Baptism #4 – How Do You Baptize?

So, by now we should have a pretty good picture of the origin and symbolism of spiritual cleansing, immersion and baptism. Now let’s have a look at the mode of baptism, as it is described and commanded in the New Testament.

When you look at the practice of baptism in the New Testament, we can conclude that baptism was carried out in one way: the person being baptized was immersed or put completely under the water and then brought back up again. So, baptism by immersion is therefore the mode of baptism. This is evident for several reasons:

The meaning of the Greek word
The Greek word ‘baptizō’ means ‘to plunge, dip, to immerse something in water’. If any New Testament author had wanted to indicate that people were sprinkled with water, a perfectly good Greek word ‘rhantizō’ (meaning ‘to sprinkle’) would have been used instead.

The mode of baptism
Secondly, as I said before, the word ‘immerse’ is appropriate and required in several New Testament passages. In Mark 1:5, people were baptized “in the Jordan river”; ‘in,’ not ‘beside’ or ‘by’ or ‘near’. Mark also tells us that when Jesus had been baptized He came “up out of the water” (Mark 1:10). In order to come up out of the water, you first have to be completely in the water. John’s gospel tells us that John the Baptist “was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there” (John 3:23). Much water was apparently a requirement for being able to baptize someone, and sprinkling, for instance, does not qualify for that requirement. When Philip had shared the Gospel with the Ethiopian eunuch, it is recorded in Acts 8:36, 38, 39, “As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, ‘Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?’ And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing”.

The symbolism of baptism
Thirdly, the symbolism of union with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection seems to require baptism by immersion. Paul says in Romans 6:3-4, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life”, and in Colossians 2:12, Paul says, “Having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.” Now this truth of being buried and raised with Christ is clearly symbolized in baptism by immersion. When the candidate for baptism goes down into the water, it is a picture of going down into the grave and being buried. Coming up out of the water is then a picture of being raised with Christ to walk in newness of life.

The mode of baptism in the New Testament clearly also echoes the mikvah (immersion for spiritual cleansing) used in the old Jewish culture and traditions, representing the grave and the womb.

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Baptism #3 – Jesus’ Baptism

Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, but why? He certainly did not have to repent of any sins. He certainly did not have to publicly demonstrate that He was a believer. He certainly did not have to do it to give an external act to enter into His own covenant. So what were the reasons? And what can we learn from these reasons for our own walk with God?

His baptism was an example
I think first and foremost, Jesus’ baptism set the example for us to follow. In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul says: “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ,” and so we are instructed to imitate Christ in everything He does. And the apostle Peter says: “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21). And so Christ purposefully left an example for us to follow, in order for us to show our obedience to Him.

His baptism identified Him with sinners
We have to recognize and admit that we are sinners, and that we need Jesus to be justified to God. In order to do this we need to, through faith and the repentance of sin, accept Jesus into our lives, to enter into His everlasting covenant. After internally accepting Jesus through faith, we should (out of obedience) also give an external sign of entering this covenant by means of baptism. By being baptized Himself, Jesus identified Himself with sinners. When John the Baptist saw Jesus coming he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). And the prophet Isaiah prophesied some 700 years prior to Jesus’ ministry, that “surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, and He will divide the booty with the strong; because He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:4-5,12)

His baptism is a pledge of our adoption into the family of God
By being baptized Jesus promised solemnly to adopt us into His family. Paul writes in Ephesians 1:5-6 that “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” Yet Paul explains this in more detail in his letter to the Galatians, where he says: “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God” (Galatians 4:4-7). By being baptized Jesus acknowledged that the fullness of time had come.

His baptism was a confirmation that he was the One send from heaven
Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.’” (Matthew 3:13, 15-17). And John the Baptist said: “I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God” (John 1:34)

His baptism showed His dependence on God, just as we should be depended on Jesus
By undergoing baptism, Jesus depended on God the Father to anoint Him with the Holy Spirit (see Matthew 3:16-17). In all of the aspects of His ministry, Jesus was depended on God the Father. Jesus said in John 5:30 “I can do nothing on My own initiative As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” And likewise in John 5:19 “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.” In a similar fashion we are fully depended on Jesus. We can do nothing apart from Him. Jesus said to us, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

His baptism validated John the Baptist’s ministry
When [Jesus] entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him while He was teaching, and said, ‘By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?’ Jesus said to them, ‘I will also ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?’ And they began reasoning among themselves, saying, ‘If we say, ‘from heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘then why did you not believe him? But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the people; for they all regard John as a prophet.’ And answering Jesus, they said, ‘We do not know.’ He also said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.’” (Matthew 21:23-27)

His baptism marked the beginning of His public earthly ministry
Directly after Jesus’ baptism we read in three of Gospels that He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil (Matthew 4:1, Mark 1:12-13, and Luke 4:1), and that angels began to minister to Him, after which His ministry began (Matthew 4:11-17, Mark 1:13-15, Luke 4:13-15). As so we could say that His baptism was the beginning of His public earthly ministry. Yet when we read Luke 12:50, we also read that His death on the cross can be called a baptism, as Jesus said, “But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished!” More detail can be read in Mark 10:38-40.

His baptism fulfilled all righteousness
The fact that Jesus Himself said that His baptism would fulfill all righteousness (Matthew 3:15) implies that it was necessary for God’s plan. To fulfill something means ‘to satisfy, to bring to realization, to bring to completion’. Righteousness means to be without guilt or sin, to be morally justified. We are, by our sinful nature, not without sin and thus not right with God. We have an enormous debt to God that we can never repay. But when Jesus came, He took all of our debt upon Him, saying that He would make it right in His name. That is what baptism signifies. Jesus declared his intention to meet the righteous demands of God by himself undertaking to pay the debts of men. So the baptism was clearly an act of identification. With it, Jesus said: “Behold, I come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me” (Psalm 40:7), “my food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work” (John 4:34). How great is His mercy!

So, what can we learn from these reasons for our own walk with God? Well, since Jesus set an example for us to follow, also in His dependence, we can expect that Jesus will bless such obedience. His identification with us as sinners gives confidence “for we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16). As Jesus validated John the Baptist’s ministry, meaning that what John the Baptist said was true, we could also say that John the Baptist validated Jesus’ ministry, and say that whatever Jesus said was true, which is very reassuring. And so we can learn from Jesus’ baptism that we can confidentally trust His ministry and follow in His example in obedience and dependence to God, and abide in Him so that we can bear much fruit so that the Father is glorified in this and so prove to be His disciples (John 15:8).

Baptism #2 – John the Baptist

Last time we looked at the Jewish culture and rituals regarding the use of a “mikvah,” a bath or pool of living water, used for spiritual cleansing. This could be considered an early form of baptism, because doesn’t the Greek word ‘baptizō’ simply mean ‘to immerse something in water’?

And so how then was the baptism of John the Baptist different from the old traditions? Wasn’t it just a spiritual cleansing as well? In a way, yes, but where the spiritual cleansing using the mikvah was purely a religious act based upon man-made traditions and laws, the baptism of John the Baptist was ordained by God Himself, and included a real spiritual component. John the Baptist was sent by God to immerse people in the “mikvah” of repentance in order to prepare people for the coming Kingdom of God that would begin when the Messiah appeared. This is recorded in Matthew 3:11, where John the Baptist says: “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire“. You may ask yourself the question how man was able to repent without the Holy Spirit (as that only came with Jesus), and my answer would be grace. It’s always the grace of God; it’s only the grace of God. John’s mikvah immersion was an outward sign of a mysterious inward change that would enable repentant individuals, by the grace of God, to be ready to receive the Spirit of God so that they could enter the Kingdom of God.

Yet, there was more to his baptism than an inward change. John’s baptism was revolutionary; it was a statement of enormous proportions! This can be concluded from the fact that Pharisees started meddling. You can always assume that when the Pharisees start mingling in, we are stepping on their toes, and that they jump to the rescue to defend and protect some old Jewish (religious) traditions, and so also here. The Pharisees sent priests and Levites to question John as to whether he was the Messiah, the Prophet (spoken of by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.“), or Elijah. You can read about this in John 1:19-26. John’s answer to these questions was that he was neither the Messiah, nor the Prophet, nor Elijah, but that he was “a voice of one crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the LORD, as Isaiah the prophet said” (John 1:23). The answer of the priests and Levites was: “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” The reason for these questions was concerning the fact that John the Baptist was baptizing people in the Jordan. The Israelites had a tradition that no one could perform immersion in the Jordan except the Messiah, the Prophet or Elijah. This was because immersion in the Jordan, to the Jews, was a sign of the coming of the Messiah. The Israelites had crossed over into the Promised Land on dry ground when God parted the waters of the Jordan for Joshua. We read about this in Joshua 3:17, which says: “And the priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan while all Israel crossed on dry ground, until all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan.” This led to the belief that precursor to the Messiah’s arrival would be immersion in the Jordan “mikvah” by either the Prophet, Elijah, or the Messiah Himself.

With regards to Elijah, we read in Luke 1:5-25 the birth of John the Baptist foretold. When the angel of the Lord appeared before Zacharias, John’s father, we read: “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:13-17). And so we see that John the Baptist was first of all of the priestly line and that he was a child of special promise of God, as the one who would prepare the way for the Messiah after the manner of Elijah. The angel of the Lord said that John would come in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17), and Jesus Himself said about John: “And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come” (Matthew 11:14), and “that Elijah has indeed come” (Mark 9:13). Furthermore, John’s “garment of camel’s hair, and a leather girdle around his waist” (Matthew 3:4) was similar to the dress of Elijah (2 Kings 1:8). Although John himself denied this identification (John 1:21-25), admitting only to being Isaiah’s “voice in the wilderness” (John 1:23), it may be that he was disclaiming the popular hope for the literal resurrection of Elijah, accepting only the fulfillment of his spirit and power, as indeed this was the explicit promise of the angel.

So, John the Baptist was sent with special authorization from God. He was the final representative of the law and the prophets, “for all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John” (Matthew 11:13). He was the only one authorized to announce the coming Messiah (Mark 1:2-3). He was the only one authorized to announce the coming Gospel (Matthew 3:7-12). He was the only one authorized to immerse those who had repented of their sins and by faith looked to the coming Messiah (Luke 1:17), and he was the only one authorized to baptize Jesus Christ (Matthew 3:13-15).

John’s baptism was very specific. It rectified the old Jewish traditions, turning religion into redemption. It enabled repentant individuals, by the grace of God, to be ready to receive the Spirit of God so that they could enter the Kingdom of God. And it provided a platform for Jesus to start His earthly public ministry. It is also clear that John the Baptist’s baptism was constraint by time and is not in effect anymore, as he mentioned in Matthew 3:11, and that his baptism with water for repentance will be superseded by the baptism of Jesus Christ who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. This came into effect after the resurrection of Jesus Christ and His subsequent ascension back into heaven (Acts 1:9), which was followed by the day of Pentecost, when everyone was baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5, 2:2).

In closing, let me quote John Piper, who said: “It tells us that John’s baptism is not simple continuation of circumcision. Circumcision was the sign of belonging to the Old Covenant people of God. So at least some of the Pharisees and Sadducees came to see circumcision as the sign of God’s favor and of their security as the covenant people. But John’s baptism was a radical attack on this false security. He infuriated the Pharisees by calling the people to renounce reliance on the sign of the covenant that they got when they were infants, and to receive another sign to show that they were not relying on Jewish birth, but on the mercy of God received by repentance and faith. A new people within Israel were being formed, and a new sign of a new covenant was being instituted. It was not a simple continuation of circumcision. It was an indictment of a misuse of circumcision as a guarantee of salvation. Circumcision was a sign of ethnic continuity; baptism was a sign of spiritual reality. John’s baptism was a sign of personal, individual repentance, not a sign of birth into a covenant family. It is hard to overstate how radical this was in John’s day. The Jews already had a sign of the covenant, circumcision. John came calling for repentance and offering a new sign, baptism. This was incredibly offensive.”

Baptism #1 – The Mikvah

I don’t know about you, but when I think about baptism, the first thing that comes to mind is John the Baptist, the crazy guy with the garment of camel’s hair, eating only locusts and wild honey, who all of a sudden appeared on the scene and started baptizing people. But is John the Baptist really where baptism began? And why did he start baptizing people?

In this new series on baptism, my plan is to thoroughly investigate the topic of baptism, and so I want to start by taking a look at Jewish culture and rituals, which originate in the Bible, to provide some background on the symbolism of baptism, and why baptism is spoken of in the New Testament.

There is no word for baptism in the Hebrew language, but the Hebrew word that represents baptism is ‘mikvah’, which literally means ‘hope,’ or ‘collection,’ or ‘collected mass,’ but is generally spoken of as a collection of water. The book of Genesis records that the earth was submersed in water before God gathered the waters (in Genesis 1:9-10: “Then God said, ‘Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear’; and it was so. God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good.“ The word used here for gathering is ‘mikvah.’ The Jews believed that when God gathered the waters into the seas, the earth was resurrected from its watery grave. In Jewish thought, the waters that covered the earth, the mikvah waters, symbolize the womb of creation. Thus when a person is immersed in the waters of the mikvah, he is placing himself in a state of being unborn, subjecting himself totally to God’s creative power.

The prophet Jeremiah called God the “Mikvah of Israel,” or the “Hope of Israel” (Jeremiah 14:8, 17:13, 50:7), leading to the belief that the spiritual counterpart for the mikvah waters is the Spirit of God. Thus, immersion is the equivalent of being overwhelmed by or saturated in the Spirit of God. When an individual is immersed in water, he first enters the world of the non-living, the grave, since he ceases to breathe under the water. Then he emerges from the womb, his soul having been saturated or overwhelmed by the Spirit of God, resurrected from the watery grave as God’s new creation. Rabbis say that emerging from the mikvah is very much like a process of rebirth. When God created the Garden, He formed four head waters that flowed from Eden to all the earth. It is believed that the waters of Eden are the spiritual source of all waters. It is through the waters of the “mikvah”, whose spiritual source is Eden, that man can find his way back to God. According to classical rabbinic literature, a mikvah must be connected to a natural spring or well of naturally occurring water, and thus can be supplied by rivers and lakes which have natural springs as their source. This is because God identifies Himself as the fountain of living water (Jeremiah 2:13b).

Historically, the mikvah is a specific type of bath designed for the purpose of ritual immersion. Several biblical regulations specify that full immersion in water (it must contain enough water to cover the entire body of an average-sized man) is required to regain ritual purity after ritually impure incidents have occurred. These are incidents like: normal emissions of semen, whether from sexual activity, or from nocturnal emission, abnormal discharges of bodily fluids, certain skin conditions, by Jewish priests when they are being consecrated, by the Jewish high priest on Yom Kippur, after sending away the goat to Azazel, and by the man who leads away the goat, by the Jewish priest who performed the Red Heifer ritual, after contact with a corpse or grave, by a bridegroom on the day of his wedding, by a father prior to the circumcision of his son, but also for new kitchen utensils when acquired from a gentile.

There are a couple of occasions in the Bible where the mikvah is spoken of as a pool for ritual cleansing. In Leviticus 8:6 it is shown that the induction into the priest’s office for Aaron and his sons began with the washing of water: “Then Moses had Aaron and his sons come near and washed them with water.” In temple times, the priests as well as each Jew who wished entry into the House of God had first to be immersed in a mikvah, which is described in Exodus 30:20 “Then they enter the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water, so that they will not die; or when they approach the altar to minister, by offering up in smoke a fire sacrifice to the LORD.” On the Day of Atonement, the High Priest was allowed entrance into the Holy of Holies, the innermost chamber of the Temple, into which no other mortal could enter. The Law of Atonement in Leviticus 16 says that he first needs to bathe. “He shall put on the holy linen tunic, and the linen undergarments shall be next to his body, and he shall be girded with the linen sash and attired with the linen turban (these are holy garments). Then he shall bathe his body in water and put them on.” (Leviticus 16:4), and before the revelation at Sinai, all Jews were commanded to immerse themselves in preparation for coming face to face with God. “The LORD also said to Moses, ‘Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments’” (Exodus 19:10).

And so we see that there is a tradition in Jewish culture of immersing people in water for the purpose of (spiritual) cleansing. Thus we can conclude that when John the Baptist started baptizing people, or in other words, started using living water for spiritual cleansing, the concept itself was well known to the Jews. It is interesting that still today in Orthodox and Conservative Judaism, immersion in a ritual bath, for the purpose of conversion, is still required.

The Fruit of the Spirit #10 – Love

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:16-25)

Well, we are down to the last aspect or expression of the fruit of the Spirit: love. You could say that the fruit of the Spirit is love, and that Paul has been so kind to detail eight expressions of love. The fruit of the (Holy) Spirit is the work which His presence within us accomplishes, and in all that it accomplishes it is love that should be the outflow, “for out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Mat 12:34b)

The word ‘love’ here translates as ‘agapē’. There are four distinct words for love in the Greek. There is ‘eros’, which is romantic or passionate love. There is ‘philia’, which is the love we have for those near and dear to us. There is ‘storge’, which is the love that shows itself in affection and care. And then there is ‘agapē’, the love that is more a decision than of a spontaneous heart; it’s more a matter of the mind; it’s a deliberate choice to love regardless; it’s not simply an emotion, but a principle by which we live. It’s loving people who aren’t easy to love; loving people you don’t like. It can only be done with the help of God – never to seek anything but the best even for those who seek the worst for us; It means that no matter what a man may do to you (by way of insult, injury or humiliation), you will never seek anything else but his highest good.

To discuss something like the topic of love, where do you begin? Love is the major theme of the Bible, it is the quitescential aspect of God, of His mission, of our mission. What better way to address this topic than to look at 1 John 4:7-21, which all deals specifically on the fact that God is love, how that is expressed, and how we should respond.

We are Called to Love
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8)
The Greek begins by saying “those who are loved, let us love”. And so love is a response. We love one another because we are loved by God, and have received that love, and live in light of it. If love is of God, then those who claim to be born of God, and claim to know God, must be able to love one another in the body of Christ. Interestingly, the specific Greek word for knows (ginosko) is the word for a knowledge by experience. John is saying that when we really experience God it will show by our love for one another.

What Does Love Mean, and How Do We Apply It?
By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:9-11)
Love is not only defined by the sacrifice of Jesus; it is also defined by the giving of the Father. We need to appreciate and receive the Fatherly love God has to give us. The love of the Father was not only in the sending of the Son, but also in what that sending accomplishes for us. It brings life to all who trust in Jesus and His work on their behalf; There was nothing better God the Father could give to lost humanity than the gift of the Son of God Himself. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15). Real love, agapē love, is not defined by our love for God, but by His love for us. His love for us initiates our relationship of love with Him, our love only responds to His love for us. We can’t love God the way we should unless we are receiving and living in His love.

The Evidence of Love Shows Us God
No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:12)
If we really walk in God’s love towards us, it will be evident in our love for one another. The true measure of maturity is the abiding presence of God’s love in our lives, given out to others.

The Work of the Trinity is Assured In Us
By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” (1 John 4:13-15)
We can know by experience that we live in God, if His love has been perfected in us. And we know that His love has been perfected in us if we love one another. This goes beyond hope (hope for salvation, hope for heaven); It is the Spirit of God in us that is the abiding presence of Jesus. It is the testimony of the Holy Spirit within us that makes it possible for us to know that we abide in Him. “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16). It is not enough to know the facts about who Jesus is; we must confess the truth. We must be in agreement with God about who Jesus is, and we find out what God says about Jesus through the Word of God.

How Should We Respond to God and His Love
We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1 John 4:16)
We are called to take the love and grace God gives, to know it by experience and to believe it. This is what fellowship with God is all about. If we come to know and have believed the love which God has for us, can we ever stop believing this? Paul says in Romans 8:35-39, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, ‘for your sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

How to Perfect Love Now and Forever
By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” (1 John 4:17-18)
John doesn’t just use the Greek word teleioo (which has the idea of ‘maturity’ and ‘completeness’); he writes teleioo teleioo – speaking of love that is ‘perfectly perfected’ or ‘completely complete.’ How can we have such confidence? “By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” (1 John 4:13) So our identity is bound up in Jesus, thus we can have the same confidence that He has. How is Jesus now? He is glorified, justified, forever righteous and bold, sitting at the right hand of God the Father. Spiritually, we can have that same standing now, while we are in the world, because as He is, so are we in the world. The completeness of love means we don’t have to fear before God (dreading His judgment).

Why We Should Love Jesus
We love, because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
C.H. Spurgeon said it best: “There is no exception to this rule; if a man loves not God, neither is he born of God. Show me a fire without heat, then show me regeneration that does not produce love to God.” Do we dare to say that we love God, love Jesus? “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Do we really believe that God loves us? “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8)

The Commandment to Love
If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.” (1 John 4:20-21)
It’s easy to say that we love God, but if we don’t back this up by visible action, than we are liars. We can know the Word, dutifully attend church, demonstrate the gifts of the Spirit, yet love is a fruit of the Spirit. Though love comes from our abiding relationship with God and comes from our being born of Him, there is also an essential aspect of our will involved. Being born of God and abiding with Him give us the ability to love; but it is a choice of our will to draw upon that resource and give it out to others.

We Can Overcome the World
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.” (1 John 5:3-4)
A Christian who does not love God or keep His commandments is of little effective use in the body of Christ. Simply, love for God will show itself in obedience. His commandments are not burdensome, when we see how wise and good the commandments of God are. They are gifts from Him to show us the best and most fulfilling life possible. Because when we are born again, we are given new hearts – hearts which by instinct wish to please God. Instead of keeping hundreds of little rules and regulations, Jesus simply says to us, ‘Love Me and love my people, and you will walk in obedience.’. When we love God, we will want to obey Him and please Him. If we are born of God, we will overcome the world. Since believing in Him is the key to being born of God (1 John 5:1), the key to victory is faith. The life of abiding faith and trust in Jesus Christ is the life that overcomes the pressures and temptations of the world.

Keep Yourselves in the Love of God
But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, ‘In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.’ These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.” (Jude 1:17-21)
We are to be different. We are to remember what Jesus and the apostles said. To keep yourselves in the love of God means to keep yourself in harmony with God’s ever-present love. Three ways of keeping ourselves in the love of God: 1) holy faith: we need to keep growing spiritually. It means that we cannot wait for spiritual growth to just happen, or expect others to make us grow; 2) praying: the battle against wrong living and wrong teaching is a spiritual battle, requiring prayer in the Holy Spirit. “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26); 3) waiting anxiously: as we keep the blessed hope of Jesus’ soon return alive in our hearts, this effectively keeps us in the love of God, and helps us to not give away our faith.