This past week I was blown away when I read 1 Corinthians 8:3 — “But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him” (NJKV). I don’t know about you, but I had read through Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians several times before, and this verse never struck me as forcefully as this time around!
The reason is that I had written and published an article on this website [see: “I Never Knew You!”]. I had not noticed this particular scripture then in such a way as to have included it among my supporting Scripture verses. This article was based on a sermon, titled “Will Jesus Know You at His Return?,” which I preached to the Manila congregation of the United Church of God on 29 September 2011, which was the Feast of Trumpets, celebrating the return of Christ [see: God’s Feasts in the Book of Acts: Mere Time Markers – or to Be Observed?].
So, now is my opportunity to expound on this particular Scripture verse, for our spiritual edification.
What it means to love God
During this holiday season, when some preachers decry the fact that, in their mad frenzy of merry-making, many people have forgotten “the reason for the season” – the supposed birth of the God-man Jesus Christ of Nazareth – and the love of God for mankind in giving us His only begotten Son as our Savior from sin and destruction, and as the way to our salvation (John 3:16). Media hype trumpets this holiday as a season of “giving” and “love.” [Regarding the truth about the approximate date of Christ’s birth, see: Feast of John the Baptist.] Some preachers, however, bemoan the fact that most people give gifts to one another and forget to give the supposed birthday “celebrant” any gift at all!
Many who claim to be Christians sing about their “love” for Christ and God. A Protestant hymn proclaims:
My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine –
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign;
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou:
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus ‘tis now;
I love Thee because Thou hast first loved me
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree;
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow:
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now.
[My thanks for the use of these lyrics from The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration; Waco Texas: Word Music, 1986, page 364. I believe this hymnal is now in the public domain.]
It is certainly right that we express our love for Jesus through songs and hymns of praise and thanksgiving. But God’s Word reveals that there’s more to loving Christ and God than mere words and feelings or emotion. As another hymn puts it:
I love Thee, I love Thee, my Lord;
I love Thee, my Savior,
I love Thee, my God;
I love Thee, I love Thee,
And that Thou dost know;
But how much I love Thee my actions will show.
[From the same Hymnal as above, page 362.]
That hymn, however, does not explain what actions show our love for Christ. Nor does the previous hymn explain what it really means to love Christ by resigning “all the follies of sin.”
What it means to “love God”
So that there can be no mistake about it, Jesus Himself tells us how to love Him and God His Father: “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). And, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me” (Verse 21). The apostle John, who wrote down Jesus’ words in his gospel, also wrote: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). [See: Freed From Bondage and The Law of Christ.] 1 John 3: (KJV) declares: “Whosoever commits sin transgresseth also the law; for sin is the transgression of the law [of God].”
Furthermore, Jesus said: “And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love Him and manifest Myself to him” (John 14:21, letter half). Those who say that we cannot do anything to make God or Jesus love us more should think again! Jesus here implies that the more we love Jesus and the Father by keeping God’s commandments the more we will be loved by them, and the more we will know about Christ’s mind.
Not only that: Jesus also says: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him. And We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words, and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me” (Verses 23, 24). Here is Christ’s sure and wonderful promise that those who love Him will have both Jesus and the Father make their home with them – God will dwell with them.
How is this possible? Through the gift of the Spirit of God and of Christ. Acts 5:32 assures that God gives His Holy Spirit to those who obey, and thus love, Him. [To understand more about how God imparts His Spirit to mankind, see: “I Never Knew You!” (the section “How then receive Christ’s Spirit?”) and The Higher Law of the Spirit.]
As the latter of the two above-mentioned website articles explains further, we human beings – with just our mere human strength, without Christ’s Spirit helping us – cannot possibly keep God’s commandments and thus please God (Romans 8:7). Verse 9 adds: “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His” – he does not belong to Christ. And 2 Timothy 2:19 assures: “Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are His.’ And ‘Let everyone who names [or bears] the name of Christ depart from iniquity [Greek, adikias, meaning “injustice” or “unrighteousness”]. Ephesians 1:13 declares that true Christians [those who are Christ’s] are “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.”
It is that Spirit in genuine Christians that enables Christ to recognize them as His own and indeed known by Him. Without that Spirit, human beings would be unable to obey God’s righteous commandments and laws – as proof of their genuine love for Christ. At His return Jesus will not know them and will instead tell them: “Depart from Me [Go away!], you who practice lawlessness [Greek, anomian, meaning “without law” – not obeying God’s law]. They will be shut out of God’s kingdom and everlasting life at Christ’s return. If they have not committed the “unpardonable sin,” they will have their chance to receive salvation after Christ’s initial 1000-year reign on earth (Revelation 20:5). [See: Why Is the “Unpardonable Sin” Unpardonable? The Divine Prerogatives, and This Is not the Only Day of Salvation.]
To love God means to love our brother also
The basic principle or essence of God’s law and commandments is to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40; Leviticus 19:18).
In Luke 10:25-37 we find Jesus explaining to a Jewish religious leader who our neighbor is. This is well known as the story or parable of “the good Samaritan,” which is the basis for the English idiom for a person who goes out of his way to help a needy fellow human being.
Jesus elsewhere zeroed in on a special kind of love: love for the “brethren” or the spiritual “brothers” of Christ. He referred to His disciples as those whom He considered His fellow sons and daughters of God — His “brethren” (John 20:17; Matthew 12:49). Jesus gave a “new” commandment to His disciples: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
Jesus “beloved disciple” John [known as the “evangelist,” having written the evangel or “gospel” bearing his name, as distinct from John the “baptist” or “baptizer”] wrote: “He who loves God must love his brother also” (1 John 4:21). And “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen” (Verse 20)”?
At His return Jesus will judge people on the basis on whether or not they have done good works to His brethren (Matthew 25:32-46). “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it [one of the things He mentioned in Verses 35-39] to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Verse 40). Conversely He said: “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of these [My brethren], you did not do it to Me” (Verse 45).
To the former people Jesus promises: “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom [of God] prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Verse c33). Whereas, to the latter people He promises: “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life (Verse 46).
Revelation 22:14 positively declares: “Blessed those who do His [God’s] commandments, [so] that they may have the right to [partake of] the tree of life.” They will receive everlasting life – live forever — something our first parents, Adam and Eve, failed to obtain because they sinned by disobeying God’s command (Genesis 3:22). [See: “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!” and The Flaming Sword East of Eden.]
On the other hand, all who are found to be practicing “lawlessness” such as “dogs [sodomites] and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters” will be cast out [excluded] from the Holy City [New Jerusalem] (Revelation 22:15) – and will be cast into the “lake of fire,” which is the “second death” (Revelation 21:8).
If we earnestly desire to receive salvation in Christ, it behooves us to truly love Him as I’ve shown from the Scriptures, so that He will truly know us as His own, and welcome us into His everlasting kingdom! [See: Saved for Good Works.]
Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.