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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

Actions Speak

louder than words.

1 John 3:16–18

By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?

My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. 

The phrase “Actions speak louder than words” is said to be “hundreds” of years old.

Ha. Saint Hilary of Arles said that of 1 John 3:18 almost sixteen “hundreds of years” ago.

John is calling us to actions that speak very loudly. He gives Jesus laying down His life for us as the example by which we know love. Then John challenges us by saying that we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. It doesn’t get much louder than that.

But what makes this passage so bold is what it doesn’t say. John admonishes any Christian who sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him. Okay, but where’s the mention of the brother deserving any help? Where’s the mention of the brother even asking for help?

They’re not there. The context for this passage is Romans 5:8.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

God sets an incredibly high standard of love for us.

And there’s another little unexpected tidbit in this passage. Notice what it says about the Christian who sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him. What is that person missing?

Not obedience (though that’s implied). Not charity. No, what’s missing is the love of God. Loving your brother is really all about loving God. This brings the whole thing full circle.

Actions speak louder than words, but our actions toward our brother speak to our love of God.

And loving your brother has a curious twist in practice. The Christian who sees his brother in need may have had to look hard to find him. People in need hesitate to ask for help. Thus, churches often get requests for help not from the people who need help but from their friends.

So, active love actively looks for people who need help. This leads to a great irony.

In the midst of the incredible challenge of laying our lives down for our brothers, the easiest recruiting in all of Christendom pops up.

“Help me find people who need help.”

These Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. The Weekend DEEPs are written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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