Why it’s essential that we learn to love as John — and above all, Jesus — loved.
In many ways, the apostle John would make a good Seventh-day Adventist. He was a seventh-day-Sabbath-keeping follower of Jesus. He was also a firm believer in the Second Coming. He wrote about it several times in his Gospel (see John 14:1-4, for instance). He ends his Revelation book with the simple prayer: “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20).
So John was a seventh-day-Sabbath keeper awaiting the Advent — a Seventh-day Adventist.
He also had a burden for the truth. He used the word truth 12 times in his pastoral letter of 1 John. And it was “present truth” for his time, because he attacks two then-current heresies.
The first, Docetism (from the Greek word dokein, “to seem”), taught that Jesus only seemed to have a human body.
The other heresy, Cerinthianism, taught that Jesus was the natural-born son of Joseph and Mary, but “Christ” entered His body at baptism and withdrew just before the crucifixion. John calls those teaching these positions antichrists and false prophets.
He had a deep interest in Daniel and Revelation. For Revelation, that’s obvious, because he wrote it. At the same time, he used much imagery and content from the book of Daniel. It’s difficult to understand Revelation without knowledge of Daniel.
Does the apostle John remain a good Adventist when he talks so much about love? That’s not how some of us Adventists think about ourselves. And it’s probably not what others think when they consider us — unfortunately.
John, in his Gospel, mentions love more times than the other Gospels combined. Note the scorecards: Matthew mentions love 17 times; in Mark it’s 9 times, and Luke has 18 — that’s a total of 44 times. In his Gospel, John mentions love 59 times.
For the statistically minded, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke have 2,900 verses, while John comes in at 879 verses. John has only a third of the number of verses.
Even more dramatic is 1 John, a brief letter of 105 verses, where he mentions love 47 times — again, more than Matthew, Mark, and Luke combined.
Why Write So Much about Love?
Simple answer, we don’t know. What we do know is that John was an old man when he wrote his Gospel, his letters, and the Revelation. He was probably in his eighties.
Old age can be a time of reflection, and John had a lot to reflect on. It can be a time of regret when cringe-worthy life moments come to mind — and John, a “son of thunder” (Mark 3:17), would have had regrets. But these can be overshadowed by what is more important.
For instance, John identifies himself in his Gospel as “the disciple Jesus loved” — five times! This was important to him, and it’s clear that his association with Jesus was the most significant, life-changing time of his life.
John had a front-row seat as Jesus taught and ministered, died, and rose again. He also had a personal relationship with Jesus. He felt the love. He knew the love. He recorded the “God so loved the world that He gave” message and believed it.
There’s warmth in his Gospel because of this. He’s had the time to understand Jesus’ ministry of love. That’s why his emphasis on love is so strong.
I began by asking whether the apostle John would make a good Adventist. Wrong question. The real question is this: Do we make good Adventist Christians if we don’t love like John? Or better, if we don’t love like Jesus?
The original version of this commentary was posted by Adventist Record and is adapted from Bruce Manners’ book The Command: Learning to Love Like Jesus (Signs Publishing, 2021).