Love towards All the Saints
“Wherefore I also, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which [is] in you, and the love which [ye have] towards all the saints”, (Eph. 1: 15).
A consequence of having faith in the Lord Jesus is “love … towards all the saints”. This is a very important word in judging our love. We are all apt to form a circle even among the saints of God - to have those we prefer, those that suit us best, whose thoughts, feelings, and habits are more or less the same as our own, or at least, are no great trial to us. However, this is not love to all the saints. There is more love to ourselves in it than to them. The flesh likes what is agreeable to us - what does not cause us pain, what is, perhaps, a gratification to the amiabilities of nature. All this may be found where there is really no exercise of the new nature, and no mighty power of the Spirit of God working in our hearts. We have always to test our souls, and ask how we stand in this. Is the prominent motive and object of our hearts the Lord Jesus? Is it with Him and for Him that we think of and feel towards all the saints?
I fully admit that love towards all the saints cannot, and ought not, to take the same shape towards all. It must be in the energy and intelligence of the Spirit, varied according to the call upon love. While one ought to love even a person who is under discipline, it would be a very great mistake to suppose that your love must be shown in the same way as if he were not. You do not cease to love him; indeed you never are in a position and spirit to exercise discipline with the Lord where there is not love - righteous hatred of the sin there must be, but real love to the person must be present as well. It would be better to wait upon God if it be not so in our hearts, till we can take the matter up in the spirit of divine grace. There must be, of course, a dealing in righteousness, but even in dealing with one’s child there ought not to be such a thing as chastening it in a passion. Anything that merely arises out of a sudden impulse is not a feeling that glorifies God about evil. Therefore in cases of discipline there ought to be self-judgment, and great patience too, unless it be something so flagrant that to hesitate about it would be culpable weakness, or want of decision and jealousy for God.
This is sufficiently plain from the Word of God (Acts 5: 1-10), where in a case of direct hypocrisy and lying against God in the midst of His people, the judgment was carried out at once. I deny there was want of love in this - rather it was the necessary accompaniment of divine love acting in the Assembly. It was stern judgment doubtless, but it was the fruit of intense desire for the saints of God, and of a horror that such a sin should get a footing among them, and the Holy Spirit be thus so grievously dishonoured.
In ordinary cases, however, the same love would wait, and let time be given for the fault to be confessed and repented of. In most cases, mistakes arise from precipitance, because we are apt to be jealous for our own reputation. This is not the power of the Holy Spirit, but selfish egoism at work in our hearts. Dealing with one overtaken by sin requires a spirit of meekness, a sense of our own weakness, and impartiality. If love to all the saints were working in our hearts, there would be less haste, and probably more restoration of souls.
If there are two cases of persons in fault, and the one is a favourite, and the other little liked, the latter is in imminent danger, I need hardly say, of going to the wall. My object of aversion would labour under a cloud which obscures the truth, no matter how obvious it might be to an unbiased mind. On the contrary, the favourite would derive that which outweighs the proofs of guilt from the unwillingness on the part of his friend to pronounce anything wrong about him. Such favouritism is condemned by God’s Word: “I testify before God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, that thou keep these things without prejudice, doing nothing by favour”, (1 Tim. 5: 21). “Love towards all the saints” demands that we love them not because they are our special friends but because they are saints. If we love them on that basis, our love will be pure and unbiased. Our great difficulty always is that our thoughts, feelings and actions should flow from this ground. A love that expresses partiality is not love according to God.