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What Is Love - 1 John 2b

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1 John 2:7-11

Stephen Caswell © 2001


I just love that hat! Man, I really love the old fashioned kind of baked beans! But, Mom, don’t you realize that Tom and I love each other? Words, like coins, can be in circulation for such a long time that they start wearing out. Unfortunately, the word love is losing its value and is being used to cover a multitude of sins. It is really difficult to understand how a man can use the same word to express his love for his wife as he uses to tell how he feels about baked beans! When words are used that carelessly they really mean little or nothing at all. Like the dollar, they have been devalued. In today's passage John highlights the importance of love. The kind of love John describes is ajgaph, God's unconditional love.

John places the commandment to love above all others. As John describes the life that is real, he uses three words repeatedly: life, love, and light. In our passage today, we learn how Christian love is affected by light and darkness. A Christian who is walking in the light is going to love his brother Christian. We will see three things about walking in love. An Old Edict From The Law, A New Example From The Lord, A New Experience To Be Lived.

Firstly,     An Old Edict From The Law

a. The Precept Of Love

1 John 2:7: Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning.

The commandment to love wasn't new. It goes back to the very beginning. Christians were commanded to love from the Church's very beginning. John reminds believers that love has always been required of God's people. The Law commands love as well as the Gospel. Both covenants require love. Deuteronomy 6:4-5: Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Leviticus 19:18: You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.


b. The Preeminence Of Love


Matthew 22:36-40: Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.


As we have just seen, Jesus confirmed the preeminence of love over all the commandments. How is it possible for one commandment to stand head and shoulders above the rest? This is explained by the fact that love is the fulfillment of God’s Law. Romans 13:8-10: Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, you shall not covet, and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.


Love In The Home

According to law parents must care for their children. Child neglect is a serious crime. But how many parents have a conversation like this when the alarm clock goes off in the morning? The Wife. Honey, you’d better get up and go to work. We don’t want to get arrested. The Husband. Yeah, and you’d better get up and get breakfast for the kids, and get their clothes ready. The cops might show up and put us both in jail. The Wife. You’re right. Boy, it’s a good thing they have a law, or we’d stay in bed all day!

It’s doubtful that the fear of the law is often the motive behind earning a living or caring for one’s children. Parents fulfill their responsibilities because they love each other and their children. To them, doing the right thing is not a matter of law — it’s a matter of love. The commandment Love one another is the fulfillment of God’s Law in the same way. When you love people, you do not lie about them or steal from them. You have no desire to kill them.


Love is the greatest commandment of all. Love is given preeminence in both the Old and New Testaments. Why? Because love fulfills all of the commandments. Love is the positive fulfillment of the thou shalt nots! Do you take the commandment to love seriously? Do you love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind? Do you show your love by serving Him? Do you love your neighbor as yourself? Or do you focus on outward appearances like the Pharisees? Do you seek to fulfill God's law through love?

Secondly, A New Example From The Lord

1 John 2:8: Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.

In verse 8 John points out, that Christ, was the first one to keep this commandment of love. Then he goes on to say that believers can also keep it. Jesus Himself is the greatest Example of someone who loved. He loved friend and foe alike. He even loved people when they didn't appreciate or return His love. His love was costly. He loved to the point of death. He forgave those who crucified Him. He laid down His life for us. Truly, Jesus showed us what love is like. Like a light shining in a dark place He showed us how to love unconditionally. In fact, Christ raised the standard of the commandment to love. John 13:34: A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.


Love distinguishes God's children from the world's children. The apostle John says that love distinguishes true believers from false believers in his letter. This comes to a climax when he says God is love. Since God is love shouldn't His children be known for love? 

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 describes God's love: Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. Can you or I place our name in the text instead of love ? No! Then, we have some work to do.

How are we to love one another? The way that Jesus loved us. Unselfishly, unconditionally and sacrificially. 1 John 3:16: By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.


He Died In His Sons Place


In the French revolution, a young man was condemned to the guillotine and shut up in one of the prisons. He was greatly loved by many, but there was someone who loved him more than all the others put together. That one was his own father, and the love he bore his son was proved in this way: when the lists were called, the father - whose name was exactly the same as the son's - answered to the name, and the father rode in the gloomy tumbrel out to the place of execution, and his head rolled beneath the ax instead of his son's, a victim to mighty love. We see here an image of the love of Christ for sinners. Because Jesus died for us.


This commandment is so important that Jesus repeated it again in John 15:12. Why did Jesus emphasize love so much? Because we so easily forget. Loving others is not something we naturally do. Being human, we respond like the disciples did. In the upper room just prior to Christ's crucifixion all they could talk about was who was the greatest. Jesus responded to their selfishness by washing their feet. The Lord repeatedly addressed the disciples over pride and selfishness. One time He placed a child before them and told them that they needed to become humble like a little child. Another time Jesus told them that the greatest ones in His kingdom were the ones who served their brethren. But after all this is what Jesus did for us. 


The commandment to love goes back to the beginning. But Jesus lifted this standard to a new level. He loved unconditionally and sacrificially. This is the standard we must use. In fact Christ commands us to love one another as He has loved us. Do you see people the way Jesus did? Do you love them the way that He did? Do people say that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ because of your love for others? Can they see Christ's love shining through you?


Thirdly,    A New Experience To Be Lived

a. Hatred Stumbles In The Darkness

1 John 2:9,11: He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

Once more, John starts his discussion by examining a false statement that was being spread. Some people were claiming to live by God's standard while they hated their brother. But Christians who claim this are actually in the darkness. Do we agree with this statement? Absolutely! When people are angry, bitter or unforgiving towards a brother it's sinful. They're not walking in the light at all! Few Christians today would deny this. But what about our enemies? What if others have wronged us? Are we to still love them? Yes! Jesus commands us to love our enemies and do good to them. Jesus loved His enemies and forgave those who crucified Him.

Friendliness To Enemies

The Civil War had just ended and some of the more ruthless Northerners began to lord it over their fellow Southerners. A hot blooded contingency of die hard former rebels gained an audience with President Lincoln. His gentle, friendly manner soon thawed the ice and the Southerners left with a new respect for their old foe. A northern congressman approached the president and criticized him for befriending the enemy. He suggested that instead of befriending him he should have them shot as traitors. Lincoln smiled and replied, Am I not destroying my enemies by making them my friends?  We would have to agree with this!

However some people say that they are neutral towards some folk. They certainly don't hate them, but they don't love them either. How can they love them, they hardly even know them? That's rubbish. We either love or hate people there is no neutral ground. Love is not an emotion, its an act of our will. If we don't express God's love to our brother by meeting his need we actually hate him. We love ourselves more than our neighbor since we ignore his needs to look after ourselves. This neutral attitude blinds people to the truth. They walk around, or literally live in the darkness. There's nothing neutral about the way that Jesus loved people. He loved them radically and commands us to do the same.

Jesus had to correct this selfish kind of thinking in His day too. Luke 10:25-37: And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said to him, What is written in the law? What is your reading of it? So he answered and said, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. And He said to him, You have answered rightly; do this and you will live. But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, and who is my neighbor? Then Jesus answered and said: A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.


Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you. So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves? And he said, he who showed mercy on him. Then Jesus said to him, go and do likewise.

Jesus commands us to go and do what the Good Samaritan did! Out of the three people that passed by the wounded man only he loved him. The other two religious people hated him. They weren't neutral to him. They didn't care less if he died. The Samaritan loved him by helping him. You can't love some one with just words. Love is active. God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. God's love is active toward men regardless of how we respond to Him. 1 John 3:16-18: By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.


How To Hug


A man walked down the street past a used book store. As he looked in the window he saw a book with the title How To Hug. Being somewhat of a romantic nature he went in to buy the book. Much to his disappointment he discovered that it was the seventh volume of an encyclopedia set. The volume covered the subjects from How to Hug. Everyone knows that Church is a place where love ought to be manifested. Many people come to Church hoping to be loved, only to discover an encyclopedia on theology! This shouldn't be the case. Read article from Day By Day by Chuck Swindoll, page 258.


b. Love Walks In The Light

1 John 2:10: He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.

He who loves his brother abides or dwells in God's light. He knows where he is going. He doesn't stumble because he is walking in the light. It's ironic isn't it? That the one who serves his brother doesn't stumble. But the one who only looks after himself stumbles and falls. God looks after believers who serve others in love, but allows those who love and serve themselves to stumble. The commandment to love truly keeps us on the right pathway. This is because it fulfills the Law. This commandment is so important that its repeated at least a dozen times in the N. T.

Early Christians Known By Their Love

This was the reaction of the unbelieving Greek writer Lucian after he saw the warm fellowship that Christians shared. It is incredible to see the fervor with which the people of that religion help each other in their needs. They spare nothing. Their first legislator has put it into their heads that they are brethren. They practiced the New Commandment of love. Are you Jesus' disciple? How have you demonstrated your love for your brother? How can we love our brother? One way is by keeping the one another commandments.

1. Love John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. Christ set the standard of how we should love.

2. Service Galatians 5:13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

3. Greet 1 Corinthians 16:20 All the brethren greet you. Greet one another with a holy kiss.

4. Bearing Colossians 3:13: Bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.  


5. Bear Burdens Galatians 6:2: Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

6 &7. Kindness - Forgiveness Ephesians 4:32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you. David was kind to Mephibosheth.

8. Submission Ephesians 5:21 Submitting to one another in the fear of God.

9. Teaching & Admonishing Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.  To teach God's Word to one another!

10 & 11. Comfort & Edify. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing. To comfort and build each other up in the faith!

12. Consider To Stir Up Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works. To think of how you can encourage others to love and do good works.

13. Exhort Hebrews 10:25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. To encourage the backsliders to come to Church. This isn't just the pastor's job!

14. Confession & Prayer Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Ja 5:16

15. Don't Lie Colossians 3:9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds,

16. Have Compassion 1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; To be soft & gentle to others.

17. & 18. Hospitality, Ministry 1 Peter 4:9-10; Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.  Have people over for meals, to visit the sick! minister  diakonew

19. Esteem Others Better Philippians 2:3: Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.

20 & 21. Be Kindly Affectionate & Prefer One Another Romans 12:10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.

22. Wash One Another's Feet John 13:14: If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.

23. Have Same Mind Romans 12:16: Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion


24. Have The Same Care 1 Corinthians 12:25: that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.

25. Do Not Judge One Another Romans 14:13: Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.

26. Receive One Another Romans 15:7: Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.

27. Admonish One Another Romans 15:14:  Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.


28. Increase And Abound In Love 1 Thessalonians 3:12: And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you,

29. Exhort One Another Hebrews 3:13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

30. Don't Speak Evil James 4:11: Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.


But how can we love those that rub us up the wrong way? By choosing to love them in advance and drawing on God's help.

Romans 5:5: Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. God enables us to love others if we choose to. The Holy Spirit gives us the power required to love the way that Jesus loved.


Corrie Ten Boom forgave her former guard and loved him. At first she struggled until she chose to do it. Then God honored her decision and enabled her to love him.


How Much Do You Love God?

It's impossible to look into the boiler and see how much water it contains. But running up beside it is a tiny glass tube, that serves as a gauge. As the water stands in the little tube so it stands in the boiler. When the tube is half full the boiler is half full too. If the tube is empty the boiler is empty too. How do you know how much you love God? You believe you love Him but you want to know. Your love for your brother is the measure of your love for God.


1 John 4:20 agrees with this: If someone says, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 



The distinguishing mark of a Christian is love. Jesus said that people would know His disciples by their love for one another. Do you love the Lord? Then prove it by your love for your brother! How are you loving your brother? With empty words or caring deeds? God's love is not expressed through sentimental words but by action. Are you willing to love people the way that the Good Samaritan did? His love was practical and down to earth. It cost him time and money. But it met his real need.

Love that doesn't give is useless. It accomplishes nothing. When you hear of someone in need how do you respond? Do you say why doesn't their family or some one do something? Christians have said that to us when we had a real need? Or do you show your love by stepping in to help? I trust that we will practice our love by serving. I trust that we will show it by keeping the one another commandments. Let all men know that we are Jesus' disciples.


Today we have seen three things about walking in love. An Old Edict From The Law, A New Example From The Lord, A New Experience To Be Lived. Beloved, let us be known for our love for one another, not for our laws or theology.


2 Corinthians 13:14: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

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