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The Evidence of God's Love

God's Love Contrasted, 3:11-15.

1 John 3:11 For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. [12] Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous.

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;

Romans 3:15 Their feet are swift to shed blood:

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 not’t even have to be the taking of physical life to qualify as murder.

Matthew 15:19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:

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.[1]  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)

The  word for "fool" is the equivalent of the term "blockhead" as found in the "Peanuts" cartoon - our word "moron" is a transliteration from the original.  This is actually character assassination - any time we find ourselves engaged in "putting down" a person we are performing mental murder!

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..

1 John 3:14 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. [15] Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.

Here's the exciting news from the Gospel - we can love not only each other but our enemies[2] 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.[3]


Love Commended- 3:16-18.

1 John 3:16 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

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, God’s Love. If while we were Christ’s enemies, He suffered on the cross for our sins,[4] then the debt is clear we must demonstrate God’s Love toward each other and the world [5] 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.[6]

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 Christ’s command must put God’s 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 God’s Love in the extreme - to the point of a major impact on our lives.

1 John 3:17 But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?

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 world’s 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 God’s Love to a sinful world.

1 John 3:18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

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
For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, [4] they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.

First, was the attitude - later on Paul refers to the Readiness of the mind - another way to put was that they were eager to give to the Jerusalem church.  So they pleaded with Paul, even though they did not have the means - howhere, they did have the Love - the mercy.  I'd like to call this "Grace Giving."  Actually, this is the only way to give - out of grace - which is, of course, the result of Love's motivation.  So we have a God-given Generosity - an outward expression of the Love-connection that we have within ourselves.

The basis of this "Grace Giving" is found in verse 5:

2 Cor. 8:5
And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will. (NIV)

This is Romans 12:1, 2 in action.  If we rely on our own motivations we will give and be gracious to those whom we like.  The unpleasant will not even be given the time of day as the saying goes.  For the church to be a testimony to the world - Love must be expressed through Divine Generosity.  James expresses it this way:

James 2:15-17 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, [16] And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? [17] Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

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
But just as you excel in everything--in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us--see that you also excel in this grace of giving. )NIV).

Every believer is expected to show God's Love - God's Love is energetic - It is proactive - It must act!  The difference between the Gnostics of John's day and the believers in Christ was that the believers were showing God's Love in acts of mercy - refer back to 1 John 3:18 - acts of mercy - not just words! 

2 Cor. 8:8
I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. (NIV).

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
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (NIV).

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. [7] 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
Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. [12] For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. (NIV).

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.

Love’s Confidence - 19-22

1 John 3:19 We shall know by this that we are of the truth, and shall assure our heart before Him,

The referent of this verse is the Love of God that we demonstrate to the brethren. We now enter a special section of John’s 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.[8] Let us look within the heart of the believer and see the Love of God in action.

1 John 3:20 in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. (NASB)

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. [3] For I know my transgressions, And my sin is ever before me. [4] 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. [9]

The second application is when we, having confessed our sin, remain condemned by our own conscience. The conscience knows nothing of God’s 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 God’s 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." [10]

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. [11]

1 John 3:21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; (NASB)

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[12] 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; [34] 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. [35] 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

1 John 3:23-24 And this is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. [24] And the one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And we know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us. (NASB)

Finally, we are to conclude that the very fact that God’s love has reached It’s objective (perfected) in us is proof positive that we are His children for He would not perfect His love in the devil’s 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 God’s 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 God’s 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 God’s 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 God’s Love is further defined by the other qualities as found herein. I have heard this scripture quoted many times as a definition of God’s 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 God’s Love within us but others around us must enjoy it! This is precisely John’s point in 1 John 3:17. The indwelling Holy Spirit will, if He is filling the believer[13], show God’s Love to others by means of loving, gracious, and merciful acts.

1. Gal 5:19-21. [ Back ]
2. Mat 5:44-48. [ Back ]
3. Gal 5:22, 23; Mat 5:44-48 [ Back ]
4. Rom 5:8 - Literally, God put His Love in a showcase as a displayed Jewel and the showcase was the cross.  [ Back ]
5. John 13:34, 35. [ Back ]
6. 1 Cor 9:22, 23.  Here Paul is being gracious to all men, out of God's Love, in order that he might win them to Christ.  The lesson here is that we should never be obnoxious or self-centered toward our sinner friends - the foremost thought in our minds is how we might be able to show Christ's Love toward them by gracious, kind acts in spite of their unkindly acts toward us.  [ 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, [2] and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; [3] 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 ]

8. Our position in Christ means that we wear His righteousness like a cloak, even when we enter the throne room of our Heavenly Father in unconfessed sin.  No High Priest in Old Testament times would have survived entering the Holiest in an unclean state.   We will be studying our connection with the Love of God in a future lesson.  For now, consider Romans 8: 31-34, and then read vs' 35-39   [ 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.