Before His ascension, Jesus told His apostles, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). The mark of discipleship is obedience to the teacher. If we are disciples of Christ, it is because we have embraced His teaching, and we “observe” or obey what He commands. The preeminent command of our Lord is to love. Jesus said to His disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
Jesus’ instructions for His disciples to love one another is only one aspect of the call to love. Scripture reveals that our obligation to love is inclusive of all, even those who have made themselves our enemies (cf. Matthew 5:44)! With that in mind, consider the following obligations of love for the disciple of Christ:
Love the Lord: Jesus said that the greatest commandment of the Law was to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). The love for the Father must be present in every disciple, and the same love is required for the Son. The apostle John put it this way, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him” (1 John 5:1). This love is seen in our worship, and the work that we do for Him in our daily lives.
Too often, we see individuals protest their love for the Lord, and yet refuse to submit themselves to His will and agenda. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). In that same context, He promised to send the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who He later said would, “guide you into all truth” (16:13). This truth is contained in the holy scriptures, inspired by the Spirit.
The true disciple loves God and our Lord Jesus. He has been given “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (cf. 2 Peter 1:3) by the Holy Spirit, and he diligently obeys those things as a profession of his love.
Love the Brethren: Jesus clearly indicated a love for the brethren to be a mark of true discipleship. “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). John wrote, “He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him” (1 John 2:9-10).
Again, the mere protestation of love is insufficient. Love is seen in our treatment of our brethren. For example, we are to be hospitable, “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’ Be hospitable to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:8-9). Most importantly, we are to edify one another. This is a primary purpose of our worship assemblies, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). The true disciple expresses his love for his brethren by his efforts to strengthen, edify and support them.
Love the Lost: God sent His Son to die on the cross because of His love for those who are lost (cf. John 3:16). Jesus gave up His place in heaven for the same reason (cf. Philippians 2:5-8). His love for humanity should be mirrored in us as His disciples. It certainly was in the case of the apostle Paul, who wrote, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved” (Romans 10:1).
Our love for the lost is properly seen in our efforts to save them through sharing the gospel. May we echo Paul’s words, “So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you … for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:15-16).
Conclusion: Too many Christians do not properly express their love, either to God, the brethren, or the lost. May we all be diligent to love “fervently with a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22). Only in this are we truly His disciples. — by Stan Cox