1 John 3:11-24 (ESV) 1 John 3:11–24 (ESV) Love One Another 11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.
1. Preceding context shapes John here in this passage. Specifically we read in 1 John 3:5-6
You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and min him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.a. I don’t want to repeat the last sermon on this particular passage but I do need to review basic Christian truth about union with Christ if we are to understand this passageb. There are three kinds of people in the world – those who can count and those who cannotc. There are actually two kinds of people: those born in Adam and those brought to new life in Christd. In Adam we all fell into captivity to sin.e. We are spiritually dead and in bondage.f. The Scriptures exhaust metaphors to describe our condition from the Fall: death, darkness, flesh, slavery, uncircumcised heartsg. Christ didn’t come to make good people better adjusted.h. He came to a world of hostile sinners enslaved to sin and death.i. We’ll never understand the Gospel if we don’t understand that Christ not only satisfied the wrath and curse of God against the guilt of our sin.j. We must understand that Christ broke the chains, the bondage of sin so that we were freed from doing sin’s bidding in all circumstances.k. To have faith in Chris is to be vitally united by the Spirit to a Person Who has conquered sin and death and ever lives to continue to conquer sin in us.l. We are not made righteous because we practice righteous deeds but we are righteous because we belong to Him and, in Him, we have the power to practice righteousness.
2. In light of this reality we should understand what John writes here:
11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
a. We’ve heard from the beginning that we should love one another.i. Not only commanded by Christ but it’s the summary of the whole law that we love our neighbors.b. Why should we not be like Cain and be like Abel?i. Is this just a moral example?ii. No, John is pointing out the difference between those who belong to darkness and those who belong to the light.iii. Abel, according to Hebrews, was commended for his faith. He was not in bondage to darkness but freed by the Promise of the One to come.iv. Cain, however, was in slavery to darkness and the heart enslaved to sin produces hatred for his own brother.c. We’re reminded not to be surprised that the world hates us.i. To whom is the world enslaved?ii. To death – to principalities and powers.iii. The world at large has not passed from death to life.iv. It only knows hostility to God and hatred of His own because it is enslaved to the authority of sin.d. We, however, have passed from death into lifei. Life in Christ is not some mental state where we use our minds to see things more clearly and act more obediently.ii. Life in Christ means that Christ has put down the power of sin to rule over us.iii. We have been declared righteous in Him and have His life and power as we walk in the world.iv. We still struggle with indwelling sin – temptation is strong.v. But if we are in Christ we have Christ’s power in us to resist sin and not be ruled by it.e. A tree is known by its fruiti. John reminds us that if we hate our brother – if we desire to murder our brother in our heartii. Maybe it’s an indication: You havn’t passed from death into life.iii. You don’t “fake it until you make it”iv. Christ alone has the power and your deeds and affections are the clearest indication of whether you belong to Him.
3. This then flows into why it is that Christians have the capacity and power to love one another. Paul continues in verse 16:
16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
a. First John reminds us of the character of our Savior: Christ demonstrated His love for us by laying His life down for us.b. Now, the person with an uncircumcised heart will read this only with an ethical command: I need to be like Jesus. He loved this way and so, in my strength I will love likewise. Some will at least give a nod to God and claim they need a little help in this but it’s really about them finding this ability to love within their own character.c. That’s not John’s point.d. The point of being freed from death to life is that we have been set free from spiritual death by the power of Christ’s death and resurrection and united to the Son of God.e. Paul tells us in Colossians that, in Christ are hidden all the riches of wisdom and power.f. We never look within, down deep, for love of our brothers.g. We have been united to the very Son of God Who has all wisdom and power.h. If we have been so united to this power then, in any situation, we may turn to our Savior and say: “I don’t have it in me to love but I belong to You and in You is love. I abide in you. Grant to me this moment what you command of me. Help me to love this brother that you have laid down your life for!”i. Your flesh, still tempted by sin, will resist. You may not want to love this person deep down but what is more REAL to you?j. Is it more real to you that you have unloving feelings or is it more real that Christ has brought you from death to life?k. It’s all about reality.l. We can say, all day long, that we belong to Christ but if we do not love the brother that we see then do we really have life in Christ?m. Do we really love the God we do not see if Christ is not united to us giving us the ability to love?n. You cannot simply say you love.o. You either possess Christ and He will produce in you deeds of love or you are deceiving yourself.
4. This fits perfectly with how John concludes this passage in vv 19-24:
19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.
a. Let me try to explain this carefully.b. We need to be very sober about whether or not we are in Christ.c. This is not about guilt trips and trying harder and it should be abundantly clear by now that anyone dead in sins and trespasses cannot “try harder”. The nature of slavery is that a person dead in sin can never attain to what John is reminding us of.d. John is describing Christians who are in Christ.e. John is warning those who profess and have no love in v19i. If there is no love in your heart for your brother than God’s judgment about you is greater than anything you can tell yourself.ii. If you find no love in your heart for your brother and it does not even occur to you that Christ has ownership of you and may empower you to do so then don’t be deceived.iii. Perhaps, if you lack all love of brother, God’s Word is plain that you have no life in you.iv. No sense in arguing with God on this point.v. If you desire that love then get down on your knees and turn to Christ.vi. Ask for the guilt of your sin to be put away and to vitally unite you to Himself.f. But, beloved, if you are in Christ then Christ is in you and He commands the very things that He wills in you.g. Stop leaving the commandments of God as some detached from the power of Christ that is in you.h. A legalist is not someone who loves the commandments of God.i. A legalist is someone with a dead heart who thinks he has power, apart from Christ, to attain to the righteous demands of the Law.ii. A legalist is one who is still dead in trespasses and sins but reckons that the Law is the way to show how zealous he is to God to be accepted by Him.iii. Yet the legalist spurns Christ Who is the only one with the power over bondage to sin. He was the only One who could keep the Law.i. But, beloved, if you are in Christ then you are not practicing love as some godly principle that will make you a better person.j. If you are in Christ then the very power to love your brother is because Christ’s love is reaching out from you toward others by the power of the Spirit.k. We have the ability to resist temptation in the moment of turning away from the loving thing and saying: “My flesh would tell me not to love right now. The devil would tempt me I’m my own person. The world would tell me that life is aobut me. But, NO, NO, Christ is more real. Christ is more powerful. Christ has all power to love. Christ, in me, will love in spite of all my feelings to the contrary!”l. This is what life in the Spirit looks like.m. It’s not mystical.n. It’s not magical.o. It’s not hidden wisdom.p. It’s a revealed and powerful and conquering Savior who puts down sin and death within us so that we can love.
5. Beloved, where are your priorities?a. I’m convinced the Christian life is all about recknoning reality.b. I just described reality for the Christian for you.c. The flesh, the devil, and the world still influence you and try to set your prioritiesi. I need to make it in this world and so I’ll work long hours and spend time on the road. I don’t have time for my brothers and sisters.ii. My brothers and sisters annoy me. I don’t deserve to be annoyed.iii. That brother is ugly and I like beautiful people.iv. Praying and serving the Body of Christ takes me away from my leisure.v. I’m too busy learning sports statistics to invest time and energy into reading and understanding God’s Word.vi. Homeless people smell and are ugly. I’ll look the other wayd. Is this the mind of Christ?e. Do you belong to Christ?
6. There you were…a sinnera. Enslaved to sin and deathb. For nothing lovely in you, Christ died that you migh have lifec. You saw the stench and filth of your sin.d. You recognized you had no hope apart from someone to save you from eternal hellfire that you deserved.e. Your burden of sin was so great that you knew it would crush and ruin you but sin wasn’t going to take the load off.f. But God…g. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved you, made you alive together with Christ.h. New life in Christ.i. Freedom from sin and death.j. No more condemnation!k. And, what, you’re counted as a son of God – heirs to eternal life and glory?!l. What amazing grace!
7. Look around youa. These too have been brought from death to life.b. Beloved from the foundation of the world.c. Like you they were chosen for nothing in themselves they could offer God.d. He is glorifying Himself in them and perfecting this Church as you walk together in love.e. God loves these brothers and sisters.f. Tell me, as you look at them, do you love them?g. I’m not asking you what you feel.h. I’m asking you if the power and love of Christ is in you that you may love them?
8. It’s all about realitya. Believe in the power of the Son of God in you and you will love.b. Believe in the power of Christ in you and you will put away sin in the hour of temptationc. Believe in the power of Christ and your priorities will be rearranged.