Reading through chapter 3 of 1 John, we see a lot that is written about love. Many times in this letter we see the phrase “…by this we know…” This is part of a repeating theme that tells us how we can distinguish certain things. For example, in this chapter, we are told how we can know who is a child of the devil and who is a child of God. Let’s look at this passage more closely.
First read the whole chapter of 1 John 3 to keep the context in mind.
Let’s focus on verses 10-15:
“10 In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. 11 For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, 12 not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.
13 Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother[c] abides in death. 15 Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” 1 John 3:10-15
The writer gives us a way to distinguish between the children of God and the children of the devil. There are two criteria listed. The first one would seem to be expected. Practicing righteousness is a distinguishing mark. That makes sense. Those that do practice righteousness are of God and those that do not are of the devil. The second distinguishing mark might seem a little more extreme. It states that those that do not love their brother is of the devil and those that do are of God. That illustrates the essential nature of love in having a relationship with God. It is not optional. The love that is described in 1 Corinthians 13 needs to be understood by us, but also put into practice in our relationships. If we do not, we cannot claim to be a child of God.
In verses 13-15, this is put another way. Two conditions are described here. They are referred to as abiding in death or in life. This is talking about the transformation associated with becoming a child of God. We are moved from death to life. Note the following scriptures:
“He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:13-14
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:4-7
“Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:4
1 John 3:14 tells us that one of the marks of this transformation from death to life is the love we show for the brethren. If we are not living that love, then the transformation has not been completed for us. We must learn to live this love in our relationships with our brethren.
In the next verses of 1 John 3, we see how we can know this love and some very practical ways in which it shows up in our relationships.
Until next time…