THE LAW OF LOVE
I John 2:7-17
"Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes. I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake. I write unto you fathers, because ye have known Him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father. I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known Him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one. Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."
John has pointed out, the keeping of God's commands is the real test of one's Christianity. Now he singles out the one specific command that the Lord had so emphasized as the most necessary. The saints are commanded to "love" one another.
This command occurs six times in the five chapters of I John. John knew of love firsthand, for he loved Jesus, and felt in return the love of the Lord. He was the disciple that leaned upon the breast of Jesus. He knew how vital love is to the faith. The gnostics claimed to be above others, yet they were arrogant, contemptuous, and unloving. Today, there are many who claim to be saints, but lack love, abuse other saints with their gossip, backbiting, and slander. John is a reminder to the saints, that love is indispensable and essential to the faith.
This is not a new commandment, for Jesus taught it earlier, and John recorded it in John 15:12:
"This is My commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you."
Thus John repeats it three times in verse 7, and once in verse 8. Jesus had given the old, not obsolete, law... the one that God has tried to get across to mankind for centuries... How frustrated God has been since impudent Cain asked:
"Am I my brother's keeper?"
Some congregations have had members who have lived and acted as though the law of love is antiquated... This has been a law since "the beginning" (vs. 7). So since the "saints" of that day, and of our own day, need a refreshing, a renewing of the old commandment...
So John says:
"Again, a new commandment I write unto you..."
The word for "new" is "kainos," which means "renewed", "fresh." Jesus made it "new" in that now it is a direct command from Him, and He has shown an example in His life, and in His crucifixion what love really is. Jesus showed how saints are to become part of one body of believers... part of His body... and begin to show love to one another...
The "darkness is now past, and the true light now shineth..." (vs. 8). We have the enlightenment of Jesus, and there is no excuse of ignorance, of darkness of mind concerning His will for us... This new, renewed, and fresh commandment of the Lord takes away any excuse we may have tried to claim... We are in a new era of the gospel, and if anyone tries to claim ignorance... they do so in self deceit, or in hypocritical slander.
How we respond to the command to love reveals his essential character. If one habitually finds reason to hate, it shows that he/she is in darkness. If one finds reason to love, it shows that he/she is in the light. Love will reveal the faith... hatred will reveal the lack of it.
If one hates his brother, he is in darkness... Darkness is the moral poverty, the lack of reality of the relationship with Jesus that a person might claim. Many, in that day, and many more in our own time, walk, or grope along in life... There are many in the church congregations who do not know:
where they are going spiritually,
where the church is to be going,
whether they are in the revival of the last days or not.
Many are headed toward the precipice over which they will plunge, because of the darkness of hatred.
"But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. The way of the wicked is as darkness; they know not at what they stumble."
The just will love, and the brightness of the love, will shine forth as light... Hatred robs the church of that day, and of our own, of the spiritual insight, and blinds people of all ages. The church congregations have too often been trapped in the blindness of hatred... and do not know that they are blind.
"and knowest not that thou are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked..."
If we love, and thereby walk in light, we will not stumble... For in the light, we can see the pitfalls... We can see the stumbling stones... John is speaking to some who need love... and need that love very much. It is vital that they realize the law of love, and follow it... The lack of love will devastate a congregation... Therefore, with the law of love comes a warning of what happens when the law of love is perverted.
Notice to whom John appeals:
I John 2:12-13
"I write unto you, little children (teknia), because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake. I write unto you fathers (pateres), because ye have known Him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men (neaniskoi), because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children (paidia), because ye have known the Father."
The stages of Christian growth are shown in this passage of I John. The "teknia" are the infants, new born...... The "paidia" are the little toddlers struggling to walk... The "neaniskoi" are the young men, those grown to the prime of life... Then the "pateres" are the ones fully matured in life.... These Greek words were used in the natural to refer to different stages of growth in the natural, and John uses them to refer to the different stages of development in the spiritual lives of the saints. We need to identify, honestly, where we are in our development spiritually.
When we are "teknia", i.e. - babes, infants in the Lord, our sins are forgiven, but we are not ready for much else but bottle feeding of the milk of the Word of God.
When we are "paidia", i.e. - toddlers, learning to walk in faith and obedience to the Lord, we will stumble often, and need the Father's frequent forgiveness and mercy.
When we are finally "neaniskoi", i.e. - strong and in the prime of life spiritually, we will be able to resist the devil and see him flee and be defeated as we battle against him in the power of the Spirit.
When we are "pateres", i.e. - mature and stable saints with wisdom gained by what we have learned of the Lord in the previous stages, we will rest in our security of knowing Him Who has been working on us, and in us, since our beginning.
To these different kinds of saints, John is speaking. And since we all fall into one of these categories, we need all to heed the instructions he gives here.
The appeal of John is found in I John 2:14-17:
"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."
John tells us to not love the "world". He used this word "world":
79 times in the gospel,
and 23 times in this epistle.
By this term, he is referring to the created order, the human race, and the unbelieving pagan society.
I John 5:19
"For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith."
To love the world is a grave possibility for all levels of Christians. We must be aware of the possibility of failing. To many feel they have reached some level of superior holiness and cannot fail. Peter had such a feeling just before the crucifixion. He failed as Jesus had warned him. We are warned by John, and must heed the warning.
To love the world and the things therein - means to love its lusts, its ambitions, its pleasures, and its motives... Far too many saints try to live a life that is almost indistinguishable from the world's... They may carry a big Bible on Sunday, and bless the pastor with frequent "amen"s --- but Monday through Saturday, they cuss, beat or verbally attack their mates, and shame the Lord (Whose name they claim).
John tells us the basic method of the devil to lead astray the saints into a false love.. The law of love teaches us to love God supremely, and to love our neighbor as ourselves... The devil wants us to love the world. John warns us that the world, and its love has three main enticements toward sin:
"For all that is in the world,
1. the lust of the flesh,
2. the lust of the eyes,
3. and the pride of life,
is not of the Father, but is of the world."
If we allow our love to be perverted by the "lust of the flesh", we will lose our eternal life. Paul identified the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21. Adultery, fornication, lustfulness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousies, wrath, strivings for superiority, heresies, and remorse of the good fortune of others, and pleasurable carousing... all show a love of our own selves... This is the lust of the flesh that John warns us about.
Saints in many church congregations can witness to seeing such things in the church. We may try to ignore such sins, but they affect ministers, board members, choir members, Sunday School teachers, etc. We act shocked, and pretend that each incident is fluke... The human nature, as corrupted by sin, brings many actions within Christianity, that have no place there.... Love of the world, and its nature, is the cause of the works of the flesh.
The "lust of the eyes" is the area of sin whereby one desires, loves, and constantly contemplates the things he does not have. This is a common area of sin in congregations. Many a "saint" has desired to be a deacon, a choir director, a rich man, etc. This desire can overwhelm the person, make them strive, connive, and scheme to achieve such goals.
for another person,
has destroyed many congregations.
The craving for that which entices our eyes is common in congregations.
Many excuse such sin for they convince themselves
that it is only thought, not action... and therefore is innocent.
The "pride of life" has often been misunderstood. Pride is from the Greek word - "alazoneia". It means "vain boastings." It is used only one other place in the Bible. In that one other place, James 4:16, we see that the boastings of what we expect in this world can be sinful.
"Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain. Whereas, ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. But now ye rejoice in your boastings (alazoneia): all such rejoicing is evil."
Many a saint has boasted of their pension, their huge stock holdings, their secure position at work, their financial wealth, etc. They boast and feel secure, and like the rich man described by Jesus, they build barns, feel secure, and are called a "fool" by the Lord... It is foolish to have pride in our own lives.
The perversion of true spiritual prosperity has engendered a false doctrine that is simply a "pride of life..." Our hearts and minds should be set upon the Lord and His righteousness. The Lord will add to us all that we need... but we should not seek 100 fold blessings... We should seek the Lord.
The vainglory of life, the feeling secure in anything, or anyone, other than God, is sin. We are not to trust in money, position, fame, life insurance policies, etc. We are to realize the fleetness of our lives, and that we are here only to serve the Lord, and He can call us home to heaven at any moment... Life here is short, and we should quit the pride and boasting of things we think make us secure in this life.
These vain boastings have too long been considered to be innocent, harmless, normal... but God calls them sin! It is not only hatred that is a perversion of the LOVE that God wants us to have, but also the wrong kind of love is sin!
I John 2:17
"The world passes away, and the lust thereof..."
The world is temporary, and what is truly worthwhile is the eternal... The law of love teaches us to love God, and love the spiritual worth of all of mankind... The devil wants to get us to love the satisfaction of the flesh, or to retreat into a dream world of desire and cravings for things in the world, or to feel proud of the achievements we have made in life... John instructs us very well concerning the law of love... He had learned well concerning this from Jesus. It is a truth that many need to be taught in our day, for "darkness hath blinded" (2:8) the eyes of many in the church. This darkness needs to be dispelled.