Friday, August 21, 2009

1 John 3:7-16

V7-16 – 7Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous. 8He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. 9No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother. 11This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. 13Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. 14We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him. 16This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

John pours out his heart to his audience in v7-9, calling them his “dear children.” He doesn’t want any false teachers to lead them astray by claiming that one can be righteous and yet not do righteousness. In other words, John is saying something very important: you do what you are. Paul says the same thing in Galatians 5:25, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” The things you do reflect who you are, and even to whom you belong. Do you lie? You are a liar? Do you cheat? You are a cheater. Do you steal? You are a thief. “He who does what is sinful is of the devil” (v8). As Jesus said to the Pharisees, “You do the things your own father does… You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me”(John 8:41, 44-45)! Jesus appeared “to destroy the devil’s work” (v8). He did this by freeing us from the condemnation of the law – the very tool of the devil taken captive by sin (Hebrews 2:14-15).

On the other hand, do you avoid sinful behavior? Do you flee temptation? Do you show compassion? Do you care for the needy? Do you love one another? Are you selfless and humble and patient? Do you do things Jesus did? Do you exhibit the fruit of the Spirit? God’s seed remains in you! You have been born of God! You cannot, John says, continue to sin. It would be inconsistent with the rebirth. That’s what John says in v10. If you do not desire and do what is right, then it would be impossible to declare that you are a child of God. Beginning the transition from the moral to test to the relational test, John says, “If you do not love your brother, you aren’t a child of God.” It’s quite a statement, quite a challenge, quite a test. The moral test of authentic Christian asks, “Do you do what Jesus did?” The relational test asks, “Do you love your brother?” If you don’t meet these tests, which really none of us do, then you might want to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” and take heart in “knowing that it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose” (Philippians 2:12-13). And thus we all ought to humbly consider these exhortations and rely on grace.

John has transitioned from a reminder of the moral test to this reminder of the relational test of authentic Christian living. He hearkens the audience to see the urgency of this message, which was “heard from the beginning.” It might be easy to drift off mentally, hearing the same message over and over, but it’s truly a matter of life and death. John says in v14, “Anyone who does not love remains in death.” And then he says in v15, “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer.

John gives the message, “We should love one another,” says it’s “from the beginning,” and recalls Cain and Abel from the beginning, from Genesis 4. Cain, the first person born into this world, “belonged to the evil one and murdered (literally slaughtered, or butchered, as in “slit the throat”) his brother.” John interprets the historical event for us: The murder of Abel is not what gave Cain over to Satan; the murder of Abel confirmed that Cain had been given over Satan already. Cain was evil, as proven by his evil deeds; Abel was righteous, as proven by his righteous deeds (v12). And John uses this illustration of sharp dichotomy to say, “Do not be surprised if the world hates you” (v13). Not loving is equivalent for John of hating, and therefore murdering. But the believer, the one who loves his brother, has “passed from death to life” (v14); on the contrary, “no murderer has eternal life in him” (v15).

Finally, for those in his audience who may have wondered what love is, what love looks like, John gives us Jesus. Jesus, laying down His life, is love. It was self-denial; it was sacrifice. And it was “for us.” Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). And John says that we ought to mimic that kind of love for one another. We ought to practice self-denial and sacrifice for the benefit of others, not like Cain but like Jesus.

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