“We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.” (1 John 3:14)
We are saved by God’s love and not by our love. We don’t love God so that He might love us. We don’t love our neighbor hoping to merit eternal life.
God has shown us His love through His Son, who laid down His life for us (1 John 3:16). This is a freely given love. For the sake of Christ, God forgives our sins. “He is the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:2). We will live forever, because we have faith in Him. Faith alone saves.
Love follows faith. Faith in Christ produces love. If you know the love of God found in Christ, you will love God in return. You will also love your fellow Christians. Love is not a cause of our salvation, but it is a sign of our salvation.
How do you know that your faith isn’t fraudulent? How do you know that your faith isn’t a sham? Look at how you treat your brothers and sisters. The unbelieving world hates the Church (1 John 3:13), but the Christian knows that he has passed out of death and into life because he loves his neighbor. His acts of love confirm his election and his calling (2 Peter 1:10).
Of course, the Christian’s love will never be perfect in this life. The flesh will get the better of you: You will lose your temper with your brother, get annoyed by his habits, say harsh words. That’s why we must abide in the love of God. As we abide in God’s love, His love will have its way with us. His love will deal with sin’s guilt and sin’s power. And on the Last Day, we will be perfected in His love.
Faith clings to Jesus’ cross alone
And rests in Him unceasing;
And by its fruits true faith is known,
With love and hope increasing.
For faith alone can justify;
Works serve our neighbor and supply
The proof that faith is living.
(“Salvation unto Us Has Come” LSB 555, st. 9)