Today’s selected reading is found in the second and third epistles which were written by the apostle John. More specifically today’s passage begins with the first verse of the second epistle written by the apostle John and continues through to the final verse of the third epistle. “The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth; for the truth’s sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever. Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father. And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandments, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it. For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds” 2 John 1-11).
“Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full. The children of thy elect sister greet thee. Amen” (2 John 12-13).
“The elder under the well-beloved Gais, whom I love in the truth. Beloved I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth. For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers; which have borne witness of the charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well: because that for his name’s sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles. We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the ttruth” (3 John 1-8).
“I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who l oveth to have the preemience among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church. Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God. Demetrius hath good report of all men, and of the truth itself: yea, and we also bear record; and ye. Know that our record is true” (3 John 9-12).
“I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee: but I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face. Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name” 3( John 13-14).
When you come to the second epistle written by the apostle John you will find the apostle John referring to and speaking of himself as “the elder.” What’s more is that when you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will find the apostle John writing unto the elect lady and her children whom he loved in the truth. Not only this but the apostle John would also go on to write and describe how all those that have known the truth love the elect lady and her children. This would immediately be followed by the apostle John writing and speaking of the truth’s sake which dwelt within them and would be with them for ever. Please don’t miss the words which are found in the first two verses of this particular passage of Scripture for within the opening two verses of this epistle we find the apostle speaking of love once while speaking of truth three times. The apostle John would write and speak of loving the elect lady and her children—and not only loving the elect lay and her children but loving them in the truth. Moreover the apostle John would also go on to write how he was not the only one who loved the elect lady and her children but those who have known the truth also do in fact love the elect lady and her children. In addition to this the apostle John would go on to write and speak of the truth’s sake which dwelt within them and would be with them for ever. Oh please pay close attention to the words which are found in the first and opening verse of this second epistle for within it the apostle John speaks—not only of love but also loving in truth.
As I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in this passage of Scripture I can’t help but be brought face to face with the beautiful reality that we as the saints of God have not only been called to love in word and in tongue but we have been called to love in deed. In fact this was something the Lord Jesus wonderfully and beautifully described and declared when speaking unto His disciples, those who believed on Him, those who came unto Him, those who tempted Him, those who tried Him and even those who dared look for reason and occasion to accuse Him. If there is one thing we must needs recognize concerning this reality and concept of love it’s that it cannot and must not be in word and speech only. Oh there would be those who think and feel that love is an adjective and yet they don’t realize that love is both a noun and a verb. One of the greatest things we must needs recognize and understand concerning love is that it is not only a person but it is also an action which we give ourselves to in this life. There is a great need for us as the saints of God to truly recognize and understand that love is both a person whom we have been called to be transformed and conformed into His image as well as action, demonstration and manifestation on our part. Oh before I delve even further into this reality I feel it necessary to call and draw your attention to the following words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian saints in the thirteenth chapter of his first epistle:
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am. Nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. 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. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophecy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (1 Corinthians 13:1-13).
The words and language we find in the thirteenth chapter of the first epistle written by the apostle Paul must needs be understood if we wish to truly comprehend that which the apostle John wrote in his epistles. It is absolutely impossible to read the epistles written by the apostle John and not encounter and come face to face with the wonderful truth surrounding the commandment given unto the saints and brethren to love. What’s more is that when you read the words which are found in the epistles written by the apostle John you will encounter the apostle calling and inviting the saints of the living God to give themselves to a commandment which was given and spoken unto them. This commandment was not a new commandment but was a commandment which had been given and spoken by the Lord Jesus. If you turn and direct your attention to the New Testament gospel writings you will find the Lord Jesus Christ issuing His disciples a commandment to love one another even as He had loved them. Not only this but when you read the gospel narratives—specifically the gospel narrative written by the apostle John—you will find the Lord Jesus declaring that men and women shall know we are His disciples by the way we love others. What’s more is that when you read the four gospel narratives which were written by the gospel authors you will find the Lord Jesus—not only commanding His disciples and followers to love their neighbor as themselves but also to love their enemies.
It is absolutely impossible to read the four gospel narratives and not be brought face to face with this clarion call given by the Lord Jesus to not only love our neighbors as ourselves but also to love our enemies. Perhaps one of the greatest truths we must needs recognize when reading the four gospel narratives is that the Lord Jesus never drew a dividing line between loving our neighbors and loving our enemies. If you read the gospel narratives you will find the Lord Jesus calling and inviting His disciple and followers to both love their neighbor as themselves as well as to love their enemies—and not only to love their neighbor and their enemy but to love them as the living God and even as the Lord Jesus loved them. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the invitation we have been given in this life to love—and not only to love but to love as the Lord Jesus. AN INVITATION TO LOVE! If there is one thing we must needs acknowledge when reading the four gospel narratives which were written by these various authors it’s that we have indeed been called and invited into a place where we are willing to love others even as we ourselves have been loved by the living God.
The more I think about and consider the words which are found in the four gospel narratives the more I am brought face to face with how at the very heart and center of our loving our neighbor and at the very heart of our loving our enemies is the love we have for the LORD our God. There was more than one occasion when the subject of the greatest commandment came up between the Lord Jesus and the religious leaders and scholars which were present during those days. You cannot read the four gospel narratives and not encounter this concept of that which was the greatest commandment—both those who came unto Jesus seeking to tempt and test Him concerning that which was the greatest commandment and those who were coming unto Jesus asking what they must needs do in order to be saved. It is when you read the four gospel narratives you will in fact be brought face to face with the truth that the single greatest commandment is as follows: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD; And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and then thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).
It is absolutely necessary we recognize these words which were spoken by Moses unto the children of Israel on the eastern edge of the Jordan River in the plains of Moab for these words would be at the very heart and core of everything they would do as well as who they were. What is so amazing about this commandment given and spoken by Moses unto the children of Israel is that it was considered to be the greatest commandment throughout the generations and all the way up to the time of Jesus. Even during the days and time of the Lord Jesus we find this subject of the greatest commandment being brought up as both the religious and unlearned alike were curious as to what the greatest commandment was. Oh it is true there were those who came unto Jesus inquiring as to what the greatest commandment was that they might tempt Him and seek to find occasion to accuse Him. There were others who came unto Jesus inquiring as to what the greatest commandment was—perhaps from a place of sincerity and authenticity. One such instance of when one would come unto the Lord Jesus and this subject of the greatest commandment would be brought up is the lawyer who came unto the Lord Jesus that he might tempt Him. This encounter was written and recorded for us in the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the beloved physician Luke and would ultimately lead Jesus to deliver one of the most powerful and potent parables of His entire ministry—the parable of the good Samaritan. It is this parable of the good Samaritan that is not only a picture of what loving our neighbor looks like and who our neighbor us but also an indictment against those who suppose and believe themselves to be religious in the sight of both God and man. It is with this being said I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the tenth chapter of this New Testament gospel narrative written by the beloved physician Luke:
“And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? How readest thou And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise” (Luke 10:25-37).
I am convinced it is absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for within it we find a lawyer—undoubtedly a religious scholar who considered himself to be an expert in the Law of Moses. If there is one thing that makes this passage so incredibly interesting is that this perceived and assumed expert in religious teaching and doctrine came to Jesus seeking to tempt Him—and not only tempt Him but tempt Him concerning eternal life. Pause for a moment and think about what this scene would have looked like as an expert in the Law of Moses would come unto Jesus asking about eternal life—despite the fact that he had absolutely no interest or desire in actually learning about eternal life. This religious scholar used eternal life as a guise and ruse in the presence of Jesus to try and tempt Him in His words—something other religious leaders and scholars did during and throughout His earthly ministry. When Jesus, however, heard this question being asked by this religious expert in the Law He proceeded to ask him a question pertaining to the Law—and not only the Law but also how he read the law himself. How absolutely incredible it is to think about and consider the fact that the Lord Jesus was approached by a religious expert asking a question about eternal life seeking to tempt Him and He turned the whole experience and encounter on its head and asked him what was in the Law and how he read it. What makes this all the more interesting is when you consider how this religious expert answered and responded to Jesus for he answered, saying, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind” and to “love thy neighbour as thyself.” This religious expert knew exactly what Jesus was asking him and proceeded to provide him with what most—if not all Jews knew to be the single greatest commandments in the Law.
As you continue reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will find that after Jesus proclaimed unto this religious expert that he had answered right and instructed him to do this and life he sought to justify himself in the sight of Jesus and perhaps all those who were present on this particular day. It would be when hearing and witnessing this religious expert proceeding to justify himself concerning who his neighbour was that Jesus delivered the parable of the good Samaritan. What makes the parable of the good Samaritan so incredibly unique when you take the time to think about it is when you consider that at the end of it Jesus asked this religious expert which of the three men presented in the parable was neighbor to the one that fell among the thieves. The religious expert would correctly judge in the sight and presence of Jesus and would proceed to declare unto Him that the one who showed mercy on the one who fell among thieves was the neighbor. That which adds even more weight and meaning to this is when you consider the fact that Jesus would conclude this encounter with the emphatic declaration for this religious expert to go and do likewise. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for this religious expert was asking who his neighbor rather than asking the question how he could and should be a neighbor unto someone else. We cannot afford to miss this particular truth for to do so would mean to miss out on the great truth which is found within this epistle.
The more I read the words which are found in this parable the more I am brought face to face that when it was all said and done Jesus’ question was not designed to ask the religious expert who his neighbor was but rather how he could and should be a neighbor unto others. This religious expert asked the Lord Jesus who his neighbor was and after the parable and the question presented by Jesus he would leave his presence with the command and instruction to be a neighbor. We must pay careful attention to this for there are a number of men and women among us who feel compelled to ask who their neighbors are rather than asking how they can be neighbors to others. This actually calls into question and brings into focus the words which the Lord Jesus spoke in the famous Sermon on the Mount. It is in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus delivered what has long and oftentimes been known as “The Golden Rule.” In the twelfth verse of the seventh chapter we find the Lord Jesus instructing His disciples and those who would walk with and follow them, saying, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” It is with these words where Jesus not only instructs His disciples and followers not to wait for others to do good unto them—or even that which they expect to do unto them—but also to be proactive in their treatment of others. What’s more is that Jesus didn’t instruct His followers to do unto others as they had already done unto them or even as they were presently doing unto them but rather as they would want to be done unto them.
The Golden Rule is something which must be understood at the very core and center of our understanding of loving our neighbor for not only were we instructed to love our neighbor but we were instructed to love our neighbor as ourselves. It’s interesting to note that we were instructed to love our neighbor as ourselves and when Jesus instructed His disciples and followers to do good unto others He would do so by speaking to them about that which they would that men would do unto them. This is something we have a great need of understanding for it calls and draws our attention to the truth of the law and the prophets and how they are indeed summarized in loving God and loving people. If you want to truly understand the Law and the prophets—and not only how to understand the law and the prophets but also how to live and flesh them out within our hearts and lives. I am absolutely convinced that if you want to truly understand how to walk according to the Law and the prophets you need recognize that at the very heart and center of what both taught was loving the LORD our God and loving our neighbors as ourselves. What makes this all the more intriguing when you think about it is when you consider how in the gospels Jesus didn’t merely call us to love our neighbor but also instructed us to love our enemies. Consider if you will the words which are found in the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew:
“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness; sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away” (Matthew 5:38-32).
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48).
The words found in this passage of Scripture must needs be carefully considered for within them we do in fact find and discover that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, however, within Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount He emphatically declared that unless our righteousness shall exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees we shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven. The scribes and the Pharisees would consider loving their neighbor as themselves as fulfilling the Law and the prophets, however, the righteousness which Jesus came to introduce was not only loving neighbors but also enemies. The more you read the words which are found in the four New Testament gospels the more you will be brought face to face with the awesome and incredible reality of Jesus not drawing any distinction between loving our neighbors and loving our enemies. If one wishes and desires to truly fulfil the Law and the prophets and exercise a righteousness which exceeded that of the scribes and the Pharisees then one would indeed need to recognize that they were to love their neighbor and their enemy equally—and not only love them equally but love them as they would love themselves and as the Lord Jesus would have loved them. It this reality which is best expressed in the fifth chapter of the epistle written unto the Romans, the twelfth chapter of the same epistle and the second chapter of the epistle written by James unto the twelve tribes which were scattered abroad through the world during those days. Consider if you will the following words which help illustrate the need for those who would be righteous in the sight of the living God to not only love their neighbors and the brethren but also to love their enemies:
“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: 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. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement” (Romans 5:1-11).
“Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; not slothful in subinsess; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:9-21).
It is in the fifth chapter of this epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Rome where we find him speaking of how God commending His love toward us in that when we were without strength Christ died for the ungodly. Not only this but the apostle also declared that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us and how when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son. Remember when our Lord was hanging there upon the cross and how He cried out unto the Father to forgive them for they knew not what they did? To whom was He entreating the Father to forgive of their sins? Was it not those who scorned, mocked and ridiculed Him? Was it not those who scourged and tortured Him and even those who hammered the nails into His hands and His feet? Was it not those who cried out in the midst of the angry mob, saying, “Crucify Him?” When we think about the cry of Jesus from the cross—the cry from the place of suffering, from the place of evil, from the place of wrongdoing, from the place of evil, from the place of persecution and opposition—we must needs recognize that He entreated God the Father to forgive those whom he did not personally consider to be enemies but those who acted and behaved as though they were His enemies?
When you think about and consider the words which are found in the twelfth chapter of the epistle written by the apostle Paul you will find him instructing these saints to live peaceably with all men if it were at all possible. Moreover the apostle Paul would also instruct them to recompense to no man evil for evil but to provide things honest in the sight of all men. Not only this but the apostle Paul would further admonish them to abstain and refrain from avenging themselves and instead give place to wrath. When writing unto these dear saints the apostle Paul would exhort them to bless those which persecuted them—to bless them and curse not. As if this weren’t enough the apostle Paul also instructs his readers and audience concerning their enemies—and not only concerning their enemies but if their enemy is hungry and/or if their enemies were thirsty. The apostle Paul instructed them to feed their enemy if they were hungry and if their enemy thirsted to give them to drink. By doing this and exercising this within their own lives they would live in such a way that they would not be overcome of evil but overcome evil with good. This is incredibly important for us to recognize for it helps us to further understand the need within ourselves to not only be those who are able to love our neighbors but also love our enemies. The Golden Rule is so incredibly important for it does not invite nor does it give us the license to do unto others as they have done unto us thus causing us to live in the past but rather to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. In other words how we treat others should dictate and determine how they treat us rather than how they treat us dictating how we treat them. There is a great need to recognize that when we seek to live our lives in such a way that is righteous in the sight of the living God we must love our neighbors as ourselves, we must love our enemies with no distinction and we must needs do so even in the midst of being persecuted, reviled, oppressed and hated by others.
It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the second chapter of the epistle written by James the half-brother of the Lord Jesus. The words which we find here in this particular passage are directly in line with the words the apostle John writes—not only in the first epistle written unto the saints of Ephesus but also in the second and third epistles. The apostle John wholeheartedly believed that we cannot truly declare that we love God the Father whom we do not see if we cannot, do not and will not love our brother, our neighbor and even our enemy whom we do see. It is in these three epistles written by the apostle John we are brought face to face with the commandment that was given by the Lord Jesus—a commandment that was not new by its very nature but necessitated being repeated and reiterated by the apostle John. In fact when you read the epistles written by the apostle John you will find that one of the most dominant and prevalent themes throughout them is the command to love our neighbor—and not only love our neighbor but love our enemy in the sight of both God and man. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the second chapter of the epistle written by James. It is in this epistle we find James speaking to his readers concerning love being absent partiality and favoritism. Within the second chapter of the epistle written by James we find the half-brother of the Lord Jesus admonishing these saints and brethren concerning taking inventory of their hearts—an inventory that would demonstrate whether or not they were those who were partial in their judgment and treatment of others as well as whether or not the faith they professed to have was dead being without works:
“My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; and ye have respect ot him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? Heraken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy: and mercy rejoiceth against judgment” (James 2:1-13).
“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he have faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone> yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled with saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when he shad received the messengers, and had sent out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:14-26).
I am absolutely and completely convinced we need to pay attention to the words which are found in the second chapter of the New Testament epistle written by James for the words which we find here are a powerful segway into the words the apostle John wrote in the first epistle wrote unto the saints which were at Ephesus. It was in the second chapter of this epistle James wrote concerning faith without works being dead and how it abides alone. James deliberately and intentionally wrote unto his audience declaring unto them the great truth surrounding faith needing action, demonstration and manifestation and that faith cannot survive when it does not act. We dare not and must not think and/or believe for a moment that our faith—or any faith we profess to have—can indeed survive without any manifestation among those before and all around us. It is in the first half of the second chapter James writes concerning showing partiality, judgment and favoritism within our own hearts and minds and how such a reality only proves we are judges of evil thoughts. This would immediately be followed by James writing unto these saints concerning faith—and not only faith but how faith is more often than not demonstrated by and how we treat others. In fact, James uses some of the same language which the apostle John uses in the first epistle written unto the Ephesian saints. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in this first epistle written by the apostle in the third chapter:
“hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And whereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him” (1 John 3:16-19).
It is absolutely necessary we pay close attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for within this passage the apostle John calls and draws our attention to something James the half-brother of Jesus himself mentioned. When you read the words found in this passage of Scripture you will find the apostle John emphatically declaring that we can perceive the love of God because He laid down his life for us—a reality which was recorded in the third chapter of the gospel narrative written by the same author. It was in the third chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle John we find the Lord Jesus declaring that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. Here in this passage we find the apostle John declaring how we perceive the love of God because He laid down his life for us. Not only this but the apostle John goes on to declare that it is for this very reason we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. This concept of laying down our lives for the brethren is something we must needs understand for if you want to truly understand the reality of loving the brethren you must needs understand that it is centered upon a willingness on our parts to give of ourselves and to lay our lives down for the brethren. With this being said, however, the apostle John goes on to write words which are similar to those of James for he would write how whosoever has the world’s good and sees his brother have need and shuts up his bowels of compassion from him it is impossible for the love of God to dwell in him.
As you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will find the apostle John going on to further explain and expound on the fact that we are not to love in word, nor in tongue but rather to love in deed in truth. This is incredibly important for us to recognize and understand for just as faith demands action, demonstration, manifestation and works so also does love demand action, deed and truth. Just as faith without works is dead and abides alone so I would also dare say that love without action is also dead and abides alone. This reality is made even more true when you consider how the apostle John would ask his readers and audience how they can declare and profess they love the living God and Father whom they cannot and do not see if they cannot love their brother whom they do so. This question warrants strong consideration for it almost suggests that we demonstrate our love for the living God by how we love our brethren. There would be those among us who would dare think they can merely profess their love for the Father without any actionable evidence and visual manifestations within their lives and yet the apostle John boldly declares unto his audience that even loving the living God demands action, demonstration and manifestation within our hearts and lives.
Within the four New Testament gospel narratives you will find the single greatest commandment as being to love the LORD our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength and with all our mind. There was and there is a second commandment that is likened unto this very commandment—one that I would argue and contend is intrinsically linked and connected. I can’t help but think about and consider the fact that this second commandment is so closely connected to the first because our love for God—the profession we make that we love Him—demands that we also love our neighbor as ourselves. We dare not and must not think we can love the eternal Father and not at the same time be willing to love our brothers. This is something we must needs recognize and understand when considering the greatest commandment for when we truly take the time to understand it we must of necessity realize that it is the greatest commandment—not merely because it demands we love the living and eternal God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ but also because by its very nature it demands and requires us to love others. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for there would be those who would dare think and assume that we can somehow love the LORD our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength and with all our mind and not love our neighbor as ourselves. The truth of the matter is that such a reality is completely and utterly false and misleading and has no basis at all in the truth that is found within Scripture.
The first and greatest commandment is indeed to love the LORD our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength and with all our mind and yet the manifestation of that love is not only limited to our relationship to Him but also our relationship to others. If you truly love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength then you must needs recognize and understand how that love is at the very heart and foundation of you loving your neighbor as yourselves. When you love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength you will encounter that love in such an incredibly powerful way that it actually transforms you and how you love. I have previously written that we become what we behold and with that being said I would also declare that we become like who we behold. What I mean by this is that the more we behold the love of God and the more we behold the love we have for the LORD our God the more we can and will love like He does. This includes and is not limited to loving our neighbors and loving our brothers—not only as we love ourselves but also as the living God and Father loves us. What’s more is that this also touches the realm of our enemies for it was Jesus Himself who instructed us to love our enemies—not merely as we would like to and/or desire but as we would love ourselves and even as the living God loved us. Even more than this we must needs recognize that one of the greatest demonstrations and manifestation of loving one’s enemies is when Jesus hung there suspended between earth and sky upon that cross and cried out unto the living God asking the Father to forgive those before Him for they knew not what they did.
In coming to the second epistle written by the apostle John you will find him writing unto this elect lady and her children and how he rejoiced greatly when he found of her children walking in the truth as they had received a commandment from the Father. With this as the basis and foundation of that which he would write the apostle John would go on to beseech the elect lady together with her children—not as though he wrote unto her a new commandment but rather that which they had from the beginning. This commandment the apostle John wrote unto the elect lady and her children was simply that they love one another. Oh please don’t miss and lose sight of this for when we think about and consider the awesome and incredible truth surrounding loving the LORD our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our strength and with all our mind we must needs recognize that we not only demonstrate this love by our love for our neighbors but also by our keeping of His commandments. There is something truly wonderful, beautiful and powerful when we think about and consider this concept of loving the LORD our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength and with all our mind for directly linked and connected to it is the keeping of the commandments which the Father Himself gave in the Law as well as the commandments which the Lord Jesus spoke unto His disciples and followers. In fact it was the Lord Jesus who emphatically declared that we demonstrate our love for Him in the keeping of the commandments He Himself had spoken. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the New Testament gospel narrative written by John concerning the commandment and demonstration of love. THE COMMANDMENT AND DEMONSTRATION OF LOVE:
“So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me. Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I sent receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me” (John 13:12-20).
If you continue reading in this same chapter within the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John you will find the following words which were spoken by the Lord Jesus:
“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” (John 13:34-35).
Consider also these words which are found in the fourteenth chapter of this New Testament gospel:
“…He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (John 14:21).,
And again Jesus spoke these words unto His disciples there in the upper room after He had washed their feet:
“Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father which sent me” (John 14:23-24).
In the fifteenth chapter of this same gospel you will find the following words which were spoken by the Lord Jesus:
“As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. 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” (John 15:9).
Jesus would go on to further speak unto His disciples concerning this new commandment he would give unto them—the commandment that they love one another even as He had loved them and as the Father had loved Him. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the fifteenth chapter beginning with the eleventh verse:
“These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man that this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I commandment you” (John 15:11-14).
As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which the Lord Jesus spoke for what we find here within these passages is a powerful picture of how our love for the LORD our God and Father not only demands action in that we love one another but also obedience in the keeping of the commandments. If we wish to truly understand whether or not we are indeed abiding in love we must needs examine whether or not we are not only loving our neighbor, our brother and our enemies but also whether or not we are keeping the commandments. It was Jesus Himself who declared that we are His disciples—not only if we love Him but also if we keep His commandments. What’s more is Jesus would also go on to declare that men can and will know that we our His disciples by and how we love one another—and not just in how we love one another but also in the keeping of the commandments which He has spoken. Oh we must needs pay close and careful attention to this for the love which we profess to have for and toward the Lord Jesus Christ not only demands that we love one another but also that we keep His words and commandments. We as those who profess that we do indeed and do in fact love the Lord Jesus must not only demonstrate that love through our obedience to His commandments but also through our love for the brethren, for our neighbors and even for our enemies.
I am absolutely convinced there is a great need for us to take a firm inventory of our hearts and lives—and not only whether or not we love the LORD our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength and with all our mind but also whether or not we are those who keep His commandments. There is a great need for us to acknowledge that professing that we love the LORD our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength and with all our mind demands and requires action and obedience. If we truly do love the Lord our God—not only will we love our neighbors, not only will we love our enemies but we will also keep His commandments and His words. This is something we must needs understand when we think about our own witness and testimony in this world and in this life for there is a great and powerful need to recognize that we demonstrate our love for the Lord Jesus by and through our loving one another even as He loved us. Not only this but we demonstrate that we love the Lord Jesus and are walking in His love in our keeping His commandments. The question we must needs ask ourselves is not only whether or not our love had action but also whether or not our love has obedience. If the love you speak of and profess to have does not have obedience to the commandments spoken by God the Father and by the Lord Jesus Christ and if that love does not compel and propel you to love others, to love your neighbor and to even love your enemies then I would dare say the love you’re speaking of and professing is nothing more than a farce and smoke and mirrors. Oh that we would indeed be those who recognize and understand this truth within ourselves for we must needs be those who truly commit ourselves to a love that has both action and obedience that we might truly demonstrate that we are indeed disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ and saints of the most High God.