“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” – Ephesians 2:4-7 (ESV)
When the Apostle Paul packed the promises into what he wrote, such as today’s passage, we end up with long sentences and more verses. Sometimes the verse divisions* break up Paul’s intended flow. Four verses today are full of promises. Reading the parts of this long sentence together will help us to see the inclusive promises from God. All that God has done for us and all that He will do comes from His mercy and great love for us. We were dead when God made us alive in Christ. The power that raises believers out spiritual death and makes us alive spiritually is the same power that energizes every aspect of Christian living. It is by grace of God we are saved being raised up and seated – we know from the tenses used – “raised” and “seated” that these are immediate and direct results of salvation. Salvation of course, is very much for our blessing as believers, but even more its purpose is to demonstrate God’s eternal glory for giving believers His endless and limitless grace and kindness. All of these promises are only ours because we have by faith been permanently placed in Christ.
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. ” – John 14:15 (NASB)
“And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.” – 2 John 6 (NASB)
There are more than a few essentials that we need to know and understand if we seek to live our lives as Christians in a manner worthy of our Savior Jesus Christ. Honestly, don’t we actually have a tendency to avoid thinking too much about some of the essentials. One essential is loving God. Having been born of God and having received eternal life, God the Holy Spirit lives within our spirit. Jesus the Son of God is with us in Spirit as well. Now, here it is: Love for Christ is inseparable from our obedience. When Jesus says in John 14:15 “My commandments” these are not only Jesus’ ethical commandments in context (John 14:23-24), but the entire revelation from the Father. In his second letter John defines love, not as a sentiment or an emotion, but as obedience to God’s commands. If we are obedient to the truth as contained in God’s commandments, the fundamentals of the faith are identified as walking in love. There is no “falling in” and “falling out” of love with Jesus. There is only our love by our obedience to His Word exactly as He gave it to us.
“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.” – 1 John 5:1-2 (ESV)
We have been promised a victorious life. Tomorrow we will consider the substance of this promise in the following verses but today we have the promise of what it takes to have that triumphant life. All who believe that Jesus is the Christ, the promised Anointed One, the Messiah who was promised from the beginning to make a way for our reconciliation with God the Father. Everyone who believes this is born spiritually by the power of God. We who have been born into God’s Spirit will manifest love for God the Father. We also will have and show love for all others who have been born of God. Our love of others is made possible by our love and obedience to God. Our promise is this, we can know that we love each other when we obey His commandments. These are the precepts in the teaching which Christ gave to all when He was on this earth. Recorded and written by the Holy Spirit into the inspired writings of our Scriptures, we know what the commandments are from the Bible.
“See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.” – 1 John 3:1 (NASB)
What a wonderful promise of hope we have today. It is something to think about and rejoice in. The Apostle John just bursts out this good news as he introduces to all readers why our hope is a sure thing. Our hope as believers in Jesus Christ is strengthened by the fact that God initiated his salvation out of His love for us. There is no other way for any person to be called a child of God. This is a promise and as one said “We who are in Christ are there because God took us out of the world and put us in Christ. But there is another promise here and that is the world we live in, that which is not abiding in Christ or following His commandments does not really know us. The world can’t figure out how or why a person is a Christian abiding in Christ because they do not know Christ. For that reason we are to not love the world or try to look like the world. Let’s be thankful that God has called us His children and such we are because of the Love He has for us.
“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.” – Luke 6:35 (NASB)
The fuller context of our passage is Luke 6:17-49. Some will say this is the same discourse as the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5-7. Others call it the Sermon on the Plain. It could be the same or it could be at a different time and place. That Jesus taught these important lessons on unconditional love more than once is likely. Jesus repeated his lessons many times to different crowds of people who followed Him around. It would be fair to suggest that the commands given here by Jesus on how to live in difficult circumstances with difficult people are too often overlooked, ignored, or deemed too difficult to do. Yes, if we try to exercise love of this kind in our own strength. But it can be done. Jesus never commanded us to do the truly impossible. He is with us always as he abides with all faith believers. This love is unconditional, the love that God demonstrates to us every day. As God’s children we should bear the indelible stamp of His moral character. Since He is loving, gracious, and generous—even to those who are His enemies—we should be like Him.
“We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.” – 1 John 3:14 (NASB)
How is your love-life? No, not the way we normally use those words. This ‘love-life’ is more according to the teaching of the Apostle John and the words of Jesus Himself. It’s the love we have in our life for one another. John calls us brethren because we are in the same family. We have God as our Father and by grace we have been saved and born again in Jesus Christ. It is most important that we understand the promises in our verse today. How do we know we have salvation? How do we know that death no longer has claim on us? We know because we love our brothers and sisters in Christ. The Bible says that we are saved by faith but that we must love people in order to finally be saved. That means our faith in God’s promises must be so real that it produces a love that proves the reality of the faith. Conversely the lack of love proves otherwise. The next verse says that hating our brother is equal to murder in consequence and proves the lack of eternal life. It is a serious matter – love, don’t hate our siblings in Christ.
“For our heart rejoices in Him, Because we trust in His holy name. Let Your lovingkindness, O Lord, be upon us, According as we have hoped in You.” Psalm 33:21-22 (NASB)
Psalm 33 was written to praise God as the Creator and Preserver of life. Especially our life if we have believed His word. God’s unfailing love is defined as his mercy or his lovingkindness. Another word used would be steadfast love. Can we imagine a love that is loving, kind, and steadfast? The Psalms in our Bible offers many expressions of praise to God. There are also many prayers in these songs as our verse today in an example. God’s love is eternal, it never fails. In order to experience this unfailing love, something is required on our part. We must have an attitude of expectation, of true hope. The psalmist has the request for God’s love to be upon us “according as” which is ‘even as’ or ‘according to’ the hope we have in God’s promises. Our hope is built on that which comes from what we know is true and we can expect it to happen. To experience God’s unfailing love, we need to expect Him to show it to us – then His love will cover us, it will be with us. If we constantly expect His love, we’ll constantly experience it.
“It is good to give thanks to the Lord And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning And Your faithfulness by night,” Psalm 92:1-2 (NASB)
The unnamed psalmist who wrote these words had learned that there of the benefit from praising the Lord. It was a good thing to do. God is pleased when we sing praises to the Lord. Some of our songs are about ourselves, what we are doing and how we are feeling. But real praise is about our Lord God. Praising God does not have to wait for any particular time or place. Knowing that it does us good to praise God, we are free to praise the Lord at any time of day or night wherever we are. When we praise God, we are showing our love, adoration, and expressing our thankfulness to Him for His attributes. In our verse the psalmist mentions two times – when we wake up and when we go to bed. In the morning we can start the day by recalling God’s love and we can anticipate that He’ll show his love during the day. Then in the evening as we retire for the day it is a good time to look back and praise Him for the way he has been faithful throughout the day. We can praise and proclaim His love 24/7.
“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” – 1 John 5:2-3 (ESV)
Twice in our verses today the apostle John says that love and obedience to God’s commandments go hand-in-hand. We are members of God’s family because we have been born of God, that is reason enough that we love all of God’s children ⸺all others who are born of Him. This kind of love is the second characteristic of the overcomer. We who by faith believe in God are the overcomers. We have overcome the stain and guilt of sin and our sin has been forgiven. Having never sinned Christ paid the penalty when He died on the cross in our place. The third characteristic of an overcomer is obedience. Let’s not think that obedience to God’s commandments, is too difficult or and onerous chore. God promises that his commandments are not burdensome. What is burdensome is the effort of earning our way by following the requirements of the false teachers and false religions. Trying to be “good enough” is difficult and tiring. Faith, love, and obedience to God are the characteristics of a true believer which are woven into a tapestry of our lives. Following in the way of Jesus Christ is not taxing but liberating.
“This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith.” – 1 John 5:3–4 (ESV)
Struggling to be obedient to God as if obedience is a heavy burden is not evidence of love for Him. Our acts of loving God amount to much more than just keeping His commandment. Truly, loving God is having a heart for God that enables us to keep the statutes and instructions without that becoming a burden. John explains why God’s commandments are not burdensome. When we are born of God – and this is for all who are truly born of God – He makes us overcomers of the world system. We have what overcomes the many pitfalls and obstacles to keeping God’s will. It is the new nature we have through being born of God. That new birth creates in us a new creature and that creates a faith developing and maturing within ourselves. This faith in God who loves us and gave us His only Son, does more than enable us to assent to God will, it also enables us to embrace all that He is for us in Christ. Eighteenth-century pastor Jonathan Edwards wrestled with this text and concluded, “Saving faith implies love. Our love to God enables us to overcome the difficulties that attend keeping God’s commands.”