I spent most of yesterday and part of today preparing this lesson for Sunday School at Southern Calvert Baptist Church. Over the past couple of months, we have been learning spiritual truths from the New Testament Epistles. Here are some of those lessons:
- Our enduring identity in Christ (I Peter 2)
- Grow to maturity in your faith (I Corinthians)
- Justified by faith to be Sanctified by faith (Galatians 1)
- The daily impact of the resurrection (video: Romans 6)
This lesson covers part of John’s first epistle. Our topic this week for Sunday School is going to be “Agape Love in Action”. The passage on which we will reflect is I John 3:1-18. John’s overall goal in this epistle is to present the love of God and what it does to us and for us. Many people ask, “how can I know if I am a child of God?” and John answers that question over and over again through the 5 chapters of this epistle.
I. Agape Love comes from God
John begins chapter 3 with the following words:
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. (I John 3:1)
Love comes from God. This transformation process begins with God, is maintained by God, and ends with God. In other words, it’s all about God. Without Him, His presence, and His work, I cannot be transformed and Agape love cannot manifest itself in me and through me. God puts His love in us when we are born again and become children of God. This is where and when the transformation begins. We bow our knee to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and accept Him as Lord and Savior. Agape love is defined as the Love of God. Here are some of the characteristics of Agape love:
- It is Sacrificial
- It is an Action
- It is Constant
- It is manifested for the good of the recipient
- It is Unconditional
II. Agape love transforms people
Before believers are adopted into the family of God through faith in Jesus Christ, they are children of the evil one because of their relationship to sin and Satan, the enemy of the souls of men. The love of God transforms us and changes us from children of the enemy of men’s souls to children of God. John explains this in the following verses.
4 Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. 7 Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; 8 the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. (I John 3)
The absence of agape love is manifested in our slavery to sin and our sin nature. Before becoming believers, we practice sin. This verb “practice” is in the present tense and the active voice in the Greek language. This means that sinning is not just a simple mistake made from time to time. Sinning is our mode of life, It is our habitual way of life. When sin when we want to and when we do not want to. We are slaves to our master, our sin nature. We live as children of the devil and are God’s enemies. What is worse is, not only do we live in sin as a way of life, we can also be deceived, thinking that we can be slaves to sin and children of God. John teaches that this is not possible. You cannot be a child of God and a slave to sin. Jesus appeared to manifest agape love. In doing so, He destroyed the works of the devil. The work of the devil, in context, is our natural slavery to our sin nature. Christ is able to break that slavery. That is when the transformation takes place. It happens when we are born again into the family of God through faith in Jesus Christ. A believer no longer practices sin. He is able to sin and make mistakes but, sinning is not a habitual way of life for him. He has the power of God in him. He has the Holy Spirit of God in Him. This is how the love of God manifests in the life of a born again believer. His relationship to sin changes.
My dear friend, has your life ever been transformed like what John writes about in this epistle? Are you a slave to sin? Do you practice sin as a habitual way of life? Or, have you been adopted into the family of God by being born again? Now, let’s take a look at how God’s love manifests through us.
III. Agape love manifests in Action
Now that we have been transformed by the love of God, how does His love manifest through us? Let’s take a look at John’s answer.
11 For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; 12 not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 16 We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. (I John 3)
John establishes the fact that what he is writing in this epistle is not anything new. This is not “new revelation” from God. This has been around since the beginning of creation, the fact that when we experience the love of God, we extend that love of God to the people around us. On the flip side of the coin, when we do not experience the love of God, we do not extend love to others. Instead, we hate others out of our selfishness. Cain did not have a relationship with God. He did not believe the Word of God. He did what he wanted to do the way that he wanted to do it. As a result, he hated his brother and murdered him. The world (people who are not children of God) hate and persecute those who are children of God just as Cain persecuted Abel. A person who has experienced the love of God extends that love to others by serving them with what he has. He serves with his time, effort, energy, resources, etc. This started with Cain and Abel and we see it again with Abraham and anyone who came into contact with him. Moses, in the 10 Commandments, teaches to love God and then to love people. Jesus, when questioned about the Greatest Commandment in the Bible, responds with love God and love your neighbor. That is why John emphasizes the fact that this is not a new revelation or a new teaching. Agape love manifests in you and then through you. This manifestation is practical. When we extend love, we do not just do it with our words. We also do it with our actions. Do you love God and love others? Do you use your time, effort, energy, resources, etc. to serve others and extend the love of God to them?
May the Lord help us understand His love, experience His love, and extend His love to others on a daily basis!