Connections 05.09.2021: All We Need

1 John 5:1-8

One of my generation’s anthems proclaimed, “All you need is love!” In case we didn’t get it the first time, it repeated the message in a slightly different order: “Love is all you need!”

Any which way you put it, the message was a good one. All these decades later, it continues to be a message we need to hear.

The author of 1 John also calls us to embrace love. But would he say that love is all we need? Not quite. Not exactly.

He certainly calls us to practice love. I put it that way intentionally, and I do so for two reasons.

First, love as 1 John means it is something we do. It is active. The writer uses the word agape to name the type of love he means. This is God’s kind of love, the love that we see most completely in Jesus Christ. If we love each other as we should—which means to love each other as Christ loved us—we will seek to give ourselves away for each other’s sake. That requires that we act on each other’s behalf and for each other’s benefit.

Second, love as 1 John means it is something we learn to do better. We learn more about love by practicing love. The writer calls us to love each other with God’s kind of love that we see in Jesus, but we won’t just suddenly start doing so overnight. It is true that we must begin right now and that we must begin where we are, but it is also true that we must keep growing in our love for God and for each other. Practicing love will help us love more and love better.

Practicing God’s kind of love that we see in Jesus will help us grow toward becoming who God wants us to be and toward doing what God wants us to do. But would the author of 1 John say that love is all we need? Not quite. Not exactly.

That’s because he also says we need faith. In fact, he says that we can conquer the world by faith. He is talking about a specific kind of faith: belief “that Jesus is the Son of God” (v. 5). When you take the entire letter into account, you find that the writer is talking about believing that Jesus the Son of God came to the world in the flesh (4:1-3). One of the main reasons the writer wrote 1 John was to refute people who said Jesus hadn’t really come in the flesh but had only appeared to be human. He insists that we must believe that Jesus indeed came in the flesh.

Here is where faith and love come together. Believing that Jesus came in the flesh leads us to want to live as he lived. This in turn compels us to love as he loved. Only in the flesh could Jesus love by giving himself away. Only in the flesh can we love by giving ourselves away. And practicing faith that leads us to practice love empowers us to conquer the world, because in the long run, God’s kind of love that Jesus’ life and death exemplify will win out over the forces that oppose it.

So let us join together in singing (and living) our anthem: all we need is love—and faith!

Discussion

  • One reason 1 John was written was to refute people who claimed that Jesus hadn’t really come in the flesh. That claim sounds ludicrous to us. But do we ever live in ways that indicate that we don’t take Jesus’ coming in the flesh as seriously as we should? What might such living look like? How would it affect our witness?
  • The writer of 1 John says that God’s commandments “are not burdensome” (v. 3). What does he mean by this?
  • What does it mean for the water, the Spirit, and the blood to agree on their testimony about Jesus (v. 8)? What is their testimony?
  • How do love of God and love for our fellow believers go together? Why can’t they be separated?

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra, father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara, grandfather to Sullivan and Isabella. A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. He is the Connections Series Curriculum Editor.

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Comments

  1. How do we apply 1 John 5.1-8 to those, within the Church and those outside the Church, who refute that Jesus came in the flesh? Is this a task of Christian apologetics at all?

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