For Teaching, Reproof, Correction, and Training in Righteousness, Issue 79

January 26, 2016 by Presbyterian Foundation

Ezekiel was surrounded by the ‘likeness' of the glory of the LORD, and he heard ‘someone' speaking: “eat what is offered to you; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel” (Ezekiel 1:28, 3:1). Each week, pastors continue to eat what is offered to them, and continue to speak to the community of faith. From time to time, the Presbyterian Foundation will offer brief studies of Scripture that may be useful to pastors in teaching and preaching God's word.

In the space of 19 verses – 1 John 4:7 through 5:5 – forms of the word “love” (agapē) occur 32 times! An address to John's “Beloved” is followed by nouns and verbs of love, including the “definition,” God is love (1 John 4:8). We are urged to love one another and to love God, and we are told that this love is not our accomplishment, because we only love because we have first been loved by God. We are assured that if we love one another God abides in us and love will be perfected in us. There is no fear in love, we are told, but we are warned that we are liars if we say we love God but hate others. Love is both gift and commandment. Love, love, love.

This remarkable section of John's letter presses forward to reassure us that the command to love is not burdensome, that love is not a duty to be grudgingly performed. To be born of God is to be born into love, and “everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world!”(5:4). John goes on to say, “And this is the victory that overcomes the world … ” At this point, we might expect that the victory that overcomes the world is … love. John Lennon would approve, for “all we need is love, love is all we need.” But no, our John says that the victory that overcomes the world is … our faith!

“Faith” (pistis) is rich New Testament word. It signifies belief, but not only belief. It also signifies trust and loyalty. Believing that something is true means little if we do not act, trusting that something in our lives, and trusting only means something if it endures so that we are loyal to the substance of our trusting belief.

The victory that overcomes the world is our belief that the love of God was made manifest among us in Jesus Christ, our trust that God abides in us so that we can love one another, and our loyalty to God's new Way of love in the world. John Lennon was right that love is all we need, but what he didn't know is that it is the love of God in Christ that we need in order to live God's love for one another.

February 29 – March 2 – San Antonio, Texas