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2 John 1:5-6 Love is Action, Not a Feeling

2 John was written for two reasons. The first reason was the author wanted to remind his readers to love one another. The second reason was he wanted to warn them that many deceivers had gone out into the world. Today, I want to focus on the first of those two reasons, the command to love one another. 

I’m going to show that this command to love one another is a concept that is found throughout the Bible. The author of 2 John did not originate this teaching, he merely reminded his readers they needed to love one another. 

More importantly, I’m going to discuss the definition of love. In the 21st century, when many people see the word love in the Bible, they think of romantic love. They think of love as an emotion. They think of love as a wonderful, euphoric feeling they have for another person. However, that is not the Biblical definition. The Biblical definition of love is action. It is self-denial. It is doing things for other people that are good for them. 

Watch the video below or scroll down to read a transcript.

Transcript:

Thanks for visiting Bible Mountain. 2 John was written for two reasons. The first reason was the author wanted to remind his readers to love one another. The second reason was he wanted to warn them that many deceivers had gone out into the world. Today, I want to focus on the first of those two reasons, the command to love one another. 

I’m going to show that this command to love one another is a concept that is found throughout the Bible. The author of 2 John did not originate this teaching, he merely reminded his readers they needed to love one another. 

More importantly, I’m going to discuss the definition of love. In the 21st century, when many people see the word love in the Bible, they think of romantic love. They think of love as an emotion. They think of love as a wonderful, euphoric feeling they have for another person. However, that is not the Biblical definition. The Biblical definition of love is action. It is self-denial. It is doing things for other people that are good for them. 

Let’s start in 2 John and look at the verses where the author gave the command to love one another. He also defined the concept of love.

2 John 4  I was very glad because I found some of your children walking in truth just as we received commandment from the Father. 5 And now I ask you, lady, not as writing a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning, that we should love one another. 6 And this is love, that we are walking according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you heard from the beginning, and you should be walking in it.

We see the command in verse five: love one another. Notice the author said it was not a new commandment, it was a commandment they had from the beginning. In verse six the author defined love. Love is walking according to His commandments. That is action, not a feeling.

The pronoun His refers to the Father, referring to the God of the Bible. Therefore, the biblical definition of love is to obey the commandments of God. As I mentioned earlier, the author said this was a command they had from the beginning, so let’s go back early in the Bible and see how this concept was taught. 

World history starts around 4000 BC with creation. Noah’s flood happened around 2500 BC. After the flood, Noah and his sons started multiplying and repopulating the earth. Around 2000 BC there was a man named Abraham. Abraham had a son named Isaac. Isaac had a son named Jacob. Jacob was renamed Israel and the descendants of Jacob became the Israelites. 

Not long after Abraham’s death the Israelites went to Egypt because of a famine. They stayed there and eventually the Egyptians turned them into slaves. After the Israelites lived in Egypt for 400 years, Moses delivered the Israelites out of Egypt from slavery. That happened around 1500 BC. 

The intent when the Israelites left Egypt was to go to the Promised Land. However, before they went to the Promised Land, they went to Mount Sinai where Yahweh gave the Israelites a law code. Part of the law code was something we call the 10 commandments. One of the commandments was to not make any idols. Let’s read this commandment.

Ex. 20:4   “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5 “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

In verse six we see a reference to loving God. We also see a reference to keeping God’s commandments. Those two concepts are connected. 

Many times in the Bible we see these two concepts mentioned together. We’re going to come back to this, but for now let’s go to Leviticus 19 where we see another command God gave the Israelites at Mt. Sinai.

Lev. 19:17   ‘You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. 18 ‘You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.

Here, we see the Israelites were commanded to love their neighbor as themselves. Their neighbors would have been their fellow Israelites. We see something similar later in the chapter.

Lev. 19:34 ‘The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God.

Here, we see the command to love their neighbor was expanded to include the strangers who resided amongst the Israelites. The point of looking at these two verses in Leviticus is simply to show that very early in Bible history the Israelites were commanded to love one another, to love their fellow human beings. 

After God finished giving the Israelites the law at Mount Sinai, they left Mount Sinai. The intent was to enter the promised land. However, the Israelites rebelled, and their punishment was to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. At the end of the 40 years, they finally arrived at the edge of the Promised Land. Before they crossed the river into the promised land, Moses reviewed with the Israelites the law that had been given 40 years earlier. We read about this in Deuteronomy. Here is part of what was said to the Israelites. 

Deut. 6:4   “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! 5 “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

This was a very clear command to the Israelites that they were to love Yahweh. A little later in Deuteronomy we read this.

Deut. 10:12   “Now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the LORD’S commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good? 

This is a list of requirements. Yahweh required the Israelites to fear Him, walk in His ways, love Him, serve Him, and keep His commandments. The commands to walk in His ways, serve Him, and keep His commandments are, in many ways, three different ways of saying the same thing.

Notice the concepts of loving God and obeying God are very closely related. They are intertwined. We see this many times in Deuteronomy. I’m not going to take the time to read all these verses, but here’s a list of verses where the concepts of loving God and obeying God are linked together.

Deut 5:10

Deut 7:9

Deut 11:1

Deut 11:13

Deut 11:22

Deut 19:9

Deut 30:16

Let’s go back to our timeline. The Bible tells us the Israelites crossed the Jordan River into the promised land and conquered it. This was approx. 1500BC. For the next 400 years they lived without a king and every man did what was right in his own eyes. Then the Israelites demanded a king. Their first king was Saul. Then David became king. David lived around 1000BC. For the next 400 years David’s descendants ruled as kings. 

All during the time the Israelites lived in the promised land there was a pattern. The Israelites would sin. God would punish them in some way. The Israelites would repent. And then the pattern repeated. Eventually, towards the end of the Old Testament time period, God had had enough and He sent the Israelites into exile. This started the process of scattering the Jews all over the globe, which is the condition of the Jewish people today. Instead of living in the promised land, they are scattered throughout the nations.

The Old Testament time period ended around 400BC. The New Testament time period started with the birth of Jesus Christ. Early in the New Testament we read about the ministry of Jesus. There was a lot of conflict between Jesus and the religious leaders, including the following:

Matt. 22:34   But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. 35 One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ 38 “This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ 40 “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

When they asked Jesus which is the greatest commandment, Jesus said the two greatest commandments are love God and love your neighbor. 

Later on, the night before Jesus was crucified, He had a long dialogue with His disciples. In that dialogue He said the following:

John 13:34   “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Jesus told His disciples to love one another. 

Now, you may be a little confused because He said, “A new commandment I give you.” How could this be a new commandment when it’s not really different than the Old Testament command to love your neighbor? I believe Jesus called it a new commandment because up to this point, Jesus, in His ministry and His mentoring of His disciples, had not talked about loving one another. This was not the first time this command appeared in the Bible; rather, it was the first time Jesus gave this command. 

Later that evening, Jesus defined love. 

John 14:15   “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.

Again, we see this link between loving God and obeying God’s commandments, Jesus stated very clearly if we as human beings want to love Jesus, we have to obey His commandments. If we don’t obey His commandments, then we don’t love Him. Still later in this dialogue Jesus went back to this command to love one another and he defined love even more.

John 15:12   “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13 “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.

I mentioned earlier that many people in the 21st century think of romantic love when they see the word love in the Bible. They think love means having a euphoric feeling. However, that’s not the Biblical definition of love. We have seen that part of the definition of love is obeying God. Here in John 15:12 we see that the greatest love is laying down one’s life for someone else. That kind of love is not a romantic love. It’s not a euphoric feeling. Instead, that kind of love is self-denial and self-sacrifice. It’s an action. 

Let’s look at another verse that reinforces the idea that love, as defined in the Bible, is not romantic. 

Heb. 12:5   and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, 

“MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, 

NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM;

6 FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, 

AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.”

Verse six says the Lord disciplines those He loves. Discipline is not romantic. Discipline does not create euphoria. Discipline is not an emotional high. However, discipline is love because sometimes when you love someone you have to confront them. Sometimes you have to tell them things they don’t want to hear. Sometimes you have to be harsh with them. 

The biblical definition of love is not a romantic feeling or emotion. Instead, it’s action, self-denial, putting other people ahead of yourself, protecting those who are weak and vulnerable, and sacrificing yourself for other people. 

With that as some background, let’s go back to 2 John. Remember, 2 John was a letter written by the elder to the chosen lady and her children. He wanted to communicate two things in his letter. He wanted to warn the chosen lady and her children about deceivers, and he wanted to remind them to love one another. When he reminded them to love one another, he defined love.

2 John 5 And now I ask you, lady, not as writing a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning, that we should love one another. 6 And this is love, that we are walking according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you heard from the beginning, and you should be walking in it.

The elder commanded the chosen lady and her children to love one another. He was not telling them something new. This was a command they were familiar with. In fact, this was a command they had had from the beginning. He mentioned a second time that this was a command they had had from the beginning. 

I am not sure what the elder meant by the beginning. Was he referring back to when the chosen lady and her children started following Jesus? Was he referring back to the Day of Pentecost and the beginning of the church? Was he referring back to the ministry of Jesus? Or was he referring back to Mount Sinai when the Israelites received the Mosaic Law? I am not sure, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. The point is the elder was reminding the chosen lady and her children to love one another. He reminded them because loving one another is very important. However, in order to obey this command, we have to have a biblical definition of love. 

Notice in 2 John 6 the elder defined love. Love is walking according to the commands of Jesus. Once again we see a linkage between love and obedience. Biblical love is not an emotion. Biblical love is obedience.

I’m pretty sure most of you know that we’re supposed to love one another. The most important thing I want you to take away from what I am saying today is the definition of love. When we seek to love one another, we need to follow the Biblical definition of love, not our culture’s definition of love. 

Throughout the Bible, there is a connection between love and obedience. Love, as defined by the Bible, is not romance and emotion. Biblical love is obedience, action, and self-denial. Biblical love is doing what is best for other people, even when it hurts. 

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