Brotherly love means that we must love all the brothers. If one has some weakness, that is another matter. I say that all the children of God must be baptized by immersion, but I cannot say that because one does not do it this way, he is not a brother. He is regenerated if he is immersed in water, and he is also regenerated if he is not immersed in water. We may regard his regeneration as the mistake of all mistakes, but my Father has begotten him. (The Lord forgive me for speaking in this way.) Indeed, when there is opportunity, we must read the Bible with him to let him know that the eunuch and Philip went down into the water and also that the Lord Jesus came out from the water (Acts 8:36-38; Matt. 3:16). Baptism in the Bible is man going down and man coming up, not just two fingers going down and coming up. But we cannot say that he is not a brother because he has not yet done this. The basis of being a brother is life, not baptism. Although we believe that baptism is right, we are not the Baptist Church. The basis of fellowship is the blood and the life of the Holy Spirit, not knowledge, not even the knowledge of the Bible. The only question is whether or not one has the life of God. If he has been regenerated, he is a brother. Loving one another is but to stand in this position. Whenever we bring in other things and add requirements, we are a sect. Consider the matter of the breaking of bread. Paul, a new believer, arrives in a certain place; someone has brought him there, and he really has a testimony. They know he is a brother, so he can break bread. There is absolutely no need for a second requirement. Does he believe that the great tribulation will last seven years? Is the rapture partial or whole? If we inquire of people in this way, we are basically wrong. If we only love the brothers who are the same as we are, we are sectarian, and this is contrary to the testimony of brotherly love. Thank God we are all brothers. Everyone redeemed by the precious blood is a brother. If something of ourselves comes out, it must be pride. Some say, “Only we are right; you brothers are all wrong.” But the bread must include all the right as well as all the wrong brothers.
When you desire to follow the Lord in such a way, when you desire to love all the brothers, it does not mean that all the brothers will love you. You should realize this. Sardis came out from Thyatira. Although Sardis was following the will of the Lord, it is unavoidable that she would be hated by Rome. Likewise, just as Philadelphia came out from Sardis, the denominations will also be against you. Because they must maintain their organization, they will say that if you act in this way, you do not love your brothers. From their point of view, loving the brothers is equal to loving Sardis, as if loving the brothers and loving the denominations are not two different things. Those who have a motive to maintain the denominations will criticize your love as lacking because you are not building up their denominations. But you must be clear: Loving the brothers themselves and loving the denominations which these brothers love are two different things.
Moreover, we must realize that loving the whole church is simply based upon whether or not one is a brother; if one is a brother, we love him. This is loving the brothers. If we only love a part of all the brothers, then we are only loving the brothers who are within our circle. This kind of love for the brothers is not really love for the brothers, but love for division. If we do not abandon this love of sect, we cannot love the brothers. The love of sect is not only not right; it is positively wrong. Loving a sect is the greatest hindrance to loving the brothers. Unless a man rids himself of the love of sect, he cannot love the brothers. Yet a man who loves the brothers because he has no love of sect will be criticized by others as having no love. This is commonplace; do not think this is strange.
Let us bring up another point. Overcoming is spoken of in these epistles seven times. The Lord speaks to Ephesus: Repent. Overcoming depends on the discovery of the slackening of first love. The overcoming of Smyrna is nothing but the Lord’s words: “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” In Pergamos the Lord is against the teaching of Balaam and the Nicolaitans; therefore, whoever rejects the teaching of Balaam and the Nicolaitans is an overcomer. In Thyatira there are still those who will not follow the teachings of Jezebel. The Lord says, “Hold fast until I come.” This is overcoming. The Lord does not ask them to rise to be a Luther. In Sardis there are a few who are living. Although Sardis has nothing complete in herself, the Lord says that whoever is clothed in a white garment is the overcomer. To Philadelphia, although she has trials and hardships, the Lord remarkably says to hold fast that which she has; she has already overcome. As for Laodicea, it is not enough to just have the objective side; she must walk with the Lord subjectively. All of the overcoming refers to the differences among the children of God. The promises for overcoming are given to the churches; therefore, there are two kinds of people in the churches, the overcomers and the defeated ones. The separating point is that God has a plan, a standard. Whoever attains to the standard of God is an overcomer; whoever does not attain to the standard is not an overcomer. An overcomer merely does what he should do. Many have a wrong concept, thinking that overcoming means to be especially good. But remember, overcoming is the minimum degree; overcoming is not to rise above the level, but to come up to the level. If you are able to attain to this standard, you are an overcomer. To fail means that you are not able to reach the plan of God and you fall below the level.