Studies in I John, III Walking in Loyalty, Text: 4:13-5:5, Title: A Big Commitment


This portion of the epistle is all about love and loyalty. When a man and a woman love one another  and get married the substance of what they vow and promise is loyalty. The preacher asks, “Do you take this person to be your lawful wedded spouse? Do you promise to love and comfort him/her, to honor him/her and keep him/her in sickness and in health, in prosperity and adversity, and forsaking all others, be faithful to him/her?" All others are forsaken and only the beloved becomes the focus of our concern. Some older forms of the ceremony actually speak of worshipping the spouse. The ring ceremony in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer requires the participants to say, ”With this Ring I thee wed, with my Body I thee worship, and with all my worldly Goods I thee endow: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.“ There is no loyalty without love and no love without loyalty, and this is evident because love implies allegiance, ardor, fidelity, single-mindedness, and zeal for that which is loved. The Bible includes all of these virtues and more when it says love the Lord and love your neighbor. So let us consider what this passage says about our loyalty to Jesus Christ. Herein it is confessed, completed, commanded and conquering. In this study we can learn much about a Godly marriage as well as about our relationship to God. We are individually and collectively married to  Christ.

I Loyalty Confessed

In verses 13-16 we are pledging our love for God. We testify. We acknowledge. We trust and rely. We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. In a good and Godly marriage all these things take place. We publicly acknowledge our devotion to our partner, Christ, and we continually testify to our love for Him. We also boast of our reliance on our partner just as Paul boasted of his reliance on Jesus in Philippians 3:7-9, But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him. The history of the Lord Christ is the history of God’s love to us; all his transactions in and with his Son were but testifications of his love to us, and means to advance in us the love of God. As we grow in grace we grow in understanding God’s love for us and this excites in us an increasing loyalty to God. As one commentator says, “In sending His only begotten Son, God demonstrates His love not only to us, but to the angelic world, and to the principalities and powers above, and this not for our surprise for a while, but for the admiration, and praise, and adoration, and felicity, of our most exalted powers to all eternity?” In the wedding ceremony we say “Till death us do part,” but between Christ and us the love and loyalty is eternal.

II Loyalty Completed

John writes about the completion of our loyalty in verses 16-18, 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. 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. Some marriages on earth are entered with great trepidation. Earthly relationships are always uncertain, but some are more uncertain than others. The Bible warns us to marry “only in  the Lord.” When we follow this command we have the best chance of partnering with someone who has the same view of the sacredness of the marriage bond that we do. We do not need to fear being forsaken. In the same way the love of God casts out fear and fills us with confidence in the day of judgment. This is how the love of God is completed and perfected in us; by bringing us to the place of understanding that when Jesus died for us He did everything necessary to bring us safely into glory forever. Wise preachers often counsel couples being married that there must be a third person in the relationship because they realize that our human love is fed by Divine love. In the words of C. H. Dodd, “The energy of love discharges itself along lines which form a triangle, whose points are God, self, and neighbor.” Where any one leg of the triangle is missing, love remains incomplete and immature.

III Loyalty Commanded

John refers to Loyalty and love being commanded in verses 19-21, We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. Certainly we love because we are moved to that love by the love of God as the Apostle reiterates here. However, in our society love is often treated as a mere emotion. We hear about falling in love and sadly about falling out of love as if we had not control over it. There is, of course, an emotional attraction between mates, but marriage is not about emotional attraction, it is about commitment. Consequently people promise in the marriage ceremony to be loyal in sickness and in health, in prosperity and adversity, and forsaking all others, be faithful to him or her. This is why Jesus did  not make entrance into the kingdom so easy as if it was all about us. It’s a partnership and so we read in Mark 8:34-36, And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his 1life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.  “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? When you marry you are giving yourself to your spouse, and when you truly believe in Jesus you are giving yourself to Him. And, He says you must love your brothers in the same way. This is not obedience when we feel like it, but obedience because it is commanded.

IV Loyalty Conquering

The first five verses of chapter 5 introduce us to true faith. It is a faith that obeys and is loyal and consequently it is a faith that overcomes the world. Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. 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 everyone 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. C. T. Studd was among the most privileged young men of his day. Born into a wealthy British family and educated at England's best schools, he became famous in his own right as one of the greatest cricket players England had seen. Yet C. T. Studd forsook all - fortune, future, and fame - for the sake of Christ. He said, “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.” Another famous quotation of his is, “Difficulties, dangers, disease, death, or divisions don't deter any but Chocolate Soldiers from executing God's Will. When someone says there is a lion in the way, the real Christian promptly replies, ‘That's hardly enough inducement for me; I want a bear or two besides to make it worth my while to go.’" 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. As CT Studd reminds us the victory is already ours when we commit all to Jesus, “We will a thousand times sooner die trusting only our God, than live trusting in man. And when we come to this position the battle is already won, and the end of the glorious campaign in sight.“ We must also note the close connection between obeying God’s commands and loving the brethren. In the original Greek the  language of verse 1 using words of the same root  it joins all of these together, translated literally it says, Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah has been begotten of God, and the one who loves the one who begets, loves the one who is begotten of him. Verse 2 turns the earlier thought that if we love God then we love our brothers by stating that we can be assured that we love the children of God if we love God. This is a much more difficult idea but, looking carefully we discover that our love for God can provide the evidence that we love others. The reason is that we know we love God by carrying out His commands and in verse 3 it is quite clear what love IS, This is love for God: to obey his commands. So loving the brethren is a clear indication that we love God and this is the faith that overcomes the world and is victorious.