Monday, November 26, 2012
1st John Chapter 4 Part 14
4:20-21 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.
John presents some bold language about the spiritual attitudes of believers. But his judgment is based on observation, or a lack thereof. If someone says that they love God but acts in a manner that demonstrates hatred toward their Christian brother, John names such a man a liar. We read in 1st John 5:1, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him.”
In other words John is saying that the man who hates his spiritual brother cannot possibly love the One who begot him. God is invisible, while our fellow saints are quite visible. If we neglect and marginalize our fellow Christians there is little reason to believe that we genuinely make loving God a priority in our lives. If you cannot love the seen how does one love the unseen?
1st John 4:20 and 5:1 frame the same issue differently. First, John states that a Christian who hates his fellow Christians does not love God for obvious, testable reasons. In verse 1 the apostle says that anyone who genuinely loves God will likewise love His saints. If you love the Father you will love His children. This love is not demonstrated in kind words or sentimentality; it is action. Love compels the Christian to treat his brothers and sisters in Christ in a manner worthy of God, 3rd John 1:6. God would treat His children quite well; He expects us who are His spiritual children to do likewise with our brethren.
Between this pair of verses lies verse 21. In it God commands that if we truly love Him we will love our brothers in Christ as well. Again, love is not smarmy feelings. Love does not sugar coat, permit evil, compromise doctrine or parade itself for the admiration of others. Love is a servant attitude that humbles self for the sake of another. If one member of the Father’s family is honored, every member rejoices, 1st Corinthians 12:26. We read of those obsessed with self more than God or their brethren: “But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there,” James 3:14-16.
The Christian who hates his brother in Christ but pretends to love God in word has been led astray by self-seeking; an earthly wisdom that is sensual. Sensual is the Greek word “psuchikos” and refers to a bestial nature. It is one who fancies that human reason is sufficient for everything. It is the wisdom of the world which God condemns, 1st Corinthians 1:20-21. Finally, such wisdom is demonic, that is, it is inspired by demons who masquerade as gods, holy angels, spirit brothers, or whatever higher beings you require them to be in order to lead you away from the truth.
Moreover, when we cease to walk with God in love and forfeit fellowship because of sin, we become disjointed with His other children. Spiritual Christians will always raise the ire of carnal Christians whose love has gone cold. If not blatant hatred there is outright apathy. The interests of the saints and their needs no longer concern the believer who has forsaken his first faith. Such a Christian can be doctrinally sound but utterly cold and devoid of the Holy Spirit’s power that gives life and through us bears fruit.
Jesus said “These people draw near to Me with their mouth and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me, and in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men,” Matthew 15:8-9. False teachers had come to John’s spiritual children bringing contrary views about Jesus Christ, doctrinal authority and Christian charity (love). False teaching warps our view of God and His word, which in turn can do nothing but alter our walk. Perhaps Gnostic teachers had infiltrated, teaching their secret knowledge and breeding intellectual superiority among the saints who had been initiated into their mystery cult. The saints still holding fast to the word and Christ alone would be an object of piteous contempt for such enlightened believers, and this would easily incite a loss of love. John reminds us throughout this letter that true Christian unity is founded on a love based on truth. Our command is to love our fellow believer. We don’t have to necessarily like them; only to love them.