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Last week John mentioned the devil for the first time in this letter. The devil is the one that is behind all the deception of the anti-Christs. It is the devil that wants to destroy us and he will use whatever devious plan necessary to accomplish that goal. The good news is that Jesus destroyed the works of the devil. John begins a new focus in the remaining parts of this letter.
Take a serious look at 1 John 3:11-15.
John reminds them of what they know and even more evidence of authenticity. The church has heard from the beginning that, “We should love one another.” John has already established that Christians are righteous whose lives are not characterized by habitual or continual sin. Now he throws love into the mix. Remember that John is writing to the church. This mandate is for Christians. Jesus was very clear in John 13:34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” This love is present tense – a continual demonstration of love for one another. I don’t think we really understand this concept. A real demonstration of love between believers is not as common as you might think. The biblical definition of love is found in1 Cor. 13:4-8a: “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” As a side note, this is a great passage of Scripture for couples to memorize. To put it in context, there was infighting in the church because of a misunderstanding of spiritual gifts. There were people thinking they were better than others because of how God had gifted them spiritually. When you consider how Paul defined love, there isn’t room for infighting. So why are there problems in the church? Because people are not loving one another. How many bad situations would be diffused if we exercised a little love? I’m not talking about ignoring sin. Part of demonstrating God’s love is identifying and admonishing sin. Part of demonstrating God’s love is a desire to grow and mature spiritually in Christ. Why do people get so mad in the church when something doesn’t go their way? Do these same people get mad when something doesn’t go their way at work? At home? Hmmm.
Is love the most common expression between believers? John goes on to qualify that love. “We should love one another; not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother.” Murder is not included as an expression of love. Why did Cain murder his brother? Cain’s deeds were evil, Abel’s deeds were righteous. In v. 10 John said, “Children of the devil are obvious.” Cain was jealous of Abel so he murdered his own brother. The word slay means to butcher – it literally means cut the throat. It gives you an idea of the brutality with which Cain killed his brother. It gives you the idea of the hatred Cain must have had in his heart. Cain should have heeded the warning in Gen. 4:7, “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” That’s what the devil wants to do in people’s lives. He wants sin to be your master. He wants sin to control your life and sin is always crouching at the door.
Like Cain, the problem of jealousy can be in the church as well. Someone’s special song gets cut. Someone gets asked to serve while another does not. Someone’s pet program gets endorsed by church leadership while another’s does not. Someone gets a new car, while another drives a beater. A couple becomes pregnant while another struggles with infertility. Jealousy is one of the deeds of the flesh according to Gal. 5:20. I’ve got great news for you. Paul goes on to say in v. 24 that, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” There is no room for jealousy in the life of a Christian. Jealousy does not demonstrate the love of God we’re supposed to have in our lives.
In v. 13, John says, “Do not be surprised brethren, if the world hates you.” This seems to be a strange segue. This is the battle of good against evil. It is the battle of God against the devil. God prompted and inspired love against Satan’s inspired hatred. The righteousness of Abel versus the sinfulness of Cain. This is the battle for humanity. This is the same world John mentioned back in 1 Jo. 2:15. This is the evil system of the world that is controlled by the devil. “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.” (Eph. 2:1-2) The world in which we live in is controlled by our enemy. Remember Peter’s warning? “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Pet. 5:8)
Don’t be shocked if the world hates you. Apparently, some of John’s readers were really amazed that the world had taken on such a hostile attitude toward them. If doesn’t mean that hatred is a possibility, but that it is a reality for the Christian. Hate means an intense dislike or aversion to something. In this case, it means anything that the world deems contrary to its system. It could be in dating, parenting, schooling, finances, Bible reading, your movie watching habits. In Matt. 5:11-12 Jesus reminds us, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” The world’s hatred is because of the goodness of Christ. Now if people don’t like you because you’re mean, don’t blame Christ. If your boss doesn’t like you because you’re a lousy employee, don’t blame Christ. If the collection agencies are coming after you because you don’t pay your bills, don’t blame Christ. If people hate you because you lovingly challenge their immoral values, blessed are you. If people hate you because you lovingly stand on the truth found in God’s Word, blessed are you. If people hate you because you demonstrate the love of Christ, blessed are you. Don’t be shocked, don’t be amazed. This hatred seems to be directed against Christianity. The intense hatred that Christians experience doesn’t seem to be present in other religions, except maybe Jews. Could it be that Satan is not threatened by anything except Christ? Don’t be shocked. Don’t be amazed.
Here’s another contrast. Even as the world hates you, look at the difference for the child of God in v. 14. This is yet another indicator of salvation and it’s a really big one because of the phrasing John uses. “We know that we have passed out of death into life.” This is something we can definitely know. We don’t have to “hope” we’re saved. We don’t have to “think” we’re saved. We can know. How? Passed literally means move from one place to another. We have moved from one spiritual place to another. Passed is in the prefect tense. It means this relocation has already occurred and is permanent. The spiritual locations are diametrically opposed. They’re at opposite ends of the spectrum. John 5:24 says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” Love is the indicator of this spiritual relocation. “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.” John is saying that if you’re a lover, you abide in Christ. If you’re a hater, you abide in death. In Eph. 2:1 Paul confirms what John says by saying, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins.” Earlier I quoted Jesus’ words in John 13:34. In v. 35, He concludes with, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” There’s that word “know” again. Remember John mentioned Cain in v. 12? Here’s the parallel. Cain murdered Abel because he hated him. Why? Abel’s deeds were righteous. “Do not be surprised if the world hates you.” Cain was of the evil one. Cain had a spirit of anti-Christ and hatred in his heart. John says, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer.” Brother is the word adelphos meaning a sibling, a countryman, or a neighbor. In other words, it means anyone that is not you.
Remember Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount? Jesus equated inner attitude with outer actions. If you’re a hater, you’ve committed murder in your heart. Maybe that’s what John means. John gives the sweeping notion that all haters are murderers. No middle ground. No gray area; only black and white. Notice the last phrase of v. 15. “And you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” This is what the church knows. You don’t need to evaluate the situation. You don’t need to do an investigation. This is obvious. If you’re a hater, you’re a murderer. If you’re a murderer, you don’t have eternal life. If you don’t have eternal life, you’re not a child of God.
John provides more evidence of proper godly behavior for the one that professes a relationship with Christ. There is no room for hatred in the heart of a child of God. In the next verses, John lays out some evidence that the love of God is working in our lives.