“If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?”
John now demonstrates how to experience love.
If someone says, “I love God,”
In chapters one and two one we saw a number of false claims to spirituality (1:6, 8, 10; 2:4, 6, 9, 22; 5:10). Here in our verse is a false claim to love. This person professes to love God, however, it is completely inconsistent to claim to love God and simultaneously hate Christians.
The problem that John had with the false teachers was their disconnection of application of truth from the principles of God’s Word. They were great on talk but short on walk. They claimed to love God but they hated God’s people.
and hates his brother, he is a liar;
It makes little difference what a person claims about loving God, he lies about loving God if he does not love Christians. This is irresistible logic. The greater implies the lesser. Conversely, default in the lesser denotes the impossibility of the greater. One side of the coin cannot be true and the other side false. We do not love God if we do not love Christians.
The word “liar” occurs five times in 1 John (more than any other book). A “liar” is someone who attempts to deceive by conveying misinformation. This is strong language intended to get attention. To claim to fellowship with God and walk in darkness is a lie (1:6; 2:4). The claim to believe in the Father and yet deny the Son is a lie (2:22,23). The claim to love God and not love Christians is a lie as well. These three lies constitute a spiritual lie, a doctrinal lie and a relational lie.
Notice that John uses “brother” twice in this verse. His reference is to loving fellow Christians. He uses “brother” twelve times in this epistle. Both “brother” and “brethren” occur a total of seventeen times in 1 John.
for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?
Here is a hard question. How can we love God whom we have not seen if we do not love Christians who we can see? Love for the unseen God always finds manifestation in concrete love for Christians. One must always accompany the other.
PRINCIPLE: There is an inviolable relation between God’s love and our love.
APPLICATION: It is easier to love an observable human being than an invisible God. If we cannot deliver on the easier task, we will not do the harder task.
Profession of love for God does not mean that we truly possess love for Him. We need to guard against profession without reality. Profession of love without the reality of love shows that we do not truly understand nor experience God’s love. We presume that we love but in fact we do not.
It is possible to claim to love God and not manifest that love toward Christians. Such pseudo spirituality falls short of true fellowship with God. Love for Christians is not optional but obligatory in God’s economy. The practice of love originates in God Himself so if we are at odds with men, we are at odds with God.
When we profess love for God we also profess to love like He loves. Any other claim is a lie. We test our love for God by our love for Christians. It does not matter what we claim, if we do not love fellow believers, we are liars!
John 13: 34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”