By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another.
(2): — How seldom is this test of true discipleship to Christ appealed to. We look for orthodoxy of sentiment, moral character, denominational zeal, attention to ordinances, but we are apt to overlook the one great criterion laid down in the text. Quite in harmony with this verse is 1 John 3:14. Consider —
I. THE NATURE OF THIS LOVE. It consists mainly of two elements, an admiration of the peculiar spiritual character of God's saints, and a deep personal sympathy with them in their struggles and temptations. To these elements may sometimes be added a high sense of gratitude to them if they have been made instrumental in conveying light, grace, and comfort to our minds, and a hearty desire of pure benevolence to do them good and be helpers of their joy. It will be borne in mind that the objects of this love are Christian believers, simply as such. Now —
II. HOW DOES SUCH AN AFFECTION EVINCE OUR DISCIPLESHIP TO CHRIST?
1. Because He commands it; therefore not to cherish it is to disobey Him, and prove that we do not love Him.
2. Because the character of the saints is the very one which we are striving to acquire if we are followers of Christ; and therefore we cannot help but admire it.
3. As Christians we are called to pass through the same tribulations and trials as they have; therefore we are constrained to sympathy with them according to that fundamental law of human nature — "A fellow feeling makes the whole world kin."
4. Gratitude for spiritual mercies is only possible to those who have ceased to be carnally-minded: while, again, to receive spiritual mercies through the medium of a fellow believer must attach us specially to him, on the common principle of human gratitude.
5. To love God's people so as to be willing to go through great sacrifices for them, must surely be impossible to the worldly mind, because it is at enmity with God and cannot honestly seek the good of those who are born of Him. If, therefore, any man loves us as Christian disciples, the inference must be that he is a disciple and has ceased to stand connected with our enemies.
III. CONSIDER THIS AFFECTION AS A STANDING PROOF OF OUR DISCIPLESHIP.
1. Nothing else, without this, can prove a man to be a child of God. He that is destitute of this love, whatever else he possesses, abideth in death.
2. Where this exists, nothing else need be looked for.Conclusions:
1. As a professed believer test your sincerity by this principle: Do you love the followers of Jesus?
2. Judge of your growth or declension in grace by your waxing or waning love to the brethren.
3. Prepare for greater usefulness by seeking more of this love to the people of God.
4. Appeal to the unconverted and inquiring. We want you amongst us only if you can love us; and we want you to love us only because you and we together have learned to love the Saviour.
(T. G. Horton.)
Parallel VersesKJV: By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.