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The Victorious Source of Perfect Love (1 John 4:20-5:5)
Sermon Notes
Sunday, 10 November 2013 00:00

This week we considered 1 John 4:20-5:5.
20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?

One of the easiest ways to avoid responsibility is to sidestep it. As a traveling teacher, John must have encountered many examples of this. When convicted of lovelessness toward his Christian brothers, the guilty Christian might try to evade the issue by saying, “Well, at least I love God!”
To a Christian it might seem easier to love God whom he has not seen than to love his brother whom he has seen.
This is due to the simple fact that while God seems perfectly deserving of our love, our Christian brother often does not!

But remember, for John, love (agape) is not an emotional word.
To love means to behave in a way that meets the need of one’s fellow Christian.
To hate, therefore, is to refuse to meet our brother’s need (3:16-17).
There can be no doubt that our emotional reactions to our fellow Christians can profoundly affect how we act (whether in love or hate).

Still, it is by our actions, not our feelings, that John assesses the reality of our love for one another: we are to love “in deed” and thus “in truth” (3:16-18).
Our emotions normally follow our actions, so that when we repeatedly override our negative emotions toward others by acting in love toward them, we usually find that our negative emotions are subsiding or even changing.
Of course, we desperately need God’s help in all this!! John will speak of that shortly in 5:14-15.

But since action, not emotion, is the critical issue in Christian love, it is obvious that there is actually no basic difference between expressing love for God and love for a Christian brother, since the test of one’s love for God is obedience to His commandments.
So if a Christian does not obey God’s commandments, he does not love Him, no matter what he says or feels.
Thus the person who says, “I love God,” but does not obey God’s command to love his brother, is a liar.
When it comes to love, no profession of deep feelings can substitute for actual obedience.

21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.
John now states clearly the connection between love for God and love for one’s brother.
These two things are in fact part of the same commandment.
This commandment is so stated that the presence of one kind of love necessitates the presence of the other.
Very close to what John says here in v.21 is the command spoken by Jesus in John 14:15, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”

There is no Greek word corresponding to the NKJV’s supplied word must in John’s text.
More literally the command may be translated: that he who loves God love his brother also.
[But the English word love by itself would be a rare use of the English subjunctive in an indirect command, so the English reads more smoothly with a “helper” word – thus, the NKJV translation]
We could translate: that he who loves God should love his brother also.

Now here the chapter break in our Bibles is unfortunate because John is still continuing the discussion he began in chapter 4: A Christian cannot truly say he loves God unless he also loves his Christian brother (4:20-21).
Nor can a Christian evade this command by claiming that he does not know who is brother is.
In the simplest possible terms his brother is 5:1Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ.

John’s definition of a Christian brother is simple and direct.
5:1Whoever (there are NO exceptions) 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.
There is no other way John ever defines a Christian (cf. John 20:31).
A Christian is defined only by faith in Christ, believing His promise to give everlasting life.
So, whether a Christian brother is living worthily of his faith is irrelevant.
My reason for loving him has nothing to do with his performance.
The real reason believers love other believers is now stated: 5:1Whoever (there are NO exceptions) 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.
It is because of their Paternity.
Why do I love the child of God?
Because I love the Father of that child!
And if I do not love the child, then I am simply lying if I say that I love his Father (4:20).
David acted in love toward Mephibosheth because he loved Mephibosheth’s father, Jonathan.

2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.
Keeping His commandments is the way that I, as a believer, demonstrate that I love my brother, since love for the brethren is one of those commandments.
The words “By this” refer forward here and are explained by the clause beginning with the word when (an explanatory, subordinate construction).
The plural (commandments) implies that it is my obedience to all that God commands me that verifies that I love the children of God.
Remember how John defines love. Love is action!
To love means to behave in a way that meets the need of one’s fellow Christian.
Think about it! What better thing can I do for my Christian brothers than to live a life of obedience to God before them?
It is true that this will move me to reach out to any whose need I might be able to meet.
But it is also true that the model of a life devoted to the Lord does even more for my brother than any single act of love can do.
As my brother observes this model of obedience, I am actually showing him the kind of life which he most needs to experience.
By my example, I am aiming him toward, or confirming him in, the pathway which will best meet any personal needs he has.
Remember what John wrote earlier: 3:22And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.
Thus, while God is pleased with what I do, my brother is also truly served when I am living a life that is consistent with the Word of God, that is, obedient to His commandments.

Not surprisingly, John now insists that the love of God is fundamentally a matter of keeping His commandments: 3a For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.
The phrase “love of God” refers here to “our love for God,” (objective genitive) which consists of keeping His commandments.
This statement serves as a climax to what John has been saying:
Step One: First, we are told that the person who “loves Him who begot (i.e., God) also loves him who is begotten of Him (i.e., the child of God ~ 5:1).
Step Two: Next we are told that the person who loves “the children of God” is the one who loves God and keeps His commandments (5:2).
Step Three: Finally, we are told here (v.3a) that love for God consists in keeping His commandments. The result of this sequence … (p.4}
The result of this sequence is to point up the fact that when we keep God’s commandments we can know (1) that we love God and (2) that we love the children of God.

I am glad that John does not leave us adrift on a sea of emotional introspection.
Our internal feelings are often unreliable indicators of our spiritual state.
We should test our lives always by God’s commandments and not by whether we have what we imagine to be the required emotional response.

Of course, some of our feelings are definitely wrong and we should lay them aside as Peter advises in 1 Peter 2:1 (1Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, 2as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, 3if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.).
But we should be careful not to measure our love for God or our brothers by some perceived failure to rise to a high level of emotional response to Him or to them.
The only relevant question then is, “Am I doing what God has commanded me to do?”

If love for our fellow Christian actually boils down to keeping God’s commandments, how can we do that? Is that a difficult, or even impossible task?
John now addresses this natural concern which every Christian feels at one time or another.

In the NKJV translation, the closing words of v.3 (b) are made into a complete sentence.
But this is not at all likely to represent the Greek correctly since this verse starts with a subordinating conjunction (hoti = because) translated here as For.
It would be much better to read the text as follows: And His commandments are not burdensome, because whatever is born of God overcomes the world.

3bAnd His commandments are not burdensome. [,] {as noted, a comma here, not a period, because v.4 starts with the subordinating conjunction (hoti). 4 For (because) whatever is born of God overcomes the world.
If both love for God and love for our brethren can be summarized by obedience to God’s commands, the next obvious question is “But aren’t those commands really hard?”
And this is just such a claim as might have been made by the false teachers about the commands that Christians were taught to keep.
These antichrists may have taught that both light and darkness could be found in God, and so Christians could participate in both without moral concern.
If they did teach something like this, they may have argued that Christianity was too rigid and burdensome. If so, John would be consciously contradicting them here.
And as we will see next week as we come to v.6, the false teachers were indeed on John’s mind!

At any rate, John clearly asserts here that 3bHis commandments are not burdensome, 4because whatever is born of God overcomes the world.
John here echoes the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:30, “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” The reason that the Christian life is not at all an overwhelming burden or yoke is explained by the subordinate clause starting in v.4. 4 For (because) whatever is born of God overcomes the world.
The word (in 5:4) “whatever” (neuter, instead of “whoever”) suggests that there is something inherently world-conquering in the very experience of being “born of God” and believers are now immediately told what that is ~ And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
The world is a system that is hostile to God (2:15-17).
Since the world’s representatives, the antichrists, deny “that Jesus is the Christ” (2:22), it is a great victory to believe this truth and so to be born again.
With every instance of new birth, the satanically inspired world system suffers a significant and permanent defeat!
The Bible presents Satan as actively engaged in trying to prevent people from coming to faith in Christ (2 Cor 4:3-4 ~ 3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.
OKJV ~ 3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
Lk 8:5,12 ~ 5 “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. …
… 12 Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.)

Whenever a person is born again he can be said to have been “delivered … from the power of darkness and conveyed … into the kingdom of the Son of His love (Col 1:13).
He has been turned “from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God” (Acts 26:18).
Since the world lies “under the sway of the wicked one” (5:19), every defeat the wicked one suffers is a defeat for the world.
Thus, the very fact of new birth is a spectacular victory accomplished by our faith.

When John states that our faith in Christ has already overcome the world, his point is that this initial victory over the world, which was achieved by the very fact of our new birth, now makes possible every-day victory in our daily experience of Christian living.
While the initial victory achieved by the new birth does not guarantee subsequent victory in Christian living, it does make obedience to God’s commands an achievable goal.
So believers should not view God’s commands as impossibly burdensome, but doable with God’s help (5:14-15).

In v.5, John very specifically identifies the world-conqueror as one and the same as the person who believes in Jesus for eternal life (believes that Jesus is the Son of God, the Christ).

5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
The “overcomer of the world” = “believer in Jesus Christ, God’s Son” here in this context.
The past tense of v.4 (“has overcome”) indicates that this is already true.

[The Greek present participles are essentially timeless and characterize an individual (s) by some act or acts he has (or they have) performed, without specifying how often these were done or even whether they still continue. “ –er”, eg, murder-er, cheat-er, support-er, whether once or many times]

Since John has been discussing the fact that keeping God’s commandments is not burdensome, the implication is that such victory can continue and that the key to the Christian life is faith!
Faith is the victory that overcomes the world!
Paul agrees (Galatians 2:20 ~ 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.)

Just as the Christian life begins at the moment of saving faith in Christ, so also that life is to be lived moment by moment by faith in Him. (2 Cor 5:7 ~ 7 For we walk by faith, not by sight.)

These notes are gleaned from a study of the text and the helpful commentary on 1st John by Zane C. Hodges





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