1 John 5:1-3
Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loves him that begat loves him also that is begotten of him…
Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, etc. Our text is vitally related to the last two verses of the preceding chapter. To our mind it presents two important aspects of love amongst Christian brethren.
I. THE REASON OF THE OBLIGATION OF BROTHERLY LOVE. The duty to love our Christian brethren is here based upon our common relation to God. The order of the apostle's thought seems to be this:
1. The Christian brother is a true believer in Jesus the Christ. "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ" is included by St. John among the Christian fraternity. The genuine Christian accepts Jesus as the Christ of God, the Anointed of the Father for the great work of human redemption. He looks to him as the Being in whom ancient prophecies are fulfilled, and in whom the noblest expectation and the purest desire of the human race are realized. And the belief of which the apostle writes is not the mere intellectual acceptation of the proposition that Jesus is the Christ, but the hearty acceptation of Jesus himself as the Saviour appointed by God. Every one who thus receives him is a true member of the Christian brotherhood.
2. Every true believer in Jesus the Christ is a child of God. "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is begotten of God." Where there is genuine faith in our Lord and Saviour there is a new moral disposition. The Christian believer is born anew of the Spirit of God. "As many as received him [i.e., Jesus the Christ], to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his Name," etc. (John 1:12, 13). "If any man is in Christ he is a new creature," etc. (2 Corinthians 5:17) - he has new sympathies, new purposes, new principles, new relationships, a new spirit. He has the filial spirit, "the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father."
3. Every child of God should be loved by the children of God. "Whosoever loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him."
(1) It is taken for granted that the child of God loves his Divine Parent. In whomsoever the new life beats there is love to God. In the spiritual realm love is life. "Every one that loveth is begotten of God, and knoweth God." The highest life is that of supreme love to God; and, where this is, love to the brotherhood will not be absent. "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar," etc. (1 John 4:20, 21).
(2) From the fact that the child of God loves his Divine Parent, St. John makes this deduction, that he will love the children of God. It is natural and right that he who loves the Father should also love his children, or that the children of the one Father should love each other. Here, then, is the reason of the obligation to love our Christian brethren. We believe in one Lord and Saviour; we are children of the one Divine Father; we are members of one spiritual family; we are characterized by some measure of moral resemblance to each other, for each is to some extent like unto the Father of all; we are animated by the same exalted and invigorating hope; and we are looking forward to the same bright and blessed home. That we should love each other is in the highest degree natural and reasonable.
II. THE EVIDENCE OF THE: GENUINENESS OF BROTHERLY LOVE. "Hereby we know that we love the children of God, when we love God," etc. (verses 2, 3). Two remarks, we think, will help us to apprehend the meaning of St. John.
1. Our love to the brethren is genuine when we love God. "Hereby we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and do his commandments." We may love our Christian brethren for other and inferior reasons than that of their relation to the heavenly Father; we may love them because they are rich in worldly goods, or because they are gifted and clever, or because they arc amiable and attractive, or because they bold the same political principles, or believe the same theological opinions, or belong to the same ecclesiastical party, as we do. But love for any of these reasons is not necessarily and essentially Christian love. The genuine Christian affection towards the brethren is to love them because they believe that Jesus is the Christ, and they are the children of God. In the consciousness of our love to God we have evidence that we love our Christian brethren as his children.
2. Our love to God is genuine when we cheerfully keep his commandments. "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous."
(1) The divinely appointed test of love to God is obedience to his commandments. "If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me," etc. (John 14:15, 21, 23); "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love," etc. (John 15:10); "This is love, that we should walk after his commandments" (2 John 1:6). Genuine love is not a merely sentimental, but a practical thing.
(2) The obedience which springs from love is cheerful. "His commandments are not grievous" to them that love him. Love is not only life, but inspiration, courage, and strength; therefore, as love to God increases, obedience to his commands becomes easier and more delightful. "I confess," says Watson, "to him that hath no love to God, religion must needs be a burden; and I wonder not to hear him say, ' What a weariness is it to serve the Lord!' It is like rowing against the tide. But love oils the wheels; it makes duty a pleasure. Why are the angels so swift and winged in God's service, but because they love him? Jacob thought seven years but little for the love he did bear to Rachel. Love is never weary; he who loves money is not weary of toiling for it; and he who loves God is not weary of serving him." Says Miss Austin, "Where love is there is no labour; and if there he labour, that labour is loved." Will our love to God bear this test of cheerful obedience to his commands? Then do we love him truly; and so loving him, we shall love all his children. - W.J.
Parallel VersesKJV: Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.