Summary: Love is never a true love unless it is expressed in action.
The letter of the apostle John had two purposes in writing this letter: (1) to expose and reject the doctrinal ethical errors of the false teachers, and (2) to exhort the Christians to pursue a life of fellowship with God characterized by truth. His main concern is for the believers to KNOW (repeated 43 times) the real “truth” about some claims the false teachers were propagating. In this book, there are nine “This is how we know…” phrases talking about the truths we should know and one of these is “love” (3:16).
Our Christianity is somehow stained by a love that is shallow and far from the biblical love or from the love portrays by the Bible. In our text, John has told us what true Christian love is. He is actually saying that love is never a true love unless it is expressed in action, thus prompted me to give the title to this study as “Love Is True In Action.” In this month of February, the love month, may we be challenged to pattern our love to the true Christian love. Know this truth for the truth will set us free (John 8:32).
1. Love is the basis for life in the believing community (1Jo_3:11; 1Jo_3:14; cf. Joh_5:24).
1.1 It is the gospel directed to Christians (v. 11).
± Note that it says “message.” (Gk., aggelia ang-el-ee’-ah); an announcement, i.e. (by implication) with force of precept; the same term used for gospel.
± The message echoes John 13:34.
± The Gospel message of Him who loved us, announced by His servants, is, that we love the brethren; not here all mankind, but those who are our brethren in Christ, children of the same family of God, of whom we have been born anew.
1.2 It is not like Cain’s attitude toward his brother Abel (v. 12).
± Before telling us what precisely love is, the Apostle John told us what it is not
± In both Jewish and early Christian writings, Cain appears as a model for those who failed to “love the brothers” (cf. 1 John 3:17).
± “Why did he murder him?” Cain murdered his brother Abel because of his jealous resentment of his brother’s superior righteousness (Gen. 4:2-7), and in that action, he was of the evil one.
± The author has tended to portray the issues before the readers in antithetical (‘either/or’) terms before, so here the contrast between the evil deeds of Cain and the righteous deeds of his brother Abel is portrayed in the same fashion.
± There is no middle ground between evil and righteousness or between light and darkness in the author’s portrayal; one must choose one side or the other.
1.3 Hatred is the way of the world (v. 13).
± Non-believers hate Christians and this is expressed in many ways: ignore, disbelief, laugh at us, unfavorable of us, etc. But John says, do not be surprised because this is expected of them! Hatred is the way of the world!
± It is the existence of “hatred” in the Christian community that is surprising – and this is the problem John is trying to point out. The apostle is actually saying, “There is hatred in you and this is surprising!”
1.4 Love should be our basis for life (1 Jo_3:6, 14).
± The verb “crossed over” essentially means “to pass over (from one place to another),” referring to the believer’s transfer from the state of (spiritual) death to the state of (spiritual) life (cf. John 5:24).
± In John 13:1 it is used to refer to Jesus’ departure from this world as he returns to the Father.
± The phrase “we know” implies that the readers know the reason why they have passed from death to life, i.e. because they love their fellow Christians (cf. John 13:35).
± Take note that love will not cause the passage to spiritual life but will give evidence of it,
± Never that love alone can be the passage to eternal life. Nonetheless, it is expected that when we become Christians, we will exhibit God’s love for us by loving our brethren.
± Therefore he can add the next line of 3:14, “the one who does not love remains in death.” Why? Because such a person does not have God’s love residing in them at all. Rather, this person can be described as a “murderer”-as the following verse goes on to do.
± Note also that the author’s description here of the person who does not love as remaining in death is another way of describing a person who remains in darkness, which is a description of unbelievers in John 12:46.
1.5 Hatred has no fellowship with the believers (1Jo_3:15; Mat_5:21-22).
± This verse is usually taken to mean that a true Christian cannot hate his fellow Christian, since hatred is the moral equivalent of murder. But this view cannot stand up a thorough scrutiny. Simply because we are still in this world.