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That Ye Love One Another

That Ye Love One Another poster

“Thus saith Jehovah, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.”—Jeremiah 6:16

Periodically it does us good to look back, to remind ourselves of the mighty movings of God in the past, but we must not remain there. We must in some way under God relate what has happened in the past to that which can and must occur in the present if we are to know the touch of God upon us.

It seems to me that there are old pathways that we ought to think about. These old pathways set before us the way to revival, the way to the blessing of God if we will but follow them. I think of submission to the will of God, the reality of prayer, a knowledge of the Word of God and obedience thereto, and abhorrence of sin, and a passion for souls, and the manifestation of brotherly love as some of these old paths. And you have been thinking of these things and other things. I’d like to dwell in some of the Scriptures which speak about the old path of brotherly love. I think if I were to take a text, I would take it from the closing verse and the opening verses of chapters four and five of Ephesians and select these words, “Walk in love even as Christ also loved you.”

There are three things I would like to think with you about, and in utter simplicity I want to turn to the Scriptures themselves and trust that the Spirit of God will speak to your heart personally about these three matters. I would like to speak about the necessity for love, then to give you some guide-posts concerning the exercise of love, and finally point to the source of love. And again I remind you I simply want to let the Word of God speak to us about these matters. The only plea that I would make is a two-fold plea. (1) Let God speak; and (2) let Him speak to you as though there were no one else, not letting our minds wander to the appropriateness of a verse for someone else, but letting it be God’s direct and definite message to you as though you were the only soul here. For if revival is to come, it will come only as we personally and individually before God makes decisions and act upon them.

First let us consider the necessity of love. I would remind you that the Lord Jesus taught that we were to love our enemies, for in Matthew 5:44 He is recorded as having said to the disciples, “I say unto you, love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you.” He also taught that we are to love our neighbors. In Matthew 19:19 it is recorded, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” This quotation from the Old Testament is repeated no less than seven times in the New Testament. Both in the Gospel section and in the epistolary section of the New Testament, you will find this word, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Now, beloved, surely we are to love our enemy, if we are to love our neighbor, we should love one another. And it is this particular emphasis that the Word of God brings to us. John 15:12 “This is My commandment that ye love one another even as I have loved you.” The great standard of love is the love of the Lord toward us. Hear it again, “Love one another even as I have loved you.” But, my friend, this is not an optional matter. This is obligatory, for the Word of the Scriptures says, “This is My commandment.” And so it impinges upon you and upon me. It is a matter of absolute requirement so far as the will of God is concerned that we love one another even as He loved us. Would you let that sink in? Would you let God Himself breathe that word into your spirit? No Christian can be an obedient Christian while hating anyone, least of all his brother in Christ. “This is My commandment.”

You say you love the Lord. You say you rejoice to be a Christian. You say that you are living in the will of God. What about this commandment? Does it find expression in your life?

Now the Word of God not only sets the matter before us in positive fashion, it gives us the other side of the coin as well. And there are some shattering verses in the Word of God that describes the individual who despises, who hates his brother. In 1 John 3:15 we read “whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer; and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” Now despite all of your claims to eternal life, despite all your claims as to a relationship to God through the Lord Jesus, may I boldly say that if you hate, I take it on the basis of this verse, you are not a child of God. You have deceived yourself. I don’t know what this verse does to you but it searches my heart very deeply.

In 1 John 4:20, we read “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar; for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, cannot love God whom he hath not seen.” Now, beloved, again let me say let every man be a liar, let God be true. Despite all the over-flowing language that comes from your lips confessing love to God; you do not love God if you hate your brother. For, continues the Scripture, “He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, cannot love God whom he hath not seen.”

So we have on the one hand the command to love, and on the other hand the Word concerning hate. Both point out the necessity of love for the one who professes to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus. And I would remind you that to love is the more excellent way. First Corinthians 12:31, “Desire earnestly the greater gifts and moreover a most excellent way show I unto you. If I speak with the tongue of men and of angels and have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I bestow all my good to feed the poor, if I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profiteth me nothing.” This is the most excellent way. I think altogether too long some of us have put the wrong thing in the first place so far as exhibiting the presence and the power of God is concerned. The importance of love is shown by its necessity as commanded in the Word of God. The insignia invested by the authority of heaven that designates a Christian is love for the brethren. This is what the Lord Jesus taught.

There are many good things for which a Christian should be known. There are many fine and wonderful deeds which he should perform, many practices into which he should enter. And all of them have place in the life of an obedient, yielded child of God. But none takes precedence over love for the brethren. This is the sign. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if you have love one to another.”

Now let us pass on from the necessity of love and look into the Word of God concerning the exercise of love and let the Word of God show us some sign posts, some guide posts that will help us in evaluating the kind of love which we profess, the kind of love we exercise. Maybe I should speak of these things as warnings rather than guide posts because it is so easy to be mistaken as to the quality of the love which we espouse, which we claim to have.

Let us look at some verses that touch upon hypocrisy and love. The first one is in Romans 12:9, and it reads “Let love be without hypocrisy.” In your King James Version it is translated “dissimulation” which means the same thing. We can stand and sing hymns about love and then go out and be bitter of heart. Our profession is one thing; our possession is another thing. God help us! It is so easy face to face, to claim love for someone and then bitterly speak about that person when his back is turned. That is hypocrisy. That is sham. That is subterfuge. That is condemned by God. “Let love be without hypocrisy.”

Peter adds the “amen” to Paul’s affirmation, for in 1 Peter 1:22 I read, “Seeing ye have purified your souls in your obedience to the truth unto unfeigned love to the brethren, love one another from the heart fervently.” Notice the objective; notice the goal that is involved in our obedience in purifying our hearts as we obey the truth. What is the object? It was unto unfeigned love. No hypocrisy. No sham. No false face. Unfeigned love—that was the objective. Now since that is true, says the Word of God, “Love one another from the heart fervently” with warmest of heart, deeply as well as sincerely, fervently as well as unfeignedly.

What about your love? My love—is there hypocrisy in it? Then it is not the love of the Scriptures. Then it is not the love the Lord is talking about in loving the brethren.

Take a second guide post. You’ll find it in Hebrews 12:15, and I read only the part of the verse that is relevant to what we are considering. I would say in passing, Child of God look carefully at Hebrews 12 and look particularly at the three occurrences of the word “Lest.” I am only going to look at one with you. There are three. The one that I want to single out and emphasize is this one, “Looking carefully lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.” A root of bitterness. Love cannot abide where any root of bitterness grows. There is an Old Testament phrase that comes to mind in this connection, you will find it in Deuteronomy 29:18, where you read, “A root that beareth gall and wormwood.” The root of bitterness produces the fruit of bitterness, and when there is bitterness on the inside sooner or later it is going to show on the outside. But how subtle these roots of bitterness are. Sometimes we cherish animosity against someone under the guise of rightful indignation and we say it isn’t that we’re personally angry with that person, it is that we are standing for the truth, and we are righteously indignant. I have had people speak to me this way. I have received letters of this kind. What about this matter of righteous indignation? There is a place for righteous indignation, of course. How are we going to get the standard with which to judge in this matter? Judge ourselves, not someone else. Remember that the Lord Jesus was never angry when men did anything against Him personally. He was angry over what men did to His Father’s house, but He was mocked, and He was not angry! And I think the test is this; are we angry over what men have done to us personally? Let me suggest another test. This has been very helpful to me over the years, and I pass it on to you hoping that God may use it in your life. As soon as there is a delight to hurt, as soon as there is a certain satisfaction in bruising, as soon as there is a desire to get even, you can be absolutely sure that your disposition is not of God. That brands your anger as personal and unworthy.

But sometimes under the guise of righteous indignation, we take out our bitterness against someone else. Let us be very careful, for I would remind you that when you allow bitterness to come into your soul against anyone and particularly against a child of God, there is a tremendous price to pay. You wither your own soul, you blacken your own name, you shrivel your own reputation by stooping to such baseness, and while you may get certain personal satisfaction for the moment, out of telling somebody else off, and being bitter and angry, it is a Pyrrhic victory indeed. For you suffer spiritually. Bitterness and rancor, my friend, are not of God, and it is far better to bear patiently the trials and testings than to get personally bitter and angry about them.

There is a third guide post that I would mention. Love always considers one’s self as well as others. What do I mean by that? Let Scripture speak. Galatians 6:1, “Brethren, if a man be overtake in any trespass, ye who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness looking to thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” There are times when it is necessary for those in authority to exercise discipline, and that discipline must be enforced according to the Word of God. But God help us always to consider ourselves too. Do you know what I have found over the years? Maybe what I have found is not generally true, I only observe it because it has happened so frequently but it may help somebody that is on the danger edge of things. You know I have found so often that that which most greatly offends an individual, that which he takes the strongest stand against, can be the very place the devil gets him. I’ve seen this. Consider thyself, lest thou also be tempted. God help us to remember that we too are creatures subject to temptation.

The Lord Jesus has something to say about this business of judging others, and there is a proper judgment, there is the necessity for discernment. I understand this. Do you remember what the Lord Jesus said? This is what He said: Matthew 7, “Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, the beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” Isn’t this an amazing declaration? All the while you’re concerned about the minute particle in your brother’s eye, you have a piece of lumber in your own, and you are the worst off of the two. That can happen, and the Lord calls you a hypocrite if it does.

I remember reading a story. One day a class leader among the early Methodists came to John Wesley and said to John Wesley, “God has given me a great gift.” Mr. Wesley said, “well, what is it?” He said, “God has given me sharp eyes to detect the failures of the members of my class.” And John Wesley is alleged to have replied, “Brother, I do not think that the Lord would mind your burying that talent.” While the beam is in your eye, be careful about the judgment of the mote in your brother’s eye. That is a guide post that will help you.

There is a fourth one. Love always remembers the judgment seat of Christ. Love takes in the fact that we are all going to stand at that judgment seat of Christ. Says the Apostle Paul in Romans 14:4, “Who are thou that judgest the servant of another, to his own Lord he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be made to stand, for the Lord hath power to make him stand.” In verse 12, I read, “So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God.” You are going to do that. I am going to do that. In the light of that I shall live differently now.

Finally, can I say a word concerning the source of love? You say, Mr. Culbertson, I know that everything you’ve said is true, but this hard heart of mine, this cold heart of mine, is such that I cannot produce this love. Well, frankly I hope you are saying that because I am not talking about human love. Even in its greatest expression I am not talking about human love. Let’s look to some passages of Scripture. The Lord Jesus is praying, and the record of it is in John chapter 17, and I read at verse 25 that He prayed on this fashion, “O righteous Father, the world knew Thee not, but I knew Thee, and these knew that Thou didst send Me, and I made known unto them Thy Name and will make it known that the love wherewith Thou lovest me may be in them.” Not just toward them, not just for them, but in them. And the divine purpose is the shedding abroad in our hearts the love of God.

Now let us see how other verses tell us the same truth. Over in 1 John 4:7, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God.” Quite literally, love is out of God. God is the source of love is what is being said there. Love is of God, and everyone that loveth is begotten of God, for to love in this sense, to love in the New Testament definition of the word is divine in origin. It is God’s love shed abroad in our hearts. “He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is Love.” Verse 11, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” And one final verse, Galatians 5:22, “For the fruit of the Spirit is love.” You see this love is born of the Holy Spirit in the child of God. God is the Author of it. Now what does that mean? That I sit back with willy-nilly complacency and with folded hands and say, “all right, if God doesn’t love that way through me, then I’m not responsible.” You little hearted individual! Listen to me. The Spirit of God is ready to produce His fruit in every child of God that is submissive to the Lord Jesus and who walks in faith, and if that love is not manifested in your heart and life it is not His fault. It is your fault because the supply is there. The hindrance has been erected by you, and thus we are left without excuse, without a word to say in our defense when we say “I don’t have this kind of love.” Of course, you don’t.

I am constrained to say that I believe that a revival of great proportions will come to any group of people who loving the Lord love each other out of a pure heart fervently. Is it any wonder that the old hymn writer penned these lines: “How sweet, how heavenly is the sight when those who love the Lord in one another’s peace delight and so fulfill His Word; when each can fill his brother’s sigh and with him bear a part; when sorrow flows from eye to eye and joy from heart to heart; when free from envy, scorn, and pride our wishes all above, each can his brother’s failings hide and show a brother’s love.

How long has it been since in sympathy you have sat with a brother and looked to God together? How long has it been since you’ve joyed in the blessing of God upon a brother and you have told him so? Beloved, I’m not preaching at you. I have much to learn, but God knows my heart. I want to learn it. For by this shall all men know that ye are My disciples if ye have love one to another.” Will you remember these things? Amen.

(Sermon preached by Dr. William Culbertson on December 13, 1964)