God’s Love Is Truly Made Complete
1 John 2:3-11
Key Verse 2:8
“Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.”
John has already told us that God is light and that those who know him walk in the light of his word. They are happy when his word shines the truth into their hearts and exposes the darkness and brings their sins into the light. They are happy to confess their sins to the Incarnate Lord who alone is able to purge them from sin and purify them from all unrighteous. He is their Advocate in heaven whose atoning sacrifice keeps them walking in the light. Not so those who love darkness. No truth lives in them. In life they accumulate the wages of sin. And the wages of sin is death. They have no advocate in heaven to defend them before the judgment seat of God. Instead they have an accuser, Satan, who will collect his dues from them on the day they receive their death sentence from God. John taught us that God is light, that in him there is no darkness at all. To know God and have fellowship with him, we need to come into the light and walk in it.
John wanted to help the church understand that not everyone who claimed to know God actually knew God, and not everyone who called themselves Christian were actually Christian. There were those who claimed superior knowledge of God and of Christianity, but who were godless and worldly by nature. John wanted to make sure that we could see the difference and draw the line between real and fake Christianity, between who is a child of God and who is not. Earlier he showed us that they did not acknowledge that they were sinners, nor did they see it necessary to confess their sins. John then told us that a Christian knows that he is a sinner, confesses his sins and trusts that the blood of Jesus purifies him from sin and unrighteousness. Now John begins to talk about commands and obedience to commands, but mainly he talks about what commands are vital in telling who is the child of God and who is not.
As God is light, John tells us also that God is Love. From here on John begins to talk about the second aspect of who God is. As much as God is light and calls us to walk in light, God is also love and God calls us to walk in love. John mentions the word love thirty three times in this short letter. He tells us how to remain in fellowship with God through obedience to his commands, especially to his command to love. I want us to look at verses 3-11 today. But before we examine them in detail, let me attempt to summarize the gist of them briefly. He is saying here that to know God is to obey God. To obey God is to love God. The evidence of obedience to God is having a love relationship with him. And this love relationship reveals itself by walking and living as Jesus did. Jesus loved and walked in love. He walked in obedience to God. John then points us in verses 9-11 to those who claim to be Christians but who cannot love and will not love because they are still walking in the darkness and have not come into the light. Let’s see what John says about love and obedience.
Read verses 3-6. “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.”
John here talks about obedience to commands. No one can say that they know the Lord and not obey the Lord at the same time. Why? Because knowing the Lord is to love the Lord. And because we always want to do the will of the one whom we love. If we love God we want to obey him and do his will. Our Lord Jesus said in John 8.29 “The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” In John 14:15 Jesus tells us “If you love me, you will obey what I command. In John 14:23 he tells us “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. Here in verses 3-6, John talks about obedience to his commands, and then shifts to obedience to his word. What is the distinction between the two? And how is love made complete here?
Let me explain the difference here. Suppose a father commands his son to take out the trash as soon as he gets home from school every day. On the other hand the father comes from work every day and cooks and cleans. So the son throws out the trash every day after school and does his homework while his father cooks and cleans around. Suppose the father is sick for a few days and can’t move a muscle. When his son gets home from school, he throws out the trash, but he also cooks and cleans as well. Now the son is throwing the trash out because of his father’s command, but he is cooking and cleaning because he loves his father. That’s how the child of God is. He not only wants to obey his father’s command but he wants to honor and obey his words as well. He wants to please his father in everything. His love is being made complete. It is in the process of maturing and growing into something beautiful.
Read verses 7-8. “Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.”
His greeting here “Dear friends” or “beloved” is a very endearing term for a very good reason. He calls them so because these people were born of the same Spirit. They have One and the same Father. They had been delivered by the same Redeemer. Together they had the same destiny of eternal life in the Kingdom of the Son of God. In every sense of the word they were his beloved, his dearest of friends because they were of the same family of Jesus Christ who had brought them into God’s family. (Hebrews 2:11,17)
He says to them, “I am not writing to you a new command but an old one which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard.” What he meant was that the commandment he is talking about here was not something new or original that he is instructing them with here. It was rather something they had been very familiar with from the first day they became Christians. This commandment also did not originate with himself either because he himself had received it from Christ. So this too was not a new doctrine he had invented or come up with himself, but very much part of the Christian faith the Apostles were declaring.
Indeed Jesus Christ said. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17) He did what he said he would do! He fulfilled the Law and the Prophets. “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40) Jesus said: “I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” (John 15:10b) When John wrote verse 8, he wanted them to realize that as Jesus had fulfilled the law and kept the commandments, so it was their turn to keep the commandments themselves, and remain in his love. So he said: “Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.” Jesus who said in John 15:10b “I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” also said in 15:10a “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.”
When we examine the Scripture to see what command exactly is John talking about here in his letter, that he would have them keep, we see from 1 John 3:23 and 2 John 5-6 these eternal words: “And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.” “And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love. “ When we look at the command Jesus left his disciples before his departure, we see from John 13:34 that he said: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (14,15) But here he was talking about the kind of love that is self renouncing, self denying, feet washing love which only a slave would demean himself to take it upon himself to serve another with. Jesus washed his disciples feet and called them to follow his example of love in that way. He wanted them to love each other by being self denying servants towards each other. Later on in John 15:12 Jesus uttered the same words, saying: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” And this time what he meant by love one another was to love one another in a fervent sacrificial enduring way.
John was teaching them obedient love. The kind of love that obeys its master’s desire because it desires to please him. In the past the law requires that I love my neighbor as myself for many good reasons. The Law required that I love my neighbor because I am selfish and could care less for him. The law required that I love him in order to protect his interests, to promote his welfare as I would my own. But when the Lord Jesus came and turned the world upside down, the Lord in his glory showed love as it really is, in all its brilliance. The Lord of Love elevated the level of our love to a new heights. When the Lord walked the earth and loved, and showed us what love is, he showed us how we ought to love. We ought to love as the Lord loves. We ought to raise our love standard to the Lord’s. We ought to learn the meaning of love from the Master who taught us to love as he loved us— the end. His love is a love without end.
The followers of Christ, the children of God have a requirement. We are required to love one another for his sake, as those who bear his image, as those whom the Lord has set the example of the compassionate patient love. We are to have a genuine regard for each other’s interests and a sympathy with each other’s sorrows and a part with each other’s joys. We are to delight in one another, and we ought to live in peace and harmony with one another and bear with each other’s weaknesses. We are to unite together in prayer and worship to bear each other’s burdens and we are to spare no cost in seeking to build up each other’s faith and holiness. This new commandment is to be kept forever fresh in our hearts and minds. Now who can teach us how to be like this? Who can teach us how to love like this? Listen to what 1 Thess. 4:9 says: “Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.” When we walk in the light the Spirit of God binds us in love and teaches us to love one another like this.
Look at verse 8 again. “Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.” John tells us that the truth of love is seen in him and in you. Surely Jesus personified love and exemplified it. The exercise of brotherly love is seen and realized in Jesus above all else and then it is imitated and reflected by those who live in him and depend on his grace and spirit of love. Jesus showed us how to love. He demonstrated this love in his own life and passed it down to all of us. And the best evidence of a life of obedience in love is surely through one’s life, as we love the church and the brotherhood of believers.
Read verses 9-11. “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.”
Not all hate is bad, or sinful or evil to the glory of our Lord Jesus the God-Man of whom is said “You love righteousness and hate wickedness.” (Psalm 45:7). “You who love God hate evil.” (Psalm 97:10) Love for one, by necessity, gives rise to hatred of the other. When does hated become sinful? Only when it’s towards that which deserves love instead. Love and hate, they both have their uses. Hate(s) are as useful as love(s) are at times and are to be avoided as are the other at times. Love was made for God and for all that is good and godly. And we can say that hatred was made for sin so that we might run away from temptation and evil. The bible teaches us that “To fear the Lord is to hate evil.” (Pr 8:13) It is therefore our solemn responsibility to put on the armor against evil. But the problem is that so many tolerate sin and evil and do not hate it.
The problem is that sin has damaged the natural affections that God has put in us such that man loves what he ought to hate (John 3:19) and hates what he should love (Rom 8:7) more than that, they literally hate each other. That’s why God’s law commands to love your neighbor. That’s why when Jesus was teaching the Jews he said. If you love those who love you what credit is that to you. Even sinners love those who love them. (Luke 6:32). It’s not enough to love those who love us. hatred runs deep in the human soul. What is not love is hatred. where there is no love there is hatred. That’s the telltale sign of the human race. There is nothing more sinister that we ought to fight against more than hatred and nothing purer and lovelier to long for in our lives than love. So John tells us clearly that “God is love” in this letter. He also warns us in his letter “Do not love the world or anything in the world”, he says. “Love God” instead. We need our bearings recalibrated through the Holy Spirit, through sanctification, through the word of God working within to cleanse us from all impurities.
When John said in verse 9 “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness”, he was exposing these people’s hypocrisy. They claimed to be Christians but they were not, because hatred filled their hearts. The brother here is naturally a believer someone from the family of God and not just any body.
He hates his brother: He is still in the darkness. It means he’s still not born again. he’s still in the world. he’s still not seen the light of Christ. he hasn’t been regenerated nor transformed in his inner person into a Christian. people hate in degrees. some hate little. some hate much. some hate intensely. some let their hatred consume them until night and day they are worn out by hatred. throughout history there has been hate crimes of all sorts because men’s hearts after the fall are diseased by warped affections. But the greatest hates have been against Jesus people. Real Jesus people, not nominal Jesus people but the genuine ones. Why? because hate can understand hate and can challenge. an enemy can hate an enemy and understand the challenge. But hate really cannot withstand love, a greater and more powerful force than hate ever was. When hate faces the power of love, hate becomes furious and wants to destroy love unless at times love conquers it first.
Verse 10. “Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble.” Lives or walks in the light of the Lord is the same as walking in the truth of God. It is embracing the gospel and letting the gospel be the guide of life. The person who lives in the light knows where he comes from, for he comes from God. He also knows where he is going, for he is returning to God. He or she has the assurance of eternal life. He is never in doubt about his position in the Lord, he is secure in his Savior and Advocate. He loves not because he must but because he knows God is love. He loves because he is so greatly loved. He loves because he cannot but love. The man or woman who walks in the light loves because love is very much the substance of his or her new life now. He loves because without love he is nothing. She loves because when the Lord forgave her sins and restored the image of God in her, her affections were healed and she began to love what is due love and to hate what is due hate. He loves God and everything related to God. So he loves his brothers and sisters, even the ones who ordinary would have been offensive to him he now loves them. And he hates sin and evil and wickedness and corruption, especially he hates that inside him still there is an old man who occasionally struggles with wicked desires. How beautiful it is that the Lord has banished the hatred from our hearts and given us a new command to love one another and we live in the light and nothing makes us stumble.
Read verse 8. “Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.”