Meditations in 1 John : 13 : Made Complete
1 John 2:5,6 But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.
Sometimes in Scripture I believe we skim over verses and perhaps miss potential gold mines of truth. That is possible with this verse before us now. I have lost track of how many times I have read it but as I pause over it, I get the feeling it is like peering down into what you thought was a shallow bit of sea only to realise that it goes down really deep. Five times in this letter John speaks about obeying God’s commands but on this occasion it seems that his focus is on what happens when we do obey, and he makes this incredible claim – “God’s love is truly made complete in him”.
I like J.B.Phillips’ version of this: “In practice the more a man learns to obey God’s laws the more truly and fully does he express his love for him” and yet I’m not sure it aims in the right direction, because that speaks about the way a man expresses his love for God, and yet in our NIV verse it speaks of God’s love, i.e. the love from God. Another version puts it, “whoever obeys what Christ says is the kind of person in whom God’s love is perfected,” In other words, if you want to see God’s love perfectly expressed on earth, find someone whose life is given over to doing all that God in Christ has said to us.
Now why should that be? Well perhaps it is to do with what John tells us twice later in this letter: “God IS love” (1 Jn 4:8,16) reflecting what the Old Testament says again and again (e.g. Ex 11:13,15, Ex 20:5,6 Deut 7:9, 12,13 etc.) but especially in Ex 34:6,7 “the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” If the character of God is love, then everything He thinks, says or does is love. (When it comes to interpreting the Old Testament activity of God we need to see it through this filter and if we cannot see it initially, then we need to think and meditate on it until we can see it!)
So when we came to Christ we surrendered our lives to him, accepting that on our own we got it wrong and that we needed him not only to forgive, wash and cleanse us, but we also needed him to guide us through the rest of our life. So how does he guide us? He speaks to us? How does he do that? Primarily he speaks through his written words, but it may also be through preaching, through prophesying, through a quiet voice in our spirit, or even through circumstances. When he does speak, we’ve just said, it will always be in love and will always be looking to bring about an outworking of love in our lives. Thus the more we heed his voice, and the more obey what we are hearing, the more we will be expressing God’s love, and that will be seen in our family, our school, our college, our business, our club – wherever we encounter other people. Love is always expressed from one person to another, so in that sense the J.B.Phillips version was right.
God’s expression of Himself and His objective for the world, is always to pour out His love to us. Have you ever thought what love means? We bandy this word around so much, but what does it mean? A dictionary definition might be “warm affection, liking, benevolence or strong feelings for” or perhaps in a Biblical context, looking at God, “selfless, sacrificial, unrestricted good will towards all others”.
THAT is God’s approach to us and of course this form of ‘good will’ is always expressed in some act, hence “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.” (Jn 3:16) We’ll see later on in John that he writes, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 Jn 4:10) i.e. the big issue isn’t that we love God but that He has first loved us. Our love for Him is always a response to His love. When you are truly loved – and feel it and know it – it is almost impossible not to respond to it well. Of course the key words there were “and feel it and know it”.
How do we experience it like that? First of all we read about it in His word or hear of it from someone else. Then we surrender to it and receive it into our lives and that so changes us that we too start revealing or expressing this same love. How do we express it? We express it by living out our lives in accordance with His word, i.e. by obeying His word!
It is by this primarily that we know we are in him. It is as we live out the Christ life, revealed through his word, that we know we have been changed. I am no longer the person I once was. I think and say and do things I once could never have thought, said or done! I am changed because I am his and I am living out the life he has given me to live. It’s just as John says: “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” That’s what we are now doing. Hallelujah!