FFF 10:2 (Feb 1964)
Let Us Love One Another
The Pharisees, in their attempt to catch the Lord in His words, asked Him which was the greatest commandment in the law. He replied, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matt. 22:37-40). Briefly and concisely, the Lord Jesus proclaimed the vital and exacting demands of an unchanging God. We have no reason to believe that these demands were ever abrogated. Even before time began it was the great passion of the Father’s heart to have a family to love and by whom He could be loved in return (Eph. 1:4-6, 2 Thess. 2:13). It remained for the Lord Jesus Christ to make possible the accomplishment of the eternal purpose of God.
True love cannot be legislated. It is the spontaneous outpouring of the affection and devotion of the heart. Neither the cause nor the consequence can be defined or predicated. There never has been any question about God’s love for us, for from time immemorial His “delights were with the sons of men” (Prov. 8:31). His love is like the blue sky above; it can be seen clearly, but its vastness is immeasurable. It has breadth without bound, length without end; its height is limitless, its depth fathomless. On the other hand, our love for God might often be called in question. As Creator of the universe and Sustainer of worlds innumerable, He might evoke our ‘admiration and wonder. To win our love, it cost Him the darling of His bosom. “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). As it ever has been with God, the first step was His. By an act of unexpressible love, He unlocked the bars that shut the human heart up unto self and unloosed the shackles that held captive our self-directed emotions.
In 1 Corinthians 13, human love at its highest is celebrated. Throughout the chapter, there is no reference to any divine person; all is charity in the abstract, without mention of any historic exhibition of love. There is nothing concrete, little emotion and neither the verb “to love” or the adjective “beloved” occur. All is as perfect as a Greek statue. Assent may be given to this beautiful praise poem without any feeling of personal involvement. Many who know nothing of the love of God as revealed by the Cross of Calvary have been moved by its reading. Indeed, its stainless virtue and exquisite language can be appreciated by a world that crucified and still rejects the Christ of God. But when we come to its counterpart in 1 John 4:7-21, the unbeliever must withdraw, for here is a bower reserved for the initiated alone. Here we are percipitated into an intimate and personal relationship that only the redeemed can enjoy.
“Beloved”! What a wealth of meaning that word enfolds! It was God’s own choice when from the opened heavens He affirmed the Diety of His Son and placed His stamp of approval upon His earthly ministry. It is the word John, the Apostle of Love, uses to encompass all whose hearts the Lord has claimed. It is a word of very nearness. It is for such that this passage has real import and meaning. The word “love” as a noun of fact, as a verb of experience, and as an adjective of intimacy occurs no less the twenty-nine times, chiefly in connection with costly, burning exhibitions of love.
Under law, God demanded love to Himself and then love to our neighbour. The marvel of grace is that God moved in where man was impotent to act. In spite of our lack of love, God gave expression to His in the gift of His Son (v. 10). The Apostle Paul could say, “The love of Christ constraineth us” (2 Cor. 5:14). This, as the context clearly shows, is His love for us, not ours for Him. As the natural sun in the heavens exercises a mighty and unceasing attractive energy on the planets that circle round it, so does the Son of Righteousness exercise on the mind of each child of God a continual and almighty energy constraining each to live henceforth no more unto self but unto God. It is this ever-present, ever-abiding, ever-moving power which forms the mainspring of our Christian activity. It is God working in us through the impelling power of His love that directs us into paths of love and righteousness. Without Him we can do nothing (John 15:5). The revelation of God’s love to us compelled us to bow the knee in grateful acceptance; the revelation of God’s love IN US as the prime motivator of our Christian Life (Gal. 2:20) compells us to bow before Him in deep humility.
God is the very origin of love, “For love is of God” (v. 7); we are its outlet. God has implanted His love in our hearts that it might be “shed abroad.” Oh that, in place of the bickering and backbiting that occasionally disfigure our Christian behaviour and stulify our Christian testimony, the saints at large were to receive by the secret given in Roman 5:5 a new baptism of love, as in the first days of power. The world would still be impressed by such a practical evidence of the reality and joy of our fellowship. This is the real proof that we know God and love Him (vv. 7,8). “We know we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren” (1 John 3:14). “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” The appeal of verse seven becomes a duty in verse eleven. This in no way nullifies the aphorism of Matthew 22:37-40. It fulfils it. God still demands our love; where we failed, He makes success possible.
Lack of power in our Christian experience results from our failure to claim the “spiritual blessings” that are ours “in Christ.” Too many of us are content with His mercies, good health, and material prosperity. These are transient and we covet them. In the meantime our permanent and inalienable rights as sons of God elude us. Oh that we might be able to “escape the corruption that is in the world through lust” and become “partakers of the divine nature” which is one of the “great and precious promises” that is ours by right (2 Pet. 1:4). “If we love one another. God dwelleth in us and His love is perfected in us” (v. 12). The home of the heart is God, known and loved as Christ knew and loved. This is God’s doing and it is marvellous in our eyes, God working in us “all things after the counsel of His will; That we should be to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:11).
Fear, with its handmaiden worry, is the bane of human existence, and the destoyer of all happiness. Where love reigns supreme, there is no room for fear, “For perfect love casteth out fear” (v. 18). Nowhere in Scripture are we promised freedom from adversity and trial. On the contrary, Christ Himself said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation,” but He hastened to add, “Be of good cheer (don’t worry); I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The love of God operating in our hearts arms us for the conflict, cheers the drooping spirit in the face of disappointment and distress, and dispels all thought of terror and judgment with the assurance there is “no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). Our bark cannot be overthrown for it is borne over the troubled sea by the mighty hand of God and wafted to its haven by the breath of God’s love. Romans 8:35-37 enumerates seven forms in which trouble comes but ends with this triumphant declaration, “Nay in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” This river of love began before the worlds were made or Adam’s clay was fashioned. Before creatures were, God loved us. This is a great deep. Who can fathom it? It is the key to all that has happened and all that ever will happen to mankind on this earth and in the worlds to come. The history of the Church in all ages has been a history of persecution, but in the fight with the world Christ has engaged to carry us through. Every wave for Christ’s sake has served to lift the soul still higher upon the Rock of Ages. Every arrow of bitterness directed at the believer has driven him farther back into the cleft of the Rock.
Our passage ends with a commandment. John 13:34 gives it as a new commandment and yet it is not new but the message that we “have heard from the beginning” 1 John 3:11. It is the sign and seal of our union with Christ. The anchorite of old sought to please God by a life of pristine simplicity and purity, but we are not called to eke out our span of life in self-immolation and banishment from neighbour and brother. Sadly blinded and mistaken as the zealot was, does not his unshrinking endeavour to earn what we have freely received rebuke our coldness and carelessness, our indifference, slothfulness, and self-pleasing and most of all our want of grateful love to Him Whose love alone saves and whose grace alone sanctifies. In view of our coldness to our brethren and in cases open animosity should not our prayer be, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts; And see if there be any wicked way in me: And lead me in the way everlasting” (Psa. 139:32-24).
Beloved, let us love one another and so fulfil the command of God.