Title Page. Lesson Nine. John 15:9-12. John 15:9-12 9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. 10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
13 Greater love hath no man than
this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.
16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
17 These things I command you, that ye love one another.
I John 2:7-9
7 Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning.
8 Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth.
9 He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.
I John 2:10-11
10 He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.
11 But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
Love is the chief characteristic of Christianity. The power of the Holy Ghost will put the love of God in our hearts.
Perhaps the Bible provides the most complete definition of love. Paul wrote to the Corinthians and listed various aspects of love’s nature and character. (See I Corinthians 13.) Love, the key to successful living, is the zenith of human maturity.
Many struggle to comprehend the fullness of the concept of love. Psychologists and psychiatrists continue writing about the power and primacy of love in our daily lives. We never can achieve peace on a universal scale until first we learn how to live together in our day-to-day existence, which requires love. Love bridges the chasm that separates individuals and families—even nations. Although we have tried many things to build relationships of peace among both families and nations, there is no substitute for love. Love is rooted in humility, which is the opposite of mankind’s fleshly nature, and it requires one to give willingly and liberally to its object.
Love played an integral part in Paul’s ministry in Corinth. Known as the “city of two seas,” Corinth was the leading city in Greece during the time of the apostle Paul. It was prosperous and popular with the wealthy and the wicked, the lavish and the lascivious. Paul ministered for eighteen months in this city of commercial tycoons and independently wealthy people. In spite of his persecutions and heartaches, Paul, through his love for these unpredictable people, had a successful ministry among them. Certainly, the gospel has power to transform anyone in any type of culture.
Soon after Paul’s departure from Corinth, the church erupted into factions with strong feelings dominating each division. It was to this type of people that Paul wrote about love. This infant church had transposed other materialistic concepts to the body of Christ. Fond of preachers and their respective merits, they were still permissive in their convictions concerning sin in the church. They had emphasized the lesser gifts of the Spirit and minimized the highest gift of God—love. They cared more for publicity than for power; more for elocution than for consecration; more for speaking in tongues than for teaching; more for the glitter of prophecy than for the grace of propitiation. To these people Paul declared, “Yet shew I unto you a more excellent way” (I Corinthians 12:31).
The Love of God
The Nature of God Is Love
“And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (I John 4:16).
Having actually seen love in action, John had insight into the nature of God through Jesus Christ. Jesus did not just say that He loved, but He demonstrated it through His death on the cross. Christ’s nature was that of living and dying in the interest of others, which is the essence of genuine love. Truly, God is love, and many benefits flow to mankind through His love for us.
He did not need to act the part. He was love!
All Benefits Flow to Mankind from His Love
John said many things about love in his first epistle. He revealed many benefits that stem from possessing the love of God. Among them are the following three.
1. We are called the children of God. If God’s love is in us, we will demonstrate the same nature as His. We will give ourselves in the interest of others without expecting anything in return. He loved us and demonstrated His love clearly by His selfless actions on our behalf.
2. We have potential. John declared, “It doth not yet appear what we shall be” (I John 3:2). We do not know what we will be as a final product, but we have the promise of great potential if God’s love dwells within us.
3. We shall be like Him. We have the promise of becoming like Jesus Christ in His glorious body. Our nature will then be complete.
Sign of Discipleship
Jesus spoke of a new commandment to love one another (John 13:34-35). The Greek word for “new” is kainen, a word that indicates quality. In the context of this passage of Scripture, new does not mean “more recent,” but rather “superior, better in quality.” Certainly, the call to love is an old one, deeply embedded in the Old Testament. (See Leviticus 19:18, 34.) However, Jesus’ call to love was superior to the old commandment.
1. There is a new relationship. The Old Testament called on God’s people to love others as we love ourselves (Leviticus 19:18). Jesus called on us to “love one another” (John 13:34), a phrase that reminds us that in Christ’s new community we are not simply neighbors, but family. We bond to each other by our common relationship with God.
2. There is a new standard. The Old Testament command was to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Jesus’ superior commandment calls us to love one another as He has loved us (John 15:12).
3. There is a new outcome. The purity of the Old Testament community of faith was intended to display God’s righteousness. Under the New Covenant, Jesus declared that all would recognize us as His disciples by the love that we have for others.
Paul wrote that the greatest thing in the world is love—true love of the agape type. The obvious illustration of this is God’s love toward us in that He committed to our well-being even though our condition was abhorrent to Him. He loved us even though our reaction was negative toward Him. In turn, God desires that we achieve this same level of love for others.
Paul defined the characteristics of agape love (charity) in his first epistle to the believers in Corinth.
“Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” (I Corinthians 13:4-7).
As a beautiful diamond has many facets, so love has many characteristics. Paul examined this wonderful attribute of love and revealed its many aspects.
As Christians, we often become weary in well doing, but the apostle informed us that we shall reap in due season if we exercise patience (Galatians 6:9).
2. Love “is kind.” In Matthew 25, Jesus painted a picture of the final judgment. In His clear picture of the judgment, the King did not say to those on his right hand, “I was hungry and you felt sorry for me.” Nor did He say, “I was naked and you felt the shame along with me; I was imprisoned and the manacles on my wrists hurt you, too.” He did not say, “I was sick and you were so sympathetic with me.” (See Matthew 25:34-40.) All of that would have been wonderful, but feelings are not what count. The important thing was that the hungry were fed, the naked were clothed, and the sick and the imprisoned were visited. If we love people, the Lord’s question is: “What are you doing to help them?”
3. Love “envieth not.” Jealousy is a devastating influence that destroys its victims. Constantly desiring to have compliments come their way, envious people do not give credit where credit is due. They like to be on the receiving end, but they never live on the giving end. They cringe when others receive praise, especially if the others happen to excel in the envious one’s own field of expertise.
Plutarch said that Dionysius, the tyrant, punished Philoxenius, the musician, out of envy because Philoxenius could sing better than Dionysius could. He also punished Plato, the philosopher, because Plato could dispute better than he could.
On the other hand, love does not behave that way. Love does not envy. Love is not jealous. The person whose heart is full of love rejoices in the successes of others because he knows that he cannot excel in every field, and he is glad that someone else can.
4. Love “vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up.” Love defeats pride, for the two cannot dwell in the same heart. Jesus declared that He was meek and lowly in heart. Furthermore, He told us that the meek would inherit the earth. God hates pride, which is why He expelled Lucifer, the archangel, from heaven. Lucifer’s pride had caused him to try to ascend above the throne of the Most High.
5. Love does “not behave itself unseemly.” Courtesy is love in little things. God loves the sparrow that falls to the ground, and He counts the hairs on our heads. He is interested in the minutes—perhaps even the seconds—of our lives. Jesus taught lessons about lilies and grass, for He observed the insignificant things and made them noble by His notice. The large gifts that people tossed into the Temple treasury did not receive the word of commendation that He gave to the widow’s two mites.
In our living, courtesy should reign if true love is present. Courtesy is not a matter of living according to mere rules, but it is a fundamental attitude of being. It is an unselfish spirit that suggests instinctively the appropriate action, which produces ease and happiness for others. In the deepest sense, it springs from a heart transformed by the Lord.
6. Love is unselfish; it “seeketh not her own.” Love does not push or promote itself. Many of the ills of our time stem from our attempt at gratifying our own wishes without thinking of the effect it may have on others. Everything in creation obeys the law of love. No tree bears fruit for its own use, nor does the sun shine for itself. Only mankind and the devil seek their own profit in everything.
Sociologists believe that a tribe known as Ik in Northern Uganda, Africa, soon will become extinct. The reason for the tribe’s decline is its selfish orientation about life. Members of the tribe live entirely for themselves. At the age of three, each child is cast out of the home in a desperate struggle for the survival of the fittest. An anthropologist who has studied the Ik tribe reported that no one in the tribe even remembers an act of kindness. These people have become selfish animals, and they have lost their capacity to love and care for one another.
Rather than just existing, real living is loving others in meaningful ways. Love is horizontal, ministering to others. Convenience passes up the wounded man on the Jericho road, but love goes to where he is, binds him up, and pours oil into his wounds. Carnal custom says the person is a thief, but love says the thief is a person. Love always considers others, and the individual who expresses love receives the best in return. Love is the purification of the heart from self. It strengthens and ennobles the character, giving a higher motive and a nobler aim to every action. It makes a person strong, noble, and courageous. Indeed, the power to love is the noblest gift that a human being could possess, but it is a sacred fire that he must never burn to idols.
7. Love is even tempered, “not easily provoked.” Although the nature of love is that it can be provoked to anger, Paul stated that such provocation is not easily accomplished. The Lord drove the money changers from the Temple and called the Pharisees whitewashed tombs. However, love does not wear its feelings on its sleeve or carry a chip on its shoulder. Love is tolerant and sympathetic, careful not to hurt or wound others’ spirits. God will give us the grace to drown the insults of others in the river of love. People may say things to us or about us that they really do not mean. Love teaches us to look beyond the obvious action and care deeply for them.
8. Love is not suspicious. It “thinketh no evil.” Someone has said, “Where there is smoke, there is fire,” but that is not always true; one could be mistaken. Love gives every person the benefit of the doubt. Jesus told the woman accused of adultery, “Go, and sin no more” (John 8:11). Jesus came to forgive sins, not to accuse mankind. Satan is known as the accuser of the brethren. (See Revelation 12:10.) He accused God before Adam and Eve, and he accused Job before God. We should never join the accusers and mudslingers! If something about another person is true, we should help the accused rather than verbally abuse him. Love does not repeat the evil that it discovers about others.
9. Love “rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth.” Love is sincere without a flaw. When true love dominates a person’s character, he will not rejoice when things go wrong for another. Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus. True love is sensitive. True love is not neutral. We should rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Paul instructed us to feel for others and to be sensitive to their successes or sorrows.
10. Love “beareth all things.” Perhaps we could say that the phrase “beareth all things” speaks of holding things fast like a watertight vessel. It endures without divulging to the world what it bears inside, and it speaks not of what it holds. Love allows no complaints to leak out, and it covers and protects what is inside.
In the parable of the prodigal son, the father had two sons—one bad, but the other worse. One went off into a far country and wasted his substance in riotous living. Upon his return, the father forgave him before he even confessed. The other son had remained at home, but he was angry because his father had graciously forgiven his brother. Certainly, the father exemplified that love bears all things.
11. Love “believeth all things.” Love is optimistic, believing that nothing walks with aimless feet. A child lives in this category, which is why Jesus declared, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). That is why a child’s life is free from worry and anxiety. He exercises blind faith in all things at all times.
12. Love “hopeth all things.” Love looks into the future through the eyes of hope. The Christian believes that the kingdom of God will come and lives every day with this hope. This hope is not just a wish, but it is the true hope of God’s Word.
13. Love “endureth all things.” Many people lack the grace of forbearance. Love keeps us going even when everything around us seems to be falling apart. Perhaps this poem about love says it best:
What Is Love?
It’s silence when your words would hurt.
It’s patience when your neighbor’s curt.
It’s deafness when the scandal flows.
It’s thoughtfulness for another’s woes.
It’s promptness when stern duty calls.
It’s courage when misfortune falls.
Illustrations for Biblical Preaching
Through Perfected Love
“Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world” (I John 4:17, New King James Version).
We should follow the example of Jesus in this world, living in fellowship with the Lord and loving one another. Sometimes love is fleeting as far as humans are concerned, but true love endures. People may fall out of “lust,” but they will never fall out of love. As wonderful as all other manifestations of service are, they shall serve their purpose and pass away. However, love is eternal because God is eternal, and He is love.
Prophecies shall come to pass, and tongues eventually will cease. The gift of knowledge—knowledge gained miraculously without training—also shall pass away. However, love is always in season and imperishable. The wise Solomon declared, “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it” (Song of Solomon 8:7). Love marches on. Love never fails. It never fails in the church. It never fails in the home. It never fails in the shop. It never fails in the school. It never fails in Christian service. It never fails in international relationships. Oh, that we might learn the power of love in everyday relations! Love will cure neurosis and psychosis and will save the home, the nation, and the world. Jesus came to love us and to teach us how to love.
The world continues to emphasize the passing virtues of the times. We major upon education, environment, ability, personality, and looks—all good, but temporary. Love never fails, however, because love is eternal. It is eternal because it is the solution to our problems in time and eternity. When asked which was the greatest commandment, the Lord answered, “Love God with all your heart, and then love your neighbor as yourself.” (See Matthew 22:36-40.) May God help us to follow the counsel of the Savior and love as He loves.
Jesus taught that agape love would manifest itself through a person’s willingness to forgive. Furthermore, He taught that if we are coming to put our gift on the altar and we remember that our brother has something against us—not that we have something against our brother—we should first be reconciled with our brother. We should live in an atmosphere of forgiveness rather than hatred, for agape love demands it.
Through the Power of the Spirit
Under the law of Moses, mankind lived by the philosophy of “an eye for an eye”; but now believers live in agape love through the power of the Spirit, which the Old Testament believers did not possess. The Holy Spirit has unleashed the power of true love within us!
“And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:5).
In the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew listed some statements of Jesus that began, “You have heard it said. . . .” He followed each of these statements with “but I say. . . .” He was giving higher meaning to what the people had previously believed and was teaching them how to treat others.
Love Our Enemies
During Jesus’ day, the contemporary understanding was that it was appropriate for people to seek revenge upon those who had harmed them. Jesus’ reinterpretation, however, was to love our enemies and to do good to those who harm us.
Love Our Brother
Agape love should not only include our enemies, but it should also include our brothers and sisters in particular. John asked, “He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (I John 4:20). If we do not love God, how can we love our enemies or the lost? If we call ourselves Christians, we must live according to the principle of agape love.
Follow the Golden Rule
The contemporary understanding in Jesus’ day was that people should treat others as others treated them. In other words, we should love our neighbors and hate our enemies. Jesus’ reinterpretation gave us the Golden Rule, which states that we should treat others as we desire for them to treat us. More to the point, we should treat others as God treats them, whether they are friend or enemy. He loves all!
God is love, and He bestows His love on us. With His great love comes His great benefits. We are called the children of God; we have potential; and we shall be like Him. Jesus declared that our love for one another is a sign of discipleship. This is agape love—a love that is committed to others with no strings attached. The Holy Spirit empowers us to exhibit true, agape love, and through it we can overcome hatred, love our enemies, treat others the way we want to be treated, and love our brothers and sisters. May God’s love grow and dwell in us richly!