Wednesday, April 23, 2014


John 13:33-34, A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

In anticipation of His pending suffering and death (Cf. John 13:33), Jesus gave to His disciples a new commandment that was to henceforth govern their relationships with one another.  The glorious nature and scope of this new commandment was such that it brought a new word into the vocabulary of the church—agape.  Vine’s Expository Dictionary defines the verb form, agapao, as follows: “The characteristic word of Christianity, and since the Spirit of revelation has used it to express ideas previously unknown, inquiry into its use, whether in Greek literature or in the Septuagint, throws but little light upon its distinctive meaning in the NT.”

There was an “old” commandment which previously worked to govern man’s relationships: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).  But as with any of God’s commands, there is a tendency on man’s part to look for loopholes and find reasons to try to make exceptions.  The parable of the Good Samaritan was Jesus’ response to a man seeking to justify himself, asking “And who is my neighbor” (Luke 10:29).  Most of us do not find it too difficult to love (in a “love your neighbor as yourself” manner) those who reciprocate.  The standard is not that high.

The new commandment ascends the standard in which we are to love to a much higher plane.  It is no longer, “love your neighbor as yourself,” but instead love “just as I have loved you” (John 13:33).  Love is elevated in Jesus’ command to a previously unseen and unimaginable manner.  The world had never previously witnessed anything like it.  Romans 5:7-8, “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

“God is love” (1 John 4:8).  Love in innate to His being and personality.  Jesus, in His sacrifice on Calvary, manifested that which is true of God.  Apart from His sacrifice, and the Spirit’s work in revealing to us the truth of it, we would forever lack the capacity to comprehend God’s kind of love.  1 John 3:16, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”  The world throws that “love” term all around and uses it in sorts of questionable ways, but true love has been defined for us by Jesus.  What does true love look like?  It looks like a God-man dying on a cross for our sins.  It looks like sacrifice.  It looks like forgiveness.  It looks like putting the needs of others ahead of one’s own (Cf. Philippians 2:3).  It looks like laying down one’s life for the sake of others.  It looks like Jesus.

How loving of a person am I?  That’s kind of a trick question.  If I am so foolish as to measure my capacity to love by how others are doing I might not fare too badly in my self-examination (Cf. 2 Corinthians 10:12), but others are not the standard, Jesus is.  In Men’s Bible study we’ve been making our way through a study called “Leading with Love.”  The book is taking us phrase-by-phrase through a study of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.  That description of love is a description of all that which is beautifully revealed to us in Christ.  He is the standard.  He commands us to love others just as He has loved us.  Ephesians 5:1-2, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.” 

God expects us to behave as His children and if we are to behave as His children we are going to need to love one another with His kind of love.  He points us to the cross and says—look there to My Son, remember what He has done for you, walk in that very same manner!  The challenges of this endeavor are too big for any of us.  Apart from His empowering and instructing presence we could never hope to love in this manner (Cf. John 15:5, 12).  He has indwelt us with the Spirit of God that His fruit might be born in us (Cf. Galatians 5:22).  We can only love to the extent that we are filled with, and walk by, the Spirit (Cf. Ephesians 5:18, 25; Galatians 5:16).

Tertullian, an early church leader, once wrote, “It is our care for the helpless, our practice of lovingkindness, that brands us in the eyes of many of our opponents.  ‘Look!’ they say.  ‘How they love one another!  Look how they are prepared to die for one another’.”  “They will know we are Christians by our love.”  The practice of God’s kind of love is the “mark” which distinguishes us to be children of God (Cf. 1 John 3:10, 4:7-8, 4:20-21).

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