' Love in the Truth' - by Robert Roberts
'The Christadelphian' 1873 pages 549-552
later published as 'Love and Doctrine' in
'Seasons of Comfort'
introductory note: this exhortation may be the most beautiful
of the many delivered by Robert Roberts: it was given after
a period of upheaval, when a re-affirmation of the truth con-
cerning the Sacrifice of Christ had become necessary
-the need to reject heresy is still with us and so let us also heed this exhortation-
2 John.-This epistle brings out a few things about "love", which it is important to recognise.
"Love", in the world, is one thing; "love", according to the sects, another; and the "love" of
apostolic discourse, yet another. The two former we may dismiss. The world's "love" is an
ephemeral affair, having its foundation in the instincts, dying with use and age, and passing
away in death. Orthodox "love" is a sickly distortion, lacking the elements that give strength
and comeliness to the "love" of the Scriptures. It works spiritual mischief now, and is des-
tined hereafter to vanish like smoke. The "love"of John's epistles has foundations, without
which it cannot exist. This partly comes out in the very first sentence of this second epistle:
"The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love IN THE TRUTH".
Outside the truth,a brother's love is not operative. He loves not the world, neither the things
that are in the world, remembering that "if any man love the world, the love of the Father is
not in him"-(1 John ii.15).His friendships are bounded by the truth, as regards both men and
things. In Christ, he is a "new creature"-(2 Cor. v.17). After the flesh, he knows no man-
"the friendship of the world is enmity with God"-(James iv.4).
Does he, therefore, shut up his bowels of compassion against those who are without God? By
no means. He recognizes the obligation put upon him by the same law, to salute not his bre-
thren only, but to do good unto all men, as he has opportunity, even to his enemies. But there
is a difference between doing good to unbelievers and cultivating friendship with them; and
the saint is careful to observe this difference, lest he come under the rebuke that greeted the
ears of Jehoshaphat, on his return from friendly co-operation with Ahab:
"Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them who hate the Lord?
Therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord"-(2 Chron. xix.2).
We can have our conversation towards the world in all courtesy and benevolence, without
going on to their ground, and joining affinity in schemes of pleasure, profit, or friendship.
The "love" that belongs to the household of faith is "for the truth's sake that dwelleth in us,
and shall be with us for ever". This is John's definition of its source and scope. Everyone
that is truly of the household responds instinctively to it. To the carnal mind it appears
very "narrow", but this is an illusion of ignorance. It is the true breadth, for it relates to
that which shall be for ever, while the world, which would have us unequally yoked, passeth
away. The truth connects us with "the shoreless ocean of eternity", while the friendship of
the world is confined to "a narrow neck of land" - the brief existence of this animal proba-
tion. The (presently) "narrow" operation of apostolic "love" is also founded in wisdom;
for unrestricted friendship with the world is full of danger; it draws away from the fear of
God, the hope of the calling, and the holiness of the Master's house, "whose house are we,
if we hold fast the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end". It is, therefore, a
snare; pleasant and advantageous meantime, but having the suction of the maelstrom with
it, drawing us to death; for when the Lord of Light stands on earth, to set in order destiny,
according to the Father's purpose, the world will have, from his presence, "fled away".
John rejoiced concerning those to whom he wrote that he had found them "walking in the
truth". Saints walk not otherwise. Their actions, plans of life, friendships, aims, enterprises,
hopes -everything connected with them, in some way or other comes from, originates in, and
is conformed to the truth. The truth is their inspiration - their controlling life-stream.
"If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature" - not that all answer to this.
There are professors who serve not our Lord Jesus, but themselves; but such are abortions
and illegitimates. None but sons will be mustered in the day of the 144,000. They are few
now, as they have always been, and the world "knoweth" them not in many senses; but they
know what they are about. They are not dreaming; they are not fanatics. They are the child-
ren of wisdom; and wisdom is justified of them all, though they may be hard to read some-
times. They understand the world too well to be entrapped into its fellowship. They are
known of God, and will be publicly revealed in due time, in glory, honour and immortality.
Meanwhile, they "walk in the truth". On this ground they are to be met and understood.
Approached on any other ground, they will not seem what they are. They are not be com-
prehended "after the flesh".
"This is love", says John, "that we walk after his commandments". No man loves after the
Spirit's fashion who disobeys. Apostolic "love" is that state of enlightenment and apprecia-
tion in relation to the things of God that impels a man to be "a doer of the word". John
gives this an application that was special to his day; and yet not special, as it is appropriate
wherever the same need and the same danger manifest themselves. "This is the command-
ment", he says, "that AS ye have heard in the beginning, ye should walk in it". We are won-
dering what he means when presently the light dawns; "for, many deceivers are entered
into the world who confess not that Jesus is come in the flesh". He means that they should
hold fast to the doctrine of Christ as originally delivered; because many were drawing the
disciples away therefrom. The obedience of this commandment is the evidence of New Tes-
tament "love", and it is also necessary for our acceptable standing before the presence of
the Lord's glory at his coming. This is John's view, as evident from the words following:
"Look to yourselves,that we lose not those things which we have wrought; but that we receive
a full reward". There would have been no need for these words if the things that had been
"wrought" were not imperilled by the doctrine of the deceivers of which he is speaking.
He indicates, in strong language, the consequences to the individual ensnared by the deceiv-
ers: "Whosoever transgresseth and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ hath not God".
This may seem a strange saying in view of the fact that the "deceivers" referred to believed
in one God, the Creator of heaven and earth; and also in Christ, after their own fashion.
But the apparent strangeness disappears when we look closely at the matter John is writing
about. To "have" God in the sense of John's words, is to stand in His favour, both now and
hereafter. All things are in His goodness. As David says, "his tender mercies are over all
his works": but the goodness of God in common benefits that come upon all alike, is a diff-
erent thing from that personal "favour" which guides, attends, and prospers (even if by
chastisement), with a view to a perpetual sonship in the Spirit-nature. The enjoyment of this
favour is a thing of conditions. One of those conditions is a recognition of the channel in
which He offers it. Out of Christ, sinners cannot come near. They have the goodness of God
as creatures, like the sparrows, not one of which can fall to the earth without the Father's
knowledge; but they are not in the privilege of children. They have not the Father's favour
and purpose concerning the ages to come. This is only to be enjoyed in Christ;but even here,
it must be the Christ of God's appointing. Any other than this is presumption, and a mock-
ery of His wisdom; and they who teach otherwise than the truth concerning Christ, preach
another Christ, though it be intended to refer to the Christ of Nazareth.
This is evident from the case of those to whom John is referring. They believed that the per-
son known as Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ; but in their reasonings upon him, they reas-
oned away the truth about him, and consequently believed and preached another Jesus than
the Son of the Father. There were different sorts of the class, but all their heresies had a
common origin, viz., an attempt to bring the mystery of Godliness within the rules of human
reason, instead of accepting the testimony with humble and childlike simplicity. One set ar-
gued that such a character as Jesus was a moral impossibility in flesh and blood, and that,
therefore, his whole life was a moral accommodation on the part of a spiritual being to the
senses of mortals. Another believing him to be flesh and blood philosophized in a contrary
direction, concluding that as such, he must, from the nature of things, have been a "mere
man", and that the idea of his being God in flesh-manifestation, was preposterous. The "Pa-
pal" breed blended the two, and taught that though flesh, his flesh was not the corrupt and
mortal flesh of men, but a superior, clean, "immaculate" sort. In our own day, as recent
painful experience has made us aware, a class of believers are treading the same dangerous
ground, in teaching that the flesh of Jesus was destitute of that which, in the flesh of his bre-
thren, constitutes the cause or source of mortality.
(Another variation of this virulent error is popular today. It denies "that Jesus is come in the
flesh", i.e. "sinful flesh", Romans 8v3, by proposing the following heretical teaching:
'The Sacrifice of Christ was of benefit for Himself, but only because it involved His final act
of obedience. It did not involve a personal need for purification from "sinful flesh"
by sacrifice and resurrection'. Contrast Robert Roberts in 'The Law of Moses':
"Heb. 9:23..is therefore a declaration that it was necessary that Christ should first of all
be purified with better sacrifices than the Mosaic..There must, therefore, be a sense
in which Christ...must not only have been sanctified by the action of the antitypical oil of
the Holy Spirit - but purged by the antitypical blood of his own sacrifice..
HE WAS "PURIFIED WITH" A BETTER SACRIFICE THAN BULLS AND GOATS-
VIZ., HIS OWN SACRIFICE..FROM...HIS HEREDITARY DEATH TAINT".
The above is in complete harmony with John Thomas, who wrote in 'Elpis Israel':
"Sinful flesh being the hereditary nature of the Lord Jesus, he was a fit and proper
sacrifice for sin...The great principle to be compassed was
THE CONDEMNATION OF SIN IN SINFUL FLESH,
INNOCENT OF ACTUAL TRANSGRESSION".)
- link to 'sacrifice' - (the above note has been added for information).
In relation to all of them, John's declaration reveals the mind of the Spirit:
"Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ,
hath not God.
He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ,
he hath both the Father and the Son".
The doctrine of Christ is that he is God made and manifested in the mortal flesh of Abra-
ham's race for the deliverance thereof, on His own principles, from "that having the power
of death". Those who hold fast to this have both the Father and the Son; for in Jesus they
have the Son, and the Father manifest in him.
As to those who "bring not this doctrine", John's commandment is: "Receive him not into
your house, neither bid him God speed!" This command we can no more evade than any
other commandment delivered unto us. The obedience of it may cost us something. It is cru-
cifying to the flesh to refuse friends - some of them excellent people as far as human nature
goes - who in one way or other have been seduced from their allegiance to the doctrine of
Christ; but there is no alternative.Friends are but for a moment; the truth is for ever;& if we
sacrifice our duty to the latter from regard to the former, the latter will sacrifice us in the
day of its glory, & hand us over to the destiny of the flesh,which as the grass, will pass away.
"He that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds". This applies to all without
distinction, and erects a barrier to fellowship with even some who hold the truth; for though
they may hold the doctrine of Christ themselves, yet if they keep up a "God-speed" conn-
ection with those who don't, by John's rule, they make themselves partakers with them, and
therefore cut themselves off from those who stand for the doctrine of Christ.
The epistle, as a whole, is singularly applicable to the situation in which we find ourselves
this morning. We have been obliged to stand aside for the doctrine of Christ from some we
love. The epistle of John justifies us in our course, both as regards those who have departed
from the doctrine of Christ, and those who, while holding on to it themselves, see not their
way to break connection with those who have departed. It is a painful situation, but we
must not falter, nor need we fear or be discouraged. God is with us in the course of obed-
ience, and we shall see His blessing in the increase in our midst, of zeal and holiness, and
love and preparedness for the great day of Christ, which is at hand.