Am I Really Saved? A First John Check Up
Lesson 6: What is Love?
Please Read: 1 John 3:10-24
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
2 Corinthians 13:5
1 John 3:10-15
Am I Really Saved? Checkpoint 10: Do I love my brothers?
By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. 11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever 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.
Here, John circles back to love versus hate, but he looks at it from a bit of a different perspective than he used in chapter 2. John draws a parallel between the two different types of brothers- familial and spiritual – and uses these relationships to explain true brotherly love, and why this is a characteristic of Christians.
- Which phrase in the first sentence of verse 12 compares non-Christians to Cain? How does verse 15 make this comparison?
- Why, according to verse 12, did Cain murder Abel (his brother)? Was it because Abel provoked him or was evil in some way? Verse 13 indicates that the world will hate us for the same reason Cain hated Abel. What is that reason? How does John 3:19-20 relate to this concept?
God’s righteousness, shining through Abel, reflected Cain’s sin back at him. He felt guilty, convicted, and he wanted to get away from those feelings of condemnation. This is the same foundational reason the world hates Christians today. They hate the Christ who lives within us because, in Him, they see their own evil deeds reflected back at them. They feel guilty and convicted, and, wanting to suppress the truth about their sin, they hate us or do whatever else they can to escape those feelings of condemnation.
- How is hatred by the world for being Christlike evidence that we belong to Christ?
- If hatred is characteristic of the world, what, necessarily, must be characteristic of Christians? (v. 14)
- How do you feel when you’re around someone you know is a Christian? Do you enjoy open, easy, godly fellowship with her? Do you ever feel guilty or convicted just by being around her? Does talking with her about the things of God make you feel threatened, defensive, or argumentative?
1 John 3:16-17
OK, the Christian’s life is characterized by love for her brothers and sisters in Christ, but what, exactly, is love? Is it just being nice to people? Being a doormat? Never getting angry? Turning a blind eye to sin? How do we know if we’re acting in love or not?
John gives us a very simple definition: he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
Christ sets the standard for what love is. He defines love. Not our feelings. Not our opinions. Not the world’s definition of love. The cross is the measuring stick against which we measure anything we might call “love.” Anything that falls short isn’t love. This is how we know that things like homosexuality, abuse, sinful jealousy, pedophilia, cohabitation, universalism, living vicariously through your children, adultery, and tolerance of sin are not love. Any “love” that doesn’t look like Christ’s holy, righteous, biblical, dying to self love isn’t love.
He laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. Did you notice John didn’t say “He died for us and we ought to die for our brothers”? I wonder if that might have anything to do with the fact that there’s more than one way to lay your life down for someone. Certainly, Christ demonstrated His love for us by dying for us on the cross, and, that same love should compel us to willingly die for others if circumstances call for it.
But Christ didn’t just lay down His life for us in death, He laid down His life for us in life, too. Every temptation He resisted, every time He put his own wants and needs aside to put someone else first, every time He humbled Himself to serve others, He was laying down His life for us. And in the same way, we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. We serve people. We provide for people. Even when it comes at a personal cost. We don’t just talk the talk, John says, we walk the walk.
1 John 3:18-22
Am I Really Saved? Checkpoint 11: Am I bearing the fruit of love?
Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.
- What does the word “this” in verse 19 refer to?
Let’s face it, there are going to be times when we sin big or again, and it’s easy to give in to those thoughts of, “How could I possibly be saved if I act like that?”. But whenever our hearts condemn us that way, John urges us to look back over the general direction of our spiritual lives. Not so we can feel good about ourselves or because our good deeds somehow make up for our sins, but because God says when our emotions are getting the best of us, that’s a good, objective way to calm down and get some reassurance of our salvation. Is it the desire of my heart to act in love for God and love for others? Do I generally carry that desire through with action? God says we can look to these things as evidence of our salvation.
God knows everything. He knows whether or not you belong to Him, and He wants you to know, too. And if the objective evidence shows you’re saved, you’ll have the confidence to put aside those feelings of condemnation, and boldly approach the throne in prayer, knowing that you keep God’s commandments and do what pleases Him.
- What does verse 20 mean when it says “God is greater than our heart”? How does this show us that God is the judge of whether or not we are saved, not us or our feelings?
- How do keeping God’s commandments and doing what pleases Him (22) impact the way we pray?
1 John 3:23-24
Am I Really Saved? Checkpoint 12: Do I keep the ultimate commandment?
And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.
- What is the commandment in verse 23? How many parts (notice the second “and”) are there to this command? What does verse 24 indicate about the person who keeps this command?
- How do we know that God abides in us? (24b)
- Do you keep this commandment? Is your belief in Christ a simple mental acknowledgement, or have you staked your life and eternity on Christ?
The two parts of the ultimate commandment are inseparable: we are to believe in Christ for salvation and love one another. You can’t have one without the other. Those who keep this command can be certain that they are in Christ. The Holy Spirit bears witness to this.
This week we’ve looked at three more checkpoints in our “Am I Really Saved?” study:
Do I love my brothers?
Am I bearing the fruit of love?
Do I keep the ultimate commandment?
Saved people may be hated by the world, but they love their brothers. They can look back over their lives and see evidence of their Christlike love, in word and deed, for others. They keep the ultimate commandment of staking their lives on their belief in Christ and loving their fellow Christians.
Unsaved people often feel guilty, convicted, or defensive around Christians as Christ reflects their sin back at them. They do not have a track record of showing Christlike love for others, and, while they may proclaim belief in Christ, their profession is only lip deep.
1 John 3– Matthew Henry’s Commentary
Can I Be Sure I’m Saved?– by R.C. Sproul
True or False? A Study in 1 John– at Naomi’s Table (lessons 13-14)