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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

1 John 3:19-24 – Brotherly love brings rewards of grace

One common consideration arising from giving to others concerns the manner by which God will reward those who help in this way. John provides some answers to this question.

First, the apostle reminds his readers that real brotherly love receives from God the reward of legitimate assurance (vv. 19-20). John depicts a situation in which a believer is condemning himself for his failures. The believer has taken his concerns to God – he is 'before him', that is, in the presence of God. He is engaging in self-examination and finds plenty within and without by which to condemn himself. Therefore, he needs genuine evidence that he has undergone a spiritual change. John tells such a concerned disciple that practical expressions of brotherly love, done for the right reasons, provide such evidence. God reveals that he greatly approves of such behaviour and right there in the presence of the all-seeing God the believer receives from his God a wonderful sense of assurance that he has undergone a real work of grace in his heart.

Second, John states that the believer who engages in such brotherly love will enjoy the immense reward of grace that is answered prayer (vv. 21-22). The range of answered prayer is very wide: ‘and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him’ (v. 22). Sometimes I wonder why my most ardent prayers are not answered, and no doubt you do the same. Well, here is a way to test ourselves. Have we failed to show practical brotherly love in a situation that God in his providence has brought to our attention? If God has done so, we must realise that he is testing us. And the price of ignoring the needy person is great – if we ignore his pleas for help, God will ignore our petitions. On the other hand, when we show genuine brotherly love to needy believers, God will delight in us and answer our prayers.

Third, John summarises his teaching on brotherly love by pointing out that such behaviour ensures the sanctifying presence of the Holy Spirit in our souls (vv. 23-24). This is an essential blessing if we are going to make progress in the Christian life and one way of ensuring its reality is by maintaining healthy brotherly love throughout our Christian journey. I trust we can see its importance.

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