Wednesday, September 12, 2012
1st John Chapter 3 Part 10
3:14-15 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.
The apostle writes that a Christian may know, be assured or affirmed in the fact that we actively love the brethren. I insert the word actively simply because John will shortly explain this for himself; the apostle never considers the love he describes as passive or benign. It is virulent and active. He writes: “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth,” 1st John 3:18. A visible love demonstrated by caring for the brethren with more than words can comfort a believer about the new life they have in Christ. Such love is inspired by the God who is love and flows (or should flow) naturally from the heart of His regenerated children.
John warns that the Christian who does not love his fellow saint abides in death. The Greek word “abideth” is “meno” and translates "to stay in a given place, state, or relation". Jesus uses the very same term when He tells us that unless we abide (meno) in Him we can accomplish nothing, John 15:5. It is also the same term that Jesus uses to describe the coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell the believer at the inception of His church; the Holy Spirit who will abide (meno) with you forever, John 14:16. So we have two definitions for this Greek word, determined by the passage’s context. There is the condition of permanent abiding, as in the Holy Spirit’s reception upon believing the gospel of Jesus Christ, Ephesians 1:13. Then there is the voluntary, volitional act of abiding, as in either abiding in Christ to bear spiritual fruit, or John’s usage of it presently: abiding in death because you choose to hate your Christian brethren.
Seeing as how John is addressing believers presently it is safe to conclude that the type of abiding he describes is volitional. The Christian who hates his brother is a murderer, for the thoughts of a man’s heart determine his actions; the thought is father to the deed, as the saying goes. The apostle then writes that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. This eternal life, I am convinced, is John’s way of reiterating what Jesus told His apostles at the Last Supper: that unless we abide in Christ we can do nothing of spiritual value. If we indulge the flesh the works of it become evident, which are "adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like," Galatians 5:19-21. Such conduct grieves God’s Spirit and we are no longer walking in fellowship with Him. We are no longer abiding, Christ and the eternal life He gives us is no longer what we are being led by or conduct ourselves by; in this sense it is no longer abiding in us.
3:16 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
In layman’s terms John tells us that we can perceive or get a picture of God’s love by God laying down His life for us. Jesus Christ, God in the flesh (1st Timothy 3:16) laid down His life for us so we might forever put to rest the burning question: does God really love me? John answers in the affirmative. Yes He does, and He went to such lengths to demonstrate it to the entire world that it should shame us for constantly spurning Him, mocking Him and blaspheming His name. Jesus stated this to Nicodemus in unblushing terms, in what is likely the most quoted verse in the entire Bible: That God so loved the world that He gave (mark this) His only begotten Son, John 3:16.
God, so loving us, gave us Christ. Love gives. Love is only vividly demonstrated when selfless surrender occurs. God, telling us to give to others and to love in action and not just speech has done no less by giving us Heaven’s most precious gift: Himself. Christ handed Himself up to be mistreated, misunderstood, hated, jeered, scorned, beaten and killed. This is a love of the will, not the sentimental love of the moment that is here one moment, burning with intensity, and gone the next when its flame is spent. No, this love is enduring because God wills to love; He is not smitten like you or I would be courting a future spouse. His love springs from within Him and is an undefiled gift of His mercy and grace; we haven’t merited it, we don’t deserve it and can never earn it. We aren’t lovely according to God’s assessment of the human condition, Romans 3:23; 5:8.
Jesus spoke, saying, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends,” John 15:13. John is telling us that true love may include martyrdom, should God permit it. Though many Christians are not called upon to make such drastic choices John counsels that each one of us, as the sons and daughters of God, ought to lay down our lives for our Christian brethren. Failure to do so does not imply loss or lack of salvation; it implies a fear reaction that stimulates self-preservation. When Demas forsook Paul when his trial before Nero was approaching, some commentators say that proves Demas was never saved, 2nd Timothy 4:10. I say it made him human. Peter was terrified the night Christ was arrested and denied his Master thrice; did that prove his lack of salvation? It proved his humanity, and it also proved his inability to bring forth the fruit of the Spirit apart from abiding in Christ. Circumstance overwhelms the senses, and I think the lesson here is that only the Christian walking with his Lord, a spiritual Christian maturing in the faith, could effectually respond to this command.