“These things I command you, that you love one another.” John 15:17
“I’ve told you and given you every tool you need in order for you to love one another.” Who is “one another” and why is loving one another so important? Actually, this loving one another has been absolutely essential in my walk. I don’t think I’d make it without the my “one anothers” loving me and me getting to love them. Because it’s wrapped up in how You, Lord, love us.
“One anotherness” allows for discussing things, encourages peace, encourages praise, encourages awe, encourages service, encourages love, proves fellowship with You, Jesus, perfects love in us, and keeps us in the daily cleansing power of Your blood. Well, at least this is fellowship or “one anotherness” in You. Outside of You, “one anotherness” can bring envy, strife, grumbling, betrayal, hate, separation, fear, and the list goes on. All I needed to do was to go back in Scripture and look. So, it looks as though understanding the love of one another, this true fellowship, can make me or break me.
“Now, I’ve told you these things, shared these truths, these commands with you, so that you will have everything you need to love one another.” Now, Jesus, the thing is, this loving one another is all predisposed upon one important point. It’s like a seesaw that doesn’t seesaw if it hasn’t got it’s fulcrum. Without the point, our love is just laying flat and useless on the ground. Without the point there is no see to the saw. And You are that fulcrum. My fellowship with others depends on my fellowship with You. First I have to have a right relationship with You, then I have everything I need to have a relationship in love with my brothers and sisters in Christ. And that’s where we are in this verse.
So You are speaking to what I would call “believers.” You are speaking to any of us who have a relationship with You. I am to love who? I am to love my fellow believers. This isn’t referring to everyone in the world here, not that we aren’t to love them, but just by the nature of who we are, we are bound to love one another, other believers, in a special way. We are bound together in You. We have a special union. We have a special understanding of each other. You give us a special power in You to encourage, strengthen, walk with, instruct, reprimand, and just love on each other.
Precept Austin points out that “John uses ‘allelon’ [one another] seven times in his epistles…and each use refers to the relationship between men” and specifically fellow believers. He adds ‘[w]hile one another most likely refers to other believers, the fellowship clearly includes God because genuine fellowship with other believers is not possible unless both parties have first experienced fellowship with God. Toon writes ‘the basic meaning of fellowship is a real and practical sharing in eternal life with the Father and the Son.’ When believers share in the eternal life with the Father and the Son, they are able to share life with one another.” Kruse adds, “there is no real fellowship with God which is not expressed in fellowship with other believers.” According to Marvin Vincent, “fellowship with one another signifies ‘[n]ot, we with God and God with us, but with our brethren. Fellowship with God exhibits and proves itself by fellowship with Christians.'”
This is important stuff. It’s another one of those very repeated truths, very repeated commands. Let me read and listen to 1 John 1:7. “But if we walk in the Light, as He is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” Walking in You, placing and conducting my life in You, places me in fellowship with other believers. That means we are all walking in You together, in this awesome close fellowship with You. And as we walk together in a right relationship with You, honest, accountable, and loving on and encouraging one another in You, I am kept clean moment by moment in You by the power of Your blood, which is covering and enabling each one of us as believers. I am responsible and empowered to keep my fellow believers free from sin. What a responsibility. But I don’t carry that responsibility alone. And, fellow believer, you carry that same responsibility for me.
I appreciated a statement that Daniel Wallace made concerning the meaning of fellowship with God…
“To have fellowship with God, to be in the light, don’t we have to live a sinless life? That would seem to be the case if light meant holiness. The implications about this are vast: if ‘light’ means holiness, then to walk in the light would seem to mean absolute holiness. It is precisely because some folks have understood light this way that they view fellowship with God as something we can be in one moment and out of the next. I think this approach produces a schizophrenic Christian who ends up thinking he’s spiritual one moment and carnal the next. Worse, he begins to focus on his performance more than on his relationship to God. Never does habit or character enter into this picture of spirituality.
And, quite frankly, such a view of spirituality actually promotes sin. Because this view allows me to take fleshly detours all I want: as long as I just confess my sins afterward, I’m spiritual again.
Further, you really can’t base this view of spirituality on 1 John 1. Notice what John says in 1Jn 1:7: ‘but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.’
To walk in the light is not to live without sin: otherwise, the blood of Jesus would not be needed to cleanse us while we are walking in the light. All the verbs in this verse are present tense. The force seems to be that while we are walking in the light the blood of Jesus is cleansing us from our sins.
This text is not, therefore, speaking of being ‘in fellowship’ and ‘out of fellowship’ on a moment-by-moment basis. If ‘light’ means ‘exposure,’ this would mean that one second we’re admitting that we’re sinners, and denying it the next. Such a view is neither true to life nor to the scriptures.
But if ‘light’ means honesty and integrity and transparency, then to walk in the light is not absolute holiness. But it is the necessary prerequisite to holiness.” (Honest to God! Or, God is not a Pit Stop 1 John 15-10)
This is important stuff, crucial stuff here. Watch what happens to a believer who removes himself from close fellowship with other believers. Watch the critical spirit develop. Watch as they become busy in other things. Watch as they become more and more self-sufficient and less likely to hear or seek out an honest opinion of their own behavior. We were created for union, and until that day when we are in full union with You, Lord, You have given us one another to fulfill Your fellowship in us.
Now sometimes we are put in situations not by our choosing where our fellowship is taken away. But if we are walking in the Light, we seek Your fellowship more and we continue to long for the fellowship of our fellow believers. It doesn’t create a self-sufficiency, an I can do it on my own attitude. It just develops a deeper appreciation for our need for You and for each other. Did You hear that? I need my fellow believers. And they ought to need me. You already know that, Lord. You built this into my growth process. We’re designed to be dependent on You and on one another. None of us stands alone.
J. Ligon Duncan says “that the way we manifest true fellowship with the living God is: we walk in the light–that is, we pursue holiness. We fellowship with one another. That is, we are mutually accountable to one another; we recognize the importance of the means of grace and fellowship with the body of Christ, and we don’t take lightly separating ourselves from the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Why? Because we need each other as much as we need You. You designed us that way. We need this unity in You, this deep, real bond of love, straight from You, through us.
There’s that song, “They will know we are Christians by our love.” Think about it. We say that You, Jesus are love. I say I am in You. You are my Lord and Savior. I am identified in and with You. You are love. If I am identified with You, how ought I to be identified with my family in You? By love. It wasn’t just important to John. It was important to Paul too. In 1 Thessalonians 3: 12 Paul prays that “the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you.” Notice what he follows that with, “so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father…” And in 1 Thessalonians 5:15 he commands, “always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.” There’s a special good, a united good for our brothers and sisters in Christ. This must be a priority. This is part of shining like the Light.
And because we are united in You, we don’t have to do this on our own. I don’t have to love in my own power. I can’t. I can follow these “one another’ commands because I am enabled by Your Holy Spirit. Precept Austin points out “our obedience to divine commands is based on enablement by the Spirit, not effort by self! You are under grace not law. Law says ‘love one another’, and under the New Covenant we are enabled by the Spirit to truly, supernaturally ‘love one another’!” Another man by the name of Hiebert shared that this fellowship with one another “is the result of believer’s mutual walk in the light, and is ‘a gauge and a sign of the divine fellowship.’ He who consistently has trouble maintaining fellowship with others walking in the light should examine his own claim of fellowship with God.” Wow, that’s pretty strong.
Lord, I want to rely on You to teach me and enable me to love my brothers and sisters in Christ as You have loved me. I want to look like You. I want to shine with Your Light. I don’t want to love like the world. I don’t want to be a child of Yours or a brother or sister to my siblings in You that envies and quarrels and is more worried about myself than them. That wouldn’t be like You at all. And I couldn’t obey this command to love except that You have given me Your supernatural power to obey. Because of You, I can love my brothers and sisters in You supernaturally, just like You. There is nothing like this love, Lord. Other people see it. They know it’s different than the world’s love. Use Your love in me toward my brothers and sisters in Christ to draw others to You. And use their love for me to do the same. I am so grateful that You give me the ability to love them like this and that You give them the ability to love me like this. It makes all the difference in the world. This is how we experience the depth of Your love for us, by the reality of that love demonstrated to one another. And I am made a better believer by it.