Reader: “Loving God means”
Response: “keeping his commandments.”
Scripture: I John 5:1-6
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too. We know we love God’s children if we love God and obey his commandments. Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome. For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.
And Jesus Christ was revealed as God’s Son by his baptism in water and by shedding his blood on the cross—not by water only, but by water and blood. And the Spirit, who is truth, confirms it with his testimony.
Reader: “The word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
The John who wrote this epistle is the same Apostle John who wrote the gospel. It is believed this letter was written near the end of the first century after the Christians had been driven out of Jerusalem in the 70’s. John was an old man at this point as hinted at by his continual use of “my children.” The style is much like his gospel―straight forward, things are black or white, no shades of gray! John defines Christians as those who believe that Jesus is the Messiah. But in John’s writing, belief must be tied to action growing out of love.
John wrote a great deal about loving and obeying God. I remember some time ago wondering exactly, “How do you express love to God?” Loving another human being is easy. You can tell them. You can hug them. You can give them a gift. You can show kindness. You can help them. There are all kinds of things you can do. But with God, you can say the words, but he doesn’t say anything in return. You can’t hug him because he is an invisible spirit. I suppose you can give an offering. How do you show kindness to God whom you cannot see? Moreover, he doesn’t need your help for anything. Is there a more tangible way? Yes! And John comes to our rescue!
Loving God means keeping his commandments! You show love to God by obedience to his commands. Think about it. That family member or friend did something for you that you didn’t expect. They showed their love for you by what they did. When our boys were little we would sometimes hear, “I did what you told me daddy because I love you!” Such a comment made dad’s heart burst with joy! Obedience was and is the perfect expression and demonstration of love to God.
We live in a fallen world totally and eternally in rebellion toward God. We show love for God when we defeat evil by being obedient to our Lord. John writes “we achieve this victory through faith.” Interestingly, this is the only time John uses the word “faith” in all of his New Testament writings! We show love to God when our faith is placed in Christ, the only one who can win the battle against the evil of this world. How can you love God today? When confronted today by some aspect of this world that would draw you away, in the power of the Holy Spirit, reject the pull and obey God. Express your love for God!
John touches on one other concept in this passage where he says that Jesus was revealed as God’s Son by his baptism in water and by shedding his blood on the cross. The Holy Spirit confirms this truth. What is the significance of saying this you may wonder? The heresy circulating among the Gnostics as John wrote this letter, was that Jesus was merely a man. In their erroneous teaching, the spirit of Christ came upon the man Jesus at his baptism and left him just prior to his crucifixion. Jesus died as a normal man and there was no resurrection according to their view. God couldn’t die. John is making clear that Jesus was indeed the divine Son of God who died.
John’s reference to the water and the blood is a confirmation of his Incarnation as God’s Son. While John states that the water refers to his baptism and the blood to the cross, in Orthodox circles, this reference can also be tied to the blood and the water that poured from Jesus’ side when the soldier stabbed him with his spear as he hung on the cross. In his gospel, John makes a point of saying that when Jesus was stabbed in the side, out came blood and water (in that order). At death the red blood cells separate from the clear serum which is mostly water. Since those cells are denser, they sink to the bottom. John was inadvertently confirming that the Son of God was truly dead. Something else to think about is that the shed blood of Christ (the atoning sacrifice) brought new life (the breaking of water that always indicates a new birth).
Today’s devotional is as practical as it can be. One word: obedience. Each day of our lives we have multiple opportunities to be obedient to the Lord. It’s the way we demonstrate our love for God and our brothers and sisters in Christ. I have observed in past months some of my brothers and sisters in Christ could have done a better job of loving each other, particularly when expressing political perspectives. Ouch!
They will know we are Christians by our love. Let’s show it!
Music: “They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love” Forest Home
Bonus: “They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love” Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir This video is a visual affirmation of the text!
O God, the Father of the forsaken, the help of the weak, the supplier of the needy; you teach us that love towards the race of man is the bond of perfectness, and the imitation of your blessed self. Open and touch our hearts that we may see and be obedient to what we have seen, both for this world and that which is to come, the things that belong to our peace. Strengthen us in the work which we have undertaken; give us wisdom, resolve, obedience, perseverance, faith, and zeal, and in your own time and according to your pleasure prosper the issue; for the love of your Son Jesus Christ. ―Lord Shaftesbury, 1801-1885, Eerdmans’ Book of Famous Prayers, p.72