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Loving One Another - Part 1

Tom Pennington • 1 John 2:9-11

  • 2022-01-16 AM
  • 1 John
  • Sermons

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1 John. Just to remind you, the theme of 1 John is "The Tests of Eternal Life." We've discovered the first test; it's the moral test in chapter 1, verse 5 through chapter 2, verse 6. It is "Obedience to Jesus Christ and His Word." Last week, we began to examine the second test, which is the social test, and that is "Love for God and His People." This begins in chapter 2, verse 7, runs down through verse 17. Now let me read for you just the first few verses of that section that we're now looking at together. 1 John 2, verse 7:

Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard. On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining. The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

Now, the summary of this paragraph, not only the verses I just read, but all the way down through verse 17 is this, "You can know that you have eternal life, you can know that you are a true Christian because you have a new love, a new love for God and a new love for His people." Now, this paragraph unfolds as I noted for you last time, with two great truths about love. In verses 7 and 8, we have "The Divine Priority of Love;" and secondly, in verses 9 through 17, we have "The Believers Commitment to Love." And that unfolds in two expressions, that new love, first of all, in verses 9 through 11, is "A New Love for God's People;" and in verses 12 to 17, it's "A New Love for God."

Now, last week, we began by examining "The Divine Priority of Love" in verses 7 and 8. It's a commandment that has eternal ramifications because of the nature of God. It was commanded in the Old Testament, and it was re-emphasized in the Ministry of Christ, and seen in new and fresh ways through Him. It is a priority for God's people.

Now today, we come to "The Believer's Commitment to Love," the believer's commitment to love. This begins in verse 9 and runs down through verse 17. The Old Testament Law, our Lord Himself, the Apostle Paul, and here in 1 John, the Apostle John are all crystal clear that the command to love is the most important of all the biblical commands. Why is that? Because the command to demonstrate Biblical love summarizes the entire law of God. Love is the sum of everything that God has commanded you. If you love God and others, then you are fulfilling God's Law, or in the language of what we've seen in 1 John., if you love God and you love others, you are walking in the Light, chapter 1, verses 6 and 7. If you love God and you love others, you are obeying Christ's commands, chapter 2, verses 3 through 5. If you love God and you love others, you are walking as Jesus walked, chapter 2, verse 6.

Love is the Biblical priority, and all true believers have a new commitment to love. First of all, "A True Christian Has a New Love for God's People," a new love for God's people. That's the section we're studying here in verses 9 through 11.

Having established the divine priority of love in verses 7 and 8, John now, beginning in verse 9, shows how our love for others is an accurate test of the reality of our own faith. Now, he he applies this test to two classes of people, to true Christians and to false Christians. He begins with the false Christian and just to remind you what that is, a false Christian is someone who claims to have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, but in fact, does not have that relationship. So first of all, in verse 9, we learned this, "A False Christian Does Not Truly Love God's People," a false Christian does not truly love God's people. You see, the person in verse 9, lives in a serious contradiction between his claim and his conduct, between his profession of faith in Jesus Christ and the reality of his life.

Let's begin by looking at the false claim that he makes. Notice how verse 9 begins, "The one who says he is in the Light;" literally, the Greek text says, "The one who is saying that he is in the Light." John intentionally uses the present tense here to imply that this is what this person is constantly, consistently claiming. He is consistently claiming, notice verse 9, that he is in the Light. Now, that is identical with the other claims we've already encountered in 1 John. It's identical with the claim back in chapter 1, verse 6, "I have fellowship with God." (Paraphrase.) It's identical with the claim in chapter 2, verse 4, "I have come to know (God)." It's identical with the claim in chapter 2, verse 6, "I abide in Him." (Paraphrase.) Similarly, the claim here in chapter 2, verse 9, is a claim to be a Christian; it's a claim to have fellowship with God. It's a claim to have come to know God.

But notice the unique way this person claims to be a Christian. He claims he is in the Light. Now you'll notice our translators have capitalized the word 'Light.' That's because they see this, rightly, as a reference back to John's gospel. In John's gospel, Jesus is called the 'Light' in chapter 1 as He's as His incarnation is laid out there in those early verses of John's gospel. And then Jesus Himself refers to Himself as 'The Light' on several occasions.

In John, chapter 8, verse 12, He says, "I am the Light of the world," in chapter 11, verses 9 and 10, and in chapter 12, verse 35. But listen to John 12, verse 46, Jesus said this, "I have come (and our translation says) as Light into the world." The the Greek text doesn't have the word 'as.' This is what Jesus actually said, "I have come Light into the world, (I have come Light, that's who I am, into the world.) so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness." That's what these false Christians in John's time connected had been connected to the churches that he shepherded but had gone out with the false teachers, that's what they claimed. "We are in the Light, we are in Jesus Christ, we no longer remain in darkness, we have truly believed in Jesus;" that's; what they're claiming.

Now, I think John likely chose this metaphor of light because the false teachers, we we've studied them a little bit prior to this, the pre-Gnostics, they claimed what? That they had been enlightened. They had come to really understand the Light in a way that the ordinary, average Christian had not. They claimed to have a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ; that they had gained true enlightenment in Him, a superior knowledge, "I am in the Light."

What comes next shows that that is a false claim, this profession of faith in Jesus Christ, have come to believe Christ, to be in Christ is false. Why? Notice verse 9 goes on to say, "…and yet hates his brother." This person consistently claims to know God at the same time that he is consistently hating his brother.

Now, let's take that word 'brother' for a moment. It occurs sixteen times in 1 John, always of fellow Christians. In the New Testament, the writers often speak of all Christians as 'brothers.' Ladies, don't be offended by that, that was that, throughout human history, has been a common expression. The Lord uses it in the scripture as well. So, 'brothers' commonly mean Christian brothers and sisters unless the context of the verse is clear that it's talking solely about males. Here in verse 9, it's clear "his brother" means his Christian brother or sister, all of those with whom we should naturally have a close relationship and a family bond if we're in Christ.

Now, here's a here's an important question for us to consider. Why does John focus this test of love on our love for our fellow Christians and not in our love for everyone? Well, let me say first of all, that's not because our love for everyone isn't required or isn't important. Scripture is clear; we're to love everyone on this planet. We are to love our spouse. We're to love our children. We're to love our neighbor. We're to love our enemies. There's nobody excluded! So, Scripture is very clear; we're to love everyone. But here, John, following our Lord, makes loving our Christian brothers and sisters the best test of the genuineness of our faith in Jesus Christ. Why is that? Why is that the best test? Why not your love for everybody in your life?

I think this is the reason. If we can't love those whom we say are related to us in Christ, who follow the same Lord, who have believed the same gospel, who live for the same purpose, if we can't love them, then we cannot love others--simply impossible. It's like saying, "I'm a loving person to all those people out there," but you don't love the people in your house. It's ridiculous! If the test is, what do you do with the people who who are in your life who know you best? That's where your love is really demonstrated. And that's why this is the test.

John makes our love for others in God's family the most accurate test of whether we belong to God's family. Verse 9 says, "The one who says he is in the Light and yet (literally, it says) is hating his brother." So, this person is consistently claiming "I'm a Christian, I'm a Christian, I'm a Christian," and this person is consistently hating, hating, hating his brothers and sisters in Christ. You say, "Does that happen?" Oh yes that happens. In fact, it happened with the false teachers in John's day. Irenaeus, the early church father, describes those John was writing against here, and he says, "They treated Christians as utterly contemptible and ignorant. They were the enlightened ones."

I mean, that happens in our world, right? What do what do liberal Christians in our country, those who reject the Scriptures, who reject the exclusivity of the gospel, who reject all of that, how do they look on us? Backward, ignorant, Bible thumpers, right? That's exactly what happened in the first century. Ignatius, the early church father, says that those those John was writing against had, "No care for love."

Now let me address an important issue here because I think it's easy, when we hear the word 'hates,' to excuse ourselves and to say, "I'm not guilty of hating anybody." But don't miss what John is doing here. He is intentionally making an absolute, stark contrast. And John loves these kinds of contrasts. I mean, you have light and darkness, you have walking and stumbling, and you have love and hatred. Here he says, "Don't miss this." Here he says, "You either love or you hate." There's no neutral position; it's Light or it's darkness. As Westcott says in his commentary, "There is no twilight in this spiritual world." It's like what our Lord said in Luke 11, verse 23, when He said, "He who is not with Me is against Me." There's no neutral ground. John simply won't allow you to say, "Well, I don't really love my Christian brother, that probably wouldn't be honest, but but I don't hate him either." Listen, if you are a professing Christian, without exception, you either love your fellow Christians or you hate them. Those are the only two categories. Choose one.

Now, what that means is we, John is, and we have to alter slightly our definition of hating. In context, hating is not just what we think of as that extreme malice, "I want to hate somebody," bitterness hatred. Instead, here, listen carefully, here in this context, hatred must be everything that falls short of true Biblical love. Biblically, that ranges from treating others with selfishness, using them to get what I want, all the way to flagrant, bitter hatred. It's everything, everything that isn't true biblical love. And that range, folks, describes how every unbeliever treats the people around him without exception.

Turn to Titus, Titus, chapter 3, verse 1. Paul says to his young son in the faith who's stationed there on the island of Crete, he says:

Remind them (your your congregations) to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men (Literally, every courtesy. Be courteous toward unbelievers, even those who disagree with you. Why?" Because) For (verse 3, because) we also once were…

And now he goes on to describe what you and I were before we became Christians, and what, oh, by the way, every unbeliever is. This is who they are. This is who we were.

We also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice (Malice is a word that means, "You hurt me; I desperately want to hurt you back, that's malice." Spending our lives in malice) and envy (I want what you have, or at least don't want you to have it. I resent that I don't have it and that you do. Spending our lives in malice and envy, watch this.) hateful, hating one another (The word 'hateful' means 'loathsome, despicable.' It's a word that means, if hatred were a valid response, you would deserve it, you would deserve to be hated, and I would too; that's the idea here. But then he goes on to say, and all unbelievers, including us before Christ are) hating one another. (Paraphrase.)

That that word describes everything, and it's used in New Testament contexts of everything from having little or no regard for someone else, all the way to detesting them. It's it's everything that isn't love.

Now, this helps us, right, because again, when we hear the word 'hate,' we're quick to excuse ourselves, but I think when we hear the word 'hate,' and when I say, "Every unbeliever hates the people around him," it's easy for us in North Texas especially, to think, "Look, Tom, wait a minute. I know a lot of unbelievers who are good people. They're civil, they're kind, they're gracious, they don't hate those people around them." Well, if you mean 'detest' in the ultimate extreme, then maybe that's true. But, if you're talking about the Biblical expression, then it's not true. Unbelievers, you before Christ and every single unbeliever on this planet hates, is "hating one another."

Now, Jesus is clear about this, Jesus is clear that unbelievers love their "friends," they love their friends because of what they get from their friends, because of the what it brings them selfishly. They love those who love them and those who are like them, but it's always driven, their love for others is always driven by a selfish, self-centered kind of affection. Jesus said in Matthew six, or I'm sorry, Matthew 5, verses 46 and 47, "…if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?" He said, "Go find the worst people on the planet and guess what? They love the people who love them." Why? Because of what they get from it. It feeds their selfishness. And you see this in our world, right? I mean, you watch some of the reality programs and people are talking about getting… By the way, I don't, just for the record. I I have seen a couple of clips and what strikes me what strikes me is how self-centered their love is. It's like, "I love you because of what you do for me." That's what Jesus is talking about. He goes on to say, "If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the gentiles do the same?" He says, "Listen, unbelievers love those who who give them something, who love them in return, who are who are something someone they can use for their own benefit, who gives something to them." But their love is selfishly driven; it is not Biblical love. Unbelievers are like their father, Satan. They are murderers in their hearts, as we'll see later in 1 John 3.

Turn over to Romans for a moment. I just want to remind you of the fact that Paul makes this super clear here in Romans 3, when he's talking about every unbeliever. Verse 9:

What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; (All of them are depraved, guilty of sin.) …THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, …NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD…(And)…THERE IS NONE (not one) WHO DOES GOOD.

Now, when you come to verses 13 and following, you see how this human depravity works itself out, and let me just remind you, this isn't a select group of really bad people. This is God's description of you and me before Christ, and of every unbeliever on this planet today.

Notice, first of all, the toxic speech that characterizes human depravity. Verse 13 says our words reveal the decay and death that is within our hearts. Notice it, "THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN GRAVE." He goes on in verse 13 to say our words are filled with deceit, their tongues, "WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING." Listen, when people or unbelievers are kind and gracious toward you, it's deceptive; it's not the reality. Our words kill and destroy, verse 13 says, "THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS;" and verse 14 says our words are, "…FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS." But man's toxic speech spills over into destructive relationships, verses 15 to 17.

The sin within our hearts not only comes flowing out of our mouths, but it also leaks out and infects and destroys our human relationships. Apart from Christ, there is within us a predisposition to violent anger. Verse 15, "THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD."

Listen, if you doubt this is true, just pay attention this week when you're on the roads and when you inadvertently pull out in front of someone or you do something somebody doesn't like, what happens? There is a response, a way over response of violent anger. This is because of the depravity that's in the human heart. There's also a pattern of destroying relationships, verse 16, "DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR PATHS." You know what Paul is saying? If you follow the path of an unredeemed, fallen human being, in that person's wake, everywhere you you look, you'll find the debris of broken, devastated relationships.

And there is no perception of the path of peace. Verse 17, "…THE PATH OF PEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN." Not only do unbelievers not walk on the path that leads to peace, they don't even know where it is, they don't know how to find it. Now folks, that describes every unbeliever without exception. You say, "Well, what about the civil, kind people I run into in North Texas?" Well, Lloyd-Jones had his own version of that in England in the last century. People were polite and gracious. Here's what he writes:

The world hides itself. There is a superficial charm and manner. There is a superficial culture and chivalry that would conceal their hate. Yet look at people's faces and listen to what they say about one another. What they say about a person to whom they have recently been so charming and so polite. Look at the sneer on their faces. The world is full of this. In spite of all the superficiality, hateful and hating one another, selfishness, greed, jealousy, envy, malice, self-centeredness, those are the characteristics of the life of the world, the state of being in darkness.

He's absolutely right.

And now you understand why the test of loving others is such a helpful test to determine whether or not we're true believers, because it is the antithesis of how we were before Christ.

You see, unbelievers are, by nature, hateful and hating one another, they're completely self-centered. Even their love for others is ultimately based on what they can get out of it. But believers have been changed. We have the Holy Spirit, and by the Spirit's presence, He produces love within us. When the Spirit dwells in a person, there will be love. And if there's not a consistent pattern of unselfish love for others, there's no Holy Spirit.

So, there's the false claim, "I know God, I know Jesus, I love God. We have a great relationship." And yet, I am consistently failing to love my Christian brothers and sisters. It's all about me. My relationships are about what I can get. And I don't unselfishly go out of myself to care for anybody else. That's the false claim.

Now let's see the spiritual reality. Verse 9 goes on to say, "The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now." He's still living in the realm of darkness and notice, "until now." That implies he always has been in the dark. He's never been changed; he's never experienced regeneration. You see, a genuine Christian experiences what Jesus called "The New Birth;" he's born again; he's made new. The Holy Spirit has radically changed that person and has taken up residence in their lives his life. This is what it means to be a Christian. It's not about signing a card, walking an aisle, praying a prayer. It's about a radical change the Holy Spirit produces in the human soul in which you become a new creation. And the Holy Spirit, you see the effects of His presence.

In John 3, Jesus says the Spirit is like the wind. And He means it there in two ways. The Spirit is like the wind in that the Spirit is sovereign; He blows wherever he wants, and nobody tells Him where to go. Nobody tells Him what life to enter. It's sovereign grace.

But secondly, the Spirit is invisible. You can't see the Spirit in the life of a Christian. You don't see the Holy Spirit in me in the sense of seeing the Spirit Himself. He's like the wind. Now, the last few days here in North Texas, we've had an onslaught of of huge winds blowing in from the north. You didn't see the wind. You never saw the wind. It's invisible. But you saw the effects of the wind. Therefore, you concluded, "I see that tree in my backyard bent over double; therefore, ergo, there's wind.

That's how it works with the Spirit. Like the wind, you cannot see the Spirit's presence, but you can tell the Spirit's presence by the effects that He alone produces. And what effects does the Holy Spirit produce? Galatians 5:22, "…the fruit of the Spirit is (And what's number one?) love." It's love. Love shows a changed heart and the presence of the Holy Spirit. A true Christian can't help but love others; he has the Holy Spirit. He can't help loving just like an unbeliever can't help but live in hateful self-centeredness; it's nature. Lloyd-Jones writes:

It is an absolute test. There is no explaining it away on the basis of one's disposition. You proclaim and portray exactly what you are by your conduct and behavior in this respect. If you are not loving your brother, you are still in darkness and the darkness is in you, whatever you may say. But if you are loving your brother, it is proof you are truly a Christian in the realm of Light, whatever defects you may happen to have.

If you are the same person that you've always been, if you claim to be a Christian, but you are not marked by love for your fellow Christians, then let me tell you on the authority of God's Word, you have an unregenerate heart, an unchanged heart. If there's no love, there's no Spirit.

Look at chapter 3; 1 John, chapter 3, and verse 14:

We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides and death. Everyone who hates his brother (That is, everyone who ultimately fails to love his brother unselfishly is at heart really a murderer. He doesn't care about his brother's well-being.); …and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (Look at chapter 4, verse 20.). If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.

So, here's a test. Now, let me say, if you're here this morning and you have to say, "Tom, I I failed the test. I really am selfishly motivated, I don't really care about other people, don't care to be around them, don't have much interest in them, don't have much regard for them, I use people for my own advantage, but I never truly care about them for them." There's still hope for you, let's go back to chapter 2, verse 9 again, and notice the last two words. "He is in the…darkness until now." It's true today, but it doesn't have to stay that way. The implication here is that you can still truly repent, you can still truly come to the Light, and that's my appeal to you today.

Listen, the Holy Spirit can change you. You're in a room full of people He has changed. Oh, we're not perfect! But we've been changed, and He can do that to you. If you will repent of your sins and put your faith in Jesus Christ, in that moment, you will experience what Jesus called "The New Birth." You'll start over again as a new creation in Jesus Christ, if you'll humble yourself and cry out to Him. That's my appeal to you today.

For the rest of us who are in Christ, we love the people around us. Why? Because of the love Christ has shown us. And it's that love that God has shown us in His Son, that Christ showed us in willing His willingness to come and die for us. It's that love for us that we celebrate in the Lord's Table. Take a moment and prepare your heart before we take together.

Our Father, we thank you for what we can see in our lives. Lord, many of us in this room, we don't love as we would like to love, we still long and pursue loving you and loving others more and better. Thank you for this study that will encourage that and and prompt us and motivate us to do so. But, Lord, while we don't love perfectly, we can see the change. We can see that we do love you and that we do love our brothers and sisters in Christ, that we love others, not selfishly for what we can get, because but because you love them, because of the fact that they're our brothers and sisters in the same family, because our hearts want to do them good for their sakes and not for ours. Lord, thank you for the encouragement, the assurance, the comfort that is to those of us in Christ. Help us to grow even in the next week or two as we study together, help us to grow in our love for each other.

Father, I also pray for those here this morning who maybe have professed to know you through your Son, but they really failed this test. Help them to see it, Lord, help them to see it honestly. Thank you for the mirror of your Word. And Lord, for those of us who see our reflection, and while it's not perfect, we see the change you produced, help us to rejoice, to be confident, to have the assurance you intend us to have.

But, Father, for those who've looked in the mirror of your Word and have seen the ugly reality that they don't belong to you, Lord, help them to see that you will and can change them if they will repent and believe in your Son. You'll do it in a moment as you have with many of us here. Lord, may this be the day they truly come to know you?

And now, Lord, for us who are followers of Christ, who do love you through Him, we thank you for this ordinance. We thank you for the joy of celebrating your love for us in Jesus at the cross, by celebrating the Lord's Table. And before we take it, before we remember Him, Lord, we confess our sins to you. You've bathed our souls in salvation. You've forgiven us at the Judgment Seat, at the courtroom of your justice. But Father, as we walk through this world, our feet pick up the dust of the world, so forgive us not for our sins against you as Judge, but for our sins against you as Father. Cleanse us oh, God, our sins of thought and attitude and speech, our actions, Lord, forgive us for not loving you like we ought to love you; forgive us for not loving the people around us, for being selfish, self-consumed. Forgive us and cleanse us so that we can take of this reminder of our Lord as an act of pure and clean worship. We pray in His name, Amen.

1 John