Thursday, September 10, 2015

John 13:31-35 comments: Christ's new commandment

31 ¶  Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32  If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him. 33  Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you. 34  A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

When Judas left Jesus spoke again, talking about His glorification and the Father’s glorification. They are uniquely tied together because they are one individual. When Christ rises from the dead God’s power over death is revealed. He calls His disciples, “little children,” because they have not understood fully what He has been telling them and like children they follow Him in their unknowing. John uses this terminology in his writing elsewhere, at least nine times in 1st John, distinguishing, “little children,” from, “fathers,” and, “young men,” perhaps in a reference to not only immature believers but those at varying stages of understanding.

At this time, His disciples cannot follow Him. Their time will come later. Jesus lays down a fundamental condition of the church, if it is to follow and obey Him, in verses 34 and 35.

That Christ’s followers love each other is very difficult but essential and sometimes seemingly impossible. Paul and Peter explain this in more detail. Charity is a word for love that embodies love in action, an active love where one seeks the best interests and expresses compassion for another. It is not about our modern definition of giving to the poor as evidenced by Paul’s statements in 1Corinthians, chapter 13.  Verse 3 shows us that the charity mentioned here is different than merely surrendering your substance to feed the poor.  These are the qualities for the Christian’s love for other Christians as commanded by Jesus Christ.

1 ¶  Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

    4 ¶  Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5  Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6  Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7  Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

    8 ¶  Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9  For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10  But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. 11  When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12  For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 13  And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Peter, here, shows that just above kindness to each other stands charity.

2Peter 1:5 ¶  And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6  And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7  And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. 8  For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9  But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. 10  Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: 11  For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

As Peter and Paul both point out, charity, the active love between brothers and sisters in Christ stands above all other temporal virtues for the Christian. Considering some of the control freaks, some of the prideful, stubborn resisters of the truth, and those who engage in back-handed gossip and malice it is not an easy task we are called to.

1Peter 4:8  And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.

There is no charity within the congregation when some think of themselves as holier than thou.

Romans 12:3  For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

Luke 18:9 ¶  And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10  Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12  I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. 13  And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. 14  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Or when some bear resentment that they do more than others.

Luke 10:38 ¶  Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. 39  And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. 40  But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. 41  And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: 42  But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Or some, whom God has spared many of the illness, employment, financial, relationship, domestic and spousal, and family troubles of others in the congregation, lift themselves up and think it is a result of what they did and others did not rather than being a result of God’s mercy on them, a mercy He can withdraw to teach them humility if He wills it, do not know what charity is. They would do well to look to the book of Job to see what can come their way in spite of their self-righteousness. “I have a good life because I am a good person and the others just aren’t right with God,” is not a sign of a charitable heart or even necessarily the truth as God shows us in Job.

All in all, Jesus says that we should be known by our love for each other, an active love as Paul and Peter call it charity. It is not to be faked. Paul says to let love be genuine.

Romans 12:9a  Let love be without dissimulation...

Dissimulation comes from dissemble which is deceitful and not genuine, not necessarily a direct lie, but faking something, a deceit. See Proverbs 26:4, 24 and Jeremiah 42:20.

We must abstain from any appearance of evil as it says in 1Thessalonians 5:15 and 22. The context there is malice and a desire to cause trouble from one Christian to another. See also the way evil is used for intent to harm, malicious behavior, and trouble in Genesis 37:2, 20, 33; Isaiah 45:7; Matthew 6:34; 7:11.

It is about your attitude toward other believers in the church, perhaps not to the spiritual level you consider yourself to be. Maybe they haven’t ‘arrived’ like you have. No one in the congregation should feel any animosity or hostility or vain attempts at control from another member of the congregation. Without at least the willingness to change our attitudes toward each other there is no chance to obey Christ and we drive people from the assembly. This is one reason why so many churches fail. Anyone coming into an assembly of Christians can sense a controlling spirit or a self-righteous, unyielding air.

Without the fruit of the Spirit coming from each believer, there is no hope for this obedience that Christ has called for. “Telling the truth in love,” has too often become an excuse for mean-spirited, paranoid, controllers who simply have established in their minds statuses of Christians in the church who feel more justified by, “telling it like it is,” and driving people off.

Examine yourselves.

Galatians 5:22  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23  Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24  And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26  Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

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