Lesson Four – Love Made Complete

Love Made Complete

Introduction

This lesson is about one of the other topics we need “to know what the recipients knew” in order to read I John.  He told the “dear children” they knew the truth and “you do not need anyone to teach you.”  I John 2:18, 20, 21, 27.  In Lesson One, we noted a vast number of topics they had been taught.  This was not a complete list of their curriculum of study.   John felt they did not need more teaching.  He did not re-teach several topics he mentioned; therefore, they already knew these entities, so we need to have some understanding of what they knew.  This understanding will help us to properly understand what Jesus desires Christians to know from John’s letter.

We studied about “The Word of Life” and “Walking in the Light” in Lessons Two and Three.  The meaning of I John 1:1-10 cannot be understood without a good perception of both of theologies.  God’s purpose for His creation is accomplished by the word of life implanted in a Christian (Jas. 1:21).  God’s grace “in Christ” allows Christians to walk in the light so we can develop our “selves” according to the truth about our lives as a human being.  Both theologies are enjoyed by Christians because Jesus Christ became incarnate to do His Father’s will (John 1:17; 5:30; I John 2:1-3).

Lesson

John introduced another topic in I John 2:5 Christians must already know (Gr. oida – to have known).  We attained knowledge about God’s love in the processes of our new births.  Love is often found in John’s writing; however, here he wrote, “But if anyone obeys His word, God’s love is truly made complete in him.”  This imperative relates directly to the new covenant (Heb. 10:16).  Christians need to fully understand “God is love,” and then we need to know how this quality of His “divine nature” is being made complete in us (II Pet. 1:4; I John 4:8, 12).  We learned how a Christian’s faith is “made perfect” in James, Part I, Lessons Six and Seven.  Please read James 2:20-26.  “Made perfect” has been translated from the Greek word “teleioo” in I John 4:12, 18 and Jas. 2:22.  It means “to complete, accomplish – to consummate in character.”  Faith and love are being made complete in each Christian; otherwise, spiritual growth cannot happen.  The eight emotional attitudes presented by Matthew in what is referred to as Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” are all rooted in faith and love.  Character building relates to “the wise man building his house on a rock” in Jesus’ parable in Matt. 7:24-27.

We must understand Christians’ three learning stages to know how love can become our foundational base for the development of other healthy emotional attitudes (Matt. 5:3-10).  We hear and learn in our minds and believe in our hearts what we learned from God’s word about love.  The Apostle Paul explained this process of internalization while teaching the topic; “the righteousness that is by faith.”  See Rom. 10:6-10.  Christians have faith in what we read about the divine quality of love Jesus revealed by His teaching and in His behavior.  These are the laws of life (I John 1:1-4).  John passed this message on to the recipients of his letters.  Love is internalized into our hearts.  The heart of our inner-man is a major capability of each person’s “self.”  Internalization happens as we practice the faith we have about love.  The third learning stage is where we become what we practice.  This is called sanctification or spiritual growth.  Jesus challenges us to experiment with His teachings (John 7:16, 17).   “Try My teachings and you will know they work” is His challenge.  It takes faith to try Jesus teachings.

The English word love, as in “God is love,” has been translated from the Greek noun “agape.”  I John 4:16.  The Greek verb for love is agapoo.  It means “to do it.”  The verb has been used more frequently by John.  As it is with faith, we must practice love for love to be consummated in us.  It works like this:  God commands Christians; “to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us.  Those who obey His commands live in Him, and He in them.”  I John 3:23, 24.  We need to know what John meant by “command.”  The Greek word is “entole.”  It denotes an injunction, charge or precept.  This Greek word is different from the word, “epitage” translated “command” in Rom. 16:26 and I Cor. 7:6.  John’s use of the word “command” should not be thought of in terms of a military command.  His usage belongs in the category of the command of a sports coach.  For instance, a coach may say, “I command you fellows to exercise two hours every day.”  The purpose of the command is what we want to catch.  The exercise pronounced by the command is for strengthening the one who is commanded.

This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out His commands.  This is love for God: to obey His commands.  And His commands are not burdensome, for every one born of God overcomes the world.  This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world?  Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.  I John 5:2-5

What we can understand about the process of developing the “divine nature” of love in Christians is God commands us to love one another.  In other words, He designates a field for “heart learning” in which to exercise His command.  The exercise being commanded is to make a decision to love another person.  This is a rational decision based on principle.  It is not an emotional decision.  We can decide to do it or not do it in our minds.  In the foregoing context John had the members of the church in mind.  Christians obey the command to indiscriminately love all fellow members in the church (Jas 2:1-4).  In this exercise, the verb, love, becomes the noun, love in us.  Of course, there are conditions for determining successful growth in this exercise.  One condition is about our motive for accepting the command to practice God’s quality of love.  Our motives must be free of the expectation of tangible benefits (I Cor. 13:1-3; I John 4:9, 10).  Our motive for the practice of love is to assist another human in his or her needs for their physical or spiritual benefits (I John 3:17, 18).  On the other hand Christians do benefit.  We become love (II Cor. 9:15).

This is exactly why our loving Father “has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”  I John 4:21.  We love God because He “works for the good of those who love Him.”  Rom. 8:28.  Christians love God’s children because we know He loves them and because we need them to help us in our needs while we live “in Adam, in Christ.”  Who do people love?  We love the individuals who have assisted us in attaining and maintaining satisfaction for our God-given needs.  We love our parents.  People will love God when we come to believe He causes things to happen for our physical securities and our inner-man needs of “praise, glory and honor.”  I Pet. 1:7.  Christians will not attain full satisfaction for the needs of our spirits while “in Adam,” but we have hope.

Mature people “outside Christ” must seek satisfaction for their God-given needs from the “world realm.”  See I John 2:15-17.  Since the world is passing away they have no hope after their physical death.  They will practice loving the world things; however, they will not attain permanent satisfaction or even a little hope past their deaths.  They will try fantasy exercises; however, since they are not the truth about the way they were created, lust will develop as a driving force.   Lust cannot be satisfied.  The practice of seeking satisfaction for our innate needs without the “truth about life” will lead to developing lust.  Lust is a very strong force that drives the world people.

The quality of the love internalized into Christians’ character is from God (I John 4:7).  Therefore, it will “overflow for each other (in the church) and for everyone else.”  I Thess. 3:12.  Paul may have broadened the learning field for our development of love when he wrote to the Corinthians, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.  Do everything in love.”  I Cor. 16:13, 14.  Jesus definitely “raised the bar” for Christians’ exercise program “to be love,” when He said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.”  Matt. 5:43, 44.  There is a great strength of character in whom love has been perfected.  “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.”  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.”  I John 4:16, 17.  This statement is the “top of the bar” for Christians’ spiritual growth.

A Christian’s character and personality is being built on the “laws of life.”  Jesus taught these laws in His Sermon on the Mount.  These principles of life will give Christians courage to stand, and even grow, during the tribulations we face in our “faith testing.”   Jas. 1:2-4; I Pet. 1:6-9.  John assured us, “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.”  I John 4:18.  Guilt on their consciences is what moved Adam and Eve to hide from God (Gen. 3:8).  Guilt robs people of their courage to seek fellowship with God (John 3:20).  The main reason John wrote this first letter was to restore the recipients’ “confidence before God.”  I John 3:21.  The condition for courageously fellowshipping God was “if their hearts did not condemn them.”  A person whose heart condemns him or her “self” will be fearful to fellowship God because of their guilt.  People who are afraid to fellowship God will fear people and situations.  A mere rumor of a life threatening entity will drive them into a “lock down” mode.

Mature people have the God-given capability to examine ourselves (I Cor. 2:11; II Cor. 13:5).  Christians can examine our “selves” without feeling guilty about our weaknesses – such as the lack of courage.  The other side of the coin of courage is the presence of fear.  Christians can recognize and confess our sin of fear to ourselves and God.  This is the first step in our spiritual growth process of becoming courageous individuals.  We have the grace of “freedom from guilt” because we walk in the light as He is in the light and the blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin (I John 1:7; 5:17).  Consequently, we can recognize both the level of love and fear in our “selves.”  The level of one reveals the level of the other.

Perfect love drives out fear; however, fear will drive out love.  We hate those we fear.  We will hate our brothers “in Christ” if we fear they will take away something we prize – or if they will not give us what we want from them – such as fellowship, honor and glory.  We all have an innate desire for social acceptance, honor and glory.  Our brothers may become our enemies at times.  They may sin against us.  We need “to love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”  I Pet. 4:8.   This will require brotherly love, but even more (II Pet. 1:7).  It will require the quality of love God revealed to us through Christ (Rom. 5:6-8; I John 3:16).  The exercise of overcoming anger and fear of another member of the church is not an emotional exercise.  It is a rational decision we need to make.  See Matt. 18:15-17; II Cor. 2:10, 11; I John 2:9, 10.

John appears to offer a paradoxical message in I John 2:7, 8.  A paraphrase might read like this:  God has always commanded mankind to love Him.  Love is deeply involved with why He created us (I Cor. 2:6-10; Rom. 8:28-30).  Why God created us is a family matter (I John 3:1-3; Heb. 3:6).  Children obey their parents’ commands because it good for the whole family.  Mankind did not always love God; therefore, He wrote His commands on stone for Moses to show to the Israelites along with many other commands.  Jesus said; “All the Law and the Prophets hang” on the first two: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Matt. 22:37-40.  James referred to this as the royal law (Jas 2:8).  This may be what John meant by, “I am not writing you a new commandment but an old one, which you have had since the beginning.” I John 2:7.  The following may be what he meant by, “Yet, I am writing you a new command.”

In His love, God gives us commands that will help us find satisfaction for the needs He created in us.  Christians love God, our Father.  We do what He commands us to do, because He is the Father of our spirits:  As our Father, He lavished on Christians His great love.  He commands us to love as He loves so we can be His children.  “Those who obey His commands live in Him, and He in them.  And this is how we know that He lives in us:  We know it by the Spirit He gave us.”  I John 3:24.  Our own spirits came from God (Heb. 12:9).  After Jesus died for the removal of guilt from Christians’ consciences, God’s own Holy Spirit has been given in fellowship (I John 4:13; John 7:37-40).  Mankind has been designed in the likeness of God (Jas. 3:9).  We have the potential to “Be perfect; therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Matt. 5:48.  God has been patiently waiting to live with His children by the Holy Spirit since Adam and Eve broke covenant.  Jesus had to die on the cross to remove the guilt of our sins from our consciences to give us peace with God.  Christians have fellowship while here on earth with our Father in the light “where there is no darkness at all.”  I John 1:5.  In this fellowship, Christians can develop the divine nature of God’s love because the Holy Spirit of God is with us.  He is not God.  He is the Holy Spirit of God.  He knows the mind of God, but He is not the mind of God (I Cor. 2:11).  “In Christ” is where the Holy Spirit leads us in life (Rom. 8:5-10).

The new command of which John spoke actually includes the two old commandments to love God and mankind.  They were written in the law books in the old covenant.  They are now being written on Christians’ hearts and minds in the new covenant.  Therefore John could write: “Its truth (love) is seen in Him and you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.”  I John 2:8.  We can accept Jesus’ command to; “Be perfect; therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Matt. 5:48.  The context for giving this command is “love your enemies.”  We will need to try it to see if it works for our own character building.  Christians are children of light in a dark world (Phil. 2:12-15; I Thess. 5:4-6).  Satan has control of the world realm.   This is where most the world population is seeking satisfaction for their innate needs without the law of life; without justification for their sins; without the love of God – who created them.   See I John 2:15-17.

Christians have the privilege of living in the “last days” of God’s physical creation.  We are preparing to live with our eternal Father in “a new heaven and a new earth, the home of the righteous.”  II Pet. 3:13.  Righteousness means we walk as Jesus walked (I John 2:6).  Jesus subjected His will to the will of God which is synonymous with the kingdom of God in Jesus’ prayer lesson (Matt. 6:10).  The will of God has been manifested in God’s command to love as He loves.

God’s people are now counted righteous by our faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus.  This grace requires faith made complete by deeds.  In John’s words, “he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous.” (KJV) I John 3:7.  We have a gift of righteousness that is total – 100%.  However, we must make righteousness our practice – habit.  This requires us to accept God’s command to practice loving Him, our brethren and our enemies.  We will not be able to practice righteousness if love is not our motivation. God has given us all spiritual blessing “in Christ” in these last days so we can practice love and righteousness in preparation for our new home with God.

Armed with an understanding of God’s new covenant He has given us by faith in the blood of Jesus, we have prepared ourselves for reading John’s letters.  All the purposes and graces of God in the last days are fulfilled for Christians through the new covenant in Jesus’ blood.  This lesson and the preceding lessons help us to appreciate the significance of the new covenant for Christians.  We should have accepted it in our repentance before baptism.  Everything happening between God and mankind at this very moment, demands an understanding and our proper relationship to His new covenant (Heb. 8:10-12).  In the next and following lessons, we will follow John’s train of thought through his first letter.  We will be able to better understand what he means because we have taken time to understand why he wrote and we upgraded our understanding about what the recipients knew.

Questions for Discussion

1.  Explain the three learning stages of a Christian.  How does your answer relate to perfecting love and faith in Christians?  How does this all relate to God’s new covenant?  How does John’s use of the word “command” have meaning for perfecting love and faith?

2.  Explain how Jesus’ command to love our brothers and sisters could be the lessor challenge to perform an act of love; whereas, His command to love our enemies would be the highest level of challenge.  Give other “in between” levels of challenges to love in order to become this particular level of love.

3.   Why did it seem reasonable for John to say what he did in I John 5:1, 2?  Some other questions that should be answered in this discussion might be:  Who do we love?  Why do most of us love our parents?  When will we begin to love God?

4.  Make the connection John made between “love made perfect” and fear in a Christian.  Define perfected love.  How does fear and love form the roots for opposite kinds of emotional attitudes?  How does Christians own love and fear become data for them to determine their individual level of love and fear in themselves?

5.  How did the old command to love become the new command in Christians?  How did the blood of Jesus and the role of the Holy Spirit function in fulfilling John’s line: “Its truth is seen in Him and in you?”  I John 2:8.  What is so good about being a Christian in these last days of time?  How is it possible for God to make the three points of the new covenant listed in Heb. 8:10-12, a reality in Christ; whereas, it was not possible in previous generations?

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