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Community of Love (1 John 5:1-4)

Dr. Alex Tang

 

Five years ago, one of the oldest church in Johor Bahru had a crisis. There was a prophecy and there were some disagreements about the interpretation of the prophecy. People began to take sides in the conflict. A community that has been in together for 50 years began to split apart at the seams. Families who have laughed together, grew up together and watch their children grew up together refused to talk to each other. A community of love suddenly found that love is not enough to hold them together. The episode finally concluded when a large number left the church. It was concluded but not ended.

There is still a lot of pain and hurt around.

A lot of grief and unforgiveness.

A lot of wounds that still needs to be healed.

 

John faced a similar crisis amongst the house churches in Ephesus. Like the church in Johor Bahru, a new revelation has shaken the church. Is it from God or not? A crisis has risen in the church due to the rise of teachers who were advocating an understanding of Christianity different from the Apostle Johnís. The churches were divided and some have even left to start a new church. The new teachings which is called Gnosticism can be summarised as:

a.                   Spirit is entirely good, matter is entirely bad.

b.                   Manís body, which is matter is bad. God is spirit and is good.

c.                   Salvation is escape from the body, not by faith in Jesus Christ but by special knowledge ( the Greek word for knowledge is gnosis, hence the Gnosticism)

d.                   Since the body is bad, it should be treated harshly. This form of ascetic Gnostism is addressed in the letter to the Colossians by Paul.

e.                   On the other hand, if the body is bad but not breaking Godís commandments, then it is okay it break Godís commandments and live as they like.

No wonder they were divided and confused.

They were in conflict with each others.

There was disunity and no harmony.

They were literally at each otherís throat.

No wonder, John has to write to them.

 

1 John 5:1-4

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

 

The Epistle of I, 2 and 3 John was written by the Apostle John after he wrote the Gospel of John. The epistles were probably written around AD 85-95, as the Gospel was written around AD 85. By that time John is an old man living near Ephesus. Ephesus is in modern day Turkey and if you visit Ephesus, you can visit Johnís grave. There is a church built around it. You can also visit Maryís grave. Mary, the mother of Jesus. When Jesus was crucified, he told John to take care of his mother, which John did. John took her with him to Ephesus. At that time, John had a pastoral care of a few house churches around Ephesus. However, he was too old to travel so he communicated with the churches by writing letters. They do not have email at that time.

 

The Epistles of John were considered to be a short but accurate summary of the great Christian doctrine of love. Martin Luther wrote of I John, ďI have never read a book written in simpler words than this one, and yet the words are inexpressibleĒ. In fact, if we are to introduce new Christians to read the Bible, they could not go wrong to start with the epistles of John.

 

It is a call for love. Community love.

v.1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.

 

1.       A Community of Love is made up of Godís Children.

i.                    Children of God.

In this verse, God is our father. Anyone who loves the father will also love his children. We are children of God by our belief in the fact that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and has saved us.

 

Rom 8:16  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are Godís children. Because God is our father and we are his children, we are then to love one another.

 

What is this love that Paul talks about?

ii.                  Types of love

In the NT, the word love differentiated by 4 different words:

a.                   filew PhileŲ is the most commonly used word denoting love or affection. It denotes attraction of people to one another both inside and outside the family; it includes concern, care, hospitality and love for things. Normally, phileo has no religious emphasis.

b.                  Torgoz Stergo means to love, feel affection especially of mutual love of parents and children.

c.                   erwz Eros denote love between man and woman which embraces longing, craving and desire.

d.                   agapaw Agape refers to menís relationship with each other and Godís relationship with man. Surprising, the noun agape is rarely used outside the Bible.

 

iii.                Agape love

In every case in the NT, agape is used to speak of Godís relationship with man. The implication is that agape is electing love. God first loves us. The verb used in v.1 is agape. Meaning the basis of our love is Godís love. A believer is a sinner who is loved by God. When he realizes this, he enters the sphere of Godís love. He himself becomes loving. Hence our loving our neighbors derive from Godís own love.

 

v.2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands

 

2.       A Community of Love love each other by first loving God.

 

John approaches the same subject from another angle. He says the test of our love for other people is our love for God. Love of oneís brother derives from Godís love; and without love for one another, there is no relationship with God.

 

i.                    Basis of community love

The basis of community love is thus not phileo or stergos or eros but agape. And this love is not a duty. We need not force ourselves to love our neighbors. We need not compel ourselves to like our neighbors. John says to love others, we must first love God. Only when we truly and sincerely love God then we can love our neighbor.

And how do we love God?

 

v.3-5 This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

 

3.       A Community of Love obeys Godís commandments.

 

i.                    Godís commandments

We are obedient if we obey Godís commandment. What is Godís commandment?

Mark 12:29-31

ďThe most important one,Ē answered the Lord, ďis this: ĒHear Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ĎLove your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment greater than this.

 

Jesus has joined the Shema to Lev 19:18 to show that love for our neighbor is a logical and natural outflow of our love for God. The Shema is Hear <shaw-mah>, O Israel < Yis-raw-ale>,The LORD < yeh-ho-vaw> Our God < el-o-heem> is One < ekh awd> LORD <Yeh-ho-vaw>

 

ii.                  It is not burdensome to obey.

John goes on to say that it is not burdensome to obey God.

It is not burdensome because of our faith in Lord Jesus

It is not burdensome because we are given the Holy Spirit when we become the children of God.

 It is not burdensome because it is not by our own strength but by the power of God inside us that we have the victory.

It is not burdensome because Jesus says so.

Matt 11:28-30

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

 

iii.                Godís commandments are relational.

John has reassured us that it is not difficult to keep Godís commandment because Godís command is relational. It has a relationship upwards between us and God. Because of this upward relationship, we can have a horizontal relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

 

Application: Building a Community of Love

 

How do we apply what we have learnt in our own church? How do we make agape love as the basic of our community of love in our church? It is only when the community of love is based on agape love that it will stand united. Otherwise, the church is like any clubs or community groups.

 

Matt 7: 24-27

ďTherefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain comes down, the streams rose, and the wind blew and beat against the house; yet it did not fall, because it has its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.Ē

So is a community that is not built on agape love. To build a community with agape love I would suggest the following ingredients:

 

  GOD

 

I.                     Prayer

II.                   Word Intake

III.                  Personal Relationship

IV.                Listening to the Voice of God

 

  YOU                                                                                       CHURCH

 

 

I.                     Prayer

A community that loves together prays together. We know the importance of prayers in our lives and in our church. We give prayer a lot of lip service. Yet we hardly pray. Our prayer meetings are poorly attended and the only prayer we pray is the communal prayer during Sunday service. Until and unless a church prays together individually and corporately, it will not and cannot become a Community of Love.

 

II.                  Word Intake

A Community of Love must be continually studying the word of God. It is how we get to know God. Like in a relationship with another people, if we do not speak, we cannot get to know the other people. It is the same with God. God has spoken to us through his word. Unless we read his word, we cannot know him.

 

III.                Personal Relationship

A Community of Love must take time to build personal relationships. We must make opportunities to be together, visit with each other, have meals together, play games, or be involved in homecell groups. We need to share our lives and pray for each other. Let us move beyond the superficiality of the cocktail conversation and take off the masks we wear. Let us be transparent and open.

 

IV.                Listening to the Voice of God

A Community of Love is always listening to the Voice of God. God speaks to us individually and corporately. He is still speaking to us. He can speak to us from a thunderstorm. He also speaks to us in a small still voice in our hearts. He speaks. We must take time to listen.

 

Cindy Jacobs writes,Ē A person may receive a word from God in a number of ways. A few of these ways include person to person (Acts 21:10,11), God to an individual directly (Acts 10:19), through a dream or a vision (Matt 1:20; Acts 9:10,11), by reading the Word (Dan 9:2-21) and by hearing the song of the Lord (a spontaneous prophetic song 1 Sam 10:5; 1 Cor 14;15; Eph 5:19)Ē[1]

 

The Acts 2 church has given us an example of a Community of Love.

 

Acts 2:42-44

They devoted themselves to the apostlesí teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common.

 

We too can be a  Community of Love.

 

Recommended Reading

Philip Yancey, Church: Why Bother? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan,1998)

 

                                                                                                                                                            Soli Deo Gloria

 


 

[1] Cindy Jacobs, The Voice of God (Ventura CA: Regal, 1995) p. 74

 

 

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