1 John 3:16-18
While John 3:16 (the most widely known verse in the bible) speaks to us of the greatness of God’s love, 1 John 3:16 explains what love is and how it works. Verses 16-18
Describe our obligation to love, and
Deny that love exists where it is not demonstrated.
(Sounds like a sermon outline!)
The pivotal verse, v. 16, defines love as taking action on behalf of another, that is, Jesus “laid down his life for us,” and that’s “how we know what love is.” Love is volitional not emotional. It does something, not feels something.
The obligation follows: “And we ought to lay down our lives for one another.” To be a follower of Jesus Christ means to share his purpose in life. Since he came to “love” on Calvary’s cross, we are now under obligation to do exactly that. One might say that since he took our place on the cross, we are now to take his place in the world. As his body, we do those things he would do if he were here. We fulfill his desires for those he died for. In a real sense we are “Jesus” in our world, reacting to need as he would, speaking a helpful word as he would, placing the needs of others on the same level as our own as he would. What is the Christian life if not carrying out in every day practical ways his concerns for others? You can’t reflect Jesus if the mirror of your life is covered with little posts on how God could better serve you.
Now comes the illustration. Let’s say that you are blessed with all you need and one day you notice a fellow Christian lacking something essential, but instead of helping, you “close your heart to him” (NJB). John asks in amazement, “How can the love of God be in you?” It just doesn’t make sense. Love responds to need. Remember how it is defined? Verse 16 once again, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” Would Jesus “close his heart” to any need in the Christian family if he were here? But he is here, he lives in each of us. If our faith is real, Christ in us will respond to every need we are privileged to see. We can’t help but respond because that’s what love does.
Strong challenge. How good of John to add, “Dear children” (v. 18), he knows we are still growing up. Then he encourages us to let our love express itself not in mere talk but in action and truth. It can all be summed up with the simple statement, “Love is a verb.”
1 John 3:11-15
The basic message to the Christian believers is crystal clear and unchanging. John puts it this way, ”We are to love one another.” To be living in genuine fellowship with God, whose dominant characteristic is love, is to reflect that same quality in all of our relationships. Now that we committed ourselves without reservation to the center and source of all love, it is obvious that we are to love one another. The reality our relationship to God is proven by the nature of our relationship to each another.
I’ve learned that human nature has a way of “believing” truth but not carrying it out in actual life. No believer would say that although God is love they have no responsibility as a follower to live that way. If you are a Christian believer you will act like one. God forgives failure, but not an intentional decision to keep doing what’s wrong.
While the practice of doing what is right demonstrates love for the other person, if that person is Jesus then get ready for opposition. Luke says that if you love one another “Don’t be surprised if the world hates you” (v. 13). How could that be; love should prompt love? Right, but Luke says that Christian love for one another will be met by hate in the non-Christian world. Actually, the answer is not difficult because love has a way of reminding the other of the lack of that important ingredient in their own life. Your act of selfless concern reminds me of my lack, and for that reason I react against you and what you have done. It’s a sort of sad story but everything seems to have an alternative – even love.
Now in the paragraph comes the wonderful assurance that “we have passed from death to life because we love each other” (v. 14). This old world we live in is marked by death. Everything has its terminal point and life ends in death. Even the earth on which we live, and the universe that surrounds it for that matter, are involved in disintegration. It’s all destined to extinction. Not so the believer. We have already taken the necessary step. Because Christ died for our sins and we have accepted that gift by faith we have moved “out of death” (ek) and “into life” (eis). Don’t live there any more! The new address is “100 Eternal Life Court” not “-10 Here and Gone Alley.” It would never have happened had we not learned how to love one another and the power to make the move came from the love that God’s love created in our hearts. Never could have made it on our own. So change my address in your directory. I’m on my way to the new hom
1 John 3:4-10
In our journey through the three epistles of John we have come to a place where the “disciple whom Jesus loved” (cf. John 20:2; 21:7, 20) provides us with a short theological essay on the subject of sin. (I mention this because some see love and sin as incongruent). Very briefly it runs as follows:
6. Christ came to destroy the work of the devil.
7. If you are a child of God you will do what is right (10)
8. If you are a child of the devil you won’t love your family (10)
What I notice in this list is that everything seems to hinge on action: if you break the law, if you continue to sin, if you do what is right, if you decide not to love brother and sister, etc. While you do nothing meritorious to become a believer, once you are, what you do on a continuing basis demonstrates your allegiance. It declares who you are.
This is important for at least two reasons: One is that in the Christian faith, belief is not simply an intellectual activity. Followers of the One who bore the humiliation and pain of crucifixion for our eternal welfare should certainly understand that faith in Christ calls for infinitely more than the intellectual assent. It is a call for action. We take up arms against sin in all its forms. We simply will not condone evil in any of its forms. Sin is our mortal enemy and as John wrote, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin” (v. 9). No way!
Sin is a serious problem. It is living a life diametrically opposed to the will of God. Faithfulness to that covenant relationship is a necessity not an option. We recognize that as sinners by birth we will sin, but what about living in sin after we have returned from our long journey into the far off land? We remind our selves that the Christian life is not simply a lot of rules that we have to follow. What are designated “laws” are not restrictions, but precautions about conduct that should we decide to do anyway will bring us significant hardship and sorrow. The warning of a bridge just around the corner that’s been destroyed, is not a restriction but an act of grace. Whether we speed on is our decision. True Christians pay attention to life’s warning signs.
1 John 3:2-3
The other thing in the paragraph we are dealing with is the incredible change that will take place in believers when Christ returns. John takes great pleasure in assuring his readers of the fact that they are actually “children of God.” Truths of that nature take a long time to sink in. But even when we understand a bit more perfectly that God is our father and we are privileged to be his sons and daughters, it is till true that there are things that “no eye has seen” and “no ear has heard” – in fact, they are “what no human mind has conceived” (1 Cor. 2:9). These things are gradually coming into focus for the serious Spirit-filled believer, but when Christ returns the final stage of transformation into Christ-likeness will take place. John says, “We shall be like him, because (taking the Greek hoti in a causal sense) we shall see him as he really is.”
We marvel at God’s remedy for the fallen state of the human race, what he did to change it, and how it works out. In other settings I have referred to this as “The Grand Old Story.” To be sure we are all on the same page let me summarize the most exciting and rewarding “novel” of all time. It begins in Garden of Eden with the first couple enjoying the friendship of God in that perfect setting. Tempted by Satan they disobey and are alienated from God and removed from the Garden. Like the prodigal son they wander in the far off country of Sin until they remember how pleasing and satisfying was their former condition. Returning (i.e., repenting and trusting the sacrificial gift of his Son) they are welcomed into the arms of his Father to “live happily ever after.”
So the change begins when they return from the distant land of .Sin, but even then a complete and perfect knowledge of God is beyond their ability to understand. Then that focal point in history arrives and the skies break open to reveal the Son returning on a white horse (Rev 19.11-16) to take believers to heaven. That is when the scales of our limited ability to understand are removed from our eyes of our soul and we will be transformed in the most complete sense – John says, “We shall be like him, because we shall see him as he really is.” Imagine that! To be like Him. Not “sort of” but “like him!” Imagine the transforming effect of seeing God in terms of who he actually is! Sin is banished and its powerful control over sinners is gone. We won’t even want to sin. No wonder that we who have this hope (absolute confidence in that which will certainly happen) live a different kind of life, namely, we “purify” ourselves (v. 3) in preparation for the great eschatological purification
1 John 3.1
In our last post on 1 John we marveled at the greatness and magnitude of God’s love. But that isn’t the only issue of importance in this first verse of chapter 3. As recipients of this unfathomable love we have become citizens of a future realm where we will dwell with Christ in the throne room of heaven. This current redirection of our hearts and minds to a life beyond is changing how we think of all that is yet to come. We are “strangers” here on earth and “foreigners” waiting to be taken back home. This readjustment makes us stand out as members of a group that is different. We seem to be filled with joy regardless of the situation, given to an unusual concern for others, living by a “philosophy” that doesn’t fit well in the existing society, and confident that the plans of our God will turn out to be the best. We don’t do certain things that our neighbors, albeit with an uneasy conscience, do on a regular basis. We give a good share of our hard earned cash to organizations that have humanitarian purposes not consistent with our present world. To put it mildly, we are different. While we don’t wear something like a bonnet to identify our religious tradition, other things reveal that we don’t belong indiscriminately to the current culture.
So what does the history of the Christian church say about people like us? Well, early on we were “on stage” at the local coliseum to face the lions. Or we were expelled from our homeland to waste away some where in the four corners of the earth. Back at home we were mocked for our faith, faced by taxation to support causes contrary to what we believe to be moral, and derided by those who believe something else. In fact, the one who began the Christian movement was publicly crucified while the crowds jeered. It is exactly as the apostle John wrote in 3:1, “The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” He is the perfect model for those who have decided to affiliate with the Christian cause. Since the world rejected him (the NJB has, “did not acknowledge” him) they will reject us as well. I know you understand that I am not making a case for ostentatiously promoting our difference from the contemporary culture, but only for being true to our convictions and where they differ, to pay the price.
1 John 3:1-3 is a short paragraph filled with multiple insights on the love of God the Father for his children. We will consider what John is writing as we think our way through the paragraph. John is amazed at the magnitude of God’s love for us. He writes that God has “lavished” his love on us. While the NIV’s descriptive word “lavish” is somewhat interpretive (the Greek being the simple didomi, “give”), it is the committee’s opinion that there is no better way to picture the greatness of God’s love. It brings to mind adjectives such as “extravagant,” “unrestrained,” or “exuberant” and that is exactly what God’s love is. In letting context control interpretation the NIV has done justice to the greatness of God’s love for each of his children.
Think about it for a moment – God actually loves you. He cares about you, about everything you do, about your future. You are a child of God’s care and you need guidance. Left by yourself you can learn only by a long series of mistakes. God’s love smooths out that path to maturity. And God’s love has a very real dynamism. You experience it, you feel it, you are blessed by it. After all, you are one of his children. I loved my father here on earth. We had a great relationship. He was always there at every football game, every track meet, etc., not because someone suggested that attention like that helps in the “bonding” process, but because he loved me. It was that simple.
I have another Father as well, he is my heavenly Father. In my case, Mr. George Mounce cared deeply for me, his son, how much more does Father God relate himself to me in love. In fact, he “lavished” his love on me (no intention of diminishing your love for me, Dad!) The unique and wonderful aspect of God’s love is that he loves us all equally! When he sent his son into this world he didn’t intend that his love be greater for the cultured than than for the common. God has no requirements for us other than to love him. There are no more eloquent words of praise for God’s love of us than Frederick Lehman’s great hymn “The Love of God” ( 1917). Let’s let him bring the post to a close.
1 John 2:29