Menu Keys

On-Going Mini-Series

Bible Studies

Codes & Descriptions

Class Codes
[A] = summary lessons
[B] = exegetical analysis
[C] = topical doctrinal studies
What is a Mini-Series?
A Mini-Series is a small subset of lessons from a major series which covers a particular subject or book. The class numbers will be in reference to the major series rather than the mini-series.
1 John 2:7-11 by Robert Dean
Series:1st John (2000)
Duration:1 hr 6 mins 21 secs

The Pattern for Impersonal Love; 1 John 2:7-11

The subjective verses 7-11 is the subject of impersonal love, that kind of love that kind of love that is to characterise the believer. But it doesn't come automatically, it doesn't happen to the immature believer, it is the result of Bible study, of concentration on the Word, of extended time in fellowship with the Lord and abiding in Christ, of the filling ministry of God the Holy Spirit as He produces fruit in our lives, as He brings us to spiritual maturity.

1 John 2:8 NASB "On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining." It is "true in Him," it is grounded in Him; that is the starting point. Because it is true in Him it is true in believers who have advanced to spiritual maturity so that they can exhibit this kind of love. Darkness references the impact of the world system, the cosmic system, the human viewpoint thinking that dominates this age. Who is the true Light? The true Light is Jesus Christ, and this "true Light is already shining" references the first coming of Jesus Christ. It was there that the second person of the Trinity became flesh and dwelt among us, as John says in his opening chapter of his Gospel. He was referred to as Light in John 1:4. It is only in relationship to Him and thinking like Him that we understand what life really is and develop capacity for life. It is the eternal life of God that illuminates man as to what truth is. The Light shines in the darkness and is continuously reaching out into the darkness. This is the outreach of God promoted by His impersonal love to all mankind, to save man, and it starts at the cross. John 3:19 NASB "This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. [20] For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. [21] But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God." Then Jesus said in John 8:12 NASB "I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life."

1 John 2:9 NASB "The one who says he is in the Light and {yet} hates his brother is in the darkness until now." This is not saying that this person is not saved. The only verb in that verse is the verb "is." But there is something left out, and this is typical of John and the Lord Jesus Christ did the same thing in John 15. In 1 John 2:10 we read NASB "The one who loves his brother abides in the Light…" The verb in v. 10 is "abide." If we look back at verse 9 it doesn't mention abide, it just uses the word "is." So when he says "the one who says he is in the Light," which John is talking about, is abiding in the Light. If we claim to be in fellowship, if we claim to be walking in the Light, and yet our life demonstrates antagonism, hatred, hostility, anger towards another believer, then we are out of fellowship and in carnality, we are operating on our sin nature and do not have an operative relationship with the Lord in our life. In contrast, verse 10, the one who loves his brother, applies doctrine, and is advancing to spiritual maturity, "brother abides in the Light [continues in fellowship] and there is no cause for stumbling in him." It is only if he is abiding in the Light and there is no sin. We have to go back and understand what Paul says in Galatians 5:16 NASB "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh." What Paul is saying is that when we are walking by means of God the Holy Spirit—which means we are in fellowship, walking in the Light, abiding in Christ—it is impossible to sin. That means we have to do something before we sin. We have to stop walking. Somewhere along the line we make a decision to stop walking in dependence upon God the Holy Spirit by applying His Word and we choose to live our life the way we want to. Then we are out of fellowship and under the control of the sin nature, and then we sin. That is what John is saying: when we are abiding in the Light there is no cause for stumbling. We have to make a decision to quit abiding, quit walking by means of the Holy Spirit in order for the sin nature to resume control. 

1 John 2:11 NASB "But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes." John contrasts back; he teaches by contrast: the one who claims to walk but hates, the one who walks but loves, and now the one who hates. The one who hates in walking in the darkness. The concepts of walking and abiding are synonymous, they emphasise that continuing, ongoing fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ and with the Holy Spirit as we advance to spiritual maturity. Being in darkness means being out of fellowship and liable for divine discipline. Without the illumination of doctrine and application of doctrine in the soul then any person, believer or unbeliever—but in this case the believer who is in carnality—cannot look at his life objectively, cannot make good decisions, cannot understand what the real issues in life are, because he is operating in darkness, on false thinking, false systems of thinking; he has excluded God's revelation from his thinking. He is viewed as blind and in darkness and he has no capacity for life, for happiness, and he is on the path of self-destruction.

What we find here in these verses is the introduction of a category of doctrine that will become a major theme in the epistle of John. It is not only a major theme in this epistle but it is a summary of the entire Christian way of life. Sadly it is one of the most confused and distorted doctrines in churches today, i.e. the concept of love. What did Jesus mean when He said: "Love one another as I have loved you." The verb here is agapao [a)gapaw]. There are four different words for love in Greek, two are found in the New Testament agapao and phileo [filew]. agapao usually emphasises unconditional love and phileo indicates a more intense intimate love. It, too, maybe unconditional but the emphasis on phileo is on intimacy and intensity. agapao and agape [a)gaph] the noun are found in 1st John; phileo and philos [filoj] are not. agapao is used 28 times in 1st John, the noun agape is used 18 times, a total of 46 references to love. That ought to say something about what the emphasis, one of the major themes, is in this epistle.

Trying to understand a definition of love  

1.  Working definition: Love is a mental attitude, not an emotion, which desires the absolute best for its object. There are several things to note about that as a working definition. a) As a mental attitude we are emphasising stability, not emotion which is instability. It is a decision, not just something that happens to us, it is not based on circumstances. "Best" is a value term. That means we have to have objectivity, something in the soul that enables us to understand what is best and what is worst. Some people would say that is awfully arrogant to think that somebody can determine what is best for somebody else. But if we are operating on an external absolute that is provided by the Word of God then we know what the best is. We know what the good is, and only on the basis of God's revelation of what is best is can we make honest objective decisions towards anyone in our lives. b) Love unctions in different ways and in different capacities. There is romantic love, sexual love, parental love, the love of children for parents, sibling love, love between friends, love for God. So when Jesus said we ought to love one another, what kind of love is he talking about?

2.  Love is notoriously difficult to define. Most of us start with some kind of feeling, emotion, experience. Even Scripture never gives us a definition of love; instead it describes its characteristics, illustrates it through parables, and models it through the examples of Christ. Therefore we can know what love is and what it isn't, even though it might be difficult to encapsulate it in one simple definition.

3.  Webster's Dictionary: "It emphasises the attraction, desire or affection felt for a person who arouses delight or admiration, or elicits tenderness, sympathetic interest or benevolence. Secondly, it means warm attachment, enthusiasm or devotion. Third, the benevolence attributed to God resembling a father's affection for his children. (Notice, when it comes to God even Webster's falls short) Do these definitions fit with God's love for the world in John 3:16? No, they don't.

4.  What is the solution? There are two categories or expressions of divine love that manifest themselves. Scripture talks about the love of God and yet it expresses itself in different ways. The primary thing we think about the love of God is God's personal love. Personal love is the expression or dedication or devotion to an object with whom God has rapport, with whom God has something in common, something of affinity. God has personal love for another person who is compatible with Him. That exists only in the Trinity. God is eternal, He has always loved and been loved. This is one of the things that sets Christianity apart from every other religion in human history. Christianity is monotheistic but Christianity is a Trinitarian monotheism. Islam is a Unitarian monotheism. There can't be love unless there is an object of love; that is the point. Only in a Trinitarian God is there an eternal object of God's love. The second dimension of God's love is His impersonal love. Impersonal means that there does not have to be a personal relationship in order for this love to function. For example, John 3:16 says that God so loved the world, but God did not have a relationship with all those unbelievers in the world; yet God loved them. That is why it is impersonal. It is also unconditional love. Impersonal emphasises the fact that a personal relationship and personal knowledge is not necessary for the function of the love. Unconditional emphasises the fact that it doesn't involve a condition. The greatest example of divine impersonal love is the cross. God's love is what motivated His action. Love is not an emotional term.

5.  It is His love, His personal love and His impersonal love, that is the pattern, the model, the prototype of the new commandment. It is His love that we are to emulate in our lives. We are to love one another as Christ loved us. John 13:34, 35 NASB "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." God does not mandate impossibilities; Jesus mandate means that it is possible. But we can't do it on our own, we can't do it from our sin nature, we can only do it if God also gives us the Holy Spirit who is the one who produces that love in us. Galatians 5:21, 22. It is a unique kind of love that cannot be manufactured on our own and can't be something that the unbeliever produces.

6.  Divine impersonal love has its characteristics, but human impersonal love has the following characteristics: a) Impersonal love is impossible, but John doesn't mandate the impossible without providing the means of accomplishment; b) Impersonal love is the hallmark, the trademark of the believer. It is more than anything else our visible testimony and is a summation of the Christian way of life; c) Impersonal love is the basis for problem solving in human relations. In a relationship there is always need for impersonal love; d) Impersonal love is the ability to accept all people as they are, worts and all. It is both the absence of mental attitude sins, the absence of prejudice, and the presence of genuine concern, regard and solicitousness for even those who may be treating us poorly. It is not just the absence of sin, it is the presence of doing something for that person that is positive and beneficial and in their best regards; f) Impersonal love will have no stability or strength without grace orientation and doctrinal orientation. That is why those two elements are foundational; g) Impersonal love develops the capacity for life, love and happiness.  

Matthew 22:34-36 NASB "But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him {a question,} testing Him, 'Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?'" Notice, this lawyer doesn't know what the great commandment is. Then Jesus summarises the Law. [37] "And He said to him, 'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND. [38] This is the great and foremost commandment. [39] The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' [40] On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets'."

In Luke we read of a similar situation but there are some important differences. Luke 10:25 NASB "And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, 'Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?'" This lawyer already knows the summation of the two great commandments, so this is probably after the Matthew 25 incident. [26] "And He said to him, 'What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?' [27] And he answered, 'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' [28] And He said to him, 'You have answered correctly; DO THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE.' [29] But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, 'And who is my neighbor?'" The motive is not to learn anything, it is self-justification. [30] "Jesus replied and said, 'A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. [31] And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. [32] Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. [33] But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, [34] and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on {them;} and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him." With the Samaritan, this is impersonal love. He shows compassion, he is motivated to do something positive for this person. He doesn't know him, he hasn't a clue who he is; in fact he represents a group of people who hate him. It cost the Samaritan something, and he did it not on the basis of who and what the victim was but because of what is in his own soul. [35] "On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.' [36] Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers' {hands?} [37] And he said, 'The one who showed mercy toward him.' Then Jesus said to him, 'Go and do the same'."

So there we see a parable that illustrates what impersonal love is. It is not simply the absence of mental attitude sins but it is the presence of something positive and beneficial, doing something good that may even cost us something in the process.

There is a command in Leviticus 19:18 to reference here. NASB "You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD." That is the Old Testament version, but there is a higher New Testament version which is John 13:34, 35. The Leviticus passage was addressed to Israel, believer and unbeliever were expected to fulfil this mandate. John 13 is addressed to the church only, believer only; not everyone, but to love one another. It is directed primarily toward believers. The command in both instances is to love. Leviticus 19:18 is to love your neighbour, i.e. anyone in your periphery, where as John 13:34, 35 is addressed to one another, every believer, even those who are obnoxious. The point of comparison, in Leviticus the command is to love your neighbour as yourself. Without the Holy Spirit, without the example of Christ coming at the cross the highest example that every person loves himself—Ephesians 5, no man hates his own flesh, etc. It is a general principle: everybody takes care of himself. But this is saying don't just put yourself first, put somebody else first. That was the best that could be done in the Old Testament without the indwelling and filling of God the Holy Spirit and without the model of Jesus Christ. But they failed, they couldn't even do that. In the New Testament there is an even higher standard, we are to love one another as Christ has loved us. None of us can do that, it can only come through a supernatural encounter on the basis of God the Holy Spirit. That is why loving one another with impersonal love is crucial to the spiritual life, and it indicates the advance in spiritual maturity.