Love One Another: Building Fellowship and Community | Bible Study #4

Love One Another: Fellowship and Community – Love Bible Study #4

Pastor Duke Taber

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Introduction

Love is the foundation upon which Christian fellowship and community are built. In John 13:34-35, Jesus gives His disciples a new commandment: “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” (NKJV). This command emphasizes the importance of love in the life of the church and how it serves as a powerful witness to the world.

In this Bible study, we will explore the significance of love in Christian fellowship and community, examining how it binds believers together, fosters spiritual growth, and attracts others to Christ. As we delve into the Scriptures, may the Holy Spirit guide us and empower us to cultivate a deep, abiding love for one another that reflects the love of Christ.

The Nature of Christian Love (John 13:34-35)

In His final discourse to His disciples, Jesus introduces a new commandment: to love one another as He has loved them. This love is not mere sentiment or emotion, but a sacrificial, unconditional love that mirrors the love of Christ Himself. As Jesus explains, this love will be the distinguishing mark of His followers, setting them apart from the world and testifying to their relationship with Him.

Several key aspects of Christian love emerge from this passage:

  1. It is modeled after Christ’s love: Jesus calls His disciples to love one another “as I have loved you” (John 13:34). Christ’s love is the supreme example and standard for our love. As the apostle Paul later writes, “Walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Ephesians 5:2).
  2. It is a command, not an option: Jesus does not merely suggest or recommend that His followers love one another; He commands it. Love is not an optional extra in the Christian life, but an essential aspect of our discipleship. As John later writes, “And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also” (1 John 4:21).
  3. It is a witness to the world: Jesus declares that the love of His disciples for one another will be the primary means by which the world recognizes them as His followers (John 13:35). In a world often characterized by selfishness, division, and hatred, the genuine, sacrificial love of Christians for one another stands out as a powerful testimony to the transforming power of Christ.

Reflective Questions:

  1. How does Jesus’ love for us serve as a model for our love for one another?
  2. Why is love for one another not merely an option, but a command for Christians?
  3. How have you experienced the love of other believers in a way that strengthened your faith and witness?
Love One Another: Fellowship and Community - Love Bible Study #4

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Love in Action: Building Up the Body (Ephesians 4:15-16)

The apostle Paul, writing to the Ephesians, emphasizes the role of love in the growth and building up of the church. He writes, “but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:15-16).

In this passage, we see several ways in which love contributes to the health and growth of the church:

  1. Speaking the truth in love: Paul encourages believers to speak the truth to one another, but to do so in a spirit of love. This involves both honesty and compassion, a willingness to confront sin and error, but also a commitment to building up and encouraging one another. As the apostle later writes, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29).
  2. Growing up into Christ: As believers speak the truth in love to one another, they grow together in maturity and Christlikeness. Love fosters an environment in which each member can develop their gifts, overcome weaknesses, and increasingly reflect the character of Christ. As Paul writes in another letter, “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Colossians 3:12-13).
  3. Every part doing its share: Paul emphasizes that the growth of the church is a collaborative effort, with each member contributing their unique gifts and abilities. Love enables believers to value and celebrate the diverse contributions of others, recognizing that each part is essential to the health of the whole. As Paul writes to the Corinthians, “But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ … But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another” (1 Corinthians 12:20-21, 24b-25).
  4. Edifying itself in love: The ultimate goal of the church’s growth is the building up of the body in love. As believers speak the truth, grow in maturity, and exercise their gifts, the result is a community characterized by love, unity, and mutual support. This love, in turn, attracts others to Christ and brings glory to God. As Jesus prayed in His high priestly prayer, “I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me” (John 17:23).

Reflective Questions:

  1. How can we balance speaking the truth with a spirit of love in our relationships with other believers?
  2. In what ways have you experienced growth in your own life through the loving input and encouragement of others in the church?
  3. How can we cultivate a church culture that values and encourages the diverse gifts and contributions of each member?
  4. What are some practical ways we can build up and edify one another in love?

Love and Unity: The Witness of the Church (John 17:20-23)

In His high priestly prayer, Jesus prays for the unity of His disciples, and for all who will believe in Him through their word. He prays, “that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:21). This unity, Jesus explains, is rooted in the love that the Father has for the Son, and that the Son has for His followers.

Several important truths emerge from this prayer:

  1. Unity is grounded in the love of God: The unity Jesus prays for is not merely a superficial agreement or absence of conflict, but a profound spiritual union that reflects the love and unity of the Trinity. As believers abide in Christ and experience His love, they are drawn into a deep, supernatural unity with one another. As Paul writes, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5).
  2. Unity is a powerful witness: Jesus prays that the unity of His followers will be a testimony to the world of His divine mission and the love of the Father. In a world marked by division, strife, and broken relationships, the supernatural unity of the church stands out as a compelling witness to the power of the gospel. As the psalmist writes, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! … For there the Lord commanded the blessing—life forevermore” (Psalm 133:1, 3b).
  3. Love is the key to unity: The unity Jesus prays for is not achieved through human effort or uniformity, but through the transforming power of divine love. As believers experience the love of Christ and allow that love to flow through them to others, they are knit together in a bond of unity that transcends differences and overcomes obstacles. As Paul writes, “above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection” (Colossians 3:14).

Reflective Questions:

  1. How does our experience of God’s love in Christ enable us to love and be united with other believers?
  2. In what ways can the unity of the church serve as a witness to the world of God’s love and power?
  3. What are some practical steps we can take to promote love and unity within our church community?

Applying Love in the Church Community

The Scriptures make clear that love is to be the defining characteristic of the Christian community. As we seek to apply this truth in our churches, there are several practical steps we can take:

  1. Cultivate a love for Christ: Our love for one another flows out of our love for Christ. As we abide in Him, study His Word, and commune with Him in prayer, our hearts will be filled with His love, which will overflow to others. As John writes, “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
  2. Practice forgiveness and reconciliation: Conflicts and offenses are inevitable in any community, but love calls us to a lifestyle of forgiveness and reconciliation. As Paul writes, “bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Colossians 3:13).
  3. Serve one another in love: Love expresses itself in practical acts of service and care for others. As Paul writes, “through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13b). This may involve meeting practical needs, offering encouragement, or using our gifts to build up the body.
  4. Pursue unity in diversity: The church is made up of believers from diverse backgrounds, personalities, and gifts. Love enables us to appreciate and value these differences, while also maintaining the essential unity we have in Christ. As Paul writes, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
  5. Extend love to the world: Our love for one another should overflow in love for the lost and hurting world around us. As we demonstrate the love of Christ in our relationships with one another, we will be equipped and motivated to share that love with others, both in word and deed. As Jesus commands, “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45a).

Reflective Questions:

  1. How can we cultivate a deeper love for Christ that will overflow in love for others?
  2. What are some practical ways we can practice forgiveness and reconciliation in our relationships with other believers?
  3. How can we use our unique gifts and abilities to serve one another in love?
  4. In what ways can our church community celebrate and appreciate the diversity of its members while maintaining unity in Christ?
  5. How can our love for one another serve as a platform for sharing the love of Christ with the world around us?

Conclusion

Love is the heartbeat of Christian fellowship and community. As we have seen in this study, Jesus commands His followers to love one another as He has loved them, and this love is to be the distinguishing mark of His disciples. Love binds believers together, fosters spiritual growth and maturity, and serves as a powerful witness to the world of the truth and power of the gospel.

As we seek to apply these truths in our churches, may we be filled with the love of Christ, and may that love overflow in our relationships with one another and with the world around us. May we speak the truth in love, build one another up in love, and pursue the unity that comes from our shared experience of God’s love.

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