Love or Death – 1

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Scripture References: 1 John 3:11-24

John’s letter has been compared to a spiral staircase because he keeps returning to the same three topics: love, obedience, and truth. Though these themes recur, it is not true that they are merely repetitious. Each time we return to a topic, we look at it from a different point of view and are taken more deeply into it.

In chapter two, John teaches about our love for other believers, the “brethren” (1 John 2:7–11), but the emphasis in 1 John 2 was on fellowship. A believer who is “walking in the light” will evidence that fact by loving the brethren. In this section, our emphasis will be on his relationship with other believers.

Christians love one another because they have all been born of God, which makes them all brothers and sisters in Christ.

Obedience and love are both evidences of sonship and brotherhood. John previously reminded us that a true child of God practices righteousness (1 John 3:1–10), and now we shall look into the matter of love for the brethren. This truth is first stated in the negative, “Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.” – 1 John 3:10.

A striking difference should be noted between the earlier and the present treatment of love for the brethren. In the section on fellowship (1 John 2:7–11), we are told that loving the brethren is a matter of light and darkness. If we do not love one another, we cannot walk in the light, no matter how loud our profession. But in this section on brotherhood, the epistle probes much deeper. We are told that loving the brethren is a matter of life and death. “He who does not love his brother abides in death.” – 1 John 3:14.

When it comes to this matter of love, there are four possible “levels of relationship,” so to speak, on which a person may live: murder (1 John 3:11–12), hatred (1 John 3:13–15), indifference (1 John 3:16–17), and Christian compassion (1 John 3:18–24).

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The first two are not Christian at all, the third is less than Christian, and only the last is compatible with true Christian love.

Murder (1 John 3:11–12)

Murder, of course, is the lowest level on which one may live in relationship to someone else. It is the level on which Satan himself exists. The devil was a murderer from the beginning of his fallen career (John 8:44), but Christians have heard, from the beginning of their experience, that they are to “love one another.” John emphasizes origins: “Go back to the beginning.” If our spiritual experience originates with the Father, we must love one another. But if it originates with Satan, we will hate one another. “Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning.” – 1 John 2:24.

Cain is an example of a life of hatred; we find the record in Genesis 4:1–16. It is important to note that Cain and Abel, being brothers, had the same parents, and they both brought sacrifices to God. Cain is not presented as an atheist; he is presented as a worshiper. And this is the point: children of the devil masquerade as true believers. They attend religious gatherings, as Cain did. They may even bring offerings. But these actions in themselves are not valid proof that a man is born of God. The real test is his love for the brethren, and that is where Cain failed.

Every man has a “spiritual lineage” as well as a physical, and Cain’s “spiritual father” was the devil. This does not mean, of course, that Satan literally fathered Cain. It means, rather, that Cain’s attitudes and actions originated with Satan. Cain was a murderer and a liar like Satan (John 8:44). He murdered his brother, and then he lied about it. “Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Where is Abel your brother?’ He said, ‘I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?’ ” – Genesis 4:9.

In contrast to this, God is love (1 John 4:8) and truth (John 14:6; 1 John 5:6); therefore, those who belong to God’s family practice love and truth.

To Be Continued

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Adapted and modified excerpts from Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary Volume 2.
Unless otherwise noted, Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, NKJV © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.

About Roland Ledoux

Pastor of Oasis Bible Ministry, an outreach ministry of teaching, encouragement and intercessory prayer from the Holy Bible, the written Word of God and author of the ministry website, For The Love of God. He lives in Delta, Colorado with his beautiful wife of 50+ years and a beautiful yellow lab whom they affectionately call Bella.
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