I've already written about various ways we can know if we have eternal life, if we are among the saved. It's interesting that they are mostly behavioral. They are almost entirely rooted in what we do (Matthew 7:17-20; Luke 8:15; John 15:8). Mind you, what we do doesn't save, but faith without works is dead faith (James 2:17) and the notion that you can be born again, indwelt by the Spirit, empowered by God, and have a new heart and not change is, frankly, nonsense.
Biblically, however, there appears to be one test repeated above all others. We've already looked at it, but it is repeated so often that it deserves another look. This test was offered by Christ Himself and repeated in other passages.
This statement is made in John 14. "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (John 14:15). Love is the command. Now, it does not say, "You love Me by obeying Me." That's not there at all. It says that the natural result of loving Christ is obeying Him. And that makes perfect sense. You pursue hardest that which you love the most. Simple. If you love Him, your greatest joy is doing that which pleases Him. Not hard to figure at all. Beyond this, then, Jesus considered it a test of sorts.
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35)
The idea is that there is a defining mark, a clear proof, whereby people can look and say, "Yep! They have the mark of a disciple of Christ." What is that mark? "Love for one another." Without it, you have reason to question your relationship with Christ. On two counts, in fact, because we've already seen "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." If loving Christ is the primary connection to salvation and we refuse to obey, there is a logical disconnect if we don't obey and especially if we don't obey in this primary command to love one another.
So important was this test that Jesus reworded it in His High Priestly Prayer as a critical demonstration of His relationship with His Father.
"I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me." (John 17:20-21)
Loving one another -- being one -- is the primary test "so that the world may believe that You have sent Me." Our unity in our love for one another tells the world that Christ is God's Son sent to save them. Say that another way. Our unity in love for one another is the proof of the Gospel.
John really keyed in on this in his epistle written "so you may know that you have eternal life" (1 John 5:13). He wrote, "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God" (1 John 4:7). Love here is the absolutely essential ingredient. "Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love" (1 John 4:8). John believes God's love for us makes the clear demand that we love one another (1 John 4:11). Then he goes on to say, "If we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us" (1 John 4:12). He concludes, "If anyone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him: whoever loves God must also love his brother" (1 John 4:20-21). Helpfully, he gives an example of "love his brother." "By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?" (1 John 3:16-17).
Jesus said it. John expanded on it. Paul was clear on it (Galatians 5:14). Love is the critical test. Love produces behaviors which include obedience to God and genuine concern for the welfare of others with special attention to loving the brethren. You can't love in word only; it must include action. "We ought to lay down our lives for the brothers." It is the best test available.
So, how about it? How are you doing? Do you love the brethren? Or do you find that a good number of those brethren irritate you enough that you refuse to love them? Could your refusal be sufficient to be classified as hate? How does your interaction with online believers look -- love or hate? (Note that "disagree" or even "confront sin" are not, by definition, "hate." The heart attitude and intent define that.) Scripture considers love for the brethren the best possible test. Each of us needs to examine ourselves to see if we're in the faith.
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