1 John 3:11-24 | Love One Another
11For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous.
- We have heard a message right from the start of the Biblical story, even with the account of Cain and Abel. The message is to love one another and this message continues all throughout the Biblical narrative and is perfected and fully revealed in Jesus Christ.
- We see from the Genesis account that Cain was lacking in his love for God because he brought an inferior offering, not the firstfruits and best of the soil. We also see a lack of love towards Abel, who had done nothing wrong against Cain, but instead Cain was filled with anger and hatred against him.
- Cain belonged to the evil one – he was a child of the evil one, not of God, as John has just been talking about. His actions and motives were spurred on by the one he belonged to, just as in the case of all humanity
- Cain’s actions were evil because he likely wanted to keep the best and first for himself. From this account we may ask “What is wrong with Cain?” and the answer is “He has no love, for God or for others”.
13Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.
- We must remember that the world belongs to the evil one, as did Cain, and so therefore expresses hatred towards God and the people of God.
- This should be of no surprise to us, because we know the state of mankind and the effect of sin within us, causing us to hate God and each other.
14We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.
- Love then, is a symbol and fruit of the life of God within us, whereas hate is a symbol and fruit of the death within us.
- Just as Jesus said that if we harbour any hatred in our hearts against anyone, we are guilty of committing murder – because the root of both hatred and murder is death. The actions reveal the evil and death within us, so if hatred and murder are our actions, then death is living within.
- Instead, those belonging to God have eternal life residing within them which causes and enables them to love. Note that in 1 John 1:2, Jesus Christ is referred to as “the eternal life”, so really this is just Christ dwelling within us through his Spirit. (John 1:4 “In him was life and that life was the light of men”)
16This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
- John has a perfect definition and example of what love is, and it is simply the self-sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We only need to look at the cross to see and know what love is. Jesus is the ‘image of the invisible God’ (Col 1:15) in that he reveals the person of God to us, and when we look at the cross we see the fullness of God’s love expressed towards humanity.
- Not only does Jesus reveal the perfect love of God but also shows us the example of how to live as we seek to live lives reflecting the love of God. When we lay down our lives for each other through self-sacrifice and servant hearted love we imitate the love of Christ and reflect God’s glory.
17If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
- Love is not just a theory, a feeling or way of thinking, it is a way of living and being. God is love and so speaks and acts in love, and the life of God within us enables us to live a life of love. Therefore, if there is no fruit of love, then surely there is no root of life.
- We often consider truth being an object of our minds (i.e. believing the truth) but this shows that our actions of love are an expression of the truth of God within our lives.
19This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence:
- The majority of Biblical commentators advocate for the term ‘this’ (herein) to refer back to the previous phrase (1 John 3:18), not the following and I would argue that this makes more sense in the general reading of the text. The evidence of love in our lives is the evidence that we belong to the truth, because as we have seen, love is the fruit of truth.
- in his presence – (more literally ‘before him’), both now and when our Saviour returns we may ‘be persuaded/have confidence’ that we belong to the truth because of the fruit of love in our lives.
20If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
- The good news is that if our hearts condemn us now and before God so that we feel unassured of our salvation, our hearts are not our judge, God is. God is greater than our hearts and knows everything and so knows the true state of our souls.
21Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him.
- A person who has confidence before God and who keeps his commands and does what pleases him, receives what he asks for. He receives it not as a reward of obedience because he clearly walks in line with God’s heart and asks according to his will. His heart does not condemn him because there is no unconfessed sin or doubt to condemn, but instead the fruit of love from belonging to the truth.
23And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.
- The command of God cannot be employed far away from him, for it is simply to believe in and love the Lord. No-one can keep God’s commands with a begrudging heart or unloving attitude, for the very command is faith and love.
24The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
- To keep God’s commands (to believe in him, love him and love others) is to live in him and have God live in us. We do this by making our lives about him, whereby he becomes the centre and focus of our lives. When we are fully consumed in him, and his presence is fully in us, then we are fulfilling his command.
- We are not left to wonder how and when this happens, for we can have assurance that he lives in us through the Spirit he has given us. As it says elsewhere, “our spirit testifies with God’s Spirit that we are his children”.
- The presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and lives is a seal and deposit (Eph 1:14) guaranteeing our redemption and providing us assurance of his life within.