Can we regenerate ourselves by loving others? John 13:34-35


John 13:34-35 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Love is a very important aspect of Christianity because God is love (1 John 4:8). Paul states, "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love" (1 Cor. 13:13).

However, Jesus said, "By [love] everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:34-35; 1 John 3:14). Notice that Jesus did not say, "By this YOU SHALL BE my disciples," but rather, "By this everyone WILL KNOW THAT YOU ARE my disciples." We are not saved by loving others; however, if our lives continually manifest a growing love for others, it is evidence of a true salvation found only in Christ. True faith in Christ will manifest itself in the true works of Christ (Jam. 2:18-20), one of which is love.

Our works - no matter how well-intentioned or those we call love - cannot save us. Before salvation, a person can't love God's way (for his glory - 1 Cor. 1:31). Our works are but rubbish (Isa. 64:6). Love before salvation comes up short of God's definition of it because it proceeds from our own unrighteousness (Luke 17:10). One can't truly love UNTIL God's love has been manifested in them in a saving way. John says, "We love BECAUSE he first loved us" (1 John 4:19). God's nature is love and unless and until his Spirit abides in us (1 Cor. 3:16), we cannot walk in the fruit of the Spirit. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Gal. 5:22-23).

Our own love does not save us, but there is a saving love that does. As John wrote, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). Paul states, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8). God's salvific love is a great love: "But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved" (Eph. 2:4-5). Only God's love regenerates. The elect are saved by grace alone (Eph. 2:8-10).

God is the only one who can save and he uses "means" (secondary causes) to accomplish this. One of the means God uses is his people loving others. As Jesus commanded: "Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another" (John 13:34; 15:12). God's people can love others because his love "has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us" (Rom. 5:5). While there are many reasons why we should love others, the primary one is because it displays the nature of the one who saved us.

God is love (1 John 4:8) - he is our Father and we are his children.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).