By this we have known love, because He laid
down His life for us. And we also characteristically ought to
lay down our lives for the brethren.
vs 17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and is seeing his "brother" in need, and shuts up his heart from him at some point, how does the love of God characteristically dwell in him?
Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13 and this greater love is what we are called to. Biblical love is not simply a "feeling" of affection. Rather it is the willful intention of meeting the real needs of others. As such, Biblical love is measurable by the degree to which you are meeting the real needs of those you allegedly "love".
There are those who grumble against God claiming the God hasn't
demonstrated love to them. But while God doesn't demonstrate love
to them in the manner in which they would prefer, "God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Rom
5:8 Likewise, having demonstrated your own Christian love by
meeting the real needs of others, there will be those who will
grumble against you because you didn't "love" them in the manner
in which they would have preferred. Don't be surprised if the
world hate you even when you love them.
vs 18 My little children, let
us not characteristically love in word or in tongue, but in deed
and in truth.
vs 19 And by this we generally know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.
vs 20 For if our heart were to characteristically condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.
How do you know whether you belong to the truth? By evaluating whether your love is simply lip service or whether you actually love in actions and in the truth. Consider Jesus. He loved in action by healing diseases and by dying on the cross, among other things. He loved in truth by his teachings. Christians are to love by meeting people's real needs in action and by teaching them the truth. If you're just involved in meeting practical needs, that is not Jesus' example.
Few object to having their practical needs met, but they may have a hostile reaction when you tell them the truth. In view of this fact many Christians may opt to do the one without the other, or even introduce false ideas. "The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ." Gal 6:12From time to time our heart will condemn us - whether for legitimate or illegitimate reasons. But if we evaluate our lives as Paul writes, "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you— unless, of course, you fail the test?" 2Cor 13:5, and if we determine our love is genuine, John is saying that this fact is meant to give us a feeling of assurance of salvation.
Assurance of Salvation is not simply based upon our claims of
faith. It is based upon those measurable and inevitable effects of
being born of God, such as genuine love for fellow Christians.
However a "feelings" based assurance is not to be trusted. Feelings
are secondary to objective facts. This is a point to be reiterated
in this post-modernistic era in which feelings and subjective
opinions are inflated above objective facts.
vs 21 Beloved, if our heart
does not characteristically condemn us, we have confidence
vs 22 And generally speaking, whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we characteristically keep His commandments and characteristically do those things that are pleasing in His sight.
Confidence that God listens to us in prayer with the intention of
doing what we ask is not based upon our feeling of confidence, nor
is it simply based upon a literal reading of the promises of
answered prayer, such as Matt 21:22 "If
you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer."
Such promises are given under the assumption that you are obeying
his commands and doing what pleases him. As such, the degree to
which we conform our lives to His will is the degree to which we
can have confidence in prayer.
Doing God's will invokes confidence.
vs 23 And this is His
commandment: that we should at a point in time believe on the
name of His Son Jesus Christ and characteristically love one
another, as He gave us commandment at a point in time.
vs 24 Now he who characteristically keeps His commandments characteristically dwells in Him, and He in him. And by this we generally know that He is characteristically abiding in us, by the Spirit whom He gave us.
Here, interestingly enough, "believe" is aorist, pointing to an event. Though in fact elsewhere in this epistle he uses the present tense when speaking of faith in Christ, speaking of one's characteristic behavior. For example 1John 5:1 "Whoever characteristically believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God" But here John is apparently emphasizing "believing" in terms of when we first came to faith in Christ. It's the gospel command, "Believe (Aorist) on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved" Acts 16:31a But while entry into the faith occurs at a point in time, loving other Christians is an ongoing process.
God has given us his Holy Spirit. "Did you
receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what
you heard?" Gal 3:2 Upon believing in
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, you received the Spirit. "And if anyone does not have the Spirit of
Christ, he does not belong to Christ." Rom 8:9 And
"the Spirit himself testifies with our
spirit that we are God’s children." Rom 8:1 But
an alleged witness of the Spirit cannot be taken in isolation. It
must have the corroborating evidence of the confession of faith in
Christ, submission to his commands and by one's love for fellow
The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources