By This All People Will Know . . . 

By This All People Will Know . . . 

Calvin Lashway 
March 2012

How do people know we are a disciple of Jesus Christ? According to Jesus, one way is by the love His disciples have for one another: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35 All scriptures quoted are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise stated). The love Christians show to one another is a sign to “all people,” believer and nonbeliever that we are Jesus’ disciples. 

On the night of Jesus’ final Passover before his crucifixion and death, He commands the apostles, as well as us today, three times to love one another: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another” (John 13:34), “This is my commandment, that you love one another” (John 15:12), and “I command you, so that you will love one another” (John 15:17). At the end of the first century, the apostle John reminds the recipients of his First and Second Letters of Jesus’ command for His disciples to love one another: “This is his [Jesus’] commandment, that we . . . love one another, just as he has commanded us . . . . this commandment we have from him [Jesus]: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 3:23; 4:21), and “now I ask you, dear lady— not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning— that we love one another” (2 John 5). 1

The command to love our brethren does not mean we are not to love nonbelievers. Jesus, as well as other New Testament writers, instruct us on the need love our neighbors (Matthew 19:19; 22:39; Mark 12:39; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8). We are even to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27, 35). The relationship we have with each other is one of family, a spiritual family. God is our father (Matthew 6:9; 7:11; Galatians 4:4-7; 1 John 3:1-2), and Jesus is our brother (Hebrew 2:10-18). It is a family joined together by the Spirit of God, not flesh and blood (Romans 8:14-17). The apostle Paul in writing to the Galatians recognizes the uniqueness of this family relationship among Jesus’ followers when he says, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:10 New International Version). As a family of believers we have a special obligation to love one another. 

Laying Down Our Life In Service

On that last Passover night Jesus says we must love one another, just as He loved us: “A new commandment I give to you, you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another . . .. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34, 15:12). How did Jesus love us? By laying down his life for us. He says, “Greater love has no one than this that someone lays down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:13). 

Like Jesus, we show our love by laying down our lives for one another, thus demonstrating to the world we are a follower of Jesus. John writes more about this laying down of life in his First Letter, “By this we know love, that he [Jesus] laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16). John is not speaking of literally dying for someone else as Jesus did, but rather of laying down our life in service: “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (verses 17-18). The apostle James writes something similar in his letter, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:14-17). Loving others is an action, not some sentimental feeling.

John continues in his First Letter, telling us how we can know whether we are Jesus' disciples. He says, “By this [loving in deed and truth] we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him [God]. . . . Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in him, and he in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us” (1 John 3:19-24). Not only does loving one another allow others to recognize us as a disciple of Jesus, it also helps us personally know we are one of His followers.

Jesus’ three commands for His disciples to love one another were given on Passover night. They are a part of Jesus’ last teachings to the disciples before His arrest and execution (See John 13-17), along with His final Passover teachings record in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. Each year as we spiritually prepare for Passover. Let us ask ourselves whether we have the kind of love for one another that allows all people to know we are one of Jesus’ disciples.

1. Christians loving one another is an important New Testament topic. With at least twenty-one references on how to love one another in a godly way (John 13:34, 35; 15:12, 17; Romans 12:10; 13:8; Galatians 5:13; Ephesians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 3:12; 4:9; 5:13; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Peter 1:22; 4:8; 5:14; 1 John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11, 12; 2 John 5).

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