1 John Lesson Six: 1 John 3:11-24 – Another Demand for Right Attitude

For this is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another, 12 unlike Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil, and his brother’s were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, brothers, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers. The one who does not love remains in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. 

16 This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but closes his eyes to his need—how can God’s love reside in him? 

18 Little children, we must not love with word or speech, but with truth and action.  19 This is how we will know we belong to the truth and will convince our conscience in His presence, 20 even if our conscience condemns us, that God is greater than our conscience, and He knows all things. 

21 Dear friends, if our conscience doesn’t condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and can receive whatever we ask from Him because we keep His commands and do what is pleasing in His sight. 23 Now this is His command: that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another as He commanded us. 24 The one who keeps His commands remains in Him, and He in him. And the way we know that He remains in us is from the Spirit He has given us. (HCSB)

This passage deals with relationships. John talks about four levels of relationships, which is how I’ll be splitting up this lesson.

  • Murder – verses 11-12.
  • Hatred – verses 13-15.
  • Indifference – verses 16-17.
  • Christian love – verses 18-24.

Murder

Murder is the lowest level of any relationship. It’s the level on which Satan exists. John 8:44a, “You are of your father the Devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer  from the beginning and has not stood in the truth.” John goes on in this letter to talk about Cain. Let’s consider some facts about the passage in Genesis 4:1-16.

  • Cain and Abel were brothers.
  • They had the same parents.
  • They both brought sacrifices to God.
  • Cain is not depicted as an atheist but as a worshiper of Yahweh. 
  • This is the point of the passage.
    • Children of Satan often appear as true believers.
    • They attend church.
    • They may bring offerings.
    • None of these actions are proof of being born of God.
    • The real test is loving each other.
  • Each person has both a physical and spiritual lineage.
    • Our physical lineage comes from our parents.
    • Our spiritual lineage is linked to whether we follow darkness or light.
  • Cain murdered his brother and then lied about it.
  • The reason Cain’s sacrifice was rejected is that, in some way, Cain didn’t follow the proper instructions for worship. He rejected God and wanted to do it “his way.”
  • Cain’s envy of his brother turned to anger and hatred, and eventually murder.
  • Thousands of years later, the Pharisees did the same thing to Jesus, and Jesus called them children of the devil.

Hatred

While we may have never actually murdered someone, John makes it clear in verse fifteen that “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer.” The only difference between murder and hatred is the outward act of taking someone’s life. The inward intent is the same. Let’s take a closer look at this issue.

  • Maybe we haven’t killed anyone because of the consequences.
    • The fear of arrest and shame.
    • The possibility of spending a long time in jail.
    • The possibility of the death penalty.
  • The issue isn’t “what did you do?” but “what did you want to do?”
    • If you had the liberty to do what you wanted without the fear of consequences, what would you have done?
    • Jesus equates hatred with murder (Matthew 5:21-26) and lust with adultery (Matthew 5:27-30).
  • This doesn’t mean that hatred or lust does the same amount of damage to others as murder and adultery. It won’t carry the same level of guilt. But in God’s eyes, it’s just as bad.
  • There are three options for the interpretation of what John is saying in verse fifteen.
    • The face-value view: If you hate another person to the point of being willing or actually killing them, you are not a Christian.
    • The abiding view: The Christian, as long as they are living in a conscious relationship with Jesus, would never kill anyone. If they do, it’s because they are not abiding in Christ.
    • The continuing-to-hate view: A Christian may hate or murder someone, but if this happened, they would be filled with remorse. If they harbor continual hate or have no remorse for their feelings or actions, they are not a Christian.
  • The passage isn’t saying murderers can’t be saved. Paul was involved in the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:57-60) and admitted he had voted to put innocent people to death (Acts 26:9-11, 1 Timothy 1:12-15). But he was saved by God’s grace.
  • The point isn’t whether or not a murderer can become a Christian. The point is whether someone can continue being a murderer and still be a Christian. Verse fifteen emphatically states the answer to that question is “no.”
  • The continuing-to-hate view is the proper understanding of verse fifteen.

Indifference

The test of Christian love isn’t simply avoiding doing evil to others. Love involves doing good to others. In a way, Christian love is both positive and negative. Christian love involves stopping activities of evil and doing what is good (Isaiah 1:16-17).

  • Cain is an example of false love.
  • Jesus is the example of true love.
    • Jesus laid down His life for others (John 3:16).
      • Jesus didn’t just talk about sacrifice.
      • He willingly died to remove our sins.
    • We are to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters (1 John 3:16).
      • John isn’t telling us to sacrifice our lives for our brothers and sisters.
      • He is telling us to sacrifice to help those in need.
  • Self-preservation is the first law of physical life, but self-sacrifice is the first law of spiritual life.
  • We can talk about loving other believers, but when we fail to help them in times of need, our actions don’t mirror our words.
  • Christian love is personal and active.
  • As believers, we don’t have to be intentional to hate others. We can do it by ignoring them or having an indifferent heart.
  • To meet the needs of others, three conditions must be met.
    • Have the ability to meet the needs.
    • Know the need exists.
    • Be loving enough to want to meet the need.
  • A believer who doesn’t have the means to help or is unaware of the need is not guilty. But the believer who hardens their heart and chooses not to meet the need is guilty.
  • Meeting the needs of others can be satisfied in various ways.
    • Through monetary gifts.
    • Through material gifts.
    • Through serving gifts.
    • Through time gifts.
  • If we desire to experience and enjoy the love of God, we must love others, even if it requires a sacrifice on our part.
  • When we are indifferent to the needs of others, we rob ourselves of what we need, the love of God in our hearts.

Christian Love

John now goes on to discuss the difference between false and true Christian love. 

  • False love.
    • To love “with word” means to only talk about the need but not take any action to meet the need.
    • A believer may pray about the need but take no action to meet the need, even though they are capable of meeting the need.
  • True love.
    • Not just knowing or talking about a need but taking action to meet the need.
    • It often requires a sacrifice of some sort by the person meeting the need.
    • The greatest love sacrifice was Jesus going to the cross for each of us.
  • The actual test of our Christian love is when we are called on to make a sacrifice for a brother or sister and we willingly take that action.
  • A believer’s relationship with others affects their relationship with God.
    • When our relationship with others is not right, we need to fix that (Matthew 5:23-24).
    • A condemning heart or accusing conscience will rob us of peace.
    • When a believer practices “active love,” they grow in their understanding of God, and their heart is filled with peace.
    • A believer also needs to be careful not to allow the devil to accuse them and rob them of their confidence falsely.
      • Once a sin is recognized and confessed, it is forgiven.
      • They shouldn’t continue to beat themselves up over the sin.
      • Although we shouldn’t treat sin lightly, often, we are harder on ourselves than God is on us.
  • When we love others, and our relationship with them and God is right, it gives us confidence in coming to God with our prayers.
  • This confidence isn’t “earning answered prayers,” but an understanding that when we are living in a right relationship with God, our prayers will align with His will.
    • If believers aren’t obeying God’s Word, their prayer life will be hindered (Psalm 66:18).
    • One of the great secrets of answered prayer is obedience.
    • The secret of obedience is love.
      • John 14:15.
      • John 15:7, 10.
    • We must also remember that the reason why we are obedient is important.
      • Obedience shouldn’t be out of fear or servitude. This was the sin of the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:24-32).
      • Obedience should flow from a spirit of love toward God. When we live to please God, we will find that God will find ways to please us (Psalm 37:4).
  • The last two verses of this passage sum up the obligations of a Christian.
    • Faith toward God and love toward man.
    • Christianity is faith working through love (Galatians 5:6).
      • It’s easy to focus on faith and neglect loving others.
      • At the same time, some may ignore sound doctrine and focus only on love.
      • Both faith/doctrine and love are vital.
    • Abiding in Christ is a key factor in a believer having confidence in God and enjoying answered prayers.
      • John 15:1-14.
      • Jesus is talking about bearing fruit, not salvation.
      • As long as the branch draws its strength from the vine, it will produce fruit. But if it is separated, it will wither and die.
    • When a believer walks in love, it is easy to obey God and maintain a close relationship with Him.
  • The Holy Spirit is also key.
    • The Holy Spirit empowers us.
    • The Holy Spirit guides and directs us.
    • The Holy Spirit reveals the truth.
    • The Holy Spirit will convict us when we stray.

Applications

  • Examine how you treat others. Do you exhibit murder, hatred, or indifference to them, especially when there is a need you can meet? Or do you exhibit Christian love? Although none of us will be perfect in this area, an evaluation of how often we fall into each category will reveal the condition of our heart.
  • Do your actions match your words/thoughts/prayers? Scripture is clear that only thinking or praying about a situation is not enough if you have the ability to act and help in a situation. We are called to act when someone has a need. Pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal these inconsistencies in your life. 
  • When we realize we have fallen short in meeting the needs of someone. Repent, confess, meet the need if it still exists, and take comfort in the fact that when we fall short, God knows our heart. Those who are followers of Christ are not condemned. Don’t let your past shortcomings weigh you down and keep you from moving forward. When that happens, we fall prey to the traps of the devil.

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