“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
Commentary from the sermon “‘Let Us Love One Another’” by Alistair Begg:
“[John] drives … down and lays the pivotal foundation block as to why it is that Christian people should love one another: not simply because of the commandment; not simply because when we do, we’re seen to be in the light, and we’re seen to possess eternal life; but foundationally, says John, because love is of the very essence of who God is. …
“Now, all the way through this letter, John uses primarily this feature of agapē love. … In the New Testament, there are three words which are used for love. One is the word eros, from which we get our word erotic. And the word eros describes primarily a physical dimension of an expression of love. Some have said that eros is ‘all take.’ The second word which is used is phileō, from which we derive our American city, of English nomenclature, Philadelphia, the “City of Brotherly Love.” Someone has said that phileō is ‘give and take.’ And then the word agapē, which is the self-giving love expressed primarily in Jesus Christ, which someone has said is ‘all give.’ And John here is laying down as this fundamental premise that the reason why Christian people should love one another is because this is God’s nature.”
“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Commentary from the sermon “Amazing Love” by Alistair Begg:
“If you do your homework and you read the surrounding passage, you will realize that Paul actually uses four different words to describe our situation: not only that we are ‘sinners,’ but also that we are ‘weak,’ or helpless; we are ‘ungodly’; and we are actually ‘enemies’ (Rom. 5:6, 8, 10).
“Now, you say, ‘Well, that’s not a very nice picture of humanity.’ It’s not nice, but it is distinctly honest. And what it’s pointing out is this: that by nature we have neglected God’s wisdom, we’ve rebelled against His authority, and we’ve doubted His goodness. And … here’s the wonder: that He still loved those who turned their backs on Him; that from all of eternity, He had a plan to save us, so that even in our ability to know Him or to love Him, or certainly to understand Him and serve Him, in Jesus He has come to redeem and to restore us. That is what Paul is saying in that little verse there: God has shown His love towards us in that while we were in this condition, Christ died for us. It’s as profound and as stretching as our minds can handle, and it is actually as simple and straightforward as children can grasp.”
“So Moses cut two tablets of stone like the first. And he rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and took in his hand two tablets of stone. The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD , the LORD , a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.’”
Commentary from the sermon “Practicing Patience” by Alistair Begg:
“After the event concerning the creation of the golden calf—after the people of God have made a dreadful hash of things—God speaks to His people again. … It was a revelation of the character of God which was essential for that moment. For here the people of God, in the midst of their wilderness wanderings, despite all of their protestations to the opposite, had fallen foul of their own natural human desires to create, in the building of this calf, some kind of godlike figure whom they would be able to control and manipulate, rather than the one before whom they would bow down and acknowledge their sin. And in the awareness of that, God reveals Himself as the gracious, compassionate, slow-to-anger God.
“The whole of the Old Testament is replete with such emphasis. And the psalmist, summarizing the same truth in Psalm 103:8, speaks of God in this way, and he says, ‘The LORD is compassionate” and “slow to anger”; He is “abounding in love” (NIV). What is God like? He is compassionate; He is patient; He is abounding in love; He is faithful. He is also a God of wrath who cannot tolerate sin. And it is sin which meant the meting out of God’s judgment on Calvary, and it is the immensity of God’s patience and grace and love which made Calvary a possibility. In other words, my sin made the death of Jesus a necessity, and God’s love made the death of Jesus a wonderful reality.”
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Commentary from the sermon “Walk in Love — Part One” by Alistair Begg:
“If somebody immediately, taking this first exhortation, said, ‘Excuse me, Paul. How does that work? “Be imitators of God, as dearly beloved children”?’ [Paul] said, ‘Well, let me tell you what it means …: walk in love.’ … He says, ‘As you walk around Ephesus, as you walk into the fellowship of God’s people, as you walk into the swimming pool, walk in love. This is how you’ll imitate God.’ Peterson, in his paraphrase, which we know as The Message, puts it like this: ‘Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn [their] behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love.’ … So ‘keep company with him and learn a life of love.’
“… If we wonder, then, about the nature of walking in love, we could reverse into chapter 4 …: ‘Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, because that’s how God in Christ has treated you’ (Eph. 4:32, paraphrased).
“So, in other words, … Paul is not giving a little phrase here for people to pour into it whatever they want, so they can have a little conversation over coffee: ‘So, what does it mean to you to walk in love?’ ‘Well, I was thinking this; I was thinking that.’ … No. There’s nothing vague and sentimental about this. This is not about trying to get a feeling in your tummy. No, it’s going to get far more demanding than that. It means ‘to walk in a manner’ that is ‘worthy of the calling to which you[’ve] been called’ (Eph. 4:1). … So there is a way that you can walk, there is a way that you can talk, there is a way that you can live that will then set forward the honor and glory of God.”
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. … Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”
Commentary from the sermon “The Law of Love” by Alistair Begg:
“Well, at least we’re able to say this, are we not—that the love of which Jesus speaks here redefines the boundaries; makes them porous, if you like; does not allow the follower of Jesus to determine who he’s going to love; does not allow us to do the ‘us four, no more, shut the door’ trick? We can’t do that—not if we’re the followers of Christ. We cannot simply isolate the little group of people that fits within our comfort zone and say, ‘Now, we’re going to love these people, but anybody who fits without the circle, frankly, we don’t have to really worry about them at all.’ ‘No,’ Jesus says, ‘you can’t do that. Let me tell you what you need to do: you need to love your enemies and do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who ill-treat you.’ So the distinctions of race, nationality, political affiliation, age, sex, background, etc., are blown away in the words of Jesus here.
“Well then, what is it? Well, it’s a call to display, as I’ve said, the family likeness. … The teaching of Jesus here is a call to His followers first of all to accept this inversion of the accepted view of things; to believe, if you like, that He who is the doctor has prescribed the directly correct medicine for the ailment, and that what Jesus is saying is absolutely true, and it’s absolutely right, and once we have bowed beneath the truthfulness and the rightness of it, then we are to act accordingly.”
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Commentary from the sermon “Characteristics of Christian Love — Part One” by Alistair Begg:
“[Paul] goes on … to unpack for us the nature of love. And he lists the qualities and the activities which are to be top priorities in our lives and therefore in our corporate life together within the family of faith within a local church. … If we think this evening of love as being a diamond, then we could think of the characteristics that are here listed as some fifteen facets of the diamond itself. …
“It’s both useful and important for us to recognize that in Greek …, all of these facets are in verbal form. Why is that important? Well, it’s important because Paul’s emphasis here is not so much upon what love is as it is upon what love does—that love behaves itself in a certain way ….
“Secondly, it’s important to realize that each of them is written in the present continuous tense. Whether it is indicative or not, it is always present continuous—a reminder to us that these facets denote actions and/or attitudes which must become habitual in our lives. He’s not referring here to something that happens to us in a moment of time—that all of a sudden we get, if you like, the love gift, and it all drops down, and as a result of that, all these fifteen facets become operative in our lives. No, it’s much more difficult than that. Even enabled by the Spirit of God, these characteristics … are going to be factored into our lives as we employ them on a daily basis, making them part of our habitual activity. They will be employed, they will be seen gradually and by constant repetition, in much the same way as one would build a muscle by exercising and would see it atrophy as a result of an absence of exercise.”
“Let all that you do be done in love.”
Commentary from the sermon “Stability, Maturity, and Charity” by Alistair Begg:
“Here’s the deal: you can’t have love on the side. It’s supposed to permeate everything. So when I’m courageous: in love. When I’m firm: in love. When I’m strong: in love. When I’m on guard: in love. It’s got to be through the whole mixture. And sometimes, when we ask the question ‘Is it possible to have that on the side?’ the answer is ‘No, it is prepared in that.’
“We had a great illustration of it ten days ago, when my wife and I and our children were invited to the home of an African friend who made us an Indian curry. … I wasn’t far into it when I realized that whatever this powder is, this is powerful stuff. And this wasn’t on the side. This was everywhere! It didn’t just flavor the ingredients; it permeated the room. And within a very short period of time, it was coming out of me. Literally coming out of me! I used to laugh at my father for this, with his little baldie head, and he used to wipe it with a hanky like this. … And so I’m rubbing my head, and it’s coming out my wrists and everywhere! And later in the day, I was waiting on people coming up to me and going, ‘Have you been over at Andrew’s house?’ Said, ‘Yeah. How do you know?’ Said, ‘The curry! The curry!’
“This is it. Love is the curry powder of Christian experience. You’re not supposed to have to go looking for it amongst the people of God with a thundering great magnifying glass …. No! It’s supposed be you come in the door, and the whole place is just pervaded with it.”
“When the Pharisees heard that [Jesus] had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ 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. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.’”
Commentary from the sermon “The Great Commandment — Part One” by Alistair Begg:
“We can safely reject the notion that the Ten Commandments have been now reduced to just two commandments—that the ten have been set aside. … And the text helps us clearly with this, doesn’t it? You will notice that He says, ‘All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’
“In other words, He is providing them, us, with a summary of the summary. The summary of the law of God is in the Ten Commandments. The summary of the Ten Commandments given by Jesus is right here: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.’ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind’ covers the first four of the Ten Commandments, and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ covers the remaining six of the Ten Commandments.
“… There is a prevalent notion around that somehow or another, in Jesus, the followers of Jesus are just left to figure out what love looks like for themselves: ‘This is what love means to me,’ ‘This is how I view an expression of love,’ and so on. … That’s the notion: you can love your neighbor as yourself any way you choose, any time you want, any way you plan. Absolutely not! Absolutely not. Jesus is pointing out that His followers are not left to try and figure it out. He’s going to show them what love looks like. Love is guided by the law itself.”
“By this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”
Commentary from the sermon “Keeping His Commands” by Alistair Begg:
“True love for God—as it is for one another, as we’ll see in a moment—is not sentimental language. It isn’t mystical or emotional experience. It is moral obedience. And you know, a lot of us have been really suckered into assessing our Christian lives by wrong things. Some of us go through dreadful times in a week because we vacillate on our feelings all the time: ‘I don’t know if I feel really Christian today. I don’t know if I feel saved today. I don’t know. I think I need to sing ten choruses in a row! Then I’ll get back to that feeling again—that saved feeling.’
“Well, let me ask you, men: How many of you wake up on a Monday morning and hit the jolly little alarm clock on the right-hand side and go, ‘Yabba dabba doo, I feel married this morning!’ Well, whether you do or you don’t, I got news for you: you are married. And how you feel about it and how you don’t feel about it and how it ebbs and flows … is not the issue. You’re married. And the test of your marriage is in your obedience to the commitments that you’ve made, not the fluctuating feelings of your moods.
“And it’s the same in the life of Christ! Don’t let’s assess ourselves. Don’t let’s be taking our pulses all the time, find out if we’re alive: ‘It’s Tuesday. I wonder if I’m still saved.’ No, here’s a good test: Are you doing it? Are you saying no to ungodliness and yes to righteousness? Are you walking in the light as He is in the light (1 John 1:7)? Are you obeying the truth? Do you have an inner disposition to say, ‘Jesus said it, and I’m going to do it’? Or are you running around making up big, elaborate excuses as to why you shouldn’t be baptized? ‘If a man loves me, he will do what I command’—end of story. And that which is plain and obvious and is set aside in our lives will have vast ramifications for many other arenas which are unseen by the watching world.”
“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ He said to him a second time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.’ … And after saying this he said to him, ‘Follow me.’”
Commentary from the sermon “‘Simon, Do You Love Me?’” by Alistair Begg:
“Peter recognizes that his most recent actions have not been such as to reveal his love. Therefore, he’s not in a position to point to them. In the same way, for some of us tonight, if we have in some instance blown it, failed, we recognize that when the question of the Lord Jesus comes to us—‘Do you love me?’—what are we going to plead in our defense? What are we going to show for our affirmations of love? ‘Do you love me?’ It’s actually a searching question, isn’t it? It’s a simple question.
“And what Jesus is inquiring about here is not an inquiry that comes to us on the level of sentimentalism, because it is a question that demands a decision. And the only thing that Peter can plead before the Father, before Christ, is His omniscience, if you like. ‘Do you love me?’ He says, ‘Lord, You know that I love You.’ In other words, the only thing he can plead is the understanding heart of Jesus. That’s significant, isn’t it? He doesn’t come with great affirmations: ‘Oh yes, Lord, just the other day I was reading seventeen chapters of Leviticus and thinking what a marvelous book it is.’ … No, he understands that Jesus is penetrating to the core of his being with a simple question. He doesn’t ask him, ‘Do you understand something?’ He doesn’t ask him, ‘Have you been affirming something?’ He asks him, ‘Do you love me?’
“Let’s not forget the fact that at the heart of the Christian story, it is a relationship with Jesus. It is a love affair. It is not a course in systematic theology. It is not the ability to amass doctrine and store it up and regurgitate it. Jesus doesn’t ask him those questions. Not that they are irrelevant, but they are not the issue here. The issue is ‘Do you love me?’ And when we find ourselves in deep difficulty, whether it is as a result of our own foolishness, or whether it is as a result of circumstances that have buffeted us and beaten us, the only thing that we can ever claim is the fact that Jesus knows us.”