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Doing Righteous = Brotherly Love (1 John 3:10b-18)
Sermon Notes
Sunday, 15 September 2013 00:00

Review: The one and only basis on which a child of God may be manifested is by doing righteousness. Since “whoever is born of God does not sin,” and “cannot sin” (3:9), sin can be no part of such a manifestation. Abiding in Christ is the key because “whoever abides in Him does not sin” (3:6).
But granted that God’s children can only be manifested (rendered apparent) by the doing of righteousness, in what does that righteousness consist? How can we recognize it when it is on display? While many people today might answer that question in terms of morality, there are many unregenerate people who are highly moral, yet there is nothing distinctly Christian about this morality, however admirable it may be. What is unique to Christian morality is its demand for a brotherly love based on our mutual faith in Christ. Where either or both of these things are missing, there can be no actual manifestation of a truly Christian righteousness (1 John 3:23).
“The discussion of righteousness (2:29; 3:7) is now left behind as John transitioned to the more specific subject of love. In fact, the reference to righteousness in this verse is the last in the entire epistle. This is understandable if we keep in mind that, for John, there is no such thing as a Christian righteousness which does not include love for one’s brother, so to speak of loving one’s brothers is also to speak of righteousness in a truly Christian sense.” (Hodges, p. 152)

Preview: Up to this point in the letter, the Greek noun for love has occurred only 3 times (2:5, 15; 3:1) and the verb “to love” has occurred only 4 times (2:10; 2:15 [twice]; 3:1). But in this section of John’s epistle (3:10b-4:21), the noun occurs 14 times and the verb 21 times. The new theme is clearly love. John begins his new discussion of love by considering what the absence of Christian love is really like (in 3:10b-15). He thereby prepares the way to discuss (in 3:16-18) what characterizes such love.

1. What Love Is Not (3:10b-15)

10bWhoever does not practice [do] righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.
Whatever is true of whoever does not [do] righteousness is true also of whoever does not love his brother.
In both cases the person is not of God in the sense that God is not behind what he is doing.
The phrase “not of God” does not equal “not born of God.” The NIV rendering, “Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God,” both paraphrases the text and misinterprets it at the same time. There is nothing in this text about not being a child of God. How could there be? One must be a child of God before one could hate his brother. An unsaved person has no Christian brother to hate (cf. 2:9).
John is also moving from a broader to a narrower theme in this statement. The words whoever does not [do] righteousness can refer to anyone who lacks righteous conduct, whether saved or unsaved. But the words he who does not love his brother introduce a specific kind of righteousness that only a Christian can manifest or fail to manifest.

11 For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another,
The failure to love one’s brother is nothing less than a violation of the Savior’s command to love one another. The original command was given by Jesus only after Judas had left the Upper Room (John 13:30). Such a command would have had no bearing on Judas, who was not a child of God. The subject matter (3:10b-23) has to do with a command that was given only to believers and can be fulfilled or not fulfilled only by a born-again person.
The message about love had been given to them from the beginning or their Christian experience (cf. 2:7).

12 not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.
The classic example of brother-to-brother hatred is the case of Cain and Abel (Gen 4:1-15).
Cain was of the wicked one in that what he did was derived from satanic influence rather than from anything related to God (3:8, 10b). As Jesus had said, Satan “was a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). Whether Cain was ever regenerate is a question that cannot be answered from the information in this text. But John used the physical relationship between Cain and Abel as an illustration of the spiritual relationship between Christian brethren.
Just as it is possible for one brother to murder his biological brother, it is possible for one Christian to murder another. Even so grievous a crime as murder is not regarded in the NT as impossible for a Christian to commit (cf. 1 Peter 4:15). If a Christian becomes guilty of murder, the influence of the wicked one is behind it. The next words are revealing: And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous. A spiritual envy led to the first murder in human history. Whenever Christians feel guilt because their behavior is contrary to God’s will, they will find it easy to feel hatred (because they make me look bad and feel guilty) toward those whom they know God approves.

13 Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you.
Many see v 13 as an explanation of vv 11-12, and thus tend to see Cain as an example of what to expect from the world, as something not possible for a Christian brother. But the wider context reveals that John’s intent is to contrast brotherly love with worldly hate, while showing that sometimes even Christian brothers behave like the world. While brother-to-brother hatred is totally inconsistent with Jesus’ command to “love one another” and thus not to be the expected experience, the same cannot be said of the world. Jesus had taught that the world’s hatred is indeed to be expected (John 15:18-19). While John’s readers may well marvel at hatred from a brother, the world’s hatred is to be anticipated.

14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.
The emphatic we refers to the apostles themselves. In contrast to the world (v13b), the apostles love their fellow Christians.
Indeed, John declares, we [the apostles] know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. This is more than an assertion that they love their fellow Christians
It is also a claim to a certain quality of experience.
The apostles are able to recognize their experience of love as an experience of life rather than death.
The words passed from death to life do not mean the apostles were sure that they had eternal life because they loved the brethren. There is no reason why this should be true for them or any other Christian. Assurance of salvation is based on the testimony of God (1 John 5:9-13).
Instead, in a perfectly normal use of the word know, John declares that he and his fellow apostles experience their passage from death to life through loving their Christian brothers.
The implication is that the passage from death to life, which occurs at the moment one believes in Jesus for eternal life (John 5:24), can be experientially and qualitatively known and appreciated through Christian love.

By contrast, 14 bHe who does not love his [a] brother abides in death.
There is no way a Christian who fails to love his brother can have the immediate, experiential knowledge of life John has just spoken about.
On the contrary such a person abides (“dwells”) in death. If love is an experience of “life,” John is saying, hatred of one’s Christian brother is an experience of death (Rom 7:9-10).
The key word here is abides. This is John’s favorite word for the experience of discipleship to Jesus Christ (2:5-6). It is also the key word in the thematic statement of 2:28, which gives the fundamental appeal of the epistle to its readers to “abide in Him (in Christ). The man who does not love his brother lives out in the cold, dark sphere of death (2:11).
John is talking here about the concept of a Christian “abiding” in death in the sense that he has lost touch with the experience of God’s life.

In sharp contrast with 2:9-11; 3:10, 12, there is no Greek word for his in the phrase his brother.
He who does not love his [a]brother can then apply not only to Christians who might hate a particular Christian brother, but also to anyone else who might hate such a brother.
It makes no difference who is doing the hating. Hatred of a Christian is an experience in the realm of death, whether the hating is being done by a non-Christian or a Christian.

15 Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
John goes on to explain that hatred of one’s brother is also an experience of murder.
The person who hates his Christian brother is really no different from Cain (cf. 3:12), even though he may not commit the overt act of physically killing his brother (Matthew 5:21-22).
The spirit of hatred is that a brother wants “to be rid” of his brother and would not really care if he died.
John does NOT SAY (as the NIV paraphrases), “No murderer has eternal life in him.” The NKJV and NASV better translate the Greek as no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
The key to understanding what John is talking about is the concept of “abiding.” John’s concept of abiding is always that it is a reciprocal relationship even as Jesus said; “Abide in Me, and I in you” (John 15:4; see 1 John 2:27. Since Christ Himself is eternal life (cf. 5:20), to say that someone does not have eternal life abiding in him is equivalent to saying that he does not have Christ abiding in him.

2. What Love Is (3:16-18)
A. Love gives Sacrificially 16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
Christian love can be recognized by its conformity to the supreme model found in Christ’s sacrificial death for us. Although Christ died for the entire world (2:2), when a believer considers his own obligation to love he should focus on the fact that it was for him that Christ died. As the personal beneficiaries of His great sacrifice, believers should be prepared to make a similar sacrifice for the brethren.
The words we know are in the perfect tense, suggesting a situation arising from a past event or action. Once a Christian has understood the love of Christ for him, he has come to a definitive knowledge of what Christian love is about.

B. Love sees Compassionately 17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?
Sometimes it is easier to profess a willingness to die for one’s brother than it is to aid him in his time of need. John therefore wishes to test the reality of a Christian’s love for his brother by offering an example more likely to occur than an opportunity to die for a brother.
In v 16 the word for “life” is psyche. In v 17 John employs another word for “life” (bios) which refers to life in its earthly and/or material aspects, i.e., goods.
One could almost translate the verse this way: But whoever has this world’s [life!]
The thought is that sharing with other Christians the material things that sustain life is, at heart, a way of laying down one’s life for them.
If, instead of doing this, however, a Christian shuts up his heart from his needy brother, this speaks about the quality of his relationship to God.
The Christian who acts so uncompassionately is not having a vital experience of God’s love.
John’s rhetorical question, how does the love of God abide in him? simply means that God’s love does not abide in him.
The uncompassionate Christian is not walking as his Master walked (2:6) and thus is not living the abiding life.

C. Love is Action 18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.
Finally, the readers must not think that they have expressed love if that expression is merely verbal (in word), involving only the tongue.
True love requires action (in deed) and conformity to the truth.
By the words in truth John means that their love for other Christians should conform to the manifestation of love in Christ (v 16). It is sacrificial, practical and is an action done in the best interest of the one being loved.
[I am indebted in large part to the commentary entitled The Epistles of John by Zane C. Hodges for my understanding and communication of these verses.]

 

 

 

 

 

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