1 Corinthians 15:57-58 Thankful for Victory

1 Corinthians 15:57-58     Thankful for Victory                                   WC McCarter
Let me first say “thank you” to the Rural Hall Moravian Church for hosting all of us tonight. A worship gathering like this is a very special occasion. “Thank you,” also, to the other ministers who have participated in the meetings and in this service. We are all thankful to the Lord for your hard work in our community. We may all have our own traditions and histories, but there is only one Lord, one faith, and one church. Look around the room and be reminded that these are your brothers and sisters. Why don’t you look at the person to your right and then your left and say, “Hey, church.”
Every Thanksgiving my mom’s side of the family gets together at my grandparents to eat a meal. I think there are now 41 of us who meet there as well as a few other friends. That is a lot of people in one house. When the meal is finally prepared, we all gather around the kitchen table and hold hands to pray. That is a lot of people in one kitchen. By that time almost all of us are ready to eat because the meal always takes longer to prepare than we were first anticipating, yet my aunts propose that we need to go around the circle and say what we are all thankful for. Does anyone else do this? Every year this little exercise quickly descends into a repetitious and nonsensical time. Everyone says they are thankful for their family, another year of life. . . . Everyone ends up saying the same thing, and so, the conversation turns into jokes. It is almost like asking a group of kids what they are thankful for; puppies, candy, toys . . . if you are lucky, they will say mom or dad. Well, tonight I would like to take you to the Scriptures in order to remind you that you have something significant, meaningful, and real for which to be thankful. Let me remind you of something that never gets boring or silly.
Directing Thanksgiving to God
We know that the Scriptures teach that all good things come from above. As believers, we also know that all the blessings we have in this life and into the next are because of our union with the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, when we have something for which to be thankful, we should say, “Thanks be to God.” Of course, in v57 the sentence begins with a “But.” This reminds me of Romans 3:20-22 which says, “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe.” To that small phrase, “But now,” D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones famously said, “There are no more wonderful words in the whole of Scripture than just these two words ‘But now.’” In the context of 1 Corinthians 15, the word connects us back to v56 which says, “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God. . . .” We are no longer under the law because we are under grace; sin is not on our account because Christ has paid the penalty as our substitute; and death no longer has any power over us because Christ is victorious over the grave. Because of this mighty work of salvation, God is working out all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
Whatever you find yourself thankful for, your thanksgiving should be directed to God.
Thankful for Victory
What is the primary thing that the Apostle is thankful for in this passage? He is thankful for victory. What kind of victory is this? First, it is God who gives the victory, which is why our thanksgiving is due to Him. Second, our victory is given to us through our Lord Jesus Christ. The blessings that are associated with this victory come somehow by means of Christ. We can discuss this in more detail in a few minutes. Lastly, the Apostle has been discussing the subject of resurrection. In this context, he has answered the mockery of those who object to bodily resurrection by asking, “How are the dead raised, and with what body do they come?” He did so by giving natural examples of how things are transformed like a seed that later blooms into a plant, the different kinds of flesh among the earthly creatures, just as there are different types of heavenly bodies, and the heavenly bodies are in a different category from the earthly. Therefore, we will all be changed. You cannot enter into God’s heavenly kingdom with these earthly bodies.
The natural comes first and then the spiritual. Thus, for the Christian, death leads to victory. Although the law is strong in that it reveals sin, and sin is a master because it always leads to death, we can be thankful to God for victory. To have victory in these things is not only possible, but it is a reality in Christ. Outside of Christ there is no hope for victory. And this victory does not necessarily make one rich in this life or shelter them from pain or sorrow. If you live long enough, you will suffer in this present wicked age. To have victory is to have a confident hope for the future. It is to believe in things unseen, knowing that God speaks the worlds into existence, and if our Lord has gone to prepare a place for us, He will come again that we may be where He is.
Steadfast, Immovable, Abounding
You may think that it is difficult to get a sermon out of two verses, but these two verses in particular are perfect. There is the great theological statement made in v57, and then the very practical application is given in v58. This last verse begins with the important word, “Therefore.” In light of the truth that the Apostle has just established by unique inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we must be steadfast and immovable as well as always giving ourselves fully to the work of the Lord because we are confident that our labor is not in vain. He who has promised is able. Do not let anyone sway you from the truth that you have found in the Gospel and the Christian Scriptures.
Conclusion and Christian Application
(1) Hang on to what you have believed. It is not going to get easier to continue in the faith in the near future. You are going to be challenged. You cannot be one who shrinks back. Continue to trust in the Lord and the promises He has made. Continue to trust that what Christ has done on the cross is enough to save you.
(2) One last thing, when you gather around the table this Thanksgiving and you’re crowded, hungry, and antsy, but someone asks you to say what you are thankful for, tell them you are thankful to God for the victory that He has given you in Christ. Maybe then you will have an opportunity to explain to your family and friends the Good News about Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1:1-11 May Your Memory Motivate Thanksgiving

Philippians 1:1-11  May Your Memory Motivate Thanksgiving      WC McCarter
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
Greetings and the Background (1-2)
There is not a lot to explain about the opening verses of the letter, but I need to give you some of the background in order for you to see the whole picture. The background of the letter to the Philippians will also help to make my point this morning about thanksgiving. Paul follows the standard protocol for the opening of an ancient letter. He names himself along with Timothy as the writers/senders; next, he names the recipients; and lastly, he gives a greeting. This is normal structure, but what he says is far from normal. Let me say something about those three parts.
The letter comes from Paul and Timothy. Paul is an Apostle, and Timothy is his disciple-associate. Paul was made the Apostle to the Gentiles by the Lord Jesus. Thus, Paul traveled all over the Roman Empire spreading the Good News about Christ crucified and raised from the dead. He was planting churches with the help of people like Timothy. The Philippian church had been planted by Paul on his second missionary journey. In Acts 16 we are told that Timothy joined up with Paul, Silas, and Luke, and, shortly thereafter, Paul receives a vision of a Macedonian man standing on the shore calling for Paul to come over and help them. The group of missionaries quickly headed to Macedonia and to Philippi which was the primary city of that region. Lydia comes to faith in Christ in that town while they met in an outdoor prayer gathering. Paul and Silas are later imprisoned, and a Philippian jailer is also converted to the Lord through their time in jail. Ultimately, Paul was forced to leave the city, but he would not forget the Philippians or lose touch with them. Interestingly, when Paul states his name and title here at the beginning of the letter, he does not say what he usually does. He usually identifies himself as an Apostle (which he was), but on this occasion he only states that he and Timothy are slaves of Christ. Why did he leave out his authoritative title? It is most simply understood that Paul had no need to restate his authority. The Philippians respected and honored him as an Apostle with no doubts. The lack of the title demonstrates the warm relationship between Paul and the Philippian church.
The recipients of this encouraging letter are the saints in Philippi. The word “saints” means “holy ones.” To be a saint is not to be a super-Christian or to be absolutely perfect. To be a saint means that you are “in Christ Jesus.” You are holy in Christ, and so were the Philippians.
When Paul writes this letter, he is not with the Philippians. In fact, he had to leave them before he was ready. Now he is writing back to them, and he finds himself in prison again, but with great encouragement. The Apostle wants to commend his friends for their support. On several occasions the believers in Philippi sent contributions to Paul so that he could continue to devote himself to the teaching of the Gospel. Each time Paul received financial support from the Philippians he not only had needs met, but was also greatly encouraged. A close bond had developed between Paul and the Philippian church. When a collection was being received from all of the churches to take to Jerusalem during a great famine, Paul was not going to ask the Philippians to give. They had already given him much support and were not as financially stable as before. Yet, when they heard of the need, they stepped up and gave beyond what they could really afford. Paul successfully delivered the gift to the church in Jerusalem, but was soon imprisoned because of many Jewish opponents. He was imprisoned for two years waiting his fate. During that time the Philippians longed to help Paul, but were not given the opportunity. Finally, many months later, the Philippians were able once again to help Paul. Paul was in prison when he wrote the letter and had just received the monetary gift from them.
The leaders in the Philippian church are singled out from the whole. The bishops (literally “overseers,” also known in the NT as pastors, shepherds, elders) and deacons are called out from “all the saints…in Philippi.” Paul, undoubtedly, wanted to honor these men for their partnership in the work of the Gospel, but also wanted to recognize them as the ones responsible for the application of the things written by Paul in the letter. The overseers were responsible for ensuring that the teaching of Paul was assimilated into the assemblies. They were responsible for teaching, overseeing, administrating, and caring for the people. We cannot be completely sure of all that deacons did in the early church, but the word itself literally means “to serve.” The NT suggests that the deacons served in many official capacities according to the direction of the overseers.
The third part of the opening verses is the greeting: “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” While most letters in the ancient world, and even today, would have had some type of greeting at the beginning, Paul’s is uniquely Christian. Grace has been extended to all who will believe in Christ, that is, undeserved forgiveness and favor. Peace has been made by the precious blood of Christ. Both grace and peace come from “from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” This is the Gospel that Paul maintains.
Thanksgiving (3-8)
That concludes the salutation. Now we can move into the initial statement of thanksgiving. It was Paul’s practice to either detail a prayer that he had for a church or to at least give some of the content of what he had been praying for them. He tells the Philippians that when he thinks of them, he thanks God for them. In his prayers he makes request to God for them all “with joy.” He is not saying that he has the Philippian church on the prayer lists of all his other churches. This is his personal prayer for them. It was no doubt their partnering with him in the work of the Gospel that brings him joy and motivates thanksgiving. From the beginning of their encounters the Philippians were more than hospitable and supportive toward Paul and the Gospel ministry. They started that way and continued that way until the end of Paul’s life.
Paul was confident in writing to the Philippians and in his times of prayer that God would finish what He started in the Philippian church. The Philippians and Paul were in fellowship. They were partners in the cause of Christ. They were all partakers of grace with Paul even “in [his] chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.” Thus, Paul means to tell the Philippians (and us by extension) that it is God’s grace to allow any of His children to suffer for the cause of Christ. The Philippians participated by giving of their resources to support Paul and may have faced persecution in Philippi. Thus, Paul had joyful thanksgiving when he thought of the Philippians because they had partnered together for the Gospel and because he was confident that God would complete in them what had been started.
In v7 Paul says that he has them in his heart and now he explains that in v8. He had a great longing for them. We are told later in the letter that Paul was sending Epaphroditus back to them and that surely tugged at Paul’s heart. He wanted to go to them, but could not because he was in chains. He loved them, but he also had great concern for them because there was an unsettling atmosphere in their assembly. This was a matter of the heart.
There was no man on earth that could judge what was in Paul’s heart so he appeals to God. God is his witness. “For the righteous God tests the hearts and minds” and God knows “what was in man.” In v3 he says that he thanks God every time he thinks of the Philippians. As we said before, this was a private time of thanksgiving and prayer for Paul. Who could see that? Who could testify to this claim? Only God could see and hear these things and testify to the truth of the statement. He was the only one to whom the thanksgiving and prayers were directed. The concern that Paul has for them is the same as Christ’s. He longs for them “with the affection of Jesus Christ.”
Prayer (9-11)
After stating the context of his prayers and the reasons for thanksgiving, now Paul gives us the content of his prayers. He will somewhat broaden his explanation of what he meant by the “good work” that was started in them.
The first detail given is that Paul prays that their “love may abound still more and more.” They can better love the more they abound “in knowledge and all discernment.” This love is surely the love that should be expressed toward one another in the church. One simple, but helpful, definition given for this kind of love is the “placing of high value on a person.” If you place a high value on someone then you will go out of your way to benefit them. You will go above-and-beyond to comfort, aid, bless, care for, and preserve their life. He is not rebuking them for a lack of love, but prays that God will continue what He started in them. Though they presently loved well, God’s desire is that it will continue to grow and “abound still more and more.” It is only natural that as a believer grows in the “thorough knowledge” of Jesus Christ that they will love better.
The Philippians (and us) needed an ever-abounding knowledge so that they could know the things that really matter, the things to which they should be devoted (excellent/sincere). Notice that the Apostle makes love something of the mind. Love abounds where there is knowledge, discernment, approval, and sincerity. Also, it is not a bad idea to be “without offense till the day of Christ.” Abounding in love, abounding in a thorough knowledge, and approving the things that are excellent will go a long way to helping a believer remain without offense. I think this tells us something about some people. If all they ever do is pick little arguments or make a “big stink” about things that do not matter then they are probably not growing in love or knowledge of Jesus Christ, our Lord. If you know someone in the church that is sincere about all the wrong things then pray this prayer for them.
We should want for ourselves, our families, and our church to arrive at the Day of Christ “filled with the fruits of righteousness.” What a marvelous picture! I see a link here with the “fruit of the Spirit” found in Galatians 5:22. I think these two phrases parallel one another because Paul adds the phrase here, “which are by Jesus Christ.” The fruits that Paul wants for the Philippians are “by Christ Jesus” much like the fruit that Paul wanted for the Galatians was “of the Spirit.” The righteous fruits that God desires He also works in the life of the believer. They are by Christ Jesus, of His Spirit which is in our hearts. God has “given us the Spirit in our hearts.” That is why God is found to be most glorious. Paul finishes the passage with the phrase “to the glory and praise of God.”
God is the One who starts the good work in us and He is the One who will complete that work until the Day of Christ. The “fruits of righteousness” that we long to be filled with are “by Christ Jesus…of the Spirit.” We cannot boast. It is not of us that anything good will come. It is by the work of God. It is all to His glory. We must recognize God as most glorious for what He has done and what He will do and respond in praise to Him.
Conclusion and Christian Application
Until “the Day of Christ,” we should:
(1) Be supportive of Gospel ministry. This is what an Apostle rejoices over, and we would be safe to assume that this is what pleases God. The care that the Philippians showed toward their Apostle and evangelist was amazing. They continued to support his Gospel ministry long after he left them, even when it was not easy for them. It is no wonder why Paul was so thankful for the Philippians.
(2) Be charitable toward others and thus motivate thanksgiving. When other believers think of you, what do they think? Is it positive or negative? Are people thankful for you? Now, not everything we do will receive a pat-on-the-back or a thank-you-card in return, but are you being charitable toward others and giving others a reason to be thankful for your presence in their life?
(3) Be thankful for those around you. Be specific when you go to God in prayer. Who has been there for you in the hard times? Who has supported you when you needed it most? Who has gone out of their way to help you? Name them to God, and like I said before, also be one of those people.

Galatians 5:13 Serve One Another

Galatians 5:13  One Another Commands of Scripture: Serve One Another  WC McCarter
We have now come to the third and final sermon in a series about the “One Another” commands found in the New Testament. The Scriptures are full of how God’s people are to relate to one another. We are commanded time and again to do and think all sorts of thinks concerning one another in the household of faith.
The One Another Commands
One another commands. Love one another, John 13. Forgive one another, Colossians 3. Serve one another, Galatians 5. They are all linked. I could use the foot washing event as the illustration for all three sermons. Christ has set the precedent.
READ Scripture– This is the Word of God
Galatians Background
Galatians is the letter of liberty in the NT. Paul rebukes the Galatians for turning away to another gospel which was no Gospel at all. They were mixing the true Christian faith with legalistic Judaism. False teachers were saying that Christians must be circumcised according to the law, they must observe Jewish holidays and dietary laws, and more. To submit to the Mosaic Law, or any tradition for that matter, would be to “renounce their divine calling” (Witherington). Paul says that they must not do these things because they are free in Christ. You do not become a Christian by religious performance, and you do not remain a Christian by religious performance. By the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. We are saved by faith and nothing but faith from beginning to end.
Serve One Another
We are called to be free [13a]
In Galatians 1:6 Paul states his astonishment at the situation. At the beginning of the letter he says, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ to a different Gospel, [which is really no Gospel at all].” Christians are called to liberty. Freedom is something that this world likes to talk about, but what is Christian freedom? “It is a freedom of conscience” (Stott). People are bound in their on minds by guilt, swallowed up by their own sin against God. Colossians 1:21 tells us that apart from Christ people are alienated and enemies of God in their minds by wicked works. Freedom is “peace through the blood of His cross” (Col 1:20). We are free by faith in Christ, free from slavery to sin, free from the eternal repercussions of our sins, free from condemnation, free from guilt, and more.
Christian liberty is not gained by working yourself out of your predicament, but surrendering yourself to what God has already done in Christ Jesus. What is true of the Galatians is equally true for us. We were called to liberty. The Scripture that says it best is 1 John 4:19, “We love Him because He first loved us.” He is the One that sought us out in the person of His Son. He is the One who has called us “out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet 2:9); not the other way around, never the other way around. You see “…while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).
Freedom is not for the flesh [13b]
We must not use our freedom for fleshly ends. We have not been freed to fulfill the desires of our flesh. Now we usually think of “flesh” as our bodies, but that is too narrow of a definition. The biblical “flesh” is the old nature (also called the old man, fallen nature, sinful nature, etc.). God has not freed us by the person of His Son so that we can do whatever we will. It may be a great temptation to think that now we are free to fulfill our own selfish desires, but we know that is not the truth that we have found in Christ.
Freedom is for serving one another [13c]
We must use our freedom for spiritual ends, that is, through love to serve one another. Our freedom in Christ should benefit our brothers and sisters. We have been freed to love. We can now serve one another with no fear of condemnation. We have been freed to love and love the way God desires! John 8:34 says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.” We have been freed from sin, not to sin. Once we sin, we return again to slavery. . . . Could anyone be any “freer” to do what he wanted than Christ? And what did He choose to do? Submit to the Father’s will, serve mankind. He took off His outer garment, girded Himself with a towel as a servant, and washed His disciple’s feet (John 13). And that is only one glaring example of what He did by putting on flesh. He came to serve, to love. . . . We are called to do the same with the freedom we have been given.
How do you (practically) serve one another? You are to make yourself a slave to all; to consider others better than yourself; to bear one another’s burdens whether they be spiritual, emotional, financial, or what have you.
The Value of Church Membership
I would like to close this sermon by saying a few things about the value of church membership. The New Testament does not say anything explicit about the subject, but the implications are clear that we are to be accountable to one another in an association that we now call church membership. I think these past three sermons apply specifically within the context of church membership. Let me give you three reasons why I believe that to be true.
1. Others know that they are accountable to you and you to them. You are to love, forgive, and serve the brethren as well as many other things. The best way to know who the brethren are is by church membership.
2. It lets the minister and elders know who they are responsible for. We re to shepherd the flock, but we have to know who belongs to this flock in order to best do that.
3. Not only are you to submit to one another, but you are to willingly come under the care, authority, and teaching of the local church leaders. You do the by membership.
Invitation. If you are a baptized believer who would like to join this congregation, then all you have to do is say that you would like to join. If you have never committed your life to Christ, but you have counted the costs and would like to be united to Him today, then now is a great time to join. If you have believed, but have never been baptized, then let today be that special day.

Colossians 3:12-13 Forgive One Another

Colossians 3:12-13  One Another Commands of Scripture: Forgive One Another  WC McCarter
I have been studying the book of Hebrews intensely this week and have learned all sorts of new things. You know, we never grow out of learning as Christians. You do not get too old or too knowledgeable. There is always more to learn. Not only that, but there is always room to be reminded of the things that we already know. It does not hurt to be reminded of the things that we have already believed. In fact, a lot of what I do as a pastor/teacher is remind you of the things you have already heard and believed. To be a “disciple” is to be a learner. We never stop being disciples of our Lord. One of the famous verses from Hebrews that stood out to me again this week is Hebrews 9:22 which says, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” Why does it have to be that way? Because God said that the life is in the blood and sacrifice would have to be made to pay for sin. What is the ultimate point of this statement? Christ has laid down His life in your behalf, to pay for your sins as your substitute on the cross. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a loud, bold statement of FORGIVENESS. It is the model and definition.
READ Scripture (3:1-17) – This is the Word of God
The Christian’s Clothes [12]
In this Scripture, the Christian’s reformation of character is described. Like garments, we are to take off the deeds of unrighteousness and put on the acts of holiness. You have just heard me read all those things that we are to take off and what we are to put on in its place.
The readers are referred to as God’s chosen people, the elect, who are holy and beloved. We need to be reminded over and over again that we are called out of this world. We are not only expected to be different, but we actually are different. We have a relationship with the Creator/Sustainer/Savior/Lord of the world. We have been set apart as unique and special unto the Lord for His purposes and for His glory. Therefore, God has given us standards by which to live by and He has sent His Spirit to empower us to fulfill His Word. God does not say “Be holy” and not work it in you. He does not say “love one another” and not teach you to do so.
            Tender mercies is compassion. We have to look on others differently than the world.
            Kindness is gracious sensitivity triggered by compassion.
            Humility forces us to consider others better than ourselves.
            Meekness is gentleness. It is to criticize someone else and they take it as help and not hurt
            Longsuffering is patience. It is to not seek revenge, but to pursue holiness for long haul
Those Christians in ancient Colossae were exhorted to manifest their love for one another by conducting themselves according to mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, and longsuffering. All these are to permeate a church. These are simple virtues for those who love one another, as we talked about last week. The Christian has a certain wardrobe that God has prepared. It is always nice to buy/receive a new piece of clothing, isn’t it? God has laid out a new outfit for you to put on that is clean and holy.
The Christian’s Characteristics [13]
You heard me say in the very first sermon that you heard me preach, and maybe a couple times since then, that I believe that a church must foster a grace atmosphere. The air that we breathe when we are gathered together will be what we have either intentionally promoted or what we have allowed. I think that if we are not deliberate in cultivating a grace environment, a truly Christian atmosphere, then we will fall prey to discord, gossip, hardheartedness, and the like.
So, you say, what is it that we should be intentional about? This is a large subject, but part of what you can do is stated in verse thirteen. Not only can you, but you should bear with one another and forgive one another. This is not a one-time thing either. We are to constantly bear with each other and forgive one another.
The Apostle goes on to say that believers are to bear with each other. This is related to longsuffering. Next we encounter a valuable Christian standard.
Those who do not know how to forgive another do not know the Gospel. Those who understand how to forgive others, but refuse to do so are standing in opposition to the Gospel message that they claim to believe. I am using strong language, but that is what the passage is saying. Do you need a definition of Christian forgiveness? Here it is, “as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.” Maybe it will be helpful to hear it the way the NIV has put it, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Instead of complaining and arguing or becoming bitter, learn to forgive one another with the grace of Jesus Christ.
Conclusion and Christian Application

Many refer to Ephesians 5 for women to submit to their husbands. But we are to all submit to one another. Also, men are to love their wives as Christ loved the church. These are the more difficult things to do. Likewise, we are all to forgive as Christ forgave us. He did so with a sacrificial love.

John 13:34-35 Love One Another

John 13:34-35      The One Another Commands of Scripture: Love One Another       WC McCarter
Discussion about the “One Another” Commands of the New Testament. Discussion about the importance of being accountable to one another. Christians are connected to one another.
People come up with all sorts of things to show their community associations. Even Christians have come up with all kinds of symbols to show that they belong to Christ. We label ourselves with this and that so that we are sure that everyone knows who we are. Yet, Christ tells us in this passage of Scripture that there is one distinguishing trait by which all will know that we are His disciples. You can label yourself with any word known to man, you can wear certain clothes to mark yourself out, you can put a big billboard in your front yard that says, “I AM A CHRISTIAN,” but without this one characteristic you are nothing. We will explore this for a few minutes today and pray that we are all enlightened to this very important sentence, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Love is a key theme in the Apostle John’s writings. He learned what Jesus taught.
Read a few verses from His Gospel and Epistles:
a) John 3:16 “For God so loved the world…”
b) John 13:1 “…having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.”
c) 1 John 3:11 “For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another…”
d) 1 John 3:16 “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
e) 1 John 3:23 “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.”
f) 1 John 4:11 “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
g) 2 John 1:5 “And now I plead with you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning: that we love one another.”
Do you think that this is slightly important? Do you think that John learned something from the Lord Jesus Christ that he absolutely needed to impart? I think so. . . .
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
(Would you meditate on this for a moment?)
We know that this is vitally important for a couple of obvious reasons. First, the Lord Jesus commanded this. Second, He said this to His disciples on the night that He was betrayed. This was one of the last things that He taught them. On that crucial night of “cramming for the exam,” Jesus gave this “new” command to His followers.
Love One Another [34-35]
Jesus now imparts to His closest followers His expectations for them in light of His parting. He is leaving, and they are staying. He tells them what He expects of them. He gives them a new commandment that is really not new at all. It is the phrase “new commandment” that passed through the Latin language and gave us our term “Maundy,” hence “Maundy Thursday.” The newness is not in the sense of recent, but in the sense of fresh. This commandment was not recent at all, but had a long history dating back to the Mosaic Law (*SEE Deut 6:5; Lev 19:18; also Mk 12:28-33; Rom 13:8-10; 1 Jn 2:7-8). The “new commandment” points to the footwashing which points to the cross. A fresh interpretation is given to the commandment by the Lord Jesus Himself. We are to love unselfishly and sacrificially. There is a new standard in light of the new covenant which is in Christ’s blood.
The love that the Lord is talking about here is not the light, fluffy, emotional, and superficial love that we often see in the world today. The love the Lord is talking about is real, heavy, difficult, painful, and lasting. It is not simply saying “I love you,” which may be hard enough for some of you to say to one another, but it is much more than that. This love is active and sacrificial. It is humbling. I will show you just how humbling it is when we read about the footwashing in just a few minutes.
How is it that Jesus says the world will know His disciples? Bumper stickers? Pins? Screen-printed t-shirts? WWJD bracelets? Because you are perfect? Because you are holier-than-thou? No, no, no. This is how everyone will know that we are Christ’s disciples: If we love the way He loved. He laid down His life for us and we ought to also lay down our lives for each other. We are to be living sacrifices. Our love must be different. Yes, we will love the world with compassion and evangelism, but we are distinct from the world. Our binding love is directed toward one another. That is what makes our love holy. On this verse many quote from Tertullian, a second century Christian leader, writer, and apologist. He reported how the pagans of his time marveled at the Christians and would say, “See how they love one another . . . how are they ready even to die for one another!” Is that how the society at-large views us today? Do they see a unique love?
Conclusion and Christian Application
Notice how the love teaching follows the footwashing- Jesus’ demonstration shows them that this type of love is real, active, hands-on, and even dirty at times. The type of love that He expects of His followers is out of the norm; awkward and even uncomfortable. That is what makes it sacrifice. It is not an abstract thought for us to sit around and discuss, but is something that we must do. When Jesus says it to His first disciples it is not a suggestion of something that would be nice for them to do, but is something that will characterize them for all time. Those who follow this saying are really Christ’s disciples, truly Christians in every sense of the word. The New Testament teaches us to consider others better than ourselves, to look out for the interests of others. How are you doing with that? Are you mindful of others, or only yourself?
Lastly, you do not have to wear a name tag that says, “I’m a Christian.” And you do not have to prove yourself to the community by doing as much humanitarian work as possible. What you must do, according to the command of the Lord Jesus, is love one another. Look around this room. You have been commanded to love the people in this room the way Christ has loved you.