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Love, the Sign of a True Believer

A sign is a fixture of some sort that identifies something. It could identify a business on a street corner; it could identify a product on a shelf; or it could identify a certain type of person. A sign, when affixed to a person is normally known as a badge or name tag but it is, nonetheless, a sign. Not very many people in the world today wear a sign on themselves all the time. If they did, in fact, the world would be a much nicer place for many of us who just can't seem to remember people's names.

If you are a true believer, whether you know it or not, you wear a sign on yourself at all times. Are you aware of that? No, it's not a fast food sign that says "open all night." It's not an outrageous sign drawing attention to itself, shouting a message to attract others. Nonetheless, even Jesus told his disciples they were to have a sign on themselves for all to see. It was to be a quiet sign communicating a strong but peaceful message to our neighbors.

Do you know the sign of a true believer? What do you think it is that we need to be doing and showing continually to be a true believer as Jesus instructed? The quick and easy answer is that we are commanded by God to live according to the terms of his covenant. We are to live daily according to the ten commandments. The more difficult and thorough answer is that "man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD" as stated in Deuteronomy 8:3. Both of those statements are true, as we are to live by the ten commandments specifically and by all the words of God as contained in the holy scriptures of the Bible.

Love, The Foundation of Israel

When God established the structure of his new nation, Israel, through his servant Moses, love and concern toward neighbor were to be key foundations of that nation. We can see that first recorded even earlier than Deuteronomy, in Leviticus 19:15.

(Lev 19:15-18 NASB) 'You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly. {16} 'You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the LORD. {17} 'You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. {18} 'You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.

Look at the world around you. Is that what you see? No, instead of following God's instructions for society, there is rampant injustice and partiality in many governments. There is lying, cheating, and murder in the quest for power. There is hatred of fellow countryman with the holding of grudges for generations and vengeance executed between families and tribes over hundreds of years. In short, there seems to be very little "love of neighbor."

Love means many things to different people. In daily life around us, expression of love seems to depend upon circumstances. Is that the way it should be? Webster's Dictionary defines love as: "1) a deep and tender feeling of affection for or attachment or devotion to a person or persons; 2) an expression of one's love or affection; 3) a feeling of brotherhood and good will toward other people..." If that's true, love is not a fleeting thing. How can one have "a deep and tender feeling of affection" or "devotion" to a person without consistency or long-term commitment?

Most people think of the concept of "love of neighbor" as just a New Testament thing. While it's true that "love toward neighbor" is a recurring theme throughout the New Testament, we can see from Leviticus that the roots of the New Testament teaching are plainly found in the Old Testament.

The Hebrew word for love which we just read in Leviticus 19:18 is ahab, which is Strong's number 157. It means "to have love or affection for." It's interesting to note that Leviticus 19:18 is quoted seven times in the New Testament by Jesus and other writers. Each time it is quoted, the Greek word, agapao is used. We know from previous studies that agape (the verb form of agapao) is the deepest and fullest of meaning of the three Greek words for love used in the New Testament.

As we all know from our study of Scripture, there is often a "type" and an "antitype," a former fulfillment and a latter fulfillment. Look at a father's sacrifice of his son. The first place in scripture where the word "love" is used is in Genesis 22:2. God calls upon Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac.

(Gen 22:2 NKJV) Then He said, "Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you."

We know that Abraham was willing to give up his son as an acceptable sacrifice to God. In Genesis 22:12, we even have God's own word on it.

(Gen 22:12 NKJV) And He said, "Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me."

In similar fashion, we know that God was also willing to give up his son, Jesus, as an acceptable sacrifice in our stead. In John 3:16, we even have God's own word on it.

(John 3:16 NKJV) "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

In Genesis, God uses the Hebrew word ahab for the love of a father and in John, the Greek word agapao is used for the same loving sacrifice of a father.

In Mark 12:28, Jesus went even a step further in his description of the importance of love toward God and love toward neighbor in being the greatest of the commandments in the law of God.

(Mark 12:29-31 NKJV) Jesus answered him, "The first of all the commandments is: 'Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. {30} 'And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment. {31} "And the second, like it, is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."

Notice, however, the choice of words used by Jesus in quoting the two Hebrew scriptures: the same Greek word agapao was chosen to describe both types of love. Isn't that significant? We are to love our neighbor with the same type of deep abiding love as we love God. There is no difference in degree of love shown toward God or our neighbor, let alone our brothers and sisters in the Church.

A New Commandment

At the last supper with all his disciples, Jesus gave them a new commandment. Do you know what it was? In John 13:33, we can find the answer.

(John 13:33-35 NASB) "Little children, I am with you a little while longer. You shall seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, I now say to you also, 'Where I am going, you cannot come.' {34} "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. {35} "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

Look at that more closely. As disciples of Jesus, we are commanded to love one another. You might think to yourself, "Oh, that's easy. You're my friend and I'm your friend. We get along well and don't have very many disagreements. I love you and, I guess, you feel the same way about me. That's easy. No sweat!"

Stop for a moment, though. Is that what Jesus really said? Is that what he meant? I don't think so. Look again. He said we are to love one another, not just superficially, but by a higher standard. We are to love one another by the standard of the way he has loved us. He said, "that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another." Wow! That's not easy at all. Let's look to see just how he loved us. A few chapters later in John 15:9, we can understand more of the standard of love set by Christ.

(John 15:9-17 NASB) "Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. {10} "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love. {11} "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. {12} "This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. {13} "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. {14} "You are My friends, if you do what I command you. {15} "No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. {16} "You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you. {17} "This I command you, that you love one another.

Have you thought of just how much love you must possess to be willing to lay down your life for your friends? That's a lot of love. The standard is very high. Does it say you must be willing to lay down your life for your friends if they are deserving of such a personal sacrifice? I don't think so, because I'm not sure anyone would ever be deserving enough to qualify for that. You might think to yourself, "I might lay down my life for this brother but not for that sister because she doesn't have good table manners; or not for that brother because he's too fat or not for her because she's too skinny;" Is that the standard Christ established? Look again at verse 14. Christ laid down his life for his friends and we are his friends "if you do what I command you." If Christ deems us worthy to be called his friends then who are we to set qualifications in the Church for the standards of friendship among the brethren?

Love is our Duty

Was Jesus the only one who had anything to say about our duty to love his disciples, our fellow brothers in the Church? No, Paul had a lot to say about our responsibility to love each other. Look first in Romans 13:8 to gain more insight from Paul.

(Rom 13:8-10 NASB) Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. {9} For this, "YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET," and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." {10} Love does no wrong to a neighbor; love therefore is the fulfillment of the law.

Look at that! "Love does no wrong to a neighbor." So, love is a "doing" thing, seen in our actions. Love is a code of conduct, a pattern of behavior. Love is not just a set of "nice things" we do for each other. It is not a "mushy" feeling of "pleasantness" on the part of the "do-gooder." It is our duty. It is our responsibility. It is to be our way of life. It is the debt we owe to one another in the Church and, most importantly, to God. Look at the end of verse ten again: "love therefore is the fulfillment of the law." We said earlier that we are to live daily by the ten commandments. That's true but we also know how hard it is to achieve that. It is our lifelong duty and ambition to live by that holy law of God but we also know we aren't perfect. We trip and stumble along that road to perfection. We sin and fall short of that perfect standard of righteousness but we pick ourselves up, ask for God's forgiveness, and keep trying. We should also attempt to achieve that standard of the law's righteousness by dispensing love. Beyond that lifelong commitment to God's law, in continually showing love to our brothers, Paul said that we are fulfilling the law of God.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:9, Paul continued that same message to the Church of God at Thessalonica.

(1 Th 4:9-10 NASB) Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; {10} for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more,

Paul was not the only apostle exhorting the brethren in that manner. In 1 Peter 1:22, the apostle Peter maintained the same course for the Church but he went beyond and added even more strength to what is required of us.

(1 Pet 1:22-23 NASB) Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, {23} for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God.

As we earlier read the words of Christ in the book of John, we can see also in 1 John 3:11 that the apostle John reiterated the importance of the love to be found in the brethren of the Church.

(1 John 3:11-14 NASB) For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; {12} not as Cain, who was of the evil one, and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother's were righteous. {13} Do not marvel, brethren, if the world hates you. {14} We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.

Continue in verse 23.

(1 John 3:23-24 NASB) And this is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. {24} And the one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And we know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit which He has given us.

John continued in the next chapter to show how love among the brethren is a binding duty and, in fact, a sign of possessing the gift of the Spirit of God.

(1 John 4:9-13 NASB) By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. {10} In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation [or appeasement] for our sins. {11} Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. {12} No one has beheld God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. {13} By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.

Let's go back for a moment to see what Paul had to say about love being tied to forgiveness. In Colossians 3:12, Paul made love an even more binding trait for every one of us in the body of Christ.

(Col 3:12-15 NASB) And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; {13} bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. {14} And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. {15} And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.

Colossians 1:18 shows that the one body to which we were called is the Church and Christ is also the head of that body.

(Col 1:18 NASB) He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything.

Love Brings Unity

As we just read a moment ago in Colossians 3:15, it is love that is the perfect bond of unity. Therefore, another characteristic that's evident because of the love between brothers in the Church should be unity. That unity is the type spoken of by David in Psalms 133:1.

(Psa 133:1 KJV) Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!

The exhortation to love, and the unity it brings, are the same as Paul's encouragement to the brethren of the Church of God at Philippi. In Philippians 2:1, he spoke to them of the interconnectedness of love, unity, and the mind; all are linked through the Spirit of God.

(Phil 2:1-5 NASB) If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, {2} make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. {3} Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; {4} do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. {5} Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,

Look at that again. Our joy is made complete "by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, and intent on one purpose." He went on to say that we should not only love our brothers in the church but each of us should regard one another, not merely as an equal but, as more important than himself. We should look out for the interests of others, as well as for our own interests. Do you have that frame of mind to regard other brothers and sisters as more important than yourself? If you have God's holy spirit and are growing daily in the holy spirit of God, you should also be growing in love.

Why should we be displaying that attitude? Look at verse five again. Paul says we are to have "this attitude" because that's the same attitude that was also in Christ Jesus, who set the example for us. What a challenge to all of us in the Church! That task, difficult as it might be, is made possible through the love of God in us.

The Absence of Love

Contrast the love and unity in the Church with the state of chaos and confusion in the world around us every day. There is hatred and theft, robberies and murders and terrorism on a worldwide scale. In 2 Timothy 3:1, we see a description of the attitudes prophesied to be prevalent at the time of the end. It sounds very much like what we see every day all around us.

(2 Tim 3:1-5 NASB) But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. {2} For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, {3} unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, {4} treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; {5} holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these.

No matter how prevalent the evils in the world around us, we are not to live our lives in the same evil manner. In 1 John 2:15-17, we see that the desires of the world are definitely not the desires of God.

(1 John 2:15-17 NASB) Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. {16} For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. {17} And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever.

Every day we see men and women who are "lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God." It comes from the very worldly attitude of extreme selfishness, which is the opposite of love. That selfishness has taken over the concern for fellow men and women we used to see more prevalent in society just a few decades ago. In James 3:15, we are told about the evils of worldly wisdom.

(James 3:15-16 NASB) This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. {16} For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.

So, it is jealousy and selfishness that bring about disorder and every evil thing. That is not, however, the way we are to behave. James, the pastor of the Church of God at Jerusalem, admonished believers to obey the whole law in James 2:8. In so doing, he quoted the "love your neighbor" command from the Old Testament in Leviticus.

(James 2:8-10 NASB) If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law, according to the Scripture, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF," you are doing well. {9} But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. {10} For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.

Does that sound familiar? Of course, we recognize that James quoted "love your neighbor as yourself" from Leviticus 19:18. Did you notice, however, that he went beyond quoting just verse 18? Do you remember when we read Leviticus 19:15 at the beginning of this sermon? It said, "You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly." James took the physical command prohibiting partiality in the administration of justice in Israel as stated in Leviticus 19:15 and showed that it has a spiritual application. James said that if we show injustice in judgment, or partiality to the poor, or deference to the great, we are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

Love in the Church

So, it's obvious that "love your neighbor as yourself" is not just a New Testament concept. As James just pointed out, loving your neighbor as yourself is the fulfilling of the royal law of God.

In Galatians 5:13, we can see it also says that loving your neighbor is our duty but Paul goes beyond that in verse fourteen.

(Gal 5:13-14 NASB) For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. {14} For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF."

It is through love that we are able to serve one another. That service and those deeds of love toward neighbor are what constitute the fulfilling of God's law.

Paul goes on, in Galatians 5:22, to state that love in the Church is one of the nine "fruits of the spirit."

(Gal 5:22-23 NASB) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, {23} gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Notice that love is first in the list of nine.

In Colossians 1:3, the love in the Church of God at Colossae was known by reputation; but it was more than mere reputation. The love among all the brethren existed because of the hope they possessed. That hope came from the message of the gospel they had heard.

(Col 1:3-5 NASB) We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, {4} since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints; {5} because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel,

The book of Ephesians explores even more ways in which we are to express our love toward the brethren in the Church. We see also in Ephesians 1:15 that love among the brethren in the Church of God at Ephesus was also known by reputation.

(Eph 1:15 NASB) For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you, and your love for all the saints,

More Love is Needed

In Ephesians 3:16, we are admonished by Paul to exhibit even more of that love.

(Eph 3:16-19 NASB) that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; {17} so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, {18} may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, {19} and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God.

Again, in Ephesians 4:1, we see the linking of love for one another with humility and the bond of unity through the Spirit of God.

(Eph 4:1-3 NASB) I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, {2} with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, {3} being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Continue in verse fifteen.

(Eph 4:15-16 NASB) but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ, {16} from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

To the Church of God at Philippi, Paul also expressed his desire for their love to grow.

(Phil 1:8-10 NASB) For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. {9} And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, {10} so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ;

Let's go back and look at verses nine and ten. Did you notice what he said? That reinforces something we said at the beginning. The love among the brethren in the Church of God is not just supposed to be a few "nice things" we do for each other. It is our duty and it is to be our very way of life. In verse nine, Paul said that our love should "abound still more and more" and it should be a love that is based on "real knowledge and discernment." That love is not the "sticky sweet love" you hear talked about in the world's churches today where they say we should forgive all men always and unconditionally. Love should be grounded in the truth of God. That's the "good news" delivered by Christ and the sure knowledge of his soon-coming return to earth to establish the righteous worldwide rule of the government of God the Father, set up and enforced for the benefit of all mankind.

Just think of that for a moment. Do you know what we said? Remember years ago when you were in school? In civics class, or social studies, we were taught about citizenship and government. We were taught the differences between a monarchy, a democracy, a republic, and a dictatorship. While all the examples in human history of a dictatorship have been examples of tyranny, oppression of the common citizens, and, ultimately, their misery and death, a government working earnestly for the benefit and improvement of its citizens is really the type of government the world needs. Such a government in the hands of man, however, would soon repeat the well-trodden cycle leading to oppression, misery, and death. We've seen many examples throughout history and we see it now, developing again in Europe in the form of the European Union. Now more than two dozen sovereign countries are voluntarily giving up their own constitutions and laws in order to become subject to the supra-national constitution and rule of the European Union. Centuries of hard-won independence from European tyrants of the past are giving way to the bureaucratic tyrants of the EU.

The government of God the Father, administered by Jesus the Messiah (Yeshua ha Mashiach in Hebrew), will, however, shortly fill the void of righteousness in the world and reestablish that benevolent dictatorship we all need. It will teach the difference between right and wrong, between good and evil, and teach the way of righteousness that leads to life and peace for the benefit of all mankind. It will be as the prophet Isaiah foretold in Isaiah 30:18. This time we'll read from the World English Bible.

(Isaiah 30:18-23 WEB) Therefore Yahweh will wait, that he may be gracious to you; and therefore he will be exalted, that he may have mercy on you, for Yahweh is a God of justice. Blessed are all those who wait for him. 19For the people will dwell in Zion at Jerusalem. You will weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the voice of your cry. When he hears you, he will answer you. 20Though the Lord may give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your teachers won't be hidden anymore, but your eyes will see your teachers; 21and when you turn to the right hand, and when you turn to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way. Walk in it." 22You shall defile the overlaying of your engraved images of silver, and the plating of your molten images of gold. You shall cast them away as an unclean thing. You shall tell it, "Go away!" 23He will give the rain for your seed, with which you will sow the ground; and bread of the increase of the ground will be rich and plentiful. In that day, your livestock will feed in large pastures.

This glimpse of the future world of peace with personal teachers of righteousness under the government of God the Father is, indeed, a far cry from the tyranny and tribulation coming first upon the world in the next few years. We now more clearly see coming to fruition on the world scene the tumultuous times we've only read about for years in the prophecies of the Bible. We've been warned from God's word about the evil of today's world but we've been taught that we're to behave differently.

Christ's Concern and Plea

Even in the last hours of his life, Jesus' concern was for his disciples, both those he knew and those who were to come. In John 17:9, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus pleaded with God in prayer for all of his disciples.

(John 17:9-26 WEB) I pray for them. I don't pray for the world, but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. (10) All things that are mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. (11) I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them through your name which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are. (12) While I was with them in the world, I kept them in your name. Those whom you have given me I have kept. None of them is lost, except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. (13) But now I come to you, and I say these things in the world, that they may have my joy made full in themselves. (14) I have given them your word. The world hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. (15) I pray not that you would take them from the world, but that you would keep them from the evil one. (16) They are not of the world even as I am not of the world. (17) Sanctify them in your truth. Your word is truth. (18) As you sent me into the world, even so I have sent them into the world. (19) For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. (20) Not for these only do I pray, but for those also who believe in me through their word, (21) that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that you sent me. (22) The glory which you have given me, I have given to them; that they may be one, even as we are one; (23) I in them, and you in me, that they may be perfected into one; that the world may know that you sent me, and loved them, even as you loved me. (24) Father, I desire that they also whom you have given me be with me where I am, that they may see my glory, which you have given me, for you loved me before the foundation of the world. (25) Righteous Father, the world hasn't known you, but I knew you; and these knew that you sent me. (26) I made known to them your name, and will make it known; that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and I in them."

Notice the last verse, "that the love with which you loved me may be in them." What a statement! That's the same love we read about earlier in John 3:16 where God loved the world so much that he was willing to sacrifice his son in our stead. Dwell on that concept for a moment. The same encompassing love that God has for all mankind Jesus asked the Father to put into each of us as his disciples. What a gift!

Faith, Hope and Love

The most famous chapter on love in the New Testament is 1 Corinthians 13. In the preceding chapter, however, notice that Paul's reference point was the body of Christ, the Church. Paul was explaining the structure and duties of the Church offices. From that base of solid Church administration and the responsibilities of service incumbent upon Church leaders, Paul launched into the subject of the responsibility of Church members to show love to each other.

(1Co 13:1-13 Darby) If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. (2) And if I have prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (3) And if I shall dole out all my goods in food, and if I deliver up my body that I may be burned, but have not love, I profit nothing. (4) Love has long patience, is kind; love is not emulous of others ; love is not insolent and rash, is not puffed up, (5) does not behave in an unseemly manner, does not seek what is its own, is not quickly provoked, does not impute evil, (6) does not rejoice at iniquity but rejoices with the truth, (7) bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (8) Love never fails; but whether prophecies, they shall be done away; or tongues, they shall cease; or knowledge, it shall be done away. (9) For we know in part, and we prophesy in part: (10) but when that which is perfect has come, that which is in part shall be done away. (11) When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I felt as a child, I reasoned as a child; when I became a man, I had done with what belonged to the child. (12) For we see now through a dim window obscurely, but then face to face; now I know partially, but then I shall know according as I also have been known. (13) And now abide faith, hope, love; these three things; and the greater of these is love.

Faith, hope, and love are all required of those called out of the world by God. Paul said the greatest of the three, however, is love. It is not the "sticky sweet love" of modern religion or the "romantic love" of novels and movies. It is the true love that is based on "knowledge and discernment" and it comes from the gospel of Christ that is to be "shed abroad" or "poured out" in our hearts through the Holy Spirit given us by God. It is the love and concern for the brethren in the Church first. It is made possible by the conversion of our minds through the power of God's holy spirit.

Ultimately, when Christ returns to rule the world in righteousness, God will pour out his Spirit on the whole world. The way of life that is love toward neighbor will be the way of life for all mankind. For now, love among the brothers and sisters in Christ is the sure sign by which Jesus said "all men will know that you are my disciples."

Sermon by Philip Edwards
Feast of Tabernacles
September 30, 2007
Copyright 2007, Philip Edwards

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