The message of the gospel is simple: God so loved the world that He gave his only Son. The emphasis is His love.
1 John 3:11–24,
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.
Existence of hatred
A. Foundation of hatred
John describes hatred in order to define love. He uses the old testament example of Cain and Abel. Although he doesn’t mention Abel, his death is implied indirectly. John gives us a commentary on Genesis 4:8. The text says, “Cain murdered his brother.” in the greek, the verse actually reads, “Cain cut his brothers throat.” this is the first homicide in the Bible.
Why did he murder Abel? His deeds were demonic. This kind of hatred comes from satan himself. The evil one refers to the devil whom John just referenced in verse 8.
B. Manifestation of hatred
“don’t be caught off guard.” “stop being surprised” when the world hates you. Cain’s decedents fill the earth today. Jesus gave us the same warning in John 15:18,
“if the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 if you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
Martin Biemoller spoke about the world’s hatred of Christians: “the fellowship of Jesus has no promise that it will ever be in the majority; we must indeed guard against thinking that there can ever be any kind of human security or assurance against the world’s hatred. All parleys, all truces, all peace treaties are unreal, for the world must hate the Christian fellowship;
The motto of the community of Jesus is: “we are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.” it is indeed a conquered world which seeks to terrify us; it is indeed a condemned and dying hatred which attacks us.”
Don’t be surprised if the world hates you. It hated Jesus.
C. Elimination of hatred
Why is John talking about murder in a section on hatred? Again, Jesus made the same connection in the sermon on the mount. Matt. 5:21, “
you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘you shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 but I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘you fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”
John Calvin rightly observes, “if we wish an evil to happen to our brother from some one else, we are murderers.” John doesn’t say, “when you love your brother, you will pass from life to death.” he says, “your love for our brothers is the evidence of, not the basis for, new life in Christ.” if you hate people, you may be lost.
Let me summarize:
The way you treat others will determine the state of your soul. You cannot live a life of hatred toward another and call yourself a Christian. Jesus said, “the world will know you’re my disciples if you love one another.”
The identification marker for being a Christian is not a cross or a Bible, it’s not your participation in ministry, or how much you give to charitable causes, it’s your love for one another. The flip-side is: “if you don’t love others, the world will know that you are not Jesus’s disciples.”
You can gauge your devotion to Christ by the resistance you receive from lost men and women around you. If you’re not offending someone, maybe you’re not showing and sharing the gospel. When you talk about Jesus, a lost world will hate you. Everywhere the apostles went they turned the world system upside down. Do people say that about you?
It’s better to be loved by God and hated by the world than loved by the world and hated by God.
Expression of love
A. Sacrificial love
“by this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”
The prince of preachers, Charles Spurgeon said in his sermon on this passage, “Lord Jesus! I never knew your love until I understood the meaning of your death.”
As you can see, Jesus’s words are all over the pages of first John. John is restating what Jesus taught years earlier in John 15:13, “greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Since Jesus gave his life for us, what should our response be?
Frances Gavergal in the 19th century put this question in the form of a hymn:
I gave my life for thee, my precious blood I shed, that you might ransomed be, and quickened from the dead; I gave, I gave my life for thee; what hast thou given for me?
John answers the question. “we should lay our lives down for the brothers.” John uses brothers in the general sense to describe all men. Our love for others has no limits and knows no boundaries. We should love others exponentially without a hitch.
B. Substantive love
“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.”
John then moves to the basic necessities to live: food, clothing, and money. Did you catch the strong contrast here between the sacrificial life of Jesus and the selfish life of one who hoards his goods? One denies his brother the basic necessities of life while Jesus laid his life down for his friends.
How do I go about loving people I don’t like, even in the church? There is a difference between liking and loving. You will not like everyone in church. You may not like someone’s personality, appearance, actions, behavior, stubbornness, selfishness, or preference. But remember: not everybody likes you either!
Liking is a act of personal preference.
Loving is a act of obedience to Christ and the word of God.
Love sees beyond what it does not like in a person and sees the person as Christ sees him.
John then asks a rhetorical question: “how can God’s love abide in him?” it’s impossible. You cannot separate love for God from love for people. He’s saying talk is cheap.
Evidence of salvation
“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. We can have an assured conscience
“by this we know” bookends the passage in 19 and 24. ‘by this we know’ that this is a unit of scripture.
The person who refuses to acknowledge his sin is a liar and the truth is not in him. Honesty with oneself about sin is crucial. When you deny sin, your heart will convict you. Your heart is your conscience. John Wesley said the conscience functions in three ways: “first. It is a witness, testifying to what we have done in thought, or word, or action. Secondly, it is a judge, passing sentence on what we have done, that it is good or evil. And, thirdly, it, in some sort, executes the sentence, by occasioning a degree of complacency in him that does well, and a degree of uneasiness in him that does evil.”
My father owned a collision center for 30+ years. We restored cars to their pre-collision condition. After fixing the exterior, there was always one more thing to reset: the check engine light. We would bring it to the dealership for them to determine the car was working properly before resetting the check engine light. The check engine light warns us when there is a problem with our car.
Your conscience is the check engine light on your body. You can ignore the conscience but if you continue to disregard the warning signs, you are headed for a breakdown or a crash.
What is your conscience convicting you of?
What sins have you not repented of yet?
B. We can have answered prayers
“whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.”
John is not suggesting that God will answer every request that we ask. Our own fathers do not give us everything we ask for because some things would hurt us instead of helping us. What he is saying is that when you are walking in the spirit and obedient to the word, you can ask whatever you want because your prayers will be a reflection of God’s will. You will ask for things that matter to God.
When Jesus predicted Peter’s denials, he said, “I have prayed for you, that your faith would not fail” (Luke 22:32).
You would think Jesus to say, “I prayed that you would not have sinned at all,” but Jesus didn’t pray that.
Concerning Jesus’ prayers, Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “God answered him and granted his requests, and the nearer we get to Him, in the same way we can be certain that our requests will be granted.” the more we trust and obey, the more we will see answered prayers in our lives. They may not be the way we want, but they will always be according to His will.
C. We can have his abiding presence
“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.”
How do you have assurance? Obedience.
Fellowship is having all things in common. Our fellowship with Him is contingent on our obedience. When we choose to commit an act of sin and disobey God, we break that fellowship temporarily. It makes sense because we don’t have all things in common at that point. We have exchanged the truth of God for a lie. When we obey his commands, we have close fellowship with God.
We don’t obey to so he will love us. He loves us so we obey him.
We all need to be reminded that God love us. Even if we’ve heard it a hundred times, we still need to hear it. We all need to reassured of our relationship with God. He loves us deeply and completely.
Warren Wiersbe said it best: “when our delight is in the love of God, our desires will be in the will of God.”