Summary: We are taught here in John that we know that we have passed out of death into life because we love the brethren. Love of the brethren is a proof of sonship. People with a heart for God have a heart for people.
1 JOHN 3: 11-18 [LIFE, LIGHT & LOVE SERIES]
LIVING IN LOVE OR DEATH
In his book Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home, Richard Foster tells of an OLD SAGE who asked his disciples, "How can we know when the darkness is leaving and the dawn is coming?" "When we can see a tree in the distance and know that it is an elm and not a juniper," one student responded. Another replied, “When we can see an animal & know it is a fox & not a wolf.”
"No," said the teacher.
Puzzled, the students asked for the answer. The sage replied quietly, "We know the darkness is leaving and the dawn is coming when we can see another person and know that it is our brother or sister; otherwise no matter what time it is, your still dark.”
We are taught here in John that we know that we have passed out of death into life because we love the brethren. Love of the brethren is a proof of sonship. Are there Christians whom you dislike intensely? Are there Christian brethren that you hold in contempt for one reason or another? What about Christians of another race? If love is the mark of a believer, do people recognize that you belong to Christ? People with a heart for God have a heart for people (CIT).
I. LOVE ONE ANOTHER, 11.
II. MURDER AND HATRED, 12-15.
III. LOVE OR INDIFFERENCE, 16-18.
Having taught that the children of God are characterized by righteousness and freedom from sin Christians are now described as people who love each other. Although love is characteristic of the Christian’s new nature it is nevertheless urged upon the brethren that we love one another. The second half of verse10 implies that the height of righteousness is revealed in loving our Christian brother. “By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.” Verse 11 declares that love is the primary or beginning message of Christianity. “For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.”
“The message” [repetition of the summation phrase (1:5) in the book’s introduction] denotes the heart and substance of the Christian’s basic and indispensable duty. This message had been heard from the beginning of their Christian experience. The message is “that we should love one another.” There is no new message. We are to love one another. The message that begins with our Christian experience continues through out our Christian pilgrimage. This command to love originates in Jesus Himself [Jn. 13:34f; 15:12] and thus is a foundational teaching of Christianity.
“Love” is agapao, which refers to divine love, which is self-sacrificial love. This love is produced in the heart of the yielded saint by the Holy Spirit. The infection of bad doctrine was robbing these Christians of this love. They were going adrift from their love relationship with Jesus Christ that provided them with the empowering to lived in and live out the love of God.
The gospel is based upon three loves: God's love for us, our love for Him, and in Him our love for others. It can be explained as God's love coming to us in Christ Jesus, then this love ascending to Him through our faith in Christ and then this love extending out to the brethren in Christ and then to all men. As you follow these directions of love, you form the cross. God's greatest expression of His love for us is seen at Calvary. Because God so loved us, we are commanded to love one another.
II. MURDER AND HATRED, 12-15.
Before telling us precisely what love is, we are first told what it is not in verse 12. “Not as Cain, who was of the evil one, and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother's were righteous.”
Cain killing his brother Abel is the classic example of where the loss of brotherly love can lead. The first murder was when Cain killed his brother Abel (Gen. 4:1-8). In slaying his brother, Cain proved that he was of the evil one. The devil has been a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44). His origin and orientation is rebellion, lies, hate and murder.
It is indicated in verse 12 that people who are morally upright expose and shame those who aren't. Because Cain's works were evil and unacceptable to God and those of Abel were righteous and acceptable to God, Cain became jealous. This resentment festered until it became hatred and then ended in murder. Murder is in the heart before it is in the hand. It came out of his character and attitude. Therefore Scripture warns against having the wrong attitude toward others (Mt. 5: 21-24). Hatred has no place in the Christian's heart, neither toward another Christian or any other person. The only thing a Christian should hate is sin.