Sabbath, May 14, 2016

“Christ had bidden the first disciples love one another as He had loved them….

“It is not the opposition of the world that most endangers the church of Christ. It is the evil cherished in the hearts of believers that works their most grievous disaster and most surely retards the progress of God’s cause. There is no surer way of weakening spirituality than by cherishing envy, suspicion, faultfinding, and evil surmising. On the other hand, the strongest witness that God has sent His Son into the world is the existence of harmony and union among men of varied dispositions who form His church….” –Conflict and Courage, p. 357.

Divine love and brotherly love

1. What is God’s greatest attribute that draws people to Him?

1 John 4:8, second part, 16 … God is love…. 16And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.

“ ‘God is love’ is written upon every opening bud, upon every spire of springing grass. The lovely birds making the air vocal with their happy songs, the delicately tinted flowers in their perfection perfuming the air, the lofty trees of the forest with their rich foliage of living green–all testify to the tender, fatherly care of our God and to His desire to make His children happy.” –Steps to Christ, p. 10.

“The first lesson that children are to be taught is that God is their Father. This lesson should be given them in their earliest years. Parents are to realize that they are responsible before God for making their children acquainted with their heavenly Father…. That God is love is to be taught by every lesson.” –Child Guidance, p. 487.

2. Toward whom has He especially manifested His great love?

1 John 4:9, 10 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

“In the love of God has been opened the most marvelous vein of precious truth, and the treasures of the grace of Christ are laid open before the church and the world. ‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son….’ John 3:16. What love is this–what marvelous, unfathomable love–that would lead Christ to die for us while we were yet sinners! What a loss it is to the soul who understands the strong claims of the law, and who yet fails to understand the grace of Christ which doth much more abound! It is true that the law of God reveals the love of God when it is preached as the truth in Jesus; for the gift of Christ to this guilty world must be largely dwelt upon in every discourse.” –Selected Messages, book 1, p. 384.

3. Therefore, if we love God, whom else will we love? Are we conscious that true brotherly love depends on our love for the Lord?

1 John 4:7, 21 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God…. 21And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

“After the descent of the Holy Spirit, the disciples went forth to proclaim a risen Saviour, their one desire the salvation of souls. They rejoiced in the sweetness of the communion with saints. They were tender, thoughtful, self-denying, willing to make any sacrifice for the truth’s sake. In their daily association with one another they revealed the love that Christ had commanded them to reveal. By unselfish words and deeds they strove to kindle this love in other hearts.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, p. 241.

Brotherly love and credibility

4. According to Jesus’ words, what is the test of our credibility? What new commandment did He give?

John 13:35, 34 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another…. 34A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

“The believers were ever to cherish the love that filled the hearts of the apostles after the descent of the Holy Spirit. They were to go forward in willing obedience to the new commandment: ‘As I have loved you, that ye also love one another.’ John 13:34. So closely were they to be united to Christ that they would be enabled to fulfill His requirements. The power of a Saviour who could justify them by His righteousness was to be magnified….

“The world is looking with gratification at the disunion amongst Christians. Infidelity is well pleased. God calls for a change among His people. Union with Christ and with one another is our only safety in these last days. Let us not make it possible for Satan to point to our church members, saying: ‘Behold how these people, standing under the banner of Christ, hate one another. We have nothing to fear from them while they spend more strength fighting one another than in warfare with my forces.” ’ –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, pp. 241, 240.

Brotherly love and behavior

5. Instead of engaging in futile, disparaging conversation, what are we commanded to do when we meet with our brothers so we may strengthen them?

1 Thessalonians 5:11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

“Through the apostle Paul, Christ bids us, ‘Let your speech be alway with grace.’ ‘Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.’ Colossians 4:6; Ephesians 4:29. In the light of these scriptures, the words of Christ upon the mount are seen to condemn jesting, trifling, and unchaste conversation. They require that our words should be not only truthful, but pure.

“Those who have learned of Christ will ‘have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.’ Ephesians 5:11. In speech, as in life, they will be simple, straightforward, and true; for they are preparing for the fellowship of those holy ones in whose mouth ‘was found no guile.’ Revelation 14:5.” –Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, pp. 68, 69.

6. What will we always do for our brother, especially in case of sickness?

Colossians 1:9 For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.

2 Thessalonians 1:11 Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power.

James 5:16, second part … Pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

“These words were clearly and forcibly spoken: ‘Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. Press together; press together, and love as brethren. Pray together.’ The Lord has paid the price of His own blood for the salvation of the world. He suffered every indignity that men could devise and Satan could invent, in order to carry out the plan of salvation.” –Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 527.

“There is another work that should receive attention on the preparation day. On this day all differences between brethren, whether in the family or in the church, should be put away. Let all bitterness and wrath and malice be expelled from the soul. In a humble spirit, ‘confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another.’ ” –The Faith I Live By, p. 34.

7. If we are truly connected with Christ, what will we be ready to do in every emergency?

Galatians 6:2; 5:13, last part Bear ye one another’s burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ…. 5:13But by love serve one another.

Romans 15:1 We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

“By the terms of our stewardship we are placed under obligation, not only to God, but to man. To the infinite love of the Redeemer every human being is indebted for the gifts of life. Food and raiment and shelter, body and mind and soul–all are the purchase of His blood. And by the obligation of gratitude and service thus imposed, Christ has bound us to our fellow men. He bids us, ‘By love serve one another.’ Galatians 5:13. ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.’ Matthew 25:40.

“ ‘I am debtor, Paul declares, ‘both to the Greeks, and to the barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.’ Romans 1:14. So also are we. By all that has blessed our life above others, we are placed under obligation to every human being whom we might benefit.” –Education, p. 139.

For further study

1 Corinthians 13:1-8, 13

Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, pp. 168, 169

Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 505

The first Christians and brotherly love

Brotherly love has always been the special feature of Jesus’ disciples. How could the great debate with paganism and the hostility and severe persecution be faced without this cohesion, without the strong bond of love? Not through the learning of its best thinkers but by the love of the simplest members the church achieved victory. In a book of defense, the old apologist Mark Minucius Felix had two friends arguing about Christianity, one of them being an idolater. In the interview, one of them comments: “The Christians love each other even before they are acquainted.”

Another testimony about Christian brotherly love was given by the heathen scoffer Lucian of Samosata. Although, in his view, Christians were “fanatics and blind believers”–and he speaks of them with derision–he has to recognize that “Their Lawgiver has convinced them to love each other, and so they act according to His teaching.” In reality, Christ’s love wears the same clothing everywhere, and as brotherly love it is spreading all over the earth.

This is a wonderful testimony that was given many years ago. What can be said today? Can outsiders see us in the same way as the heathen saw the early Christians? Let us remember that the testimonies of our lives are the best that we can give. –Adapted from H. Schäfer, Mach ein Fenster dran (Close a Window), pp. 232, 233.