Summary: John tells us that a true child of God seeks to be gracious and generous.
The theme of this portion of 1 John is love. But instead of portraying the need for believers to love one another in a positive light, John speaks to us about loving one another by emphasizing the negative. In these verses, he tells us what a lack of love will lead to.
1. Murder - vs. 11-15
John's words here echo the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5:21-22a.
"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment." - Matthew 5:21-22a (NIV)
The point is that lack of love for our brother or sister in Christ is a serious thing. After all, as John reminds us, "This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another."
A. An Observation - vs. 13
John makes a observation with which we should all be able to agree. Since the Christian faith is the opposite of what the world espouses, we should not be surprised when the world hates us.
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me." - John 15:18-21 (NIV)
B. An Illustration - vs. 12
John cites the example of Cain and Abel to illustrate the point that it's a natural thing for an unbelieving world to lash out at children of God.
1) Cain's Inspiration - v. 12a
Cain was inspired by the one to whom he belonged - the devil himself.
"You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning." - John 8:44a (NIV)
2) Cain's Motivation - v. 12b
Cain was motivated out of jealousy over the fact that Abel's sacrifices were accepted by God, while his were not. Why was that?
"In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. And Abel also brought an offering - fat
portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast." - Genesis 4:3-5 (NIV)
1) Cain's sacrifice reflected man's reasoning, while Abel's sacrifice was in response to God's revelation (Genesis 3:21) - "fruits of the soil" vs. "fat portions . . . from his flock."
2) Cain's sacrifice represented "just enough to get by" while Abel's sacrifice represented "honoring God with my best" - "some of the fruits" vs. "the firstborn of his flock."
3) Cain's sacrifice represented self-promotion, while Abel's
sacrifice represented submission.
Abel, I believe, had submitted to God's instruction concerning sacrifice, while Cain did not. Rather than doing things God's way, Cain insisted on doing things his way. Rather than coming to God on God's terms, Cain insisted on coming to God on his own terms.