He who has the spirit of love within him “is fathered by God,” “because love is from God.” He who constantly seeks the good of others, whose heart beats with love to those who are not within the narrow confines of his own ribs, whose love goes forth to God and His people, and to the sons of men in general—this is the man who “has been fathered by God and knows God.”
I have no right, therefore, to believe that I am a regenerated person unless my heart truly and sincerely loves God. It is vain for me, if I do not love God, to quote the register that records an ecclesiastical ceremony, and say that this regenerated me. It certainly did no such thing, or the sure result would have followed. If I have been regenerated I may not be perfect, but this one thing I can say, “Lord, you know everything! You know that I love you” (John 21:17). When by believing we receive the privilege to become the sons of God, we receive also the nature of sons, and with filial love we cry, “Abba, Father.” There is no exception to this rule; if a man does not love God, neither is he born of God. Show me a fire without heat, then show me regeneration that does not produce love to God; for as the sun must give forth its light, so must a soul that has been created anew by divine grace display its nature by sincere affection toward God.
You have seen a noble fountain in a city adorning a public square. See how the water leaps into the air; then it falls into a circular basin that fills and pours out its fullness into another lower down, and this again floods a third. Hear the merry splash as the waters fall in showers and cataracts from basin to basin! If you stand at the lower basin and look on it and say, “In this is water,” that is true, and will be true of the next higher one, and so forth. But if you would express the truth as to where the water really is, you may have to look far away, perhaps upon a mountain’s side, for there is a vast reservoir from which pipes are laid to bring these waters and force them to their height that they may descend so beautifully.
Thus the love we have to our fellow creatures drops from us like the descending silvery cataract from the full basin, but the first source of it is the immeasurable love of God that is hidden away in His very essence, which never changes, and never can be diminished.
“The one who does not love does not know God.” He may be very orthodox, but if he does not love, he does not know God. And if he does not know God, what does he know? There is such a thing as holding the truth in bitterness, but those who know God, and are truly His children, hold the truth in love.
All you have ever been taught from the pulpit, all you have ever studied from the Scriptures, all you have ever gathered from the learned, all you have collected from the libraries—all this is no knowledge of God at all unless you love God. In true religion, to love and to know God are synonymous terms. Without love you remain in ignorance still, ignorance of the most unhappy and ruinous kind. All attainments are transitory, if love is not as a salt to preserve them. Tongues must cease and knowledge must vanish away; love alone abides forever. You must have this love or be a fool forever. All the children of the true Zion are taught of the Lord, but you are not taught of God unless you love God. See then that to be devoid of love to God is to be devoid of all true knowledge of God, and so of all salvation.
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Adapted from the Spurgeon Commentary: 1 John, available as part of the nine-volume Spurgeon Commentary Collection: New Testament Letters.