The Apostolic Definition of an Authentic Christian

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  • The Apostolic Definition of an Authentic Christian

    Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 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. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.

    1 John 4:7-12

    In 1 John 4:7-12 we find the apostolic definition of an authentic Christian as well as the apostolic definition of an authentic church. We must pay attention to these definitions because they are not the opinions of a person, but the infallible word of God coming to us through the apostles. These words are the very foundation upon which the church is built.
    Authentic or Synthetic Christianity?

    Suppose you go to the doctor and learn that you have an advanced case of breast cancer. What would you think if the oncologist, after giving you the diagnosis, just smiled at you, said he understood your problem, gave you a placebo and said, "Just go and take this once a day for three months and everything will be all right"? Do you think you will love that doctor for how he is treating your disease? No, you should find another doctor.

    Yet this is exactly what is happening in the evangelical world where the issue is not breast cancer, but the most severe disease possible: the sin that separates man from God. In the gospel God has given a prescription and the only medicine powerful enough to save us from sin. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greeks. But in many churches the preachers refuse to preach the gospel. "Speak to us soft, smooth things!" the people say, and when the minister does so, they are happy. How many people go to such churches just to be massaged in their spirits and go home thinking they are saved! But nothing is really happening to them and they are not saved, because they have not even heard the true gospel.

    In this church we try to tell the real thing. We understand the disease; we understand God's singular solution for man's sin; and we declare this solution clearly.

    In this study we want to examine the apostolic definition of an authentic Christian. There is a Christianity that is synthetic. Synthetic Christianity is popular but it is counterfeit and a placebo, not real medicine. Synthetic Christianity is based on mere profession of God and mental assent to a set of theological propositions. But mere profession and mental assent will not save anyone. The Bible tells us that demons believe correct theological propositions and tremble. In fact, it was a demon who first confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, long before Peter or anyone else made that profession.

    A synthetic Christian is one who says, "I am a Christian because I received Jesus into my life as Savior. Because I made a decision for Christ, I am saved and it doesn't matter what I do." This popular Christianity is fundamentally antinomian. Rather than saying they are saved to sin no more, they may argue they are saved to sin even more. But such Christianity only has the form of godliness. They are not new creations in Christ and have not been given new hearts with which they can obey God. They profess to be Christians yet live like pagans. They are only fooling themselves.

    Three Tests of Authentic Christianity

    In the first epistle of John, the apostle gives a definition of authentic Christianity and an authentic Christian. John says that a true Christian is born of God and therefore has a new heart-a heart of flesh, not of stone. Because a Christian has a new heart, he also has a new intellect, a new mind, a new will, and new emotions.

    In 1 John 5:1 we read, "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God." One who is born of God has a new mind and will make the correct, orthodox confession that Jesus is the Christ. Why does a Christian have a new mind? He has been born of God. So this confession made with his intellect is the result of supernatural regeneration. Thus, we can make this proposition: Regeneration precedes faith.

    In 1 John 2:29 we read, "If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him." This means the person who obeys God and does righteousness has been born of God. His obedience proves that he has received a new will because he experienced the great miracle of God called regeneration. Thus, we can make a second proposition: Regeneration precedes obedience.

    Not only does a regenerate person have a new intellect and new will, but he also has new affections, new emotions. In 1 John 4:7 we read, "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God." A Christian loves God. He has this new affection, new emotion by which he loves God because he has been born of God. Thus, we can make a third proposition: Regeneration precedes love.

    These are three tests the apostle gives regarding authentic Christianity. The one thing we notice in all three tests is that regeneration precedes the change in nature. In other words, our new intellect, our new will, and our new emotions are the result of a miracle of God. So our confession that Jesus Christ is Lord is not a self-generated confession but the direct result of our new birth. A person who is born of God is a new creation. If we are regenerate, our mind, will, and affections have all been made new by God.

    What is the result of a person's mind, will, and emotions being made new by God? Such a person will now think God's thoughts with his intellect and study God's word so that he can know it. Such a person will will God's will, meaning he will obey God. Such a person will love God and others because his affections have been made new.

    Of these three apostolic tests, the ultimate and most important test is that of love. If we love God and his people, then we are authentic Christians. John taught this, as did the apostle Paul, who wrote about it in 1 Corinthians 13. There we read in verses 1-3,

    If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames but have not love, I gain nothing.

    The Nature of Love

    What is the nature of the love John is speaking about? In these six verses, 1 John 4:7-12, the "love" word group, including the words agapíª, agapaí´, agapíªtos, appears fourteen times.

    The pagan world had no understanding of agapíª love. The pagans knew much about a love called eros. Erotic love is acquisitive. It tries to possess someone or something else. Eros asks the question, "What can I get out of this relationship for my personal gain?" In other words, eros is self-centeredness. Thus, the pagan world knows love only in the context of lust, possession, and gain.

    But the love that John spoke about, which is expressed by the Greek word agapíª, is not the love of this world. This world does not know what agapíª love is because it is not of this sinful, fallen world. Agapíª love is heavenly love. It is ek tou Theou, meaning its source is God himself.

    So John wrote in verse 7, "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God." Agapíª love does not come from this world nor from the devil nor from sinful men. Agapíª love comes from God.

    Agapíª love is an expression of the nature of God. In other words, this love is the very nature of God. So John writes, "ho Theos agapíª estin," meaning, not "God loves" or "God is loving," but "God is love." It is his way of being.

    According to John, God is spirit, as we read in John 4:24. In 1 John 1:5 we read, "ho Theos phos estin," "God is light." In 1 John 4:8, 16 we are told that God is love. So God by nature is spirit who is holy love, and all he does reveals this holy love.

    So it is agapíª, not eros, that is the very eternal nature of God. This love is a giving love. It asks, "How much can I give to the other," though the other is utterly undeserving. This divine, giving love is the polar opposite of the love of this world called eros.

    The agapíª love of God is displayed, first of all, in creation and then in divine providence-in God's caring and governing of his creation. But it is particularly manifested in the redemption of sinners. Agapíª love is not mere sentiment or good feeling. It is not even mere words expressing love. Agapíª love reveals itself in costly deeds for the benefit of the object of this love.

    Manifestation of Agapíª Love

    Having, then, looked at what love is, and discovering that God is love, we now want to examine the revelation of this love in Christ in history. In 1 John 4:9-10 we read, "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. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins."

    In other words, this divine, sacrificial love was manifested to this fallen world when God sent his only Son into this world. In other words, it is only through the incarnation of Jesus Christ that we can fully understand what authentic divine love is all about. Apart from Jesus Christ, we have no concept of any love but eros.

    God's Love Shown to Us Through Christ

    Let us then look at God's love especially as it has been displayed in and through the person of his Son. God the Father sent from heaven the greatest gift he possessed: his Son, who is eternal, preexistent, and co-equal with the Father. Jesus Christ is God the Son. John used the word monogeníªs to describe him, meaning he is God's unique, one and only Son. This Jesus has no divine brothers. He alone was in the bosom of the Father, loved by the Father from all eternity.

    What a demonstration of God's great love for us! God could have given no greater gift than his only beloved Son. In Jesus Christ God gave us the best, the greatest, the grandest gift that heaven possessed.

    In Romans 8:32 Paul says that God "did not spare his own Son. . ." meaning his eternal, beloved, unique, monogeníªs-one and only-Son. Isaac, Abraham's only son, was spared, and other sons have been spared as well. But infinite God did not spare his Son, but gave him up for us all. Divine love gives the best.

    In 2 Corinthians 9:15 Paul began to speak of Christ, saying, "Thanks be to God" but then did not have the language to continue his thought. The apostle Paul was a genius, yet when he tried to speak about Jesus Christ, the greatest gift of God the Father to us, he could find no adequate words, so he simply said, "Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift." In other words, it is impossible to describe the great gift of God's Son. What great love! God sent us the indescribable gift of his Son.

    We are told God sent his Son. That verb apostellí´ means God sent his beloved Son with a mission, with a responsibility, with a work to do. He was to fulfill this mission by his incarnation.

    Then we are told he was sent into the world, which in the Greek is eis ton kosmon. Think about it! The eternal, beloved Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, was sent into this fallen world on our behalf. What humiliation for the Son of God to come into this world of sin, of sinners, of poverty, of misery, of enmity and contradiction, and to be conceived in the womb of a woman, born of a woman, have no place in the inn, be placed in a manger, possess less than foxes and birds, and to be mocked, contradicted, and crucified on our behalf. Jesus humbled himself, not only to become incarnate, but to die on the cross. That is love.

    What was the purpose of God's sending his Son into the world? "That we might live through him."

    The Objects of God's Love

    What is the nature of the world, meaning the people of the world whom God loved? The Bible tells us we are sinners-spiritually dead and under the wrath of God.

    In Romans 5 we read something about those whom God loved. In verse 6 Paul wrote, "You see, just at the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly." By nature we are ungodly. We are powerless to save ourselves, powerless to improve ourselves, and powerless to make ourselves acceptable to God. Paul continued, "Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Not only were we powerless and ungodly, but we were sinners. And in verse 10 Paul wrote that we were enemies of God as well: "For if when we were God's enemies we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life."

    In Romans 8:7 Paul wrote, "The sinful mind is hostile to God." You see, God loved us, though we were undeserving, without strength, ungodly sinners at enmity with God. Every religion, every philosophy, and everything else in this world is by nature against God. Then Paul wrote, "The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law nor can it do so." It is impossible for a sinful man to submit to God's law. Finally, in verse 8 he wrote, "Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God." Supernatural regeneration is absolutely essential for salvation so that we may submit to God's law and please God.

    The Demonstration of God's Love to Us Through Christ

    Because we are by nature ungodly sinners, without strength and at enmity with God, what happens to us? In Romans 1:18 we read, "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men." God is angry against the unbelieving sinful world. Yet God sent his Son that we may have life through him. This means the people in this world do not live, in the true sense of living. They exist, but they do not live because they are cut off from God by their own sin. But God sent his Son into this world of sin that we may finally live.

    In 1 John 5:11-12 we read, "And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son." Here we see that all other religions and philosophies and all other ways of finding eternal life and salvation are absolutely false. In other words, either all other religions and philosophies are right or God is right in his word. The apostolic doctrine declares that God has given us eternal life through his Son. I would rather believe in God and his apostolic testimony than anything else.

    John writes, "And this is the testimony. . . ." Whose testimony is it? God's. "This is the testimony: God has given us eternal life and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life." We cannot find eternal life outside of Jesus Christ. Life is found only in him, and only he can give us life.

    In John 10:10 Jesus Christ said, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." Satan's goal is to destroy people, and he does so through any means. Even while some people go to church, they are being destroyed by Satan. Such people, who trust in their puny little intellects, have no life. Theirs is mere existence, cut off from God. I pray that such people will repent and trust in Christ alone, in whom alone is found abundant eternal life.

    In 1 John 4:10 we read, "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." Jesus Christ, God's one and only eternal Son, humbled himself and became incarnate so that he could, as the great high priest, offer to God the bloody, acceptable sacrifice of himself. He did so in accordance with God's own eternal plan, so that God could be propitiated and his just wrath against us be turned away so that he could be gracious to us and forgive us all our sins.

    The wrath of God against us has been poured out on a substitute: his only Son, the God/man Jesus Christ. That is what love is all about. Our Lord Jesus Christ became our substitute, taking upon himself the entirety of the wrath of God that we merited and deserved. The eternal Son became both the victim and the priest. As we read in 2 Corinthians 5:21, "God made him who knew no sin be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." Jesus Christ was cursed so that we who were cursed may be blessed forever.

    God the Father sent his Son into the world to the death of the cross. That is what love is all about. As John wrote in 1 John 1:7, "The blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin." This is the highest manifestation of divine agapíª love. It is not mere sentiment or words. I have heard people making many promises and not keeping them. Such people are false, they are liars. God not only makes promises but he fulfills them. The entire Old Testament is God's promise and because God is not a man that he should lie, in the fullness of time, he displayed his love by sending his Son into this world to die on the cross.

    In 1 Peter 1:18-19 we read, "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver and gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ . . ." God himself bought us back from slavery to sin, Satan, death, and hell, by paying the price of his Son, "a lamb without blemish and defect." In Colossians 1:14 Paul wrote, "In him we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins," meaning the complete full pardon and forgiveness of all our sins. That is what love is all about.

    The Bible tells us that he who has the Son has life. Life is in Christ, not outside of him. Who took the initiative to save us by sending his one and only Son? God himself. PGM As we read in 1 John 4:10, "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins."

    You see, we hated God. We were hostile to him. We were his enemies. We never submitted to his law. But he took the initiative. He loved us from before the creation of the world and sent the greatest, grandest, most glorious gift from heaven-his only Son-for our redemption.

    Notice the word "so" in John 3:16. God so loved the world. This so means the person and the work of Christ for miserable, wretched enemies of God. This is what love is all about. No one can measure its height, its depth, its breadth. We can try to know it, together with all the saints, but as Paul tells us in Ephesians 3, the knowledge of God's love is incomprehensible. No one can understand this amazing grace and amazing love in all its fullness except God himself.

    I pray we will take seriously the love with which God has loved us. Although we hated him and were at enmity with him, he took the initiative and loved us miserable, undeserving wretches first. God demonstrated his love in history in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Without the incarnation, we would have no knowledge of true love. We would have been stuck with eros: everyone trying to use everyone else to promote himself. The world did not know love until Christ came. The incarnation of Jesus Christ is the revelation of this love.

    I hope each of us will examine ourselves and see whether we are real Christians or not. As we said, there are three areas in which regeneration is obvious: our intellect, our will, and our emotions. But regeneration is not manifested in weeping or crying or coming forward or falling flat on our faces or making a decision. Regeneration is prior to all these things-prior to confession, prior to obedience, prior to love. Regeneration is a work that God alone does in our souls. Once it happens, everybody will know it because we will begin to confess the right confession, to will God's will, to feel the way God wants us to feel and love God.

    Therefore, I urge you to think about whether you are in or out of God's kingdom. If you are out, what must you do to be saved? Repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. Life is in the Son, and he who has the Son has life.

    God Shows Love through Us

    According to the apostolic definition, then, an authentic Christian is one who loves God. True love is the expression of God's nature, because God himself is love. God revealed this love in history by so loving the world that he sent his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, into the world "that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." That speaks about the person of Christ, about the work of Christ, and about us who merited the very wrath of God, and yet to whom God showed mercy.

    God, who is love, showed his love to us through the person and work of his Son, Jesus Christ. But Jesus, after he died and rose again, ascended into heaven and is now seated as King of kings at the right hand of God the Father. He is not here; he has risen! But if Jesus Christ is in heaven, how can God's love be revealed to the world? The answer is that he who is love, he who showed us his love in Jesus Christ, still demonstrates his love in and through the Christian and the Christian community. In other words, God expresses his love to the world through the life and actions of every authentic Christian.

    The Lovelessness of False Christians

    The heretics of John's day made many claims, even as people do today. They claimed to walk in the light, to have fellowship with God, to believe the gospel, and to love God. They also claimed to know God. That is why they were known as Gnostics.

    But these people were false Christians. They were antinomians, lawless ones. Not only were they not born of God, they were not of God. In fact, they are identified in this epistle as children of the devil. Their profession, which was formal and empty, especially failed the ultimate test of a true Christian, for, instead of loving one another, they were deceivers and liars. Eventually, these false Christians went away from the apostles and their teaching. They left the apostolic community of true Christians, of true believers who believed and practiced the apostolic doctrine.

    These heretics were not regenerated. They did not belong to God; therefore, they did not belong to the community of God. We can identify such people by the following:

    They are self-centered. They are fixated and focused on themselves.
    They are self-asserting. Their speech is filled with "I desire," "I want," "I this," "I that."
    They are self-conceited.
    They are always defending themselves and condemning others, especially the apostles and the apostolic community. They are never wrong, according to their own opinion.
    They are self-indulgent. They say to others, "Don't do it," but then permit themselves to do the very things they prohibit others from doing.
    They are self-pleasing. The Bible says in Romans 15 we must please God and please others. It doesn't say one thing about pleasing ourselves. But these people are self-pleasing.
    They are self-seeking, always looking out for Number One.
    They are self-pitying. "Woe is me," they will say whenever something goes wrong..
    They are self-sensitive. They will come to church and sit, all the while judging everything they hear.
    They are easily wounded. They just collapse when someone rebukes them.
    They are self-defensive.
    They are self-sufficient.
    They are self-conscious rather than God-conscious.
    They are self-righteous. They have no need for Christ.
    They are self-glorying.

    The Love of True Christians

    True Christians are characterized by love of God and others. Because those who are regenerated possess a new heart, they alone are able to deny themselves. Liberated from self-centeredness, such people are able to love God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love each other as themselves. In other words, only those who are regenerated are able to fulfill the first and second commandment. That is why we say regeneration precedes love. In 1 John 4:7 we read, "Everyone who loves has been born of God." In the Greek it is a perfect passive, meaning that an action, new birth, took place in the past with the effect of that action continuing to the present. Our demonstrating God's love to others does not cause us to be born again, but it is evidence of our new birth.

    What characterizes this love? First, we must realize that it is not love of ourselves, but sacrificial love for others, after the pattern of God's love. This love gives to others the best and costliest for the other person's benefit. Such love does not consist of nice, sentimental words only. No, it means that we get involved with the other person, like the Samaritan of Luke 10 did. When the priest and the Levite saw the injured man, they passed by on the other side of the road. But the Samaritan, upon seeing the man, immediately changed his plans and dismounted, bound up the man's wounds, pouring oil and wine on them, put the man on his donkey, took him to an inn, and gave the innkeeper his own money to ensure care for the injured man. This is the kind of sacrificial love John is writing about. When we show such love, it demonstrates that we have been born of God and, therefore, are authentic Christians, according to the apostolic definition. "Everyone who loves has been born of God."

    As we said before, he who believes correctly has been born of God. This is the priority of regeneration. Additionally, he who does righteousness has been born of God, and we spoke in terms of receiving a new mind, a new will, and new emotions as a result of regeneration. In other words, our faith does not regenerate us; rather, regeneration causes us to believe correctly.

    So, also, regeneration precedes love. So we who are regenerate have a God-given capacity to love those whom we naturally do not like. If someone says, "Because I love this person, I must be a Christian," my question is, "Do you love that person naturally?" If you say, "Yes," I would say, "That's no proof." Jesus himself said even pagans love others and invite them into their houses. The real proof of an authentic Christian is whether you love that person whom you naturally do not love. If you do that, then you say you are born again, because your love for that person comes not from your natural capacity but from a supernatural capacity given to you by God.

    Practical Ways to Show Love

    What do we do as a result of the love God gives us for others? We pray for them, forgive them, care for them, and get involved in their situation. In fact, in 1 John 3:16-18 John tells us how to love: "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need, but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear friends, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."

    James 2:14-16 speaks about getting involved with others in a practical way. James writes, "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?"

    We see this type of real, practical love literally taking place in the book of Acts. There was no legislation or mandate to do these things in the early church; it happened spontaneously. In Acts 2:44-45 we read, "All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need." In Acts 4:32 we read, "All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had."

    We find a picture of this type of practical love also in Psalm 133, where we read,

    How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron's beard, down upon the collar of his robes. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.

    This is what a Christian community is all about. People are all together-one in mind and heart, caring for each other, loving one another, being united and intertwined with one another, getting involved with one another, sharing everything gladly and delightfully. Everyone's needs are understood and met. Suppose someone loses his job. Another person will ask, "How much is the mortgage?" and immediately write out a check. Is someone sick? Someone else will make a meal. These are common actions in a truly Christian community. How can we live when a brother or sister has no food and say that we are part of a community?

    Divine Nature Manifests Itself in Love

    Why do authentic Christians love one another in this sacrificial manner? Because they are born of God, as John says in 1 John 4:7. What does it mean to be born of God? It means we have God's nature. God's life dwells in us and we have God's nature, as we read in 2 Peter 1:4, which says geníªsthe theias koiní´noi phuseí´s, "that we may become partakers of divine nature."

    Unbelievers have the nature of their father Satan. In fact, they are called children of Satan. Why is there jealousy, greed, sexual immorality, lying, cheating and self-centeredness in the world? All of these come straight from the devil. Jesus said, "You are of your father the devil." But the people of God are born of God and have the nature of their Father, God.

    Children reveal and reproduce their father's nature. Today anyone can claim that someone is his father, but to truly determine whether that claim is true, tests can be done. If the test says no, he is not the father, that person is making a false claim. In the same way, our claims to be God's children can be tested and we can know who our father is. The people of God will love as God loves because we are born of God and have God's nature and life in us. God is light, so we as his children will love light and walk in it. God is righteous, so we as his children will do righteousness. God is merciful, so we as his children will show mercy. God is love, so we as his children will love God and one another. All these are natural for a child of God to do.

    By nature an unbelieving man is self-centered. He is incapable of practicing self-denying, agapíª love because he lacks divine nature. He naturally behaves like his father the devil; thus, he is self-centered, self-pitying, grumbling, murmuring, crying, and self-pitying. He will never lift a finger to help anybody. In fact, he will use the whole world for himself and his own purposes. We see this type of nature demonstrated in children.

    The love that we practice as God's children is the manifestation of the eternal life we have received from God. Life will always manifest itself. When a mother gives birth, she rejoices once she hears the baby crying or sees the baby eating. She will know that everything is all right because life is manifesting itself in that baby's actions. So also the spiritual life of those who are born of God will manifest itself in love, joy, peace, and so on.

    When we love in this manner, we will also receive the great benefit of assurance of salvation. If a person loves sacrificially, he will be always going out of his way for people, getting involved with them and helping them with his time, talents and money. He won't go around advertising what he is doing; he will do these things automatically. A person who manifests love in this way will enjoy assurance of salvation. This is the greatest test given in this Bible. If we love in this manner, it demonstrates to us and others that we are God's children.

    God Dwelling in Us

    Such love, then, proves a number of things: first, that we are born of God, having experienced the miracle of new birth; second, that we have received divine nature; and third, that we have eternal life.

    However, we want to go further and make a bold statement concerning what this love proves. In 1 John 4:12 we read this profound statement: "No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us. . . ." What is John saying here? He is making the claim that the eternal, almighty, sovereign, merciful God, the God of great love, has come and is now dwelling in all who are part of the community of Christ. How do we know this? Because we love one another.

    God dwells in us! What more can we want than this assertion that God himself dwells in us. In other words, although no man has ever seen God, the invisible God has been made visible to us and to the world through the love of his people. That is what John is speaking about.

    The statement that "No man has ever seen God" means no one has ever looked at the being of God directly-not Moses, not Isaiah, not Paul, not John-and lived. Even when God came in the theophanies of the Old Testament, he did not come in his essence as God, but assumed the form of a man. It is impossible to see God as he is because it is impossible for sinful man to look at the very being of holy God. But when sin is completely eliminated from us, we shall see him as he is, gazing on him face to face, as we read in 1 John 3:2. How we look forward to this blessed, beatific vision! Jesus Christ spoke of it, saying, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."

    Yet while we are in this life, authentic Christians make the invisible God visible indirectly. That is what John is saying in this text. How do we do this? Whenever we give a sick person a ride to the hospital and stay there until that person is done, or bring a person home or make food for a person, or help someone in any other way, we are making visible to one another and to the world the invisible God. This is the way God loves in and through us.

    This love begins to manifest itself in the home where an authentic Christian will make the invisible God visible indirectly to his Christian family by his love. Father, mother, you have the ability to make the invisible God visible to your children. Husband, wife, you have the ability to make God visible to your spouse. Families, you have the ability to make the invisible God visible to your neighbors and friends. God has given us the profound capacity to do so.

    Additionally, we have the ability to make the invisible God visible to the Christian community, meaning the church, by our love. Beyond that, we have the ability to make the invisible God visible to the world. In John 13:34-35 Jesus told his disciples, "A new command I give you: Love one another. By this all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." This love, especially shown in the mutual love of the church community, is the sign by which the world recognizes that we belong to God.

    This love that we manifest is not self-generated; rather, it is God's own love given to us to manifest. Thus, if you have no capacity to love, the reason may be that you are not born again. In Romans 5:5 we read, "And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom has given us."

    Here the phrase "his love" in the Greek is a subjective genitive, meaning "the love by which God loves." What is God doing with this love? Pouring it out into our hearts. The idea is of something being poured out in torrents, in great abundance, overflowing the banks of the river, flooding one's entire being. In other words, the love of God is not just a little trickle of feeling. Wife, husband, think about what a blessing that would be if it were manifested in your home! God has poured out his love in great abundance into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

    When we are regenerated by the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit himself comes into us. Does he remain stopped up in us like a lead bullet lodged inside our brains? No! As infinite God, the Holy Spirit pours out God's love in such great abundance that husbands can love their wives, wives can love their husbands, people can love their neighbors and even their enemies, and we can all bless those who curse us. As the love of God comes to us in torrents, it will manifest itself in these ways.

    What About You?

    The love of God is not self-generated, not some kind of love we manufacture ourselves. If we are born of God, the Holy Spirit has come into us and we have been given capacity to love. However, we must continue to pray, "O God, increase my capacity that I may receive more and more of your love, that I may love others with this love that is not mere sentiment, not merely nice words, but love that gets involved, love that sacrifices, love that gives the best for the other person's benefit, love that is not eros, love whose intent is not to gain and possess, but to give away." This is Christianity.

    In love God sent the greatest, the grandest, the most glorious gift of his Son for us who were the wretched, miserable enemies of God! May God help us to appreciate his great love and not reject it. May he grant us the capacity to believe in his Son that we may live with life everlasting, that we may rejoice with joy unspeakable, and that we may have the peace of God that looks at death and the devil and hell with confidence and says, "God has saved me!" Amen.
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