What Is Love?

legalism

This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it. (2 John 6)

What Is Love?

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association publishes a study guide called the “Matthew Manual” that is used to help people find ways to contact their neighbors and share with them what they must do to be saved. On page 20 of the booklet a discussion is given about “Legalism or Love.” The article states, “Legalism, or living by the letter of the law, is the cause of much division and contention in the church and in families. Our selfish attitudes can drive people away from us and the Lord. Only a gracious, loving attitude can bring unity, healing and forgiveness. The Holy Spirit is the source of God’s love, and He dwells in each believer. ‘The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.’ 2 Corinthians 3:6.” One of the sources of contention with the majority of the Protestant churches that embrace one form or another of Calvinism is the idea that salvation comes only by grace or through faith. Most Christian denominations believe a man is justified by faith only and that by wording what is commonly called “The Sinners Prayer” that God will grant forgiveness. Law keeping is condemned as salvation by works. Trying to save oneself through works is viewed as a failed attempt to gain merited favor from God. Nothing is further from the truth of God’s word.

John is known as the apostle of love. His gospel and three epistles preserved by the Holy Spirit are clear declarations of the love of God through His Son Jesus Christ. Some of the more familiar passages that people know from the Bible come from John’s writings. When John writes about love in his first epistle he shows that love comes from being a commandment keeper. Obeying the law of God is how love is expressed in the life of the child of God. From the beginning of time the Lord has expected man to love Him and keep His commandments: each one is dependent upon the other. In the Old Testament the people were told to follow the precepts, laws, commands, teachings, instructions and testimonies. Did this leave out love? No – because God wanted His people to love Him with all their hearts, soul and minds. It is not possible to love God with keeping the words of His commandments. It seems those who emphasize love without legalism suggests as long as one loves the Lord Jesus then they do not have to follow His will. This would be like trying to explain to the law enforcement officer that following the laws of the road is not necessary as long as the person has love in their hearts. Obedience to the law is required as much as love for truth. Jesus said that He was the way, the truth and the life not because He wanted men to love Him as the way, truth and life. His will is the only way man can walk; His truth is the only body of truth; and the only way eternal life can be granted is by those who love Him and keep His commandments.

What is love? John says that love is walking according to the commandments of God. He further emphasizes this has always been the will of the Lord from the beginning of time. Walking in the will of God is keeping His commandments. Faith comes by hearing the word of God and love is seen when a person obeys the commandments of the Lord. Jesus told His disciples that if they loved Him they would keep His commandments. Is it possible to be saved without living by the letter of the law? History points out that when men decide to live according to their interpretation of the grace of God without keeping the commandments there is a tragic result. What is missed by those who oppose keeping the letter of the law is that works alone cannot and never have saved man. Martin Luther resisted the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church when the only emphasis was salvation by works alone. Man cannot be saved by his own merits. What Luther did was go to the other extreme of believing salvation comes by faith only. John says that love is necessary and keeping the commandments of God are necessary. If a man loves Jesus alone and does not obey His word he will not be saved. When a man believes he can keep the commands of God without a heart of love he will also be found lacking. Love is walking according to the commandments of God.

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