Scripture Notes


1 John 3:16.

John has given the two characteristics of the divine nature which will be manifested in the believer. Whosoever, he says, doeth not righteousness is not of God (see chapter 2:29), neither he that loveth not his brother (v. 10); and he also says, We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death, that is his state. But there is yet more, and it needs to be pondered, Whosoever hateth his brother - is it that "not loving" and "hating" soon coalesce? - is a murderer: and ye know (this every believer knew) that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. This in no way contradicts the teaching in the last chapter that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son, and that it is in having the Son we have it (vv. 11, 12); it is only negativing the possibility of a murderer having eternal life: it goes no further than this, unless it be to teach that such a man could not have the Son in him. Thereupon the apostle declares to us what love is. The words "of God" have no place, as may be seen, in the scripture; and thus the import of the apostle's statement is that what love is, in its essence and character, is shown out in the death of Christ. There it is displayed in all its blessed perfection; there it shines out purely and unhinderedly, because He laid down His life for us; and the intensity of its bright effulgence is the more readily perceived from the dark background of the region of death on which it is witnessed. Truly we had never known what love is, we had never known God, but for the death of Christ; for therein all God's heart, all His nature, all that He is, was perfectly expressed. But what John goes on to show is that this love, as so witnessed, is the standard of our love to the brethren. Nay, more, he teaches that it constitutes an obligation so to love the brethren. It would be unrighteous, he means, if we did not; for if God thus loved us, we ought also to love one another. (See chapter 4:11.) Such an opportunity - that of laying down our lives for the brethren - may not often occur. This seems to have been present to the apostle's mind, because he goes on to adduce the case of a brother having need, and he asks, if one seeing him in this condition, shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? Truly if we have the divine nature, it must express itself as it was seen in our blessed Lord and Saviour, and it could not be that any lower standard than His love should be placed before His people.


Colossians 3:3-4.

It is very evident that these verses hang upon verse 20 of chapter 2 and verse 1 of this chapter. These, again, are connected with chapter 2:12, and they bring out the two aspects of our association with Christ which are the mind of God for all His people, and which are apprehended by faith. A common illustration of this is found in the association of the disciples with Christ during the forty days after His resurrection and before His ascension. They were not actually dead and risen, but He had died and was in resurrection, and they were in association with Him; and for the time at least they were as dead men as far as this world was concerned, and in spirit were in His own sphere on the other side of death and occupied with His things. That we can only experimentally enter into this cannot for one moment be doubted; but the first thing necessary for this is to apprehend that it is God's mind for us, and then, when the light of His pleasure as to it has entered our souls, we shall be encouraged to pass over the Jordan like the Israelites into the land of promise. And it must be plain to the simplest, that the only way out of this world is by death; and we do pass out of it morally when, in the power of the Spirit, we appropriate the death of Christ. It is equally clear that the way into the place where Christ is is through resurrection - His resurrection made ours in the energy of the Spirit through faith. Death, thus accepted and known in the soul, closes the door upon all here, and being risen with Christ, apprehended in the same way, constitutes the door-way into heavenly things - the things of the Father's counsels made known in Christ. If this be entered into, our minds - for Christ will possess our hearts and absorb our affections - will be drawn, necessarily drawn, away from things on the earth to those which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Our life - that in which we live - is there, because He is there. Hence the apostle can say, for he is speaking to those who are actually on earth, Ye are dead, dead to everything here, for you have died with Christ, and your life is hid with Christ in God, where He is hidden until He shall once more come forth. But when Christ, our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory. It is of all moment to enter into this blessed truth; for it is this which gives power, as the next verse shows, to mortify our members which are upon earth. The sorrow is that so many of us choose our portion, like the two-and-half tribes on this side of Jordan, instead of entering into God's thoughts and purposes for His beloved people.