Saturday, September 15, 2012
1st John Chapter 3 Part 11
3:17-18 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? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.
We press on to a passage that mirrors a difficult passage just two verses prior. John wrote that a Christian who hates his brother is a murderer, and that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. In verse 17 John inquires as to how the love of God abides (NKJV) in the man who possesses material wealth but refuses to surrender it to needy brethren.
Let us backtrack and remember one reason John said that he wrote his epistle to begin with. It was so “that you may also have fellowship with us; and truly our [mutual] fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ,” 1st John 1:3. One major point of this epistle was the condition of abiding in Christ and having fellowship with the Father and Son, which qualified a believer to have open fellowship with fellow saints. The Christian who heard and believed the message of the gospel and reverted to his prior lifestyle, or continued on without inward transformation of heart and mind incurs Peter’s staunch warning: “For he who lacks these [spiritual gifts] is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins,” 2nd Peter 1:9.
One reason the Christian may hate his brother, be envious of his brother, or treasure material gain more than his brother’s welfare is that he has forgotten what it is Jesus has saved him from. That is what Peter is getting at; you have forgotten the amazing debt of sin that prevented you from coming to God. Wrath abided on you and Christ took the punishment. The Christian life springs forth with charity due partly to sheer gratitude, for it is the soul truly convicted by sin that truly rejoices when sin’s burden is taken from them. “Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little,” Luke 7:47.
James writes, “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin,” James 4:17. The love of God does not abide in a covetous man because he knows what is good in this case and refuses to act. Sin in a believer’s life separates us from fellowship with God, likewise separating us from performing anything of spiritual value. Furthermore in this instance an obsession with material gain is considered idolatry in God’s eyes, Ephesians 5:5. This is a stern warning to the peddlers of the prosperity gospel so popular in our culture today; instead of teaching the flock that covetousness is tantamount to idolatry, professing leaders in the church encourage such behavior and in fact counsel that God wants us to be this way. It is a far cry from His Son who had nowhere to lay His head and became poor for our sakes, Matthew 8:20; 2nd Corinthians 8:9.
John encourages us to love in action. Today’s love has more in common with apathy than Biblical love. Love compels a man to act. John says that our love should not be constrained with speech alone; the speech should be a portent to our desire and intent. Love does not rejoice in iniquity (another term for sin) but rejoices in the truth. The Christian content to keep all of his time, effort and goods to himself is in fact rejoicing in iniquity, not love as Paul defines it in 1st Corinthians 13:4-7. If we indeed are God’s purchased property (1st Corinthians 6:20; Romans 12:1) then it is only logical that as bondservants of God we should conduct ourselves in a manner fitting His teaching. By word and example the Lord teaches that love sacrifices and suffers on behalf of others; we are to act with a love of the will, not a sentimental love spawned by feelings. If I moved to act only when emotion stirred me I would scarcely lift a hand. The love of God compels me to love others despite how I feel in the given situation; not because of it.