The Message of Love

For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another” (1 John 3:11).

- 1 John 3:11

As we continue our study of 1 John and the three tests the apostle gives us in order to determine false teaching and gain assurance, let us note that so far John has focused his attention on personal holiness and righteousness. John has also spoken of love (2:7–17) and of belief in the incarnation (vv. 18–27), but has thus far spent more time speaking of the need to live a holy life (1:5–2:6; 2:28–3:10).

Last Friday, we learned that the practice of righteousness will be evident in those who are the sons of God. Those who do not seek after holiness are not of God but instead are of the Devil. But not only is holiness a mark of all Christians, so too is love for the brethren. If we do not love other believers, we are not God’s children (v. 10).

In today’s passage, John introduces a lengthy section on love as the mark of the believer. Specifically, John is speaking of the need to love others in the covenant community (v. 11). This is the message we have heard from the beginning, for loving one another has always been an essential mark of God’s people (Lev. 19:18; John 13:34). Believers will not wander after new ideas but remain in what is taught by Jesus and His apostles and prophets. This involves loving other Christians.

Though John seems to separate love and holiness in 1 John 3:10, he does this only for matters of emphasis and not because the two are opposed. Indeed, they cannot be, for God Himself is holy (Isa. 6:3) just as He is love (1 John 4:8). To practice righteousness is to obey the commands of God (Ps. 1), and God commands us to love our brothers (1 Peter 1:22). To be holy is to love our fellow Christians, and to love our fellow Christians is to be holy.

Furthermore, we have seen that there is always a familial resemblance between God and His children. Therefore, if we are to resemble our heavenly Father, we must love His people. God Himself, out of love for His people, sent His Son to die for their sins (Rom. 5:8). While we, of course, cannot atone for the sins of others, being a child of God means that we must love God’s people and be willing to give up our lives for them if necessary (1 John 3:16).

Coram Deo

God calls us to love every Christian. He does not call us to love only our polite brothers or only our Reformed brothers or only our wise brothers. No, if we are to reflect God’s character, then we must love all of our brothers just as God loved all of His people. God forgives sinners and continues to love them despite their struggle with sin; so too must we. If you and another believer are currently at odds with each other, do what you can to bring healing to the relationship.

Passages for Further Study

Deut. 7:7–8
Prov. 3:3
Rom. 12:10
1 Cor. 13
Heb. 13:1

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 500 physical copies. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred (where applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to www.ligonier.org.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org | Phone: 1-800-435-4343