Sunday, 26 April 2020
We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. 1 John 3:14
In verse 10, John mentioned love for one’s brother. He then provided the example of Cain, and he gave an explanation between practicing righteousness or not doing so. He now returns to the love of the brethren here, beginning with, “We know.”
The words are highly emphatic, and they are contrasted to those of the world mentioned in the previous verse. To know indicates all certainty; it is an assured fact. The believer knows he has done something and is positive in his mind about it. There is no doubt, and there is no reason to relay to others that the situation is otherwise. And that thing which a true and grounded believer knows is “that we have passed from death to life.”
The word translated as “have passed” signifies “to pass over.” It is from one state to another. There is a departure from one’s position, and thus there is a movement to that of another position. Further, there is an article before both “death” and “life” – “we have passed out of the death to the life” (YLT). This truth is especially stated by Jesus in John 5:24, where He also used the article –
“Verily, verily, I say to you — He who is hearing my word, and is believing Him who sent me, hath life age-during, and to judgment he doth not come, but hath passed out of the death to the life.” YLT
Jesus uses the same article in Revelation 1:8. John’s words, then, are a rather basic statement, and it can only mean one thing. There is nothing hidden in them, and there is nothing to indicate that the “knowing” of the person is somehow wrong. Believers can know that they have passed from the death to the life. Further, John’s words are in the perfect tense, indicative mood. In other words, it is a done deal; the action is complete, and we have become united with Christ in the move. Further, there is certainty in the matter; it is an objective fact.
We have moved from darkness to light; from death to life; from the devil to God. These are not made up concepts, but each of them has been used by John to show us our new position because of our faith in Jesus. Taking these words, and uniting them with Jesus’ words in John 5, it is incredible to see believers state that a person can lose his salvation.
What does Jesus say? “…and to judgment he doth not come.” Everlasting life is granted, sin is no longer imputed, and the fear of judgment (unto condemnation) is past. The only judgment believers will receive is for rewards and losses, but not in a positional move back to “the death.”
Understanding this fundamental point of theology, John continues with, “because we love the brethren.” Jesus explained this in John 13 –
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34, 35
The point John is making is based on the words of the previous verse – “the world hates you.” The person who did not believe in Jesus a moment earlier, hated what Jesus stands for. In his hating of the faith, he then hated those of the faith. It is the faith that defines who a believer is, and what he is. When the person realizes his need for Christ, he can no longer hate those who represent what Jesus stands for. One has moved from hatred to love and from the death to the life.
John then finishes the thought with, “He who does not love his brother abides in death.” Sin results in death (the wages of sin is death). A person who is in that state is of the world, and the world hates Jesus. In hating Jesus, hatred of the brotherhood who represent Jesus is an obvious consequence.
John is not speaking of the individual love between two people. A non-believer can be married to, and love, a believer (1 Corinthians 7 shows that such unions exist). However, the nonbeliever has an internal hatred toward the message of Christ (he does not believe). In this state, he abides in death. In abiding in death, there is a hatred for what the believer (even a person he loves) stands for.
The thought is of one where a person stands in relation to Christ. It is not speaking of the emotional love between two people, but of the love of God in Christ. Regardless as to the love between the two, the state of hatred toward the identity with Christ remains.
Life application: In John’s words there is no other option than to state that this love equates to life, and hate then equates with death.
The test for us then in considering the truth of our being born again is not that the world hates us. The test is whether we love the brethren. Anytime someone claims exclusivity on the road to salvation, the world will hate them. This is simply because no one wants to be left out of God’s paradise. Therefore, when anyone claims his way is the only way, he is – because of this precept – going to be hated. This is no guarantee of following the truth though.
Cults do this all the time, and yet they are as far from God as any pagan. It is the born-again believer who trusts Christ with his salvation, and who has thereby come to love his fellow believers, that has moved to the sphere of light and life. Despite the failings of others, as well as their idiosyncrasies, make every effort to love the brethren and be at peace with those who may be annoying. It is what God calls us to do as His saved children.
Lord, help us to feel the conviction of not loving other believers as we should. Soften our hearts and make them tender towards our fellow believers. Rather than demanding that they change, may it be each of us who are willing to do the changing. Give us the ability to be the ones to reconcile all the petty and insignificant differences we have. This we pray for Your glory. Amen.