The passages in 1 John 3 and 4 presented for our study this week are a commentary on the words of Jesus found in Mark 12:29-31. I cannot improve on this exposition by the "Beloved Apostle." I recommend that each of you my dear readers read these verses over and over and meditate on them! However, I will try to emphasize some gospel issues that strike me as important.
Both the title and content of the lesson encourage us to love our "brothers and sisters." According to Acts 17:26 all men and women were "made of one blood." God finished His creation on the sixth day when he created Adam and Eve. That means God created all of us "in Adam." We can only conclude that everyone in the world is our brother and sister. This admonition is to love everyone with special emphasis on loving our brothers and sisters who have joined with us in forming the church which is to be the "bride of Christ." "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (John 13:35).
The last two sentences in the note in Sunday's section of the lesson present what just might be the most profound truth of Scripture. (Abbreviated, it reads: "... only as we understand what happened at the cross ... can we come to love God as we should.") We can never fully experience justification by faith unless we can "see" and have "deep heartfelt appreciation" for the cross of Christ. When the disciples finally "saw it" they were never the same and they turned the "world upside down." According to the record in the book of Acts, the early church members gave everything to the church and each other with a pure motive of love. Because we are deceived by our own Laodicean condition, we are not seeing the cross of Christ and are not filled with God's love.
Monday's lesson asks us to define love. My concordance indicates that John is consistently using the Greek word agape (both noun and verb forms) in these passages. This is God's unconditional love as opposed to human love. God's love is best defined by the cross of Christ. This Divine love is self-sacrificing, and Paul wrote about it in Philippians 2:5-8. Note, he says, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." If we experience the "mind of Christ" while walking in the Spirit, we will be filled with God's love and it will flow to all of our brothers and sisters. The notes on this page contain helpful material for our study.
Tuesday's lesson speaks of faith and assurance of salvation. We must always remember that the place Jesus prepared for us is sure and secure in heaven (John 14:1-3). It is guarded by heavenly guards. Satan cannot get at it and no one will steal or destroy it. However, our faith is, "in us." It is constantly under attack by Satan and his agents. When we are tired after a hard day, our faith can become weak. We might even feel lost. The reality exists; we are still sinners living in a sinful world.
We should always look to the source of our salvation. We are saved by the grace of God. His act of grace motivated by love provided that place for us in heaven. As we accept that gift of grace, God's love flows into our hearts (Rom. 5:1-5). "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love" (1 John 4:18).
It all boils down to a test of faith. All Jesus asks of stewards is that they be faithful. He said, "Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? "(Luke 18:8). The lesson note says: "Being grounded in His love drives away all fear." On Monday, the author used the expression "abide in love." Jesus Christ is love. Expressions like "abide in love," understood in the context of John 15 where Jesus introduced the "in Christ" concept, are powerful in grounding our assurance of salvation.
The Ellen G. White quotation at the bottom of the page is based on Zechariah 3. Joshua represents us. Like him, we stand in filthy rags. In fact Revelation 3 states we stand naked. Notice how Jesus rebukes Satan and clothes us with His robe of righteousness. Please take the time to read that chapter and enjoy the assurance of salvation that passage gives.
Jesus presented the summary of the Ten Commandments as two great commandments. As Wednesday's lesson heading states, that is love in practice. Our love for our brothers and sisters is measured by our self-sacrificing service for them. Not just service but self-sacrificing service is God's love in action. Jesus gave us the example when He walked the dusty paths of this earth.
This passage makes it very clear that we cannot love God if we do not love our brothers and sisters. The quarterly asks: "Which command is harder to follow?" The fact is, it is impossible to love God if we do not love our brothers and sisters in self-sacrificing service. I would add the question: "Where is it most important to practice this Godlike love?" The answer is: "at home." The breakdown of the family unit is a very serious problem in the world and in the church.
Thursday's lesson presents "Love and the Commandments." "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous" (1 John 5:3).
"As the will of man co-operates with the will of God, it becomes omnipotent. Whatever is to be done at His command may be accomplished in His strength. All His biddings are enablings" (Christ's Object Lessons, p. 333).
Jesus Christ's "command" to love is a promise that in and through Him we can have that experience. What more can I say?
--J. B. Jablonski