God does not dwell in us. Love then must be evident in our actions and not just our attitude. It is by our actions (v. 19) we assure our hearts before God.
What if our heart condemns us (v. 20). If you scrutinize yourself with any humility, it will be difficult at any point to come to the conclusion that you are a wholly godly person. Remember that God is greater than our heart and thereby we are not condemned. Our heart is not the last judge in matters of faith. God knows all things and judges us by a different measurement than that which others use or we ourselves for that matter. Nonetheless, our confidence in God is tied to our reception to the commandments of God and their implementation in our lives.
What is the command of God? That we should believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and to love one another. Loving one another does not save us but if we are saved and if we do believe in Jesus it will be evident in our love one for another. If we keep His commandments, we dwell in Him, and He lives in us. We know that He abides in us by the witness of the Spirit made manifest not only in our thoughts but in our deeds.
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