Bible Truths

Lesson 14 How Christians Are To Love One Another

Loving one another is not an option for Christians - it is acommand, and there are no boundaries ( Jn 13:34-35; 15:12-17). Jesus commandsus here to love one another with the same love wherewith He loved us. Thatmeans that Christians' love for each other is not self-seeking, butunconditional and self-sacrificial as Christ's was for us ( Jn 13:2-17). Jesuswas not instituting a foot-washing ordinance here that the Church has topractice, but was demonstrating the true meaning of servanthood to Hisdisciples. The act of washing the disciples' feet was to inspire them to loveand honour each other above themselves. It teaches us that we should be willingto do the lowliest service for each other, and prefer the least among us aboveourselves ( Php 2:1-5). Christians are to do nothing out of selfish ambition orvain conceit, but in humility are to consider others better than themselves. Indoing this Christians imitate Christ ( Ro 15:1-3). Neighbour in V2 here meansfellow-Christian.

Christ is the model of conduct in relationships between weakand strong Christians. His example demands mutual forbearance and love. We areto follow Christ's example and not live for our own self-interests, but toserve our brothers and sisters in Christ ( Ga 5:13-15; 6:2). The law of Christis to love one another unconditionally and self-sacrificially, even as Christloves us. Neighbour in Ga 5:14 also means fellow-Christian as in Ro 15:2. Loveexpressed like this surpasses by far all moral systems of all other religionsand is a sign to the world of the reality of Christianity ( 1Cor 12:18-26).This clearly shows how the lives of Christians are inextricably woven togetherin Christ, and how we need to relate to and depend upon one another in orderthat God's purpose for the Church be fulfilled. If we all loved one another theway Christ directed us to in Jn 13 and 15, then whatever affects one of us willaffect all of us. If one suffers, then all will suffer with that one, and ifone is honoured, then all will rejoice with that one.

Here is the literal English rendering of Jn 13:34-35 fromthe Greek according to Kenneth Wuest's Expanded Translation of the Greek NewTestament, "A commandment, a new one I am giving you, that you should beconstantly loving one another with a divine and self-sacrificial love; even asI loved you, you also be loving one another. In this all shall know that youare my disciples, if you constantly have love among one another."

The key word there is if ( 1Jn 2:3-5, 9-11; 5:1-3; 2Jn 5-6).These passages all underline the test of true Christianity: obedience and love.Firstly, they teach that the only sure way of knowing that we are saved is bybeing obedient to God's commands. Anyone who professes to be a Christian butlives as they please will have no part in God's eternal kingdom. This clearlyrefutes the teaching that "once saved" means "alwayssaved". It is only by continued obedience to God's word that salvation isassured and God's love is perfected in Christians. Christian love expressesitself first of all in implicit obedience to God's commandments. Secondly,those scriptures teach that Christians reveal the genuineness of their love forGod only by their love for each other. In 1Jn 2:9-11 love is characterized bylight, and hate, by darkness, which signifies hell and eternal damnation.Anyone who says they love God but does not express that love by theirunconditional, self-sacrificial love for other Christians are only deludingthemselves thinking that they are saved ( 1Jn 3:10-19,23-24).

The theme of John's teaching in this epistle is summed upfor us here in V10 where he distinguishes between the true children of God andthe children of the devil. The true children of God do not habitually sin, andthey love each other unconditionally and self-sacrificially. The word lovethhere is agapao, the love of God Himself - the same love commanded and inspiredby Jesus in Jn 13:34-35 and 15:12. 1Jn 3:14 teaches that it is only Christians'love for each other manifested like this that assures them of their place inGod's eternal kingdom, and this is confirmed in V16-19 ( Jas 2:14-26). We learnhere that the only faith that saves is that demonstrated by works out of ourlove for God and for each other. This is the acid test of Christianity wherebywe know whether we are following the example of God's love to others. If we arenot willing to give of our material things to other Christians in need, then wecertainly would not lay down our lives for them as Jesus laid down His life forus, and expects us to do for each other. James teaches the same thing here asJohn. Notwithstanding that we profess to love God, we are deluding ourselvesthinking that we are saved if we do nothing unconditionally andself-sacrificially for our brothers and sisters in Christ ( Lu 16:19-31).

This is called the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Itis not teaching that the rich man went to hell just because he was rich andLazarus went to heaven just because he was poor. Neither affluence nor povertydetermines our eternal destiny but the life we live on earth. The rich man wentto hell because his life was filled with self-centred living, not caring aboutothers of God's children worse off than himself. In his self-indulgentlifestyle the rich man violated God's two greatest commandments ( Mt 22:36-40).Lazarus went to paradise where all the righteous dead went before Christ'sdeath and resurrection. Christ took them to heaven with Him when "Heascended up on high" ( Eph 4:8-10). Lazarus was saved, not because he waspoor, but because he found his help in God. Lazarus' name depicted hisrelationship with God. It means "God has helped", or "God thehelper". The significance of Lazarus' name suggests that Jesus meantLazarus to symbolize all the outcasts of society who have no other help but God( Mt 5:3; Lu 4:17-18). The parable of the rich man and Lazarus teaches aboveall else that Christians cannot profess reverence for God while at the sametime living only for the fulfilment of their own self-gratifying desires.Scriptures are quite clear - anyone claiming to be born again of the Spirit ofGod who at the same time consciously sows to their flesh is guilty of mockingand despising God, and will forfeit their place in his eternal kingdom ( Pr19:17; 21:13; 22:9; Mt 25:34-40 with Mt 25:41-46; Ga 6:7-10).

God says that it is only our unconditional andself-sacrificial love that gives of itself for the happiness and well-being ofour fellow-Christians that proves our love for Him, perfects His love in us,and assures us of our place in His eternal kingdom ( 1Jn 4:7-21). Here Johntraces the love Christians should manifest for each other to its source in thenature of God as revealed in Him giving His Son up to death to providesalvation for His enemies, again stressing Christians' love for each other asthe test of the Christian life. Christians are to show they are God's childrenby manifesting attitudes and actions like God's toward other Christians. It isonly by the expression of our love for each other like this that God's love isperfected in us. The effectiveness of God's love in us demonstrates itself inour love for each other. This is the perfect love that casts out fear in V18which is the same thing we learned in 1Jn 3:14 - Christians in whom God's loveis perfected through their unconditional, self sacrificial love for otherChristian's need have any fear of not being saved. They can confidently lookforward to Jesus' return, knowing that they have ensured their destiny ineternity with Him. They have proved their love for God by their love for eachother. We need to heed all that these scriptures teach because they allemphasize the love Christians are to have for each other as the key to eternallife ( Ro 12:9-10; 1Pe 1:22).

In Ro 12:9-10 Paul impresses upon us that Christians' lovefor each other has to be sincere, unfeigned, without pretence, or hypocrisy. Itmust be a sincere expression of the esteem in which we hold other Christians,honouring them above ourselves. In 1Pe 1:22 Peter commands Christians to"love one another with a pure heart fervently". Fervently meansliterally stretched out, intensely, without ceasing, continually. The idea isthat of a love that is extended to its fullest capacity to reach the one loved( Eph 4:1-3). Paul is exhorting Christians here to practice what they preach.That is essentially what "walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye arecalled" means. The Christian life we live should always be in accordancewith the profession of Christianity we make. Lowliness is humility. It means atotal absence of arrogance, conceit and haughtiness, a sense of moralinsignificance and a humble attitude for the concern of others ( Col 3:12-14).Christians are to adopt and practice diligently every form of relationalrighteousness: love, compassion, humble attitudes, self-giving behaviour,freely flowing forgiveness, and patience toward our brothers and sisters in Christ.The love shown at Calvary was a forgiving one. Ours should be the same - a lovethat causes us to be long-suffering toward each other, a love that makes uskind to each other, a love that so causes us to rejoice in the welfare ofanother that there is no room for envy in the heart, a love that is notjealous, a love that keeps us from boasting of ourselves, a love that keeps usfrom bearing ourselves in a lofty manner, a love that keeps us from actingunbecomingly, a love that keeps us from seeking our own rights, a love thatkeeps us from becoming angry, a love that does not impute evil, a love thatdoes not rejoice in iniquity but in the truth, a love that bears up against allthings, hopes all things, endures all things. That is the kind of love God saysone Christian should have for another ( 1Cor 13:1-7).

Christian love seeks the welfare of all and works no ill toany ( Ro 14:13-15). This proves that one Christian can be destroyed by another,and it teaches that whoever places a stumbling block in another Christian's wayhas ceased to walk according to love, and has violated the law of Christ, whichas we saw earlier, is the supreme Christian rule ( 1Cor 8:1-13). Christians whodo not love their brothers and sisters in Christ as God commands, hate them.Anything less than active benevolence is hatred. Scriptures all teach thatthere is no neutrality in Christianity. Jesus uses the same illustration in Mt12 ( Mt 12:30). Those who are not actively involved in doing the work of Godfor Christ are actively involved in doing the work of the devil in oppositionto Him. In God's economy love and hate, light and darkness, life and death,obedience and disobedience, necessarily replace, as well as necessarily excludeone another. Whoever has not the one, of necessity has the other in each case (Mt 25:41-46 with Ro 6:16; Jas 2:14-26; 1Jn 3:14-19; Rev 3:15-16). Thesescriptures all teach the same thing: there is no neutrality in Christianity.Like John said, "...he that loveth not his brother abideth in death"- he is going to hell ( Rev 3:7-13).

The Church at Philadelphia is one of seven Churches Jesusaddresses in Rev 2 and 3, and while they were all Churches that existed at thattime, they are also representative of Churches in all ages since then up until theend of the Church age, and what Jesus is saying to them is for our admonitiontoo. Philadelphia means love of the brethren, and what Jesus is teaching ushere is that it will only be those Christians who belong to the PhiladelphiaChurch - those who love their brothers and sisters in Christ - who will besaved from the Great Tribulation ( V10). The Church at Philadelphia were theonly ones who did all that Christ charged the New Testament Church to do. Theyobeyed His commandments and loved one another with a pure heart fervently ( He13:1; 1Pe 2:17; 4:8).

The reason for the exhortation to love one another in 1Pe4:8 is because love covers a multitude of sins. This is not teaching that thelove we display toward others will cause God to pass up or pardon their sins,but that when Christians truly love one another, one will not make public thesins of the other, but will keep them to himself. How much gossip would beeliminated in the Church if we loved each other like this ( Pr 10:12; 1Cor13:7). A classic example of the love of a New Testament saint covering up thesins of another is Paul with Onesimus in Paul's letter to Philemon ( Phm 9-21).Can we truly say that we have obeyed God and love our brothers and sisters inChrist as Paul loved Onesimus ( Eph 5:1-2). Christians are to order theirbehaviour toward each other in the same love wherewith Christ loved us. Whenour love for each other becomes the deciding factor in our choices and themotivating power in our actions, we will be exemplifying in our lives the sameself-sacrificial love for each other as Christ's was for us. If our behaviourtoward each other is ordered in this fashion, then we can know that we havepassed from death to life. If not, then we are still dead. The children of Godare characterized by love which originates in God, expresses itself inself-sacrifice, and is evidence of eternal life ( 1Pe 3:8).

The only way Christians can ever be of one mind as Petercommands here is to be brethren who are loving, tender-hearted, humble-minded,and have fellow-feeling - compassion - for one another; able to "rejoicewith them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep", which is what welearned early in this study in 1Cor 12:26, and which Ro 12:15 also teaches (1Cor 12:24-26; Ro 12:15).

There is one last point that we need to be clear on herebefore closing this study and that is, just who is my brother and sister inChrist whom I have to love? Everyone who possesses a living faith in JesusChrist as their Saviour, and remains loyal to God's word as they sincerelyunderstand it, while standing against the things that God hates, is a brotheror sister in Christ and deserves our special love, honour, and support ( 1Th3:12-13; 4:9-10). Not only are we to love all who belong to the household offaith, but we are to increase our love for them. This does not mean that wehave to compromise our particular biblical beliefs or doctrinal differences toaccommodate them all, but we are to love them in spite of our differences ( Lu9:49-50).

This is a lesson for divided Christendom today. There is noplace for narrow exclusivism in the New Testament Church. We are to love fellowChristians regardless of their denomination. If the work they do is for God'sglory they are our brothers and sisters in Christ. The Christian lifethroughout is to be motivated by divine love - the love of God; the love thatGod is Himself - which is what we learned in 1Jn 4:16. This love is produced inthe hearts of Christians by the Holy Spirit as they are yielded to His sanctifyinggrace ( 1Jn 4:16 with Ro 5:5 and Ga 5:22). Most Christians love each other witha mutual friendly love which is called out of their hearts because they findpleasure in each other's fellowship, but God calls us to increase that love toan unconditional, self-sacrificial love - the same love wherewith He loves us,and as the scriptures we have studied here all clearly teach, that is the onlylove that will ensure our place in His eternal kingdom ( 1Th 3:12-13; 4:9-10;2Pe 1:5-7).

These Studies by Dr.B.S.Warwal may be downloaded and freelydistributed but not sold for profit.