But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:17-18 (ESV)
The inference John seems to make in these verses is that the love of God does not abide in the person who has the world’s goods and closes his heart against the brother in need. If the love of God does not abide in one’s heart it is safe to say that person has not been born again. However, if the love of God does abide in one’s heart the fruit of it will be their ministry to the saints. Jesus makes that inference in Matthew 25.
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:31-40 ESV)
Their ministry to their brothers does not identify the sheep. If that were the case they would have earned their salvation. The sheep ministers to their brothers because that is what sheep do. They are not made righteous by the works they do, their works are the fruit of their righteousness.
The apostle Paul exhorted the early church to take care of the needs of the saints. To the Galatians he wrote, So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10 ESV) And to the Christians in Rome he wrote, Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. (Romans 12:13 ESV)
In Acts 11 we read about a prophet by the name of Agabus who prophesied of a great famine that did take place in the days of Claudius. So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul. (Acts 11:29-30 ESV) In 2 Corinthians 8, 9 & 16:1-4 Saul, now Paul, makes a plea for the Corinthian church to make ready an offering to help the Jerusalem saints during this time of famine. He said that supplying their needs would prove that their love was genuine (2 Corinthians 8:8).
The scriptures have shown us there are rewards for ministering to the saints and there are consequences for failing to do so (Matthew 25:41-46). It isn’t enough to say we love our brothers, it must be proven true by our deeds towards them in their time of need.
Is your love for the brethren genuine? Do you prove it by your ministry to the saints?
Scriptures for meditation:
2 Corinthians 8:13-15; 9:12