When Jesus commanded His disciples to preach the Gospel to all nations (Matt. 28:18–20), the stage was set for a church that would be diverse in language and culture. Such foreshadowing of diversity was not only fulfilled in the first century, it continues to be fulfilled as the Gospel penetrates new people groups, producing culturally unique, but biblically faithful, expressions of the church. As we look at the church universal, it is clear the people of God will indeed one day include representatives from every tribe and tongue (Rev. 7:9–10).
Despite the diversity of the church, there has always been only “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph. 4:5). This ensures that the basic spiritual needs of all Christians — no matter the age in which they lived or the background from which they came — will remain the same. The need to be assured of having faith is one of these needs, and it is the subject of assurance that prompted the apostle John to write his first epistle. As we have seen over the past few months, believers gain assurance of salvation as they confess sound doctrines, such as the incarnation (2:18–25; 3:23; 4:1–6), as they walk in holiness (1:5–2:6, 15–17, 28–29; 3:4–10), and as they love one another as God has loved us (2:7–11; 3:1–3, 11–23; 4:7–12). We are also assured by the inward testimony of the Spirit (3:24b), though this witness will always be present along with the aforementioned outward evidences of faith.
In today’s passage, John moves back to the outward evidence of love. He reminds us we have come to know and believe the love God has for us, and the context shows we have come to know this love because of God’s willingness to send His Son as a servant for the sake of our salvation (vv. 14–16). Moreover, he reminds us that God is love, and that if we abide in love, God abides in us. Commentators debate as to whether John is referring to abiding in the love God has for us, abiding in our love for God, or abiding in our love for others. However, we cannot strictly separate these three, for John probably has all of them in mind. After all, in verses 7–12 John connects God’s love for us with our love for others and our abiding in Him in such a way that shows us all three are inseparable.
We can abide in the love God has for us by using our consciousness of this love to motivate us to avoid temptations to sin. We can abide in the love we have for God by praying at all times and praising His name throughout the day. We can abide in love for others by seeking to extend ourselves for the sake of another. Go before the Lord today and tell Him how much you love Him. Then go and show this love by loving others.