But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. 1 John 2:5-6
Who better to teach us about true love than the Apostle John, the disciple who Jesus loved? It’s not that Jesus didn’t love others. It’s that there was a special bond between Jesus and John.
What follows is some background on the Jesus-John love relationship, which is key to understanding what love for God and love for others is really all about.
John – The Disciple Jesus Loved
Not long after Jesus called two brothers to be his disciples, fishermen Peter and Andrew beside the Sea of Galilee, had he come across another pair of brothers, also fishermen: James and John the sons of Zebedee.
Jesus met them the moment they were engaged with their father, on the boat, preparing their equipment (nets) for the following day’s work. But Jesus had his sights on other plans and other work. Without delay, they responded to his calling, leaving their boat and father behind. And so began the journey of a lifetime, and an out-of-this-world experience. (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20)
John’s journey as a follower of Jesus resulted in him becoming known as “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” (John 13:23; 21:7) one of twelve apostles, a member of Jesus’ inner circle (Matthew 17:1), and a prominent leader in the early church who knew Jewish life and the geography of the Holy Land very well. It would also lead him to be the one Jesus selected for encouraging believers in the unveiling of the end times through the book of Revelation: The Revelation from Jesus Christ.
Some have observed that out of all the apostles (and even Jesus’ own half-brother, James who didn’t believe in the deity of Jesus until after his death and resurrection), John was most likely the one who really “got Jesus.” This truth is no more clearly understood than when Jesus, being crucified on the cross, commended his mother into the care of John. (John 19:25-27).
John’s First (Love) Letter to the Early Church
The longest of John’s letters to the early church, the book of 1 John is five chapters long compared with just one in 2nd and 3rd John. It was most likely written between AD 85 and AD 95, placing it after he wrote the Gospel of John.
1 John was written during a time when heretical teachings that Jesus was not fully human and divine were creeping their way into the early church. John wrote to refute false teachers and to reassure believers of eternal life through belief in Jesus as God’s Son come in the flesh (5:13).
There is a clear emphasis on “true” love in 1 John. The word “love” is used some 43 times in this letter. And there’s a high concentration of his teaching on God’s love and our (believers) love in 1 John 4: 7-21.
Other themes, which are all linked to love, emerge throughout the letter:
- Jesus the incarnation of the word – the Word of life
- God as light and truth vs. the evil one full of darkness
- Children of God vs. children of the devil
- Truth and the Spirit of truth vs. lies, liars, the spirit of falsehood, and the spirit of the antichrist
Love for God Made Complete through Obedience
John’s first mention of love in this letter is found in 1 John 2: 5-6. The main text translation of “love for God” means, according to NIV study Bible text notes, “That our love for God becomes complete when it expresses itself in acts of obedience.”
Obeying God’s word places us in a Spiritual love-union with him. And, when that’s the case, we know for certain we are in him and are able to live just as Jesus did: with love for God and love for others.
Today’s #LoveChallenge based on this truth is not just to know the truth and know his word, but to act on it. It is to listen to Jesus, the word incarnate, and obey what he reveals.
Let’s remember: there is no complete love for God apart from obedience to God’s living word, Jesus Christ.