John is known as the Apostle of Love. This is because he was close to Jesus and was deeply influenced and impressed by His love, which shines forth in John’s gospel and letters.
Love is the main motive for everything we do and say in the Body. It is evidence of our relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Further evidence is our love for one another. If we say we have a relationship with God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit but do not love other believers we are falling short of the glory of God.
1 John 4:7-11 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
Jesus takes this several steps forward and tells us that we should also love our enemy, and have a good report from those who are without the Body. Our conduct and attitude towards everyone else – our neighbours – is evidence of our relationship with God.
If we love God we will love our neighbour as ourselves. We cannot separate the two. It begins with God’s love for us, which we receive through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and it is demonstrated by our love for our neighbour. God first, then our neighbour, but the two must compliment one another or we do not produce evidence of love. We love because God first loved us.
If we do not love we do not love God, according to John. Why is this? Because God is love, and this love is expressed in God’s willingness to send His Son to take our place at the cross and deliver us from the sin that separated us from Him.
We do not always agree with one another over doctrine in the Body. This is not because there are flaws in God’s Word, but because we do not always know everything it is saying to us. But however much we might disagree over doctrine, we, who have been saved through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, still need to walk in love with one another, or we are denying the God we are attempting to portray through our doctrine.
If our doctrine doesn’t come out of God’s message of love then it is impure. The gospel begins with God’s love. God loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son, so we would not perish, but have everlasting life.
Love for others
Love is outworked by our willingness to lay down our lives for others, so that they can discover the love of God that He has poured out through the Lord Jesus Christ into a world of lost souls.
1 John 3:12b If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.
Love will also correct and give direction to the wayward, but this correction in love comes from the Father, not through the judgment of some self-appointed wing of the brethren. We need to judge ourselves, but it is the Father who corrects. Whom the Father loves He will correct. However, this correction is for a short time. It is for a season, not forever.
Love’s correction is uncomfortable for a while, but sooner or later we understand why we have been corrected and are restored to joy. It is not love to perpetuate correction for the same flaw once change has been achieved. God is righteous to forgive our sin when we confess, and cleanse us of all unrighteousness. The purpose of correction is redirection, not punishment. Correction brings a change of heart and direction. And the tempering factor must always be love.
Following on from this, we should understand that the motive and motivation for everything we do is agapé love – the love that comes from God. Love is the more excellent thing that Paul reveals concerning the operation of the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit. They are His gifts. His manifestations. He operates them through the Body. He uses whomever He wills. But if we do not allow the gifts and manifestations to flow through us through love then we are merely clanging gongs – worthless vessels empty of love.
Love is the first of the fruit of the Spirit. Love demonstrates our connection with the Holy Spirit, and His leading in our lives. If we are being led by the Holy Spirit then we are following love, and the other fruit will be manifest also, against which there is no law.
Walking in love
And this is walking in the Spirit. When we walk in the Spirit we are walking in love. We cannot walk in the Spirit without walking in love. The Holy Spirit is God, who is love, therefore love will be revealed by our walk.
But love has a purpose. Love is the bond that connects us. The Body grows itself through mutual love and respect. Love is what unites us and draws us to one another and to the Father. Love completes us in the Son, who is the fulness of the Godhead in bodily form. Love has qualities that reveal God with us.
Love sees the best in others. Love does not seek its own. Love endures all things. Love doesn’t rejoice in wrong doing. Love is hopeful in all things. Love rejoices in the truth. Love does not behave rudely. Love is long-suffering and kind. Love is not puffed up, and doesn’t parade itself. Love isn’t envious.
Love never fails.
Love is an eternal quality that demonstrates our connection to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Love defines us as believers, as saints, as Christians, and as sons in the Household of God.