Love Of The Brethren In First John And Church History -- By: Michael A. G. Haykin
PRJ 1:2 (July 2009) p. 32
Love Of The Brethren In First John And Church History
Among the most precious texts of God’s Word is Ephesians 5:25b: “Christ …loved the church, and gave himself for it.” Before time began or space was formed, the One whom we know as the Lord Jesus Christ had set His heart on dying for human sinners. Not out of necessity, not by constraint nor grudgingly, but from a heart of love, out of mercy and kindness, freely and willingly, Christ came into this world to die for the church.
But, someone might ask, exactly what is the church? What is her nature? Historically, our Reformed forebears, both Paedobaptist and Baptist, have argued that a true church was one in which the Word of God was preached, the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper were properly administered, and biblical discipline was carried out. Now, without taking away one particle from this historic Reformed perspective, a close reading of the New Testament compels us to further affirm that a true church is marked out as a community of Christ-like love. Love is an indelible mark of a New Testament church.
Paul tells the Ephesians, for example, a few verses before the verse quoted above, to “walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us” (Eph. 5:2). Then, he reminds Timothy and the Ephesian church through this dear brother, that the goal of Christian preaching and teaching is “love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:5). The writer of Hebrews is content with a more simple admonition: “let brotherly love continue” (Heb. 13:1), as is Peter when the latter urges the believers in Asia Minor to “love the brethren” (1 Pet. 2:17). It is especially in
PRJ 1:2 (July 2009) p. 33
The writings of the Apostle John, however, that love of the brethren in particular and the language of love in general is to be found.1
First John: Its Context And Teaching On Love
Consider one of these texts, First John, written by the Apostle John towards the end of a long life when he was most probably living in the great urban center of Ephesus.2 In part, the letter is a Spirit-breathed response to a dire heresy that was threatening the spirituality and unity of the church in that city and the surrounding region. The heretics concerned denied the reality of the Incarnation (1 John 4:1– 6, see also
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