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The Evidence of God's Love
God's Love Contrasted, 3:11-15.
I think we are all familiar with the account of the murder of Abel. Abel had been taught about the need to shed blood in sacrifice to the Lord for the remission of sins. Cain had undoubtedly been taught the same concept but because (from John's account) Cain was still in unbelief, he hated his brother even before Abel's sacrifice was accepted by the Lord. Cain's sacrifice was not according to God's plan and in addition to that he performed the ritual with a heart of unbelief. Cain, the son of the wicked one, killed his brother in jealousy and hatred because of the spiritual animosity that naturally existed from him toward his brother even though family love should have controlled his action.
Without Christ all men are murderers by bent. Paul, the apostle said this in his epistle of Romans;
This is the natural response of the unsaved - even against their own kind. Lenski points out that the original for murderer is "man-murderer." It does nott even have to be the taking of physical life to qualify as murder.
Murder can come in the form of character assassination. It is a matter of the heart. The sad fact is that we are all in our sinful nature prone to murder - either mental or in the extreme physical. Jesus goes on to show that He really is not just talking about acts of the hand but also acts played out in the heart:
Matthew 5:22 "But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his
brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is
answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the
fire of hell." (NIV)
With this shocking realization John's conclusion should be no surprise to us - Christians should not be surprised when the world - the unsaved have a hatred toward them and, at times, this mental murder is played out and we have martyrs for Christ as a result. So then, model for this hatred was set forth early in this Genesis account it was the natural result that it would be played out when Cain murdered Abel, for he had already done it in his heart..
Here's the exciting news from the Gospel - we can love not only each other but our enemies because of God's love, not some sort of character improvement program.
The fruit of the Spirit is Love - God's Love - the difference between the unsaved and the believer is that the believer is enabled by the Holy Spirit to Love as Christ (and the Father) Loves. Not only each other but the unpleasant sinner. Paul uses the image of the fruit tree to illustrate this fact. If we have the indwelling Holy Spirit we will have the fruit of loving each other, which will be a testimony to the world for Christ, but most important, we will be empowered to love our enemies as Christ, Himself commanded.
Love Commended- 3:16-18.
We have a debt. Whereas the first response to an offensive brother would be to react in character assassination (make that mental murder) we owe that brother Love, Gods Love. If while we were Christs enemies, He suffered on the cross for our sins, then the debt is clear we must demonstrate Gods Love toward each other and the world  by loving each other even if we find our brothers to be offensive. We also have a debt to the world to love all men so that we might win them to Christ.
John uses an interesting word, ought, in our passage here. The meaning is not that it is the recommended or proper thing to do - to lay down our lives for the brethren. No. It means that we have a debt. We owe it to our brothers to be willing to go to the extreme for our brothers in Christ. If God puts His Love in the showcase of this world by the death of Christ, then we, too, in fulfillment of Christs command must put Gods Love in the showcase of the world - we must commend His Love to the world by loving the brethren unconditionally. One Bible teacher has described the nominal Christian walk as living in the comfort zone, where there are no commitments that cost the believer any inconvenience. John is teaching us here that we are to leave the comfort zone and extend Gods Love in the extreme - to the point of a major impact on our lives.
During the persecution of the Christians at Jerusalem in the Apostles time many Christian families became financially destitute. At the same time the churches in Macedonia were experiencing a difficulty of a different kind. The Macedonian area had come under special Roman rule where none of the natural resources were available to the native residents. As a result, many families, Christian families became poor. When Paul sent out the word that the Jerusalem church needed financial aid, Macedonia cracked the Grace Barrier and gave financially way beyond their capacity from the worlds point of view. They left what little "comfort zone" they had and gave to the Jerusalem Christians in supernatural abundance.
The church today has somehow lost that vision but John and Jesus both say this is how we demonstrate Gods Love to a sinful world.
We must take a detour at this point and turn to 2 Cor 8 and pick up the account of the miraculous giving of the Macedonian church. The Corinthian church was a wealthy church - the Macedonian church was not. Yet it was the Macedonian church that produced the miracle of giving in love not Corinth. What was the difference? Look at 2 Cor 8:
2 Cor. 8:3-4
The basis of this "Grace Giving" is found in verse 5:
2 Cor. 8:5
Right along John has pointed that the heretics are noted by their claim to the truth but their actions betray their lost state. The believer is characterized by his acts of Love and Mercy toward the brethren as James also points out.
Let's go back to the account in 2 Corinthians.
2 Cor. 8:7
2 Cor. 8:8
Actually, the believers at Corinth were having "growing pains" in that they were acting like immature believers to such an extent that they were acting like unbelievers - yet, Paul expected Corinth to act out God's Love also - there are no exceptions! Every believer's evidence of his salvation is that he acts out God's Love toward each other and to the unsaved! It is as much a "given" as the law of gravity.
Paul masterfully uses the example of our Lord Jesus Christ:
2 Cor. 8:9
The Son of God had all the wealth of the universe - He was the One that created it - yet He was willing set aside the wealth and become a poor carpenter and then an itinerate rabbi (in the eyes of the world) in order that He might fulfil the demands of God's justice and become the Lamb of God. He actually had no visible means of support. The only recorded means of support were from some women who had been saved through Jesus' ministry.  Jesus had set the example - the questions begs - are we His servants to do less than our Master?
So, the proof of the genuineness of any believer's saving faith is his ability and willingness to show that Love to others in acts of graciousness and mercy (refer back to verse 8).
The showing of God's Love is done with an eagerness of mind - that is, the believer is eager to show God's Love.
2 Cor. 8:11-12
The KJV uses the word "readiness" - the Greek is prothumia. Classical usage denoted a positive disposition toward doing something - it was used to show zeal, eagerness, readiness, willingness. Writings in the Classical Greek showed this word to be the opposite of slothfulness, a begrudging attitude - to be disinclined to do a good thing. This attitude of eagerness to show God's Love through loving deeds and gracious words and acts was expected even from carnal Corinth - We have that same "debt" - we owe it to our brothers and sisters in Christ and unbelievers to be like Christ in acting out the Love of God that is within us.
The referent of this verse is the Love of God that we demonstrate to the brethren. We now enter a special section of Johns epistle where we go deep within the heart of the believer. John felt it necessary to bring out a very important point about the Love of God which has been perfected within our hearts. The word for "assure" means to quiet a troubled heart. Note that this quietness is before God, not men. It is easy to become disturbed before men - we all have sinful natures and at times these sinful natures can offend others. However, our Heavenly Father is the Perfect Parent. We should not recoil in fear as did Adam and Eve did in the garden when the Lord came looking for them after they had sinned. John is not teaching that we should have a caviler attitude toward Him, rather he is teaching that when our hearts are troubling us over any matter the one place we should go without fear is our Heavenly Father. Our standing and confidence before God is what counts. Let us look within the heart of the believer and see the Love of God in action.
I think it is important to note that this commentary has been inserted between one complete thought which is that our hearts are to be quieted before Him even if our conscience should condemn us. A major point to remember is that God in His perfect plan has seen to it that the believer has peace within his heart. There are two applications to this verse that come to mind:
The first application is when we sin personally and do not address it before God. A spiritual tension breaks out within the heart through the conviction of the Holy Spirit and we are drawn back to our Father in repentance. We, along with David, say; Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin.  For I know my transgressions, And my sin is ever before me.  Against Thee, Thee only, I have sinned, And done what is evil in Thy sight, So that Thou art justified when Thou dost speak, And blameless when Thou dost judge. (Psalm 51:2-4, NASB). This is the dynamic of 1 John 1:9. We do not "confess" our sin in ritualistic duty, rather confession is a heartfelt admission that we have sinned and wish the forgiveness and restored fellowship of our Heavenly Father. A very important point to be made is that even though the believer has sinned, he still prays -- to the Father. He does not try to cover up his sin but, in confidence and repentance comes into the very presence of the Father to secure forgiveness. In this case, our heart is quieted - not just because our conscience has been satisfied, but because we, in obedience, have admitted our sin before Him - and we do this in confidence.
Another variation of the first case is when we do not confess our personal sin. In this case the heart is troubled through Divine Discipline - we are scourged with a whip by our Heavenly Father and yet receive comfort because we know we are His children, else He would not have bothered to discipline us in the first place. 
The second application is when we, having confessed our sin, remain condemned by our own conscience. The conscience knows nothing of Gods Love or Mercy - it knows only how to condemn. John points out that God is greater than our hearts. Vincent says this: "Is this superior greatness to be regarded as related to Gods judgment or His compassion? If to His judgment, the sense is God who is greater than our heart and knows all things, must not only endorse but emphasize our self-accusation. If our heart condemn, how much more God, who is greater than our heart. If to His compassion, the sense is: when our heart condemns us we shall quiet it with the assurance that we are in the hands of a God who is greater than our heart who surpasses man in love and compassion no less than in knowledge." 
A point very well taken. Our assurance is not based on our self-justification that we have behaved perfectly as His children - rather, our confidence before Him is based on His Love and Compassion. 
This is the heart that has been made confident before God. We should not contrast verse 20 with 21 - there are not two classes of Christians - those who stand condemned by their hearts because of their shortcomings and repeated failures and God the other class being those who, in self-assurance are sure that they have behaved perfectly before God, rather, we should make verse 21 the result of what has happened in verse 20. This is the energetic Love of God that is poured out in the heart of the Christian. Paul makes the comment; Romans 8:1 "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." And, in Romans 8:33-35 he asks the question; "Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies;  who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?..." This is the wonderful confidence we have before Him that our peace with Him is not based on our self-conceived point system of "godly behavior" but on the Love and Compassion of God who, like a Father Loves us both in tender and tough ways.
Love Commanded - 23, 24
Finally, we are to conclude that the very fact that Gods love has reached Its objective (perfected) in us is proof positive that we are His children for He would not perfect His love in the devils children. In 24b John alludes to the dynamic of His Love - it is from the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit that makes this wonderful blessing possible.
Walking in the Light is two-fold we must not only have received Christ as Savior - that is the entrance into walking in the Light - but He expects as evidence from this walking in the Light the confirmation of His Love as demonstrated toward Him and each other.
Some Final Thoughts
These comments are not based strictly from our text in 1 John but are from selected texts found elsewhere in the New Testament. As I was meditating on Gods Love as found in this portion of scripture, several connections were made with other scripture verses. Let me share them with in a topical format.
We Receive and Show Gods Love from the Indwelling Holy Spirit - Rom 5:5.
Two metaphors are used to describe how the Love of God is demonstrated in the life of the believer. The first is that of a gushing spring of water or a torrential down pouring of rain. This is the meaning of the text in Romans 5:5 - the phrase "shed abroad." Jesus also referred to this metaphor of water in the gospel of John 7:38, 39 in connection with the Holy Spirit. The point of these two portions of scripture is that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit will produce an abundance of an outward manifestation of His presence. This will be in the expression of His Love, Mercy, Compassion and Graciousness. It is inconceivable that a believer can have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and not have Gods Love noticed in these ways by himself and others.
The next metaphor that comes to mind is the fruit-bearing plant. This is found in Galatians 5:22, 23. Many Bible students believe that the grammar and order of this list is such that Gods Love is further defined by the other qualities as found herein. I have heard this scripture quoted many times as a definition of Gods Love, but a point that Dr. Strong makes has apparently been missed by many and that point is this; this fruit is meant to be plucked and enjoyed by others. In this metaphor, fruit is never meant to merely mature, ripen, fall to the ground to rot - not to be enjoyed by others. No, we must not only have Gods Love within us but others around us must enjoy it! This is precisely Johns point in 1 John 3:17. The indwelling Holy Spirit will, if He is filling the believer, show Gods Love to others by means of loving, gracious, and merciful acts.
1. Gal 5:19-21. [ Back ]
7. Luke 8:1-3 After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to
another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, 
and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called
Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out;  Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager
of Herod's household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them
out of their own means. [ Back ]
9. Heb. 12:5-7. [ Back ]
10. Word Studies in the New Testament by Marvin R. Vincent, Vol. I & II, pg. 353. [ Back ]
11. Let us not forget the continuous cleansing of the Blood of Christ. (1 Jn 1:7, 9). [ Back ]
12. We will cover the subject of the pro-activity of God's Love in a future lesson. [ Back ]
13. Eph 5:18. The Greek pleroo. In the classical Gk. was used to convey saturation, totality or fullness. An interesting usage of this word in the LXX is found in 1 Ki 2:27 (LXX 3 Ki 2:27); 2 Chron 36:22 where the word is used to indicate that what the Lord said would happen came to pass. In the New Testament the word conveys a complete influence or (some might say control) not in the sense of making one a robot without will but one whose life is ultimately, completely under the influence and motivation of - in this case the Holy Spirit. In other cases the influence or "control" is from Satan (Acts 5:3). Another facet of this word might be to think of the Holy Spirit as having brought the Believer's life to its maximum limit. We must contrast Paul's use of pleroo with the contrasting image of a person being under the "influence" of wine - where the Holy Spirit "influences" the believer to exhibit the moral qualities of God where it is a spontaneous evidence of His Person residing within the believer.