Love is the evidence of salvation not the method to gain it
Humans were made with the capacity to love as that is one of God’s attributes that he
passed on to Adam and Eve. However, no one can get to heaven simply by trying to love others. That is not a condition of eternal life because no one can love to the standard of God’s love as discussed in an earlier post any more than one can be successful in always obeying the 10 commandments. Besides, the payment of sin is death, not good works or loving others. This passage is talking of the evidence of existing eternal life in you, not the process of receiving eternal life. Only once you have God in you, will He place his love in you to express to others. Besides, God’s selfless and unconditional love is not something that you can generate from within, but is received from His Spirit who takes up residence in his true children. John is not preaching a “love gospel” but is showing what the evidence of salvation produces in true believers lives – fruit of the Spirit – Christ’s love.
God’s Love and Ours
1 John 4:7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 13 We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17 In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.
As we ponder God’s character from the above passage, I wonder if God would answer our trademark question below in the following way…
Who are you Lord?
I AM Love, and I love you. Love is my nature. You cannot love like I do because your nature is selfish. In you fallen state, you don’t have the source within you to love as I love; however, I love you so much that I gave up my life for you to forgive you of your sinfulness. Do you fear death? Do you fear judgment? If you admit your need to me and accept my forgiveness, you will have nothing to fear. Then you can love without holding back, without trying to protect yourself from being hurt, without worrying about protecting your interests and resources. We can have genuine fellowship and I will put my love in your heart to share with others as only I can do for you. Love is a gift of the Holy Spirit, not something that you can conjure up. Genuine self sacrificing love is part of the divine life I place within you when you become a believer. Only when you are secure in my love for you and only as I control you by my Spirit can you have the wherewithal to love others like I do and will do through you for my glory.
My command to “love as I love you” is impossible for natural man to accomplish. You can’t do it on your own. As a matter of fact, there is nothing in the “Christian” life that can be done in the strength of the flesh that will have any eternal value. This is one of the many things that separate Religion from True Christianity (not the religious kind of “churchianity”). Love is not a test to see if you belong to me or not, as I know that you fail, and I know your motives. Love is the result of my filling your mind and will. “He who has been forgiven little, loves little.” The more you realize how much you have been forgiven, then the more you will show your love to me by loving others around you.
Love is the evidence of God working in us
God’s love is evidence of, or the out flowing of our Christian heart and worldview because of what He has placed in us at salvation. Love is the response to what God has done for us not the means to gain salvation. There are a lot of religions which promote sacrificing even their lives for others, but Paul says in 1 cor 13:3 “If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” Only when we are secure in our minds of God’s love (“who shall separate us from the love of God…”), can we have peace, confidence (no fear), joy, and aspiration to live victoriously and compassionately in this fallen world. As His love flows through us to meet the needs of the world around us, we realize that something greater is at work in our hearts. We cannot live this life for our own wanton pleasures any more. We cannot take advantage of others any more. We cannot look past people in need without feeling compelled to help. It grieves our hearts to not be able to do more. These are evidences to us that God lives in us. You may say that anyone could say the same thing if he just loves others. Even unbelievers feel compassion for the needy of this poverty stricken world. Even the wicked love their families. What’s the difference? Source and motive.
Our love is not the means of salvation
As mentioned in the intro, God has given us natural love as part of our make up from his own character; he has given us his sense of anger at injustice as well. Why do some people who give themselves up for others go to heaven while others to hell? The problem is that people’s motives are tainted by sin. Some love others for various reasons and motives and sometimes we cannot even know our motives. Only God knows because he can see and weighs their hearts. Besides, our love is not the condition of eternal life. If love is your prime motive to earn salvation, then you will be truly disappointed. True believers love out of gratitude for God’s love shown to them (vs 19 above) and will lay down their daily lives to serve others from the source that God is living in them. The former may do the same actions throughout the world and sometimes even better, but without the Son of God – Jesus Christ living in their lives, there is no salvation – no source of life. As mentioned above, love is not the saving factor, Christ is. If Christ lives in you, then his sacrificial love should be evident, not always is this the case, but it should be. Fortunately salvation is not based on our faithfulness to him, but his to us.
Know God, no fear. No God, know fear.
Love is possible only as I die to self
The love mentioned here is self sacrificing. Too often we love others because we want them to love us back. But God loved us while we were his enemies. Humans can’t do that naturally. God tells us to forgive others 70 times 7 times, we can’t do that either. Love is a fruit of the Spirit; again humans cannot muster that up on their own. Yet we are commanded to do so regardless. How???? There is only one way. Death to self. “If any man does not pick up his cross daily, he cannot be my disciple.” Daily death to our own promotion for the sake of others is the key to forgiveness and sacrificial love. If I am dead to self, I will prefer others better than myself. If I am dead to self, I will not be offended by others taking advantage of me, thus can forgive countless times. Only when I am dead to my selfish interests can I allow God’s Love to flow through me to use my resources to meet the needs of society around me. This kind of love can only come from God. This kind of love costs us everything. Now compare this kind of love to the world’s love and you will see the obvious differences and how man’s idea of love falls short of God’s standard of love and glory.
He who has been forgiven much – Loves much. Dwell on how much have you been forgiven and see what God would have you to do. I AM the God of Love and I want to share that love through you.
More to come,