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Two Loves 1 John 2:7-17

Love each other; Do not love the world. Our love for one another is evidence that we already HAVE OVERCOME the world!

1 John 2:7-17

Apr 27, 2014 12:00 PM


My Dear Brother Young,

I am penning you this line just before we get in to Queenstown to assure you that I have not forgotten you and especially all your kindness while we were North.  I intended sending on Mrs. Pratt's train fares just before I left but in the rush which was exceptional having had 11 or 12 services for the week-end, I was unable to get it done.  I will send it on from Chicago.

We had a great season of blessing during the last few days in Walworth.  I don't know how I am to thank dear Aunty Mary and yourself for all your kindness.  The Lord will repay you for it all.  Trust things are going well at Paisley Road.  [The warriors are with me here and are doing well so far on the journey.]

Very kindest love, your loving auld Pastor,

John Harper

Who is Pastor John Harper?  Why did I read you his letter?  And what difference, if any, does it make?  It all depends upon the context in which it was written.

Pastor Harper wrote that brief note and sent it to a friend in his church in Scotland.  Reverend Harper travelled with his daughter Nina Harper and Miss Jessie Leitch from London enroute to Chicago.  Rev Harper was on his way to Chicago to begin a series of revival meetings at the Moody Church.  He had been at the church during November, December and January of 1911/12 and his success there resulted in his being recalled to conduct a second series of meetings.

On the evening of April 14 the Reverend Harper and Miss Leitch were standing on deck admiring the sunset.  "It will be beautiful in the morning," remarked Rev. Harper before retiring for the night.  Reverend Harper and Miss Leitch were on the HMS Titanic.

After the collision with the iceberg, Harper awakened his daughter, picked her up and wrapped her in a blanket before carrying her up to A deck.  There he kissed her goodbye and handed her to a crewman, who put her into Lifeboat #11 with Miss Leitch.  Rev Harper went down with the ship.

Does knowing this information make any difference in how we read his letter?  Does it influence your thinking at all, knowing that note was written only a few days before the “unsinkable” Titanic struck an iceberg and 1496 passengers drowned, including Rev. Harper?  It certainly doesn’t change the meaning of his words.  But it does give us some insight into the circumstances surrounding the writing of the letter.  Otherwise, the letter would be totally unimportant and of no particular value.

Now let’s consider the apostle John.  We don’t know precisely when or where he was when he wrote his Gospel or his three little letters, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John.  But there is something I find interesting about his circumstances.  Bible scholars have reason to believe, based upon the testimony of some of the early church fathers, that John was part of a large group of Jews who left Jerusalem around the year 67 AD.  This would have been just three before the Romans destroyed the city and the temple.

It is also believed that John lived in or near the city of Ephesus, famous for its idolatry.  It was a Gentile city.  The Apostle Paul was the first to preach the gospel there and through his preaching, the Lord saved many people, both Jewish and Gentile, and a church was established.  It is entirely reasonable to think John would have become a part of that body of believers.  So when he writes his letters and he refers to “my little children”, he may have been referring to those believers in and around Ephesus to whom he had become a spiritual father.

How does the story of Pastor John Harper compare with the life of the Apostle John?  There aren’t a lot of close comparisons, but both man witnessed great tragedies.  Pastor Harper saw the great ship Titanic sink with great loss of life and he lost his own life.  And although he didn’t see it with his own eyes, the Apostle John saw Jerusalem sink.  It was completely destroyed in 70 AD.  According to the ancient historian Josephus, over 1 million people were slaughtered by the Romans, mostly Jews.

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We do not know what will happen tomorrow, do we?  The Apostle John probably did not know Jerusalem would be razed, although Jesus prophesied that very thing.  Neither did Pastor John Harper know the ship in which he was traveling would sink and thousands, including himself, would die.  We cannot see the future.  God has not given us the ability to see or know what will happen to us even in the next hour.

What we do know is great evils happen often.  We know this world is under a curse.  We know people die.  Many people die, minute of every hour of every day.  We know that unless the Lord comes soon, we will all die.

But we also know the Lord Jesus is coming again.  We who trust in Him believe His words when He said, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:18 ESV)  And, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live. (John 11:25 ESV)  And, ”I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”  (John 10:28 ESV)

Regardless of what may happen tomorrow, or next week, or next year, regardless of what tragedies or catastrophes may occur, we know that none of it will occur apart from the sovereign hand of a good God, and we know God loves us.  The Lord Jesus is the unassailable proof of God’s love for His people.  And He is coming again to take us home.

But until He comes, we have a life to live for God.  As Christians, our lives are not our own.  We do not belong to ourselves so that we might live our lives however we may choose.  No, we belong to Him.  We have been purchased by His blood.  This is why we call Him Lord: because we are here to do His bidding.  We are not here to live for self.

John has written his brief letter as something of a pamphlet.  Not a gospel tract to be used as an evangelistic tool, but a tract to be used to encourage Christians in how to live as believers in a cursed, fallen, sinful world until Christ comes again for us.  It is also written to encourage those who already ARE living for Christ and overcoming the world.  Look with me at 1 John, chapter 2.  I want to read verses 7 through 17.

[7] Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning.  The old commandment is the word that you have heard. [8] At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. [9] Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. [10] Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. [11] But whoever 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.  (1 John 2:7-11 ESV)

[12] I am writing to you, little children,

because your sins are forgiven for his name's sake.

[13] I am writing to you, fathers,

because you know him who is from the beginning.

I am writing to you, young men,

because you have overcome the evil one.

I write to you, children,

because you know the Father.

[14] I write to you, fathers,

because you know him who is from the beginning.

I write to you, young men,

because you are strong,

and the word of God abides in you,

and you have overcome the evil one.  (1 John 2:12-14 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.  (1 John 2:15-17 ESV)

We’ve already spoken about verses 7 through 11.  Since we believe John was living in Ephesus and he was most probably part of the church there, it would make sense for him to write about the need for, and the command from the Lord for brothers and sisters to love one another in the Lord.

Why do I say that?  Because the church in Ephesus consisted of both Jewish and Gentile believers.  Many of the Jewish believers had arrived only recently.  They had traveled there from Jerusalem because of increasing persecution.  They probably didn’t speak Greek as fluently as the Jews who had lived in Ephesus many years.  And they probably had a difficult time living in a city that was so idolatrous.  And we are confident they had a problem with their Gentile brethren when it came to food!

So the old command that they were familiar with for centuries, to love God and my neighbor as myself, has expanded and become in essence a new command because now they are to love not only their fellow Jews, but fellow Christians who are not Jews.  That is a very new command for these Christians.

But this is the kind of love that differentiates between genuine Christians and make-believe Christians.  Real Christians love one another, regardless of any other distinctions or differences there may be between them.  This is precisely why we read numerous times in the New Testament  that in Christ, there is neither Jew nor Gentile, male or female, slave or free.  All believers are one in Christ.  Therefore, we love one another.  And John states it very clearly in verse 9 -- Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. You cannot be a genuine Christian and hate fellow believers.  We MUST love one another.

Now we come to verses 12-14.  Most Bible translators believe John wrote these verses to be repeated and remembered.  Maybe they were to be read like a poem or a song, or they were an early form of catechism to teach basic doctrine.  We’re not entirely sure.  But what John writes here is very instructional.  Here he tells us repeatedly why he writes this letter:

I am writing to you . . . Because . . . (X3)

I write to you . . . Because . . . (X3)

And he addresses these things to three groups of people: children, young men, and older men.

We need to understand what John is doing here.  He is not saying each group has had specific spiritual experience the other two groups have not had.  He’s not saying, “My little children, you know the Father.  But you older men do not.”  Or, “You young men have overcome the evil one (the devil), but you young children have not.”

Even though John addresses a particular group with a particular spiritual experience, he is actually speaking about these things to remind the entire church, young and old, that these things apply to them all!  They all know the Father.  They all have come to know Him who was from the beginning (the Lord Jesus).  They all have overcome the world.  They all have experienced the forgiveness of their sins.  These are the common spiritual experiences of all believers in the church.

But there is another thing here that we need to pay attention to.  In the previous verses, John commands the church to love the brethren.  Even though there may be differences between them, the command stands: Love one another.

I have a question for you: Is it ever difficult for older Christians to love fellow believers who are children?  Is it ever difficult for young men who are believers to love their elders in the faith?  Is there such a thing as what we used to call a “generation gap” in the church?  Well, yes!  Often times age causes division between Christians.

So we have solved that problem by having multiple worship services.  Now, rather than being forced to love people we don’t like, the old people can sing their lame old hymns in their own worship service, and the hip and cool young people can rock out in their own worship service.  And we can even have a third service for all the young families who arrive in minivans, home school their kids, and all the moms wear denim jumpers.

And the three groups never run the risk of having to interact with each other.  Problem solved!

Beloved, that is not the way it is supposed to be.  I believe one point John makes for us here in these verses is that ALL of God’s people are to love ALL the brethren.  Young and old, men and women and children, Jew and Gentile, ALL.  We all have too much in common to allow divisions between us.  Our sins are forgiven!  We know the Father!  We know the Lord Jesus!  The word of God abides in us and we have overcome the world!

Therefore, we have this logical conclusion: Love each other; Do not love the world.  And your love for one another is evidence that you already HAVE OVERCOME the world!  When we love each other, the world knows we belong to Jesus Christ.  We are not going along with the world, we are not conforming to how the world wants us to live.  We are following Jesus Christ and living for Him, TOGETHER.

We cannot be Christians and simultaneously love the world.  Now someone might want to remind me that God loves the world.  In fact, He loved the world so much that He sent Jesus to save us.  But once again, the word “world” has several meanings.  When John said, “God so love the world that He gave His only begotten Son,” he was talking about the people of the world.  People all over the world.

Here in 1 John, “world” means the ways of the world that are against God: the philosophies of the world, the ungodly belief systems of the world, the loves of the world like the love of money and the love of power and the love of possessions.  Or the love of self.  These are the idols of the world.

The Christian has overcome the ways and the anti-Christian thinking of the world through faith in Christ.  Faith in Christ is “other-worldly”.  It is supernatural.  It is from God.  It is not from the world.  That’s why John says what he says in verses 15-17:

[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.  (1 John 2:15-17 ESV)

The natural desires that we have for worldly things is not from God.  The desires of the flesh would include anything that we long for to satisfy our physical bodies, namely food and sex.  Both are good, but when they are abused, when they are sought after uncontrollably, when food becomes a passion and when sex becomes uncontrolled and practiced outside of marriage, then we are loving the ways of the world.  That is what the ungodly do.

The desires of the eyes would be material things.  Riches.  Money, and all the things money can buy.  It is another form of idolatry.  I want this and that, and I want more and more, and I cannot satisfy my cravings for more stuff.  More clothes, more cars, more everything.  This is what God is speaking of when He commands Israel, “You shall not covet.”  But the world says, “You can never have too much of anything!”  More!  More!  And especially, more of whatever my neighbor has.  And better than my neighbor has.

Then there is the pride of life.  Prestige.  Power.  Position.  Authority.  The desire to rule over others, to be better than others, to have others admire me for how great I am.

These are the ways of the sinful world around us.  We cannot walk in those ways, in that darkness, in the ways that eventually lead to death and hell.

But whoever does the will of God abides forever!

So the question is, “What is the will of God?”  I want to live forever, and John says I will live forever IF I do the will of God.  So what is God’s will which results in eternal life?

A: Repent and believe the gospel.  Believe in God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Follow Him.  Love Him.  Walk in the light.  Love the brethren.  Do not love the world.

Pastor John Harper had no idea he would die that night when the Titanic began to slowly sink into the blackness of the North Atlantic Ocean.  But when he breathed his last breath and sank for the last time underneath those cold, dark waves, and descended into that blackness, . . .

Suddenly, he found himself in the presence of the Lord whom he loved and served.  Little did he know that his eternal life in glory would begin during his voyage to America to preach the Gospel.  He did not love the world.  He loved Jesus Christ.  And Pastor John Harper abides forever, with Christ, in glory.


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