Summary: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one for another."
May 27, 1990 AM
Lesson (I John 4:7-21)
Text- John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one for another.
1. This is the Sunday between Ascension Day and Pentecost, one of the great days of the church. "Ascension Sunday" is a good time to think about preparing for Pentecost. We have "Lent" before Easter, and "Advent" before Christmas. But what do we do before Pentecost?
2. Before that first Christian Pentecost the followers of Jesus Christ prayed. John the Beloved (who wrote our text) was one of the participants in the ten-day prayer meeting that preceded the great birthday of the Church. During that time of waiting the hearts of the disciples were knit together in obedience and anticipation of the Promise Jesus told them was coming from the Father. What happened then (at that prayer meeting) marked John and Peter and the others for life."
Love one another" became the hallmark of John's ministry, and John intended that it should be the hallmark of God's people. It was John that recorded the "Great Commandment" in his gospel, (our text.)
3. John shows us that the Great Commandment precedes and forms the foundation for the "Great Commission." The kind of love which John declares is not a soft, woolly, sentimental feeling, but a positive regard for good and for light and for truth, a God-likeness that will finally change and shape the entire Universe. This love of God is the most powerful thing there is. How can we begin to describe this powerful force?
[Look into this passage with me. It is:]
I. A STATEMENT ABOUT GOD
A. "GOD IS LOVE" (v 8)
This is not a comprehensive statement about God [-it is not all that may be said of God-] but it is a conclusive statement. Whatever else God is, He is LOVE! And so love characterizes God's family. From our limited and twisted perspective, we can look at the world's pain and suffering and say "How can God put up with this? God doesn't care!" Or we could say, "God must be limited in what He can do. God is not all-powerful!"
It is a statement of faith, given credence by the Word, to say that we believe that God IS, and that God is GOOD. John says: "God is LOVE!"
John Wesley wrote these words about this passage: "God is love. - This little sentence brought St. John more sweetness, even in the time he was writing it, than the whole world can bring. God is often styled holy, righteous, wise; but not holiness, righteousness, or wisdom in the abstract, as He is said to be love: intimating that this is His darling, His reigning attribute, the attribute that sheds an amiable glory on all His other perfections."
One stanza in Frederick W. Faber's hymn, "There is a Wideness", says it very beautifully:'
For the love of God is broader
Than the measure of man's mind;
And the heart of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully KIND!
B. GOD IS KNOWN, REVEALED BY HIS LOVE (also v 8)
John is so strong in his conviction about God being love that he says: Love is essential to knowing God in any degree! "The one who does not LOVE does not know God!" God is known by His love; somehow we come to know Him by receiving and reflecting that love.
How deficient some of us may feel as we hear this! Our capacity for pure and powerful love seems so small! How poorly we reflect such a great love! Never mind! God's commandments are also God's promises!
[But this passage is also a statement about God's people:]
II. A STATEMENT ABOUT GOD'S PEOPLE
A. GOD'S PEOPLE ARE TO REFLECT HIS NATURE (v 12)
"If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us." We reflect this love by openness and trust toward God, and by openness and fellowship with one another. God loves us, and has accepted us on the basis of grace and His own loving-kindness, and so God expects us somehow to reflect His life and His love in our everyday living.
B. THIS IS EXPRESSED NEGATIVELY HERE BY SHOWING TWO THINGS THAT ARE MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE WITH GOD'S LOVE.
If love is the hallmark of God's people there are some things that God's love does not coexist with:
1. GOD'S LOVE DOES NOT CO-EXIST WITH THE KIND OF FEAR THAT SPRINGS FROM TRYING TO HIDE FROM HIM.
Taken in its literal language this statement ("Perfect love casts out all fear") has been carried to logical absurdity. And John does modify his "fear" statement by speaking about fear that has torment. There are all kinds of fears— fears that have no moral or spiritual implications whatsoever— fear of heights, of pain, of spiders.