John 13:34–35 (ESV)
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Holiness is not an abstract set of behaviors; it is love for God and love for one another. Holiness from the Father, who is the fountain of love:
1 John 3:16 (ESV)
16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
1 John 2:15–17 (ESV)
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
Learning how to not love the world:
1 Peter 4:3-4, 1 Peter 4:8-11, Christopher W. Morgan, Display of God, Ephesians 4:1-6, Fellowship of Faith, Francis Schaeffer, images of the church, James W. Thompso, John 13:34-35, love, Love of God, Luke 12:51-53, Mark of a Christian, one-another, Sanctification, The Church According to Paul, The Community of Jesus, The Family of God, Tim Chester, Total Church, Unity
Some rough draft notes on a lecture on the image of the church as a family.
The Church as the Family of God has two elements:
- It displays God visibly – particularly the love of God.
- It effects of the love of God.
1. The Display of the Love of God
The Church is a witnessing community.
The Church exists to display the glory of God.
In The Community of Jesus, “The Church and God’s Glory”, Christopher W. Morgan notes five ways in which the Church displays God’s glory:
- Our salvation glorifies God by displaying the inexhaustible nature of his grace throughout the age to come.
- The very existence as the church glorifies God by displaying his wisdom.
- Our unity glorifies God by displaying his oneness.
- Our love glorifies God by displaying his love.
- Our holiness glorifies God by displaying his holiness. (232-233).
Interestingly it is household of God, the family of God imagery which Scripture uses to underscore and display God’s glory.
Bridges next mentions one of the dearest encouragements of Christian ministry: the love and encouragement of the people we serve. It seems to come at the most needful moments. When it seems unbearable, God provides grace and strength through the hands and words of a friend who leaves a kind note, or comes by for lunch, or says, “I’ve been praying for you” (and I know its true). Such comforts overwhelm those who spread bitterness and slander. As Bridges writes, it is a “full compensation”.
The Christian minister may have an obligation to teach and to lead, but he can never think himself somehow apart from the people for whom he must answer. Too often pastors — and it is even worse for the wives of pastors — try to hold themselves aloof from the congregation. In so doing, the minister loses one of the dearest comforts God has given for the ministry:
The interest we possess in the affectionate sympathies of a beloved people is also a subordinate source of comfort and encouragement. Here we find a full compensation for the scorn of an ungodly world, and the secret spring of many an hour of support and enjoyment, by which we are carried forward in our painful course. The Christian and intelligent part of our flock well know, that we are “men of like passions with themselves,” that our path is strewn with snares, and our hearts are keenly wounded with sorrow and temptation. Christian sympathy engages them to communicate with our affliction.
Charles Bridges, The Christian Ministry.
Romans 12 presents an interesting quandary for the modern, North American Christian. Verse one presents a command: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
That command receives further detail in the next verse: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
The diligent, serious Christians reads these verses and thinks, I must do something. Yet, as John Street (TMC, head of Biblical Counseling department), explained once, Probably every sermon you have ever heard on this passage is wrong. Not wrong in the sense that it is used to teach a dangerous heresy. Rather wrong in the sense that we miss an important aspect of the passage.
The default of far too many Christians is to read an individualism into the passage which Paul never intended. We read the command “present your bodies as a living sacrifice” and think I, personally and independently, must do something. But consider the matter carefully: Bodies is plural, but the sacrifice is singular. All of you are presenting one sacrifice.
Consider the movement of the passage: Paul commands a living sacrifice. He then explains that we must live differently from the terms of culture; rather, our mind must be transformed. We not think of ourselves more highly than we ought. Why? Because all the individual believers make up one body:
3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
Something rather interesting happens at this point: the next several verses do not contain a finite verb. A general rule of Greek grammar is that a sentence has a finite verb which is the main verb and other verbs which are either participles or infinitives. You could think of this as a main idea with the other verbs as related ideas hanging on the main idea. In fact, we have go to verse 14 and the word “bless” before we get a “normal” sentence.
It is typical to simply break this up into various sentences and infer a finite verb. For example, the translation handbook reads:
In Greek verses 6–8 form one sentence, and it is rather complex. It begins with a participle and there is no main verb in the entire sentence. Although a verb is not present in the Greek, the context makes it clear what verb is implicit: we are to use (RSV “let us use them”; NEB “must be exercised accordingly”).
However, as James Dunn (Word Commentary, Romans) explains, there is a different way to understand the structure which takes into account the actual grammar and the flow of Paul’s argument:
It is almost universally assumed that v 6 begins a new sentence (e.g., neb, Barrett, Michel, Käsemann), with the second halves of the subsequent phrases filled out with imperatival force—so particularly rsv: “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them” (the last four words having been added to the text). This forces the sense too much in one direction (a “somewhat harsh ellipse,” as SH recognize). The sentence reads more naturally as a continuation of the body imagery of vv 4–5 with the meaning of ἀλλήλων μέλη spelled out in terms of different charisms. The point then of the following phrases is that they are a description of the Christian congregation functioning as “one body in Christ” ….
Considered in this way, the nature of the spiritual sacrifice comes into view. The sacrifice is not longer a “me and Jesus” sacrifice of radical individualism (whether the song means precisely that is a different question), but is a sacrificing of oneself in love: this is a passage which introduces an extended discussion on Christian community (see, e.g., 1 Peter 1:21-22, sanctification and being “born again” bring about a radical transformation of brotherly love; Paul’s argument concerning the law is that love fulfills the law, Romans 13:10).
Gore explains that transformation sought by Paul is more than isolated holiness; it is a holiness, a transformation, a sacrifice which brings about a radical transformation of human life together:
And when St. Paul, justifying himself here, as before and later on, by the special divine favour which has made him the apostle of the Gentiles, proceeds to develop his exhortation, it appears that with him, as with St. James, the form in which ‘divine service’ shows itself must be love of the brethren. To be called into the body of Christ—the society which is bound into one by His life and spirit—is to be called to social service, that is, to live a community life, and to cultivate the virtues which make true community life possible and healthy. Of these the first is humility, which in this connexion means the viewing oneself in all things as one truly is, as a part of a whole. Of the faith by which the whole body lives, a share, but only a share, belongs to each member—a certain measure of faith—and he must not strain beyond it. But he is diligently to make the best of his faculty, and do the work for which his special gift qualifies him, in due subordination to the welfare of the whole whether it be inspired preaching, or ordinary teaching, or the distribution of alms, or presidency, or some other form of helping others which is his special function. Besides humility there are other virtues which make the life of a community healthy and happy, and St. Paul enumerates them, as they occur to his mind, in no defined order or completeness. There must be sincerity in love, that is in considering and seeking the real interest of others; there must be the righteous severity which keeps the moral atmosphere free from taint; there must be tenderness of feeling, which makes the community a real family of brothers; and an absence of all self-assertion, or desire for personal prominence; and thorough industry; and spiritual zeal; and devotion to God’s service; and the cheerfulness which Christian hope inspires; and the ready endurance of affliction; and close application to prayer; and a love for giving whenever fellow Christians need; and an eagerness to entertain them when they are travelling—for ‘the community’ embraces, not one church only, but ‘all the churches.’
Nay in a wider sense the community extends itself to all mankind, even those who persecute them.
In short, the spiritual sacrifice is a sacrifice of myself in love of God which leads to love of neighbor.
Volume 2 of the commentary on St. Paul’s
Epistle to the Romans, A Practical Exposition
By Charles Gore, D.D.
Lord Bishop of Worcester
Chaplain to His Majesty the King
The Holy Spirit produces fellowship (there will be multiple posts on this point):
Fellowship flows from the operation of the Holy Spirit:
23 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. 1 John 3:23–24 (ESV)
Fellowship is merely love of one for another in practice (John carefully distinguishes between merely statements of love and actual conduct of love) (1 John 3:17). In this passage John explains to love one-another (which includes fellowship), is evidence of true status in Christ – and evidence of abiding in God – which John 14:15-24 ties to the giving and indwelling of the Holy Spirit). Here, John again ties abiding in God to the operation of the Holy Spirit.
One should note the Trinitarian nature of the abiding in this passage (the Father, Son and Spirit are each independently and interdependently discussed). However, for this purpose, the emphasis will be upon the relationship between abiding and conduct of the believer:
The point which John is making in the first part of this v, that obedience and reciprocal indwelling (between God and the believer) are inextricably associated, has been anticipated to some extent in earlier parts of this letter (cf. 2:5, 24, 27–29; 3:6, 9, 10, 18–19; and, for the notion of “obedient reciprocity” with reference to the Father-Son relationship, see John 10:37–38; 12:48–49; 14:10–11).
Stephen S. Smalley, vol. 51, Word Biblical Commentary : 1,2,3 John, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002), 211. Smalley continues:
ἐκ τοῦ πνεύματος οὗ ἡμῖν ἔδωκεν, “by the Spirit he has given us.” Confirmation of the believer’s life in the Godhead is provided by the Spirit (who is never described in 1 John as the “Holy” Spirit), as well as by love (vv 14, 24a). This is the first explicit reference to the Spirit in this document (but note the allusion to χρῖσμα, “anointing,” in 2:20, 27). John’s teaching about the Spirit in his letters is more restrained (in order to combat “enthusiasm” of the wrong kind?) than in his Gospel, where the Spirit-Paraclete is regarded as the personal representative of the risen Christ in the Church (cf. Smalley, John, 227–33). Nevertheless, from this point onward reference to the Spirit is made more or less explicitly on four occasions (4:2, 13; 5:6, 8; cf. also 4:6).
The possession of the Spirit, as a mark of the new life in Christ, forms part of the primitive gospel preached by the apostles (Acts 2:32–38; cf. Dodd, 95); and in Paul the Spirit is presented as the means whereby the Father of Jesus indwells the Church (Rom 5:5; Gal 3:2–5). Like Paul, John here regards the witness of the Spirit as a source of confidence, when this is required (Rom 8:14–16; cf. 1 John 3:19–20).
John’s criterion of spiritual confidence—“we can be sure that he lives in us by (ἐκ) the Spirit he has given us”—may seem too “inward” and subjective after the practical teaching of vv 16–23. However, the Spirit, according to John, manifests himself objectively in the life and conduct of the believer, inspiring a true confession of Jesus (4:1–3) and enabling his followers to act righteously (cf. 2:29) and lovingly (cf. 4:12–13; in the light of 4:11–13 Bultmann, 59, equates the gift of the Spirit with mutual love). Obedience is both the condition and expression of dwelling in God (v 24a); and the creative gift of the Spirit provides us with factual evidence of that abiding (cf. Stott, 151).
Stephen S. Smalley, vol. 51, Word Biblical Commentary : 1,2,3 John, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002), 211-12.
Akin also notes nature of the Holy Spirit dwelling in the believer as the source of the believer’s knowledge of abiding in God (which John has explained is the source of loving one-another):
3:24 In this final verse of this section, John resumes the thought of v. 22 (i.e., keeping God’s commandments) and prepares for what follows in 4:1, testing the spirits. Thus, v. 23 serves as a parenthetical explanation of the central content of these commands and as a transition to a new subject. The pronouns John employs in v. 24 probably refer to God the Father.62 With the words “those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them,” the apostle again introduces a mutual “abiding” relationship for the one who obeys these commands. The one who is characteristically living in obedience experiences a reciprocal fellowship with God. The present tense verb “lives” (menei) indicates a close and permanent relational abiding between the child of God and the heavenly Father (see 2:24–28; also cf. John 15:1–6).
The pronoun in the expression en toutō (“by this” or “hereby” or “this is how”) may point forward (to the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit) or backward (to the keeping of his commands) as evidence of this reciprocal relationship. Most commentators agree that the more natural interpretation is to connect it with what follows (as reflected in the NIV translation).63 In other words, the primary evidence of our mutual abiding experience in God is the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives; for as Hiebert notes, “The Holy Spirit is the source from which the certainty of our relationship with God is drawn.”64
The verb “we know” (ginōskomen) refers to knowledge obtained by drawing a conclusion based on facts.65 When one possesses the Spirit of God, it is divine evidence of the reciprocal relationship, enjoyed and experienced (cf. Rom 8:16). The phrase “by the Spirit” (ek tou pneumatos) means “from the Spirit” and indicates the source of our knowledge. “The assurance is begotten by the Spirit.”66 The past tense translated “he gave us” (edōken) looks to the moment when the Spirit was given. In particular, it points to that instant when the Spirit is given to each believer at the time of their regeneration.
Daniel L. Akin, vol. 38, 1, 2, 3 John, electronic ed., Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001), 168-69.
The Holman commentary simply states:
The Holy Spirit produces doctrinal purity, love for the brethren, and a spirit of obedience to God’s commands. When we see these three things, we can be confident that he lives in us. They are the unmistakable signs of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives.
David Walls and Max Anders, vol. 11, I & II Peter, I, II & III John, Jude, Holman New Testament Commentary; Holman Reference (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 199.
Proverbs 28 provides:
13 Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
14 Blessed is the one who fears the LORD always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity.
This is an essential element in biblical counseling. The one hides his troubles, who lies or dissembles to his pastor or counselor perpetuates his pain and sin.
It is not that the counselor has the power of forgiveness. Yet, the counselor can convey that which is true:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9.
Second, sin is necessarily isolating. Even in the most “social” of sins, the effect is isolation. Right standing with God necessarily entails fellowship with God and with one-another:
that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
1 John 1:3. See also, Heb. 3:12-13, 10:24-26.
However, we must resist the temptation to make the counselor a priest – a mere psychologist. The commands to love and fellowship apply on both sides. The point of the relationship must be to teach one to love and to enter into such a relationship with that other .
That is why counseling is a species of discipleship which must take place within the context of the assembled church:
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.