We opened our study on “one another” commands last week with a brief discussion concerning the hierarchy of God’s biblical requirements for the Christian life. When we looked at the breadth of the “one another” commands, we found that they are all directly related to the command to “love thy neighbor as thyself.”
We then looked at a number of specific “one another” commands. Though we did not list all of them, I pray you appreciate the depth and breadth of our Savior’s expectation. We know we can never truly accomplish all that which our Savior requires. Regardless, in striving to selflessly obey His commands we show our love to Him (Jn 14:15).
Today we begin to narrow in on individual “one another” commands. As a study, we will consider not just the command itself, but the context surrounding the command that gives us guidance in implementing the command in our lives. Simply saying we need to love one another will not normally cover all the bases, and an infinite God knows this. Therefore, He gives us examples of how deep our love should go in a variety of situations and applications. This opens our study today.
Though we will begin by looking at John’s gospel, we will consider two other key passages concerning our love for one another. Therefore, John 13:34 is where we begin. We will also look at 15:12 and 17 of this gospel. We will consider 1 Thessalonians 4:9 and 1 Peter 1:22 with our study today.
One is remiss to talk of the love of God and love we should have for one another as believers without mentioning 1 John 3, especially verses 13 through 16 (sermon here). This is a section of scripture where the apostle of love tells how we can know God’s true love. We also learn that it abides in us. What a glorious passage. We learn more about the love that abides in us through chapter 4 verses 7-12 (sermon here), and we learn how to discern between a true and false love of God in 4:20-5:1 (sermon here). We do not desire to omit 1 John 4:11. However, this and other passages from the apostle John are covered extensively in a previous exposition. John the apostle is well known for his description of love, God’s love for us, and how God demonstrates that love toward us (Rom 5:8). We also do not want to ignore 2 John 5, which is very much a repeat of John 14:15, where John teaches that love is really obedience. You best display your love through obedience. This means disciples, husbands, wives, children, employees, church members or whatever capacity you occupy at the time. Your love is perfected in obedience.
Love – this word, and its meaning, has been discussed for many a century. The word we will talk about is the agape love. This love is selfless. It is a love that gives all for the object of love. This love cares not for self. This is a love the drives the very being. It is not an infatuation, but a true, intellectual, spiritual and heartfelt love that grows in all three of these areas regularly. It is not a fanaticism because humility drives it instead of pride or arrogance; and this love inspires others to share it, not hoard it.
Many believe that love is simply a physical coupling. Many believe it is a love shared between husband and wife – that special bond. Some get these two mixed up and that misinterpretation (in combination with the growing self-centeredness of the world) is partly to blame for driving our divorce rate so high. Some believe love is purely visual. Some see it in inanimate objects such as art (variously defined), music, even a career. Loving what you do is one thing, loving it above all things is another.
Love has been described as “a many splendored thing.”[i] It is a truthful representation in some respects because it has many facets in the world. Love can be fleeting to man, but to God it is steadfast and unchanging (praise Him for that!). Wise women know that when a man talks of love for a woman he is normally divulging this with an attitude toward physical attraction. When a woman speaks of love for a man, her attitude is normally one that is emotionally based. Men do get emotional on occasion and women do get physical, but these are still lusts, not love. None of these describes the love of the Bible that God has for us, or what Christ requires that we exhibit to one another.
We have descriptions of love such as “puppy love” which references a lust-filled crush young people might have for another. This enamoring emotion is compelling to the young heart and charged with an over-productive hormone gland.
One thing every form of love does is that it influences relationships. You might ask, how that can be, if one is in love with an inanimate object such as money or Pablo Picasso’s art? Those loves will color all their relationships and discussion if they are selfless deep and abiding passions that guide a life. This can be fanaticism.
John’s gospel tells of an individual who dedicated His life to a different and unique type of love and devotion to people. Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, the Christ did just this – lived a life of pure love for people regardless of station or spiritual condition. He spoke firmly, yet lovingly to many who needed a firm hand. He also spoke the truth in a soft loving manner to those who were honestly seeking truth. In all cases, Christ exhibited true love perfectly. It is something we should all endeavor to do. We do not love just because He did it, and we are to be Christlike. We do not love only because He commanded we love one another. We love because He abides in us so we can love one another.
I. Love of Jesus (John 13:34-35, 15:12, 17)
Our first scripture on the subject is John 13:34-35. When we open here, we must gather context. We should determine if the circumstances and idea behind “love one another” in each of our passages might change. Ask the question, “Were we commanded to love one another in these different passages under different circumstances?” It is a good question to ask. It leads to greater understanding and a better and stronger application of biblical truth to our lives. The answer is that, although the love is the same ultimately, yes the circumstances are slightly different. What does that truth mean in the overall scope of “love one another”? That is what we hope to discover.
In verse 21 of John 13, we find scripture says Jesus is troubled in spirit. His trouble was that He knew the betrayer was present. He even identified the individual to John in verse 26. Still, we find that no one knew what happened (v28). Jesus knew what was going to happen to Him in the next few hours. He had known for some time. Matthew 16:21 records one instance where Jesus talks about His demise. Christ’s sacrifice was told in Isaiah 53 and Mark recorded it in his gospel in 8:31. Jesus knew when He left Heaven that this day would come, and He tried with great loving care to prepare His disciples for this terrible day.
When we turn to verse 34, we have to color this “new commandment” to “love one another as I have loved you” in the light of Christ’s foreknowledge. In the case of Christ, He left Heaven knowing Earth and man were corrupt and evil. He left a place alive, spiritual, vibrant and thriving to become part of His chosen people knowing their spiritual leaders were empty, dead spirits (their throat is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they have used deceit – Rom 3:13). The love we are to have one for another is the love with which He loved us.
Knowing how wicked individuals can be, we are still commanded to love them. Properly placed, this command asks us to put ourselves in Christ’s shoes (or sandals as it were) as He sees the empty souls, black, wicked and full of hate before Him, glaring at Him on the cross, calling out for Him to save them, mocking and spitting on Him. Yet, He loved them the entire time He was here and does even today in Heaven.
We also find a passage in John 15:12. This is our wonderful vine and branches portion of scripture. In this testimony, Jesus tells us we are to love sacrificially and take others into the fellowship of God whom we might find undesirable. Once again, knowing our position, as a sinner worthy of no place before God, we are told that we will be grafted into the true vine (15:1). We are called to abide in Christ, the main branch, just as He abides in us. He feeds us, nourishes us, lives through us. If we live in and for Christ, and He therefore lives in and through us, our prayers are guaranteed to be answered (v7). We should glorify God by bearing much fruit and this too marks us as a disciple of Christ (v9). We are to continue in His love, the love He displayed on the cross. This is a life giving love, a love of obedience to the Father’s commands and requirement for our salvation (v10).
Because we abide in the one true vine, Christ, because we abide in His obedience, we are then encouraged to love one another sacrificially just as He has done for us and taken us into Himself. As He has grafted us into Himself out of love and given Himself selflessly and obediently, we too are to love others and pull them into our living fellowships, this body of Christ at Grace Bible. Love one another and accept all those who God grafts into the Vine as part of the body of Christ.
One last passage we find is verse 17 of John 15. Here we must recognize we already have an understanding of God’s desires for us to love one another as He loved us even as sinners. When others become members of the vine, and here because we are chosen by Him, we are to love them and take them into the body. Brothers and sisters in Christ are obligated to recognize the unique position of the believer before all other men and women on the Earth. Those who have been grafted into the vine have been specifically chosen and appointed by God that they should go and bear fruit on the vine. We support one another in this obedience.
When your brother or sister wrongs you for no reason, when you are told what you believe and are convicted to do is foolishness, when a brother or sister directly hurts you and injures your soul, you are supposed to love them still and give your all for them. Look at the reward we receive in verse 35 – we are accounted among the Disciples of Christ – we are called Christians!
For all those called Christians, we brothers and sisters in Christ are called to love them without exception, without hesitation. We are called to accept them into our fellowship as Christ has grafted them into His vine. He has accepted them as part of His body and we should do no less.
Further, we are to love one another and mutually cultivate the production of spiritual fruit. Verses 13-17 clearly tell us that not only are we part of a vine, and other brothers and sisters are part of the vine, but we are to help each other bear fruit. We are chosen and given the task to produce fruit for God. Love for one another and support for one another in bearing fruit is focused upon the cause of Christ and not on one another’s ego. One may bear much fruit, one little, but both together may produce an over abundance. We should assist one another in love and not contend with one another in the production of fruit.
Paul also encouraged the Thessalonians to “love one another”. Was this different or under a different circumstance? Was there a different reason, a reason specific to the Thessalonians that Paul encourages them to “love one another”?
II. Paul’s encouragement to Love (1 Thess 4:9)
The Thessalonians seemed to have many questions for Paul. In 1 Thessalonians 4:9 we find an interesting comment where Paul reminds them they were “taught of God to love one another.”
When we review this passage, we might immediately think this has direct reference back to our Leviticus passage of last week, “love thy neighbor as thyself.” We have to admit, it does fall under that umbrella. Nevertheless, the fact is that it does not directly reference that commandment for the reasons we established last week. Loving your neighbor is a general command to all mankind. This command to the Thessalonians is specific to the believers in the church at Thessalonica.
Paul is encouraging the Thessalonians to walk in Christ (v1). This passage is about the changes (sanctification) of a believer from a worldly life to a godly life in Christ. Roman business and life were fraught with deception, sins of many sorts and kinds as evidenced by the many lists of sins Paul documented in Romans and the Corinthian epistles, among others. These sins were normal functions of life in the Roman world.
We can quickly and easily apply this to our lives today. We find deception all around us. Our politicians only tell us half of the truth. Our public school teachers are legally authorized to lie to children about abstinence and only teach some sort of maintenance program concerning childhood sexual intimacy and therefore promote sexual immorality. Our whole society is currently embroiled in a variety of litigations aimed at protecting people’s feelings with respect to speech tolerance that oppress the freedom of religion we are supposed to enjoy. No one wants to be told they are wrong in any way. Children’s self-esteem must be bolstered by new age math were 2+2 can equal five until it’s important to know the truth. We try to teach our children that they must be truthful even when it might hurt; yet in instances where we think their emotions might be affected, we lie to them. That’s just the right thing to do isn’t it? So, Bobby is being permitted to wear girls’ clothes because he is “discovering himself.”[ii]
In contrast to this environment, Paul encourages the Thessalonians to honor and glorify God (v7). He challenges them. All sin is perpetrated against God, therefore believers should be holy in their walk if they claim to love God.
Even when all around you seems to be filled with evil and people completely filled with their own desires, wants and lusts – walk with God. Be ye holy for I am holy (1 Peter 1:16). Further, we should help one another walk with God. The assistance we give to one another shows our love for one another. We give up food, clothing, space, counsel and just time to care for and love one another in Christ. We support another’s walk and their growing sanctification in Christ by supporting them through the love of Christ.
Our final passage today is in 1 Peter 1:22. What is the context? What is the difference between John and Paul’s encouragements and Peter’s epistle here?
III. Peter Preaches Love (1 Pet 1:22)
After opening in glory to God the Father and Jesus Christ our Lord, Peter encourages steadfastness during trials and tribulations. We are to glory in the great hope of Christ and His return (v7). He encourages us to stay focused upon Christ and His promise for salvation and resurrection through the toughest of times.
Peter encourages us to strengthen our mental capacity, to “gird up the loins of your mind (v13).” This is a call to prepare our minds for action, set our minds to work and exercise such that we can combat the evils of the world. Peter points us back to the word of God to seek the truths of Jesus Christ. We are called to change our lusts through this education to an earnest desire for the things of God “as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation” (v15).
God calls us to holiness, He calls us to change – to walk and be more holy, to love holiness, to have no respect of one person over another. Our charge is to remember that we were redeemed with blood spilt to cleanse our souls. The precious blood of Christ was drained and poured over all of mankind in order to free us from the bonds of sin.
His task was, as John noted, foreordained and known by Him. Therefore, we too are to recognize God’s selection of believer’s souls. We support them in the love of God as they are purified and we strive together to obey the truth through God’s Spirit. We are to love one another fervently, zealously and adoringly, knowing that God chose us for salvation. Our hearts should soar with love toward other believers and never be bound due to our sin.
In John, we see a fervent love toward one another that calls us to be like Christ in knowledge of the sins of others, but loving selflessly just the same. In Paul, we see a call to love that supports one another to a higher level of holiness. In Peter we see both of these combined as he encourages holiness for sanctifying love toward others as well as seeing the death, burial and resurrection of Christ as efficacious for love toward one another. All this recognizes the sovereignty of God and His selection of believers.
As we have studied these verses, we must note that all of these relationships are closely knit, based in close worship and fellowship with Christ and other believers, and focused upon His salvation of our souls. These people know one another very well. They know the good and the sins each have committed, are committing or are in danger of perpetrating. Brothers and sisters in Christ know the pain and suffering they may have caused others, and even themselves. We know what we have done, and what others are capable of doing, yet we love one another.
Equally, they know the good things. The believers in these verses know that those they are being called to love have a testimony; they have believed in Christ, they have called upon His name and given themselves and their lives over to the Messiah for His eternal care.
Do you know the believers around you? Do you love those believers unconditionally, and selflessly? Would you be willing to give your life for them, help them minister and care for others regardless what you know about them? That is loving one another.
If you struggle with loving other Christians just think of the Savior as He ministered to all, while knowing the vast majority would never believe and that most were not chosen (1 Pet 1:1-2). He knew He would be betrayed by every last one at the crucifixion. Yet, He loved every one of them unconditionally and gave Himself for them regardless of what He knew, what He was experiencing and what the eternal outcome of each soul was to be. Even in His perfect knowledge, He loved in the way we are called to love one another. In our imperfect knowledge, we should all the more seek His strength to do the same and love one another.
Some may attempt the excuse that ” He is Christ, He is Perfection.” This is a cop out. You are supposed to become Christlike, more holy in your walk. That is the sanctification that the first chapter of 1 Peter talks about. The command is “love one another” – given by Christ, and given in our scriptures by John, Paul and Peter. You will either obey or not. But remember that keeping His commandments is the purest demonstration of love (John 14:15).
[i] Paul F. Webster (lyrics), Sammy Fain (Music).
[ii] All of this sociological nonsense develops, garners and encourages deception and falsehood. Has any one ever asked these elite thinkers why the animal kingdom, so low on the intellectual totem pole, has no problem figuring out their male or female orientation and function? Yet, the “intellectually advanced” have to “discover” themselves.
For some reason the obvious is questioned out of a higher sense of evolution. It seems to us “simple” people that these types of folks will evolve themselves out of existence because they cannot reproduce themselves. However – they can teach others to think normal is not normal and that anyone can define their own normalcy. That is dangerous and the reason homosexuals should have no influence over children (we understand this is a very emotionally and politically charged subject). This rebellion against normalcy confuses children who are highly impressionable – they are followers. You could teach a child that speaking Swahili in America was the norm and they would grow up thinking everyone else was weird that spoke English.
If we followed this abnormal logic to its evil ending, we would not just have to accept homosexuality, but pedophilia, serial killers and mass murder (among other things). These activities must become accepted norms even though they are seen as abnormal today. Psychologists would be out of work and so would lawyers. No longer would we have to prosecute murder or study the “abnormal” mind because there would be no abnormality or murder (relatively speaking). Those who accept things as “normal” in any way might become the focus of litigation or analysis. After all, in a relative world, an activity is simply defined by each individual as normal for them and therefore must be accepted by the rest of mankind.
Undeveloped man (say … a Christian) has not caught up with the higher developed evolutionary progress of these relative intellectual elitists. Right now, homosexuals and other deviants from current day normalcy may deny this train of thought; but eventually, since they are already advanced evolutionarily over that of the traditionalist, they will come around. If the animal kingdom did evolve in this way, they would evolve themselves into extinction (we could discuss the futility and nonsensical efforts of man to prevent this a la the endangered species act). Is extinction the ultimate end in the evolutionary train of thought with respect to intellectualism and the relative life of man?