What Manner of Love

What Manner of Love
What Manner of Love

When we consider what Christ has done for us we should be in absolute awe and wonder. Considering that we are completely unworthy of the salvation that we have been given, it is a surprise why any of us sins. God is abounding in His mercy and where sin abounds, grace much more abounds (Romans 5:20). To know our position in Christ is secured by Him and that the work He does in us is the only thing meritorious, we can only offer up worship and praise to Him. It is Christ alone that we can boast.

My devotional time for today is a continuation in the book of 1 John. This time we are looking at veres 1-12 and in these passages of Scripture we capture a reminder of what it means to us as believers to be “Born Again.” These beautiful reminders are replete throughout the Bible and serve us well to further fan the fire of zeal that we have. We should never lose sight of the perfect love that the LORD has shown us. Our hunger and thirst for the LORD should be growing ravenous every day the closer that we walk with Him. It is my prayer that this hunger in my life would never be satiated and even when I am full, I would pour out the Word on others and by doing so grow more like my Father who fed the 5,ooo. Oh the wonders He can do with a small fish like me or the crumb of a man that I am! I praise God that He is faithful to use me despite who I was. I praise Him that He is still perfecting me. And so as I study this passage of Scripture I become more keenly aware of the perfect work He has performed on my behalf. In Him alone will I boast!

And so read along and let the Holy Spirit teach you what He would have you to learn. If by some chance my take on the Scriptures blesses you then praise the One who gave me the insight to share. The LORD is good!

[1Jo 3:1 NKJV]
Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.

John tells his audience here with great exclamation to consider the depth and the impact of the love that God has shown towards us that put us in a position where we are actually considered to be children of God. And so let’s take a moment to reflect this type or quality of love that John is speaking of here. When we study the kinds of love that are mentioned in the Greek language we see that there are four words that represent the different degrees of love. The first is “storge,” and it refers to fondness through familiarity. This is a kind of familial love is the most common type of love experienced by mankind. It is the kind of love that a brother and sister, or close friends might have. The next of the four loves is called “philia,” and it is where we get the name for the American city Philidelphia, or City of Brotherly Love. This kind of brotherly love is the least intense of all of the loves listed, but true “philia” love is precious none-the-less. Mankind rarely experiences friendship on this level for life. The next kind of love is “eros” and this is used to describe intimate love or better, romantic love. And finally, we have “agape” love which is the purest and most potent degree of love. This is the love that John is referring to in this passage. This is a benevolent love that comes only from the Father and is epitomized by the sacrificial love that was freely given by Christ on the cross. 

This manner of love has been gifted to humanity and enables us by the blood of Jesus to be co-heirs with Him in the Kingdom, brothers of Christ and therefore, children of God. Once we put on this love we become an anomaly or foreign to the world around us. Being a believer sets men apart from the world. This is what it means to be holy. When we identify ourselves with Christ and are conformed to His image, we become ostracised by the world who refuses Christ and therefore refuses us. We are misunderstood by the world and the pattern of the world because we choose to take on the garments of salvation; each believer arrayed with the perfect blood of the Lamb and indwell by the Holy Spirit. To the world we are considered foolish and our message equally foolish. Yet, we hold the mystery of eternal life and it becomes our passport to an eternal destiny with Christ Jesus.

[1Jo 3:2 NKJV]
Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

You can always tell when someone is close to Christ by the love that pours from their countenance and speech. Notice how John exudes such love and compassion as he addresses his audience and us with such a gentle term of endearment as he calls us his beloved. The Greek word “agapetos” and if that word looks familiar, it should. The root of the word comes from the word “agape,” which as we just discussed, is the purest form of love. Then John, in character, numbers us beside himself as children of God. This great Apostle John, the one who was perhaps the closest of his brethren to Jesus recognizes our inclusion into the family of God by the grace which was poured out for all mankind.

Next, in an almost mysterious way, John notes that we do not know exactly what lies ahead for us with regard to glory. We know from other biblical accounts, such as Isaiah 64:4 and Pauls recollection in 1 Corinthians 2:9 that it is a mystery worth waiting for. In fact our hope is in this future not solely for what it bodes for us, but for the expectation of glorifying Jesus through the honor of being resurrected and spending eternity praising His name.  John understands that what lies ahead for the believer is indescribable, and his hope (as ours) is to one day being able to see the LORD in His full glory. It is likely that on the Mount of Transfiguration where John, along with Peter and James, caught a glimpse of our glorified LORD. But the expectation is that we will not only catch a mere glimpse but we will be engulfed by the light of His presence for eternity.

The fact is that one day, we too will be like Him in that we will have glorified bodies that are no longer corrupted by the flesh. We read of this in Philippians 3:21 and again in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44. And again we see Paul’s allusion to how we will see and be seen in 1 Corinthians 13:12. As believers our hope is in the resurrection, for it is the resurrection of Jesus that proved once and for all that Jesus had power over the grave and because we are created in His image and conform to Him in life and in death, we can expect that we too shall be resurrected from the dead!

[1Jo 3:3 NKJV]
And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

Immediately when I read this I am reminded of the Beatitudes in Matthew 5, specifically Matthew 5:8, where Jesus tells us that those who are pure in heart will see God. This is an appropriate reference in light of the previous verse where John speaks of seeing Jesus as He truly is. To see God…speechless! What can one say about it without stammering in utter amazement at the prospect of seeing God in His glory! This hope that we have to one day see Him causes us to strive for purity. As we become more like Him something interesting takes place that further explains purity, the kind brought about by the hands of those who do not know Him. I am speaking of persecution. Persecution has a way of purifying the believer. And as believers in Jesus, we are conformed to His image and become partakers of His suffering. In doing so we are made all the more pure. And so by virtue of living out a life pleasing to God we become more and more like Him in purity, but we also experience the purifying fires of persecution which brings us even closer to the purity of Christ as we are conformed to Him in life and in death.

[1Jo 3:4 NKJV]
Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.

Sin and lawlessness are synonymous to one another in the biblical sense. John reminds us that though we are walking daily towards the light our proclivity as human beings is to try and satiate the hungers of our flesh and its lusts. John warns that whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness. So what is John really saying here? Essentially John is calling sin out at its most base form. Sin is such that it revolts against the law of God and the law of Grace. When sin discounts the truth of God’s Word it discounts the One who gave the commands and spoke the Word, it discounts the One who is the Word. That is why it is important as believers that we not downplay sin as a “mistake” or “my bad.” We should recognize our sin for the discusting thing that it is. It was our sin that nailed Jesus to the cross, it was His sinlessness that struck it from our account!

[1Jo 3:5 NKJV]
And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.

Of all of the profound Scriptures in the Bible this one is perhaps one of my personal favorite passages. This speaks to the mission and purpose of Jesus coming as a man and fulfilling His calling on earth. John, speaking to an audience that understood what Christ had done, reminds the believers that Christ came to take away our sins. It was this perfect sacrifice that quelled the stored wrath of a mighty God against us sinners. We read in Philippians 2:5-8 the significance of what Christ did and the degree to which He made Himself manifest on the earth for the purpose to which He was called. He became like us Hebrews 2:17 and Hebrews 4:15 support this verse and speak of the empathy with which the LORD can relate to our current state. This also reveals to us why the sacrifice was so perfect. Christ took upon our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21) and with it, the full fury of God without mercy.

[1Jo 3:6 NKJV]
Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.

Now at first glance, this verse should send shivers up and down your spine and bring upon you an almost immediate depression if it is understood incorrectly. A proper explanation of this verse is in order or all hope for the believer is lost. It is important that we not brush over the harmful effects of sin in the lives of men, but we also must take the Word of God in its proper grammatical context too, else we make the mistake of isogesis and misinterpreting the Word of God. Let me explain. A casual reading of this verse might lead one to believe that if we commit a sin we are doomed to separation from Him and that we have neither seen Him nor known Him. That is exactly what the verse says. But what the verse means when examined in context is that the believer cannot be in habitual sin and take part in the salvation of Christ. The emphasis is on the habitual sin. When a person lives in habitual sin they are stepping on the blood of Christ and disregarding the sacrifice that caused God to pour out His wrath upon His only begotten Son. The Bible teaches us that there are none righteous (Romans 3:10) and that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The usage of the words “none” and “all” in these two passages of Scripture would seemingly otherwise preclude anyone from being in the presence of God. But for the believer, who battles against the flesh and seeks to starve the physical man and feed the spiritual man, this is the same believer that keeps a short account with Jesus and confessesses his or her sin to the LORD with repentance. To which the LORD promises to forgive the sin and then cleanse the believer from all unrighteousness.

[1Jo 3:7 NKJV]
Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.

To be in habitual sin is to practice lawlessnes. To confess ones sin and to seek forgiveness through repentence is to practice rightsousness. Both practices lead to perfection; one to sanctification, the other to condemnation. John addresses his audience again as litle children which speaks to the genuine concern that he has for the believer. His warning to the believer is not to allow anyone to decieve us. The word allow here implies that it is an active choice whether or not a false teacher or antichrist can deceive us. When we hold to the truth of the Scriptures and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit we gain a spiritual discernment that enables us to spot the unrighteous teachings of deceivers. It is through the practice of righteousness that we are conformed into the image of Jesus. The same righteousness that Jesus has becomes the work of the Savior in our own lives. We learn from and have confidence in the work that the LORD is doing in us and through us from Philippians 1:6. When we stay on point with our study of God’s Word and practice what He preaches, He is able to perfect us and does so through the process of sanctification. In the final analysis, we become righteous just as He is righteous. Jesus has ascribed His righteousness toward us through His atoning work on the cross. For this we have only to boast in Him.

[1Jo 3:8 NKJV]
He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.

John again speaks to the disposition of the sinner. The one who is in a state of habitual sin is walking in the ways of satan. We know that satan was cast out of heaven for his pride against God. The subsequent fall of Adam in Eve in the garden through the beguiling of satan meant that mankind was now at enmity with God. To redeem His rightful ownership of mankind, Jesus was manifested to accomplish what no other could. Through His substitutionary work on the cross and His ultimate resurrection, Christ alone destroyed that which satan worked so wickedly to achieve in his rebellion. The wages of sin were paid and then employer was put out of business! Jesus has taken His rightful place at the right hand of the Father where He ever intercedes on our behalf until that glorious day when He returns for His bride and we are transformed forever into the flawless splendor that He intended for us from the beginning!

[1Jo 3:9 NKJV]
Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.

Again, those who are born of God are not living in subjection to habitual sin. John is telling the believer what it means to be “Born Again.” When a man, woman or child surrenders their lives to Jesus, and repents of their old sinful nature, Jesus begins a work in them immediately. We are sealed with the Holy Spirit and daily being conformed into the image of Jesus. It is not that we lose the capability of sin, but we are no longer subject to it. Jesus tells us that the temptations that lead to sin have exit strategies by His grace (1 Corinthians 10:13). We no longer live according to the flesh, but now we live according to the spirit. While the war between the flesh and the spirit wages on, the believer has their mind set on the things of above.

[1Jo 3:10 NKJV]
In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor [is] he who does not love his brother.

John reminds the believer that the fruits of our paternal pattern are evidenced in our practice. In other words if we practice righteousness and love one another we are following the pattern of Christ who is perfectly righteous and who is LOVE. On the same token if we practice lawlessnes and sew discord amongst our fellow man, then we are fallowing the pattern of the devil who is a liar and seeks only to kill, maim and destroy.  The fruits of righteousness then are evidence of the believer (Galatians 5:22), and the fruits of lawlessness are evidence of the lawless (Ephesians 4:31 for a partial list).

[1Jo 3:11 NKJV]
For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another,

The royal law of love requires that the believer first love God and then love his neighbor as himself. Since we don’t have any trouble loving ourselves, as is evidenced by the way we care for our selves, our focus should be on loving God first, and then loving our neighbor. The message of love, agape love is at the core of every commandment. God is love as we will see in the next chapter (1 John 4:8) and it is Jesus who is the central character in all of the Bible’s 66 letters. He is the the I AM. The preeminent One that reated the heavens and the earth, the One whom the prophets declared, the One that the Apostles revered, and the One that God so loved that He sent to die on our behalf. It is this love, the love of the Father, that we must have for others if we are to be like Jesus. This message of love is what was preached from the beginning and is just as meaningful for us today as it was to the audience John wrote to then.

[1Jo 3:12 NKJV]
not as Cain [who] was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.

John then delineates the righteous from the unrighteous by way of example. Here John cites the account of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1-15) who each presented an offering to the LORD and because of misguided jealousy, Cain slew Abel. John answers the question as to why Cain was motivated to slay his brother. Simply put, Cains works were evil and Abel’s were righteous. Cain was responsible for his sin in both accounts. The first, in that he offered an unworthy sacrifice, the second for comitting the first murder out of hate for his brother who was more righteous. But even as righteous as Abel’s sacrifice was to the LORD, it was as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) compared to the righteousness of Christ and His sacrifice.

And so we can marvel at the rightousness of Christ. His perfect, atoning, work was the only thing that could bring us into the family of God. If we are honest with ourselves this mystery should leave us awestruck and breathless. As we set out to be discipled by the Word of our LORD we should look at the application of this passage of Scripture. In light of what we have just studied we can see the value of the salvation that we have been given. If we are truly walking in the love of the LORD then we must show others the love. We can do this by being faithful to point others to the sweet gift we have been given. I have heard it said regarding the saved and the unsaved, “We are all beggars looking for bread, the believer simply knows where to find it.” Our job as believers is to point other beggars to the Bread of Life.

Thank You LORD for all that You are, all that You have done, and all that You continue to do in and through us. You alone are worthy of our praise. We honor you with our lips help us to honor you with our deeds as well all the days of our lives. -Amen!

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