John continues to emphasize the love of God for the church. Realize that this is John’s primary theme throughout 1 John: the actions of God are driven by His love. Why would this matter to John or the church in that era?
It matters because this is ultimate contrast between Christianity and the religions of the day, as well as the primary contrast between Christianity and the Judaism it formed from: God acts because of His own love for His creation. Greek and Roman myths, native and traditional religions, all had various gods and deities that operated for their purposes. Some acted on their truth, some acted on their love, some acted out of spite for the other gods in the pantheon!
But there were no major gods and goddesses that acted out of self-giving love. An all-powerful Deity that willing gave to those who, honestly, could not give anything back to Him? That was beyond comprehension. Every god of the age needed something back from his or her worshipers, even if it was just statistical support that this god was not irrelevant.
God the Father, though, does not act out of self-interest. Despite being the Almighty, His actions are on behalf of His creations.
Because He is love.
John draws the contrast between the hatred that is of this world, connecting it with Cain, with murder, and with death. His push, though, is ever God-oriented, pointing to the love that God gives us.
Love, though, is not an idle thought in John’s mind. God’s perfect love required Him to act, because it is impossible for love to be perfect without follow-up action.
And if we are going to love in response to the love of God, our first response is to love God with all He gives us. That love will show in our response to His commandments.
Practically speaking, there are two things here.
First, there is the need for us to get our motivation right. God’s love precedes our actions, and our love should precede our actions as well. Our actions should arise from a heart that is passionate to show the love God has placed within us. We should not act as if we are earning God’s love or developing a better standing before God but because we are already loved. Our motivation is gratitude.
Which leads into the second thing to get right: the actions that we use to show love. Since our motivation is gratitude, then our response should fit with what the One we are showing gratitude for desires. And this is made clear in God’s Word. This should be seen as liberating: you do not have to go out and try to figure out what to do for God! You can simply abide in His commandments (1 John 3:24) and trust that God meant what He said.
Beyond that, your creativity can shine through within the parameters God has set. He gave it to you, so utilize it. Let it work in His framework.
Just a brief reminder: when John speaks of the commandments of God, he’s using two sources:
1. First-hand knowledge of what Jesus commanded, which is what we find in the New Testament;
2. Learned knowledge of what God had commanded in the covenant, which is what we find in the Old Testament.
You may get some differences in application, and you get some fulfillments, but you do not know the character of God fully if you do not use all of His word.
The occasional thoughts of an ordinary man serving an extraordinary God. Come with me as we learn, teach, and laugh along the way.
Saturday, January 12, 2019
Because of Love: 1 John 3
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