'This Is the Love of God'

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'This Is the Love of God'

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Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity, sprang from humble beginnings, although He admitted He was born to be king (John 18:37 John 18:37Pilate therefore said to him, Are you a king then? Jesus answered, You say that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Every one that is of the truth hears my voice.
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). During the few short years of His ministry, He was known by many as a great teacher. But what did He teach?

Did He come to do away with the laws of old? Was Jesus a rebellious son? Did He bring a new set of commandments to replace those the Israelites had received at Mount Sinai? Is God's law no longer valid, useful or necessary?

"Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets," Jesus proclaimed. "I did not come to destroy but to fulfill" (Matthew 5:17 Matthew 5:17Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.
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). What did He mean by "fulfill"? The Greek word for "fulfill" is pleroo and can mean to "render full," "fill up" or "complete." Did Christ mean that God's law was made complete and therefore somehow rendered obsolete?

After all, Christ gave "a new commandment" that "you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another" (John 13:34 John 13:34A new commandment I give to you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
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). Did He mean for this new commandment to replace all the others and that what the whole world needs is love?

Rather than refer to other New Testament scriptures, let's examine Christ's own words in this regard. First, did Jesus Christ come to the earth for His own selfish purposes?

"For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak" (John 12:49-50 John 12:49-50 [49] For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. [50] And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatever I speak therefore, even as the Father said to me, so I speak.
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). Notice that Jesus equates His Father's commandment with "everlasting life."

Jesus spoke the Father's words

Jesus said He did nothing of Himself. On the contrary, His very words were those the Father gave Him (John 8:28 John 8:28Then said Jesus to them, When you have lifted up the Son of man, then shall you know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father has taught me, I speak these things.
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). "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me" (John 6:38 John 6:38For I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me.
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), and "My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me" (John 7:16 John 7:16Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.
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).

The Greek word here for "doctrine" is didache, which simply means something being taught. Christ was saying that He did not come to teach His own ideas. "I can of Myself do nothing," He said. "As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me" (John 5:30 John 5:30I can of my own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not my own will, but the will of the Father which has sent me.
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).

Jesus came to uphold His Father's teachings, not supersede them. His respect for His Father was profound. "Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him" (John 13:16 John 13:16Truly, truly, I say to you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.
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). "My Father is greater than I" (John 14:28 John 14:28You have heard how I said to you, I go away, and come again to you. If you loved me, you would rejoice, because I said, I go to the Father: for my Father is greater than I.
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), and, "that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so do I" (John 14:31 John 14:31But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence.
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).

Jesus Christ loves the Father. He preached exactly what He had received from the Father. To suggest that Christ came to replace God's law is to suggest that some sort of mistake was made in the giving of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 31:18 Exodus 31:18And he gave to Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him on mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.
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). Not only did Christ uphold His Father's teachings; He revealed that He and the Father are in perfect unity of mind: "I and My Father are one" (John 10:30 John 10:30I and my Father are one.
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).

So what are we to learn from realizing that Christ came to do the Father's will?

Believe what Jesus taught

Many sincere people teach that all you need to do is believe on Christ. But believing on Christ isn't enough. We must believe what He taught, follow His example and live as He lived. "He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked" (1 John 2:6 1 John 2:6He that said he stays in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.
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). "He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him-the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day" (John 12:48 John 12:48He that rejects me, and receives not my words, has one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.
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).

How do we demonstrate our love for Christ? We show we love Him the same way He showed love for the Father: "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love" (John 15:10 John 15:10If you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.
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).

Christ's commandments and the Father's commandments are identical; Christ perfectly reflects the Father (John 14:9 John 14:9Jesus said to him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet have you not known me, Philip? he that has seen me has seen the Father; and how say you then, Show us the Father?
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; 17:22).

Christ perfectly obeyed His Father's commandments. Matthew quoted Him: "Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:19 Matthew 5:19Whoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
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).

When confronted by the religious leaders of His day, Christ corrected them by showing they were breaking the laws of God: "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death'" (Matthew 15:3-4 Matthew 15:3-4 [3] But he answered and said to them, Why do you also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? [4] For God commanded, saying, Honor your father and mother: and, He that curses father or mother, let him die the death.
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).

Jesus said the religious leaders were making the laws of God of "none effect" by their traditions (verse 6). If God's commandments were of no effect, Christ would not have said this. Rather, He called the Pharisees hypocrites because they knew better.

Christ concluded this indictment of the Pharisees by quoting the prophet Isaiah: "These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:8-9 Matthew 15:8-9 [8] This people draws near to me with their mouth, and honors me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. [9] But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
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; Isaiah 29:13 Isaiah 29:13Why the Lord said, For as much as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:
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).

Clearly, Christ upheld God's law while openly rebuking the religious leaders for not doing the same. When a young man asked Jesus what he should do to gain eternal life, Christ told him to "keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:17 Matthew 19:17And he said to him, Why call you me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if you will enter into life, keep the commandments.
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). Jesus then referred to several of the Ten Commandments, apparently to make sure everyone understood which commandments He was speaking of. (See also Mark 12:30 Mark 12:30And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength: this is the first commandment.
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.)

The greatest commandment

Later one of the Pharisees tried to publicly entrap Jesus by asking, "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?"

Jesus gave him the answer: "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 22:36-40 Matthew 22:36-40 [36] Master, which is the great commandment in the law? [37] Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. [38] This is the first and great commandment. [39] And the second is like to it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. [40] On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
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).

Again He showed that love is the foundation of our relationship with God and each other. Is this concept a departure from the original intent of the law? Is this a new teaching of Christ?

The Greek word for "hang," in the verse quoted above, is kremannumi, meaning to "hang up" or "suspend." Jesus meant that the Law and the Prophets are summed up, or hang on, these two precepts of godly love. In answering this question, Christ was hardly undoing God's law. He was quoting it! (Deuteronomy 6:5 Deuteronomy 6:5And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.
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; Leviticus 19:18 Leviticus 19:18You shall not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
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).

Love is the main ingredient of a Christian life. But our love must be manifest in our actions. Just believing and thinking nice thoughts isn't sufficient. We cannot earn salvation; it is God's gift (Ephesians 2:8 Ephesians 2:8For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
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). But His commandments give us the guidelines we need to enjoy a meaningful relationship with Him and our fellowman. Christ obeyed God's law and in so doing set an example of proper love toward all people.

The definition of sin is the breaking of God's law, or lawlessness (1 John 3:4 1 John 3:4Whoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
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). The apostle Paul clearly showed that the law defines sin (Romans 7:7-11 Romans 7:7-11 [7] What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. No, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, You shall not covet. [8] But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, worked in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. [9] For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. [10] And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be to death. [11] For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.
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). After explaining this essential principle, he concluded: "Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good" (Romans 7:12 Romans 7:12Why the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
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).

So we are to obey God's law (which, even by definition, is holy) and with the help of God's Spirit dwelling in us turn from sin (lawlessness). This is a life-long process. By ceasing from sinning and focusing on God's way of showing concern for others, we begin to develop and show real love.

That is precisely how we demonstrate the love of Christ in our lives. "Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, 'I know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him" (1 John 2:3-5 1 John 2:3-5 [3] And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. [4] He that said, I know him, and keeps not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. [5] But whoever keeps his word, in him truly is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.
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).

An old commandment to love each other

So what did Christ mean when He said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another"? (John 13:34 John 13:34A new commandment I give to you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
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). What about the commandment was new? Was the element of love something new that Christ introduced?

Clearly not. "Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning" (1 John 2:7 1 John 2:7Brothers, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you have heard from the beginning.
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). "For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another" (1 John 3:11 1 John 3:11For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
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).

Love has always been a crucial part of God's plan: "He who does not love does not know God, for God is love" (1 John 4:8 1 John 4:8He that loves not knows not God; for God is love.
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).

So, again, what was new about Jesus' commandment?

Adam Clarke, in his commentary on John 13:34 John 13:34A new commandment I give to you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
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, gives a clue: "Our Lord answers the question, 'Even as I have loved you.' Now Christ more than fulfilled the Mosaic precept; he not only loved his neighbour as himself, but he loved him more than himself, for he laid down his life for men. In this he calls upon the disciples to imitate him, to be ready on all occasions to lay down their lives for each other. This was, strictly, a new commandment: no system of morality ever prescribed any thing so pure and disinterested as this" (original emphasis).

Christ further explained: "This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends" (John 15:12-13 John 15:12-13 [12] This is my commandment, That you love one another, as I have loved you. [13] Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
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).

Jesus' personal example was clearly one of submission to God's law. In fact, Christ did fulfill the law, in that He performed the supreme act of love: He gave His life for mankind.

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we must do more than just believe on Him. We need also to follow His example. The apostle John sums up the matter in 1 John 5:1-3 1 John 5:1-3 [1] 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. [2] By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. [3] For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
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: "Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome." GN