Summary: There is too much emphasis in today's preaching about practical and earthly matters concerning earthly love. There is a much higher love life we need to cultivate.
How is your Love Life?
Last time we met, we discussed the new commandment which was really not new, but was the one which we have had all along. Even though John did not elaborate further on what this command was, it was obvious that it was closely tied to the command to love. Loving God with all one has is to joyfully keep His commandments as well as to love one’s neighbor as well. It is as the song, the “Old Time Religion” says: “Makes me love everybody.” If this is true, then I cannot hate anyone. Some of those who had left had left for selfish motives and despised those they left behind. In this, they proved that they really weren’t in touch with God like they thought but were stumbling around in the dark.
John goes on to tell them and us that those who are truly victorious, are victorious and strong because of our relationship with the Father, which was made possible by the sacrifice of the Son. So our strength is never in ourselves, but in God. So the victory we win is a victory we win together. We are crowned as a church, and not until the least of our brethren cross. If we only would arm ourselves with this attitude, we would not go off to our own monastery to enjoy our perfection in solitude while leaving our younger and weaker brethren to fend for themselves. Nor we would we form a Holy Club to boast with others of our individual accomplishments.
Exposition of the Text
1 John 2:15—Stop loving the world and the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, then the love of the Father is not in him.
The verse begins in the Greek with Ìὴ ἀãáðᾶôå (Me- ah-gah-pa-teh) which is best translated “Stop loving the world.” This is because the verb is an imperative (command) in the present tense. If one wanted to say “Do not fall in love with the world”, he would have used the past (aorist) tense of the imperative. What this means is that the love of the world and worldly possessions were still in the hearts of the believer. This is inconsistent with the truth of the gospel. Either God or mammon will, rule as no one can serve two masters.
What John is describing here is that the believer has been sanctified, or set apart, from the world and unto God. The things of the world belong to the past life. And until this affection for the world be removed, one cannot enjoy the love of the Father, nor really love the Father. There can be no divided loyalty. There can only be one God.
In terms of understanding the word “world”, it would have been the Roman Empire in the days of John. It is not, God’s creation, but the world human beings create, such as culture, politics, society, infrastructure and the like. These things give human beings structure and identity. The Greek word here is êüóìïò (kohs-moss) from which we get the word “cosmetic”. To get one’s sense of identity and reason for being from a manmade world is to deny God’s rightful place as the source of all meaning.
Whenever the phrase “love of the Father” or “love of God” appears in Scripture, we have two possibilities of interpretation. This is especially true in John’s writings. Is it the Father does not love that person? Or is it that the person does not love the Father? I would suggest that love which is not a mutual love cannot truly be called “love”. Love is a shared reality. So in a sense it is both the love god has for us as well as our love for God. In order of priority, God has to love us before we are able to love us. The natural man hates God and cannot love God until God changes that person’s heart. But when the offer of God’s love is rejected, then love ceases to be at all.
So when a believer lives as though this world were more important than God, the love life between us and God breaks down. This cannot but have devastating consequences to the one who rejects God.
1 John 2:16—For all worldly things, the desire of the flesh, and the desire of the eyes and the pride of life does not come from the Father, BUT the world.
John here is describing what a Christian is not. The goal of the Christian’s life is not to acquire goods, as though the purpose of life was to get lots of money, a large house, worldly recognition and security. The preposition ἐê, eck, (“out of” or “from”) is often used to describe the source from which someone or something came. For example, it might be used before the name of a city to describe the place he/she was raised, such as Jesus of Nazareth indicated that Jesus was from the town of Nazareth. What John is saying here is that no one can claim that worldly ambition and a worldly heart comes from God. Perhaps the people who had left had prided themselves on their sophistication. And there are a lot of “sophistication” in Christianity today. But John clearly lets us know where this all comes from. It comes from the world. The use of the strong word for “but”, ἀëë᾽, ahl, makes this crystal clear.