Sunday School Lesson
nOV. O9, 2003
LOVE ONE ANOTHER
Bible Background—1 JOHN 3:11-4:21
Focal Verses—1 JOHN 3:11, 14-16; 4:7-16
Devotional Reading—1 CORINTHIANS 13:1-13
1. We will better understand our responsibility to love one another
2. We will realize that GOD’S LOVE must be demonstrated every day
3. We will commit this week to sharing GOD’S LOVE with those on our immediate circle.
“Beloved, if GOD so loved us, we ought also to love one another” (1 John 4:11).
LOVE is a characteristic of Christians. This lesson assures us of GOD’S LOVE as we love one another.
By way of background, the Apostle John is determined to refute the heretical teaching that is rampant among these first-century believers to whom he is writing. As he starts this discourse, John gives us a clear description of those who are truly born again by sharing one of the greatest revelations mentioned in the New Testament: GOD is our HEAVENLY FATHER, and we are HIS beloved children.
One of the greatest privileges of being a believer is that one is chosen by GOD to be HIS child (John 1:12; Galatians 4:7) and an heir with HIS SON JESUS CHRIST (Romans 8:16-17).
Unlike the Gnostics, John makes it clear that we play a part in fulfilling GOD’S ETERNAL PURPOSE FOR OUR LIVES. We must purify ourselves and walk in divine holiness if we want to receive all the benefits of SONSHIP. John makes it very clear that those who teach otherwise are really children of the devil and have no place in GOD’S eternal family.
1. THE COMMANDMENT TO LOVE (1 John 3:11)
As the apostle begins this section of his letter, he reminds us of a command that believers have received in both the Old and New Testaments: we must love one another (see Leviticus 19:18; John 13:34).
John remembers JESUS’ WORDS to HIS disciples when HE shared, “…a new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another as I have loved you…” (John 13:34). JESUS demonstrated to HIS disciples how we are to love and care for others, regardless of race, social status, gender, or background. JESUS’ LOVE was to bring out the best in those who believed and followed HIM as HE reached out in compassion to the lost and hurting (John 8:10-11).
How powerful is JESUS’ LOVE? HE is able to raise the dead (John 11:5, 43-44), calm the troubled seas (Mark 4:35-41), and motivate people to leave their occupation to follow HIM (Luke 5:1-11). JESUS’ LOVE WAS SELF-GIVING AND SACRIFICIAL, ALWAYS SEEKING THE GOOD IN OTHER PEOPLE. Thus, when the apostle affirms this truth to the people, he is reminding them (and us) that love must be the distinguishing mark of a true believer, characterized by a sincere concern for others. We must be willing to promote the highest good in people. Because JESUS loves us, we should befriend others in their trials and sufferings. Love commands us to be sensitive to people, guarding and protecting their reputation. Love requires that we deny ourselves and go the extra mile, laying down our lives for others.
2. THE TEST OF LOVE (vv.14-16)
The apostle continues his recitation of GOD’S LOVE by declaring the test of love. The believer who loves others as GOD commands had moved from a life of sin and death to living the “GOD KIND” of life. We can’t say that we are born again and have GOD’S SPIRIT dwelling in us if we aren’t loving those who are part of GOD’S family. In fact, John makes it clear that those who don’t love have no place with GOD and are “murderers” (v.15) like Cain, who killed his brother Abel (Genesis 4:8). Believers need to realize that our love for others is tested every day. How we respond to the test determines whether or not we truly belong to GOD.
The apostle continues his thought by saying how we can know the infinite nature of GOD’S LOVE. HE laid down HIS life for us in the PERSON of JESUS CHRIST (John 3:16). Certainly if GOD can lay down HIS life for us, we can sacrifice a little of our time and effort to be a blessing to others.
3. THE DESCRIPTION OF LOVE (4:7-11)
The apostle affirms how important it is for a believer to love people. We must recognize that love is a decision that is not based on feelings. Feelings change from day to day, but real love never changes because it comes from GOD. In fact, that apostle puts it this way: every person who loves as GOD DOES has GOD’S NATURE and is truly filled with the HOLY SPIRIT (v.7). At the same time, we are not GOD’S children if we don’t love as HE does. John gives the believer a clear description of love. It is clearly seen at Calvary. JESUS’ death was not only to bring us closer to GOD, but also to mature us as believers so that we might walk in love as HE DID. John declares that love does not emanate from human beings, because at best our love is weak, immature, and selfish. Before we could love others, GOD had to show us love. Therefore, HE sent JESUS CHRIST to be the “propitiation” (v.10), our sin offering who satisfies GOD’S righteous demands. Hence, the apostle is very clear on this point: if GOD can love us as we are, we certainly can love others as they are. To do anything less is a travesty before GOD!
4. THE SOURCE OF LOVE (vv.12-16)
In his epistle, John repeats a familiar truth that he declares in his Gospel: no human being has seen GOD the FATHER at any time. Even Moses could not see GOD and live. However, John teaches us that we “see” GOD when we love those whom GOD has chosen to be a part of HIS family. When we demonstrate love to others, it proves that we can see GOD in them, and we are motivated to love GOD by loving others.
In addition, John says that we can recognize those who have GOD’S SPIRIT: they are “lover” who recognize GOD in their brothers and sisters and do not hold back love from them. John wants these believers to know that he is a firsthand eyewitness of JESUS CHRIST, the ONE who has come from the FATHER and is designated as “SAVOIR.” JESUS CHRIST shed HIS BLOOD on the cross and proved that HE loves the whole world. Those who believe in HIS efficacious work on the cross have GOD’S SPIRIT dwelling within and find it easy to love others.
Why? Because, according to the apostle, GOD IS LOVE. GOD is the creator of love, the epitome of love, the nature of love, the sustainer of love, and the final authority on love. Everything GOD does stems from a heart of love. It is the believer’s responsibility to live and to operate toward others in the same love that GOD gives to us.
John affirms that we can tell those who are born again, not because they go to church, or carry a Bible under their arm, or give large offerings, or do works of service; a true believer is one who loves others even as GOD loves us. If we are children of GOD, our love is developing and growing every day, and we can share that love with lost and hurting humanity where they may be. Are you growing in love?
Sometimes there is more love in the world than we find in the local church. Often, we avoid our brothers and sisters because of a personality clash or an offensive remark that was made long ago. We refuse to worship with the local congregation around the corner because they are not like us. We “murder” our leaders with words when we don’t understand decisions they’ve made, and we find it very difficult to cross the color line to forgive others who have done us wrong. What can we learn from this lesson that can alleviate some of the problems raised in this exercise?
THINK ABOUT IT!!!!
Rev. Chris Lowe, Sr., DD
Email Dr. Lowe
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