There is a concept in the Scriptures that is not generally understood very well. We all understand that Jesus laid down His life for us, but what is not very well understood by many of the scattered Church brethren, is that we are absolutely required by God to do the same thing. We too, must also lay our lives down. Imprecise translations, like the King James Version of 1John 3:16, do not define the seriousness of the matter very well.
1 John 3:16 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
The phrase, ‘ought to,’ almost makes this commandment seem like a good idea that is optional. The truth is that Jesus Christ laid down His life and we must do the same. It is absolutely required of us. This concept of laying down our lives is a most important matter. A better translation would be:
1 John 3:16 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us: and we must lay down our lives for the brethren.
After we grasp the compulsory nature of laying down our lives for each other, we need to know what God expects of us. After all, we do not see any Christians dying as Christ did. So what does laying down our life mean?
This notion was not emphasized in the Worldwide Church of God, but it should have been, because it is absolutely required of Christians. It is not a suggestion, nor is it flowery semantics; it is a salvational requirement for Christians.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son.
God the Father made the inestimable sacrifice of being willing to give up His only Son forever; while Jesus gave His life for us. Those who are in the world cannot comprehend our part in their sacrifices. So, when we read John 3:16, let’s understand to whatever degree that we are able, the magnitude of the sacrifice that God the Father and Jesus Christ were willing to make for us. Are we then able to lay our lives down as Christ gave us example?
The apostle Paul poses a question designed to make us think. “If you knew that someone was absolutely innocent of a charge for which he had been sentenced to the death penalty, would you take his place and die in his stead?” Would you be willing to die a martyr’s death if need be?
Romans 5:7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet perhaps for a good man some would even dare to die.
We are all familiar with stories of how a soldier might throw himself on a hand grenade to save a fellow soldier. For that act of valor he posthumously receives the Metal of Honor. There is no greater sacrifice or act of love than to lay your life down for another. And of course, Paul is telling us that is what Jesus Christ did for us.
Recently we witnessed a similar incident. When radical Islamic militants attacked the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, four Americans died. U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and U.S. Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith died in the initial onslaught. A group of more Americans, led by senior security operative Tyrone S. Woods, decided to take it upon themselves to mount a rescue attempt. The top CIA officer in Benghazi ordered them to "stand down," but they felt compelled to go into harm’s way to try to rescue their fellow servicemen; not willing to leave any behind. Hours later, Tyrone S. Woods and Glen Doherty, both former Navy SEALs, were killed by enemy mortar rounds. It was said of them, "As Americans, let us never, ever forget that our freedom is only sustained because there are people who are willing to fight for it, to stand up for it, and in some cases, lay down their lives for it."
We find that the apostle Peter possessed a similar love for His Lord:
John 13:37 Peter said unto Him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake.
The title of this ‘Countdown to the Return of Jesus Christ’ comes from this verse where Jesus said:
John 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Brethren, it is incumbent on us to grasp the significance and meaning of Christ’s words. To be true Philadelphians we must exhibit the definition of the name and show "brotherly love" and there is no greater love that we can show than by laying down our lives for one another. Why and how is laying down our life the greatest love possible? How do we go about laying down our lives over and over as Jesus intends? In today’s sermon we will examine the ways we are to be living sacrifices, because that is what is required of Christians. Paul called our way of laying down our life, “living sacrifices.”
Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.