Pastor David B. Curtis


Media #994 MP3 Audio File Video File

Abiding in Eternal Life

(1 John 3:13-18)

Delivered 01/12/20

This morning we are back in our study of 1 John. Let me remind you that John'''s purpose in writing this Epistle is to bring his readers into fellowship with Yahweh.

that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Yeshua the Christ. 1 John 1:3 ESV

This verse introduces the purpose of the Epistle: "So that you too may have fellowship with us"—this is a hina purpose clause with a present active subjunctive. The main theme of the Epistle is fellowship with Yahweh.

But if you are reading commentaries, you will quickly see that most see this epistle as a series of tests to show who is saved and who is not. I think that is a dangerous view because it can easily cause believers to judge each other and to become very pharisaical. This epistle is not a test of who is saved because it is written to believers. Within that framework, John gives us ways by which we may test our own relationship to Yahweh. It is not a test of salvation but of fellowship:

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 1 John 1:6 ESV

If you are walking in darkness, you are not in fellowship with Yahweh. Then in 2:6 he says:

whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 1 John 2:6 ESV

If you are not living like Christ, you are not in fellowship with Yahweh. The verb "abides" here is the Greek meno. This is a major theological term for John. It is used twenty-four times in this letter and forty times in his Gospel. This phrase, "abides in Him," means exactly the same thing as the phrase "knowing Him" does in verse 4. Both expressions convey the same thing as saying we have "fellowship with Him" (1:6). They are all one and the same experience. Having fellowship with Him, knowing Him, and abiding in Him all indicate the same thing. They are all synonyms for having a close, intimate relationship with Him.

We just finished a section on Cain the murderer:

We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother's righteous. 1 John 3:12 ESV

Cain serves here as the negative example not to follow. Instead of loving his brother Abel, Cain did the opposite and brutally murdered his brother. According to the author of 1 John, he did so because his deeds were evil, but his brothers were righteous. Again, we find the stark contrast between righteous and evil deeds, just as we have seen before in the contrast between light and darkness (John 3:19-21).

Since hatred is the opposite of love, we may define it as a selfish, insensitive attitude that shows itself in the disregarding of others' good while seeking one's own interests. The world is motivated by self-interest. Self-sacrifice, to the world, is crazy. And that is why the world hates believers who walk as Christ walked.

Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. 1 John 3:13 ESV

"Do not be surprised"—this is a present active imperative with a negative particle. It often means to stop an act which is already in progress. "Surprise" has to do with something that is shocking, mysterious, amazing.

"That the world hates you"most translations have "if" here instead of "that." This is a first-class, conditional sentence. The force is that something is assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes. Therefore, "that" is a good translation. The word "hate" here is from the Greek word miseo which means "hatred, to detest, to persecute."

And in the context of 1 John, who or what is 'the world' (kosmos)? The word world, kosmos, occurs 23 times in 1 John. Its meaning varies according to the context. But here, and in several other places, it denotes the unbelieving world; that is, it refers to people who are opposed to God and to believers—people who are under the power of the evil one.

It is very possible that by "world" John is targeting those who had left the church and were promoting false teaching about the person and work of Christ. In 2:19, he said, "They went out from us." This is a reference to the secessionists that he calls antichrists. Speaking of the secessionists, John writes:

They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 1 John 4:5 ESV

In breaking fellowship with the Johannine church and separating themselves from the community, they have manifested what the author calls hatred.

But what John says here includes more than just the secessionists of John's day.

Christians who are living in fellowship with Yahweh are to the people of the world what Abel was to Cain. If we live righteously, the world will hate us for it because we have conflicting loyalties and values.

Throughout the history of the church, believers have been hated and persecuted. And even today there are more Christians being persecuted for the cause of Yeshua than ever were in history. Tens of thousands are dying all over the world under the hateful, murderous people who are the children of the devil.

That Christians are subjected to the world's hatred reveals the biblical truth that hatred is the natural response of the sinful world toward righteousness. If you are not living a righteous life and not abiding in Christ, the world will not hate you.

Hatred of the world for believers is a familiar theme in the Gospel of John:

"If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. John 15:18 ESV
If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. John 15:19 ESV

Clearly, Yeshua warned his disciples of the world's hatred for them just as John is doing in our text. If we back up to verse 17 in John 15, we find that Yeshua says:

These things I command you, so that you will love one another. John 15:17 ESV

Then he says:

"If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. John 15:18 ESV

What I want you to notice here is the contrast between "Love one another" (vs. 17) "The world hates you" (vs. 18). In this passage (John 15:18-25), Yeshua tells His disciples that in their service to Him they can expect hatred, rejection, and persecution. In contrast to Yeshua's love for His disciples is the world's hatred for them. Yeshua turns from the subject of love in God's community to that of hatred in the world's arena. In our text, John reverses the order. He talks first about the world's hatred toward believers and then speaks about the subject of love in God's community.

Colin G Kruse writes,

"This association of the command to love with a warning about the world's hatred may perhaps be explained by the author's dependence on the Fourth Gospel at this point in his letter. In the Last Supper discourses, Jesus' teaching concerning the need to love one another (John 15:9–17) is followed immediately by teaching that his disciples would experience hatred from 'the world' (John 15:18–25). In the context of John 15 these two ideas function as part of Jesus' preparation of his disciples for the time following his imminent departure to the Father. They will need to adhere to one another in mutual love and be prepared to face hostility from some unbelieving Jews." [Kruse, C. G. (2000). The letters of John (John 3:13-14). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans Pub.; Apollos.]

We shouldn't be surprised when the world hates us; but we should be surprised when there is hatred among the body of Christ.

We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 1 John 3:14 ESV

Following the pattern used by his Lord, John goes from hatred to love. The world hates, but the church is to love.

Notice that John does not say, "We have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers." That would be a salvation by works. The only other time the phrase "We have passed out of death into life" appears is in John 5.

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. John 5:24 ESV

Here it is clear that eternal life comes from hearing and believing Christ's word. And here the idea of passing from death to life is synonymous with escaping condemnation and obtaining eternal life.

In our text, the clause, "We have passed out of death into life," reveals John's assumption of the doctrine of original sin. People are born into this world in a state of spiritual death:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins— Ephesians 2:1 ESV
even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— Ephesians 2:5 ESV

In order to pass out of death into life, men need to be born from above. Our natural spiritual state before we are converted is death.

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son— Colossians 1:13 ESV

The words "delivered" and "transferred" relate to the themes of the Tanakh. "Delivered" is from the Greek word rhuomai. Like "transferred," it is in the aorist tense, suggesting that it is an accomplished event. We were delivered at a point in the past—our conversion. This deliverance is absolutely finished. There is no progress in this rescue. It is an event. The Greek word carries the idea of rescue. This is a spiritual rescue which is the anti-type of the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. Christ has delivered us "out of the death into the life." Salvation is God's work.

We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 1 John 3:14 ESV

The word "passed" here is the verb metabainō, meaning "to transfer from one place to another, go/pass over." In John 13:1, it is used to refer to Yeshua's departure from this world as he returns to the Father. Here it is used figuratively to refer to the believer's transfer from the state of spiritual death to the state of spiritual life.

The use of the perfect tense of metabainō, both here and in John 5:24, reflects the author's teaching that this transfer is a past action for his readers (genuine Christians) with results that persist at the time he writes.

We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 1 John 3:14 ESV

Most see this verse as giving us an evidence of personal salvation. One commentator writes: "But the person who refuses to love fellow believers remains in a state of spiritual death. Such a person is surely an unbeliever."

Another interpreter states the following: "What John is saying is that if you have a lack of love towards your brothers, it proves an absence of eternal life. You're still dead. Do you have brotherly love? If you don't, or if you hate your brother, it's a sure sign that you lack eternal life."

Does assurance of salvation require that we always be loving? Who among us loves at all times? As we will see shortly, John defines "loving" as sacrificially laying down our lives for others.

I think that John is saying that we can recognize our experiences of love as an experience of life rather than death. Biblical love is supernatural. In other words, "love is from God" (1 John 4:7) and is produced by Yahweh in the life of an abiding believer. This text is not saying that we can be sure of our salvation because we love other Christians. Assurance of salvation is based on the testimony of God and not on our works.

If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. 1 John 5:9-13 ESV

If good works are the basis of assurance, then the believer's eyes are focused on himself, and he becomes distracted from the sufficiency of Christ and His work to meet his eternal need. Our assurance is to be based upon God's Word which reveals His promise that He would give eternal life to all who believe on His Son. Assurance does not come from our works.

"Because we love the brothers"—is a present active indicative. Love is to be a major characteristic of the family of God because it is characteristic of God Himself.

One commentator writes: "A love for the people of God is a basic sign of being born again. If this love is not evident in our lives, our salvation can be questioned. If it is present, it gives us assurance." If this was true most Christians should doubt their salvation. Remember love is not a feeling; it is the sacrificial laying down of our lives.

According to Yeshua, what is love a proof of?

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:35 ESV

Love is a mark of discipleship, which is abiding. Faith is the mark of a believer. It is my contention that being a believer and being a disciple are different experiences. All believers are called to abide in Christ/be disciples, but not all are.

"Whoever does not love abides in death"—loving is an experience of life but to not love is abiding in death. The person who does not love is not abiding in Christ, who is Life.

Listen, I know that this is a difficult verse. But no matter what side of the Lordship isle you are on, I think we can all agree that John is saying that love is extremely important for the Christian.

Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 1 John 3:15 ESV

The dictionary tells us that hate is "a feeling of extreme hostility or extreme dislike of another." I am sure that we all know this feeling of dislike or aversion of someone or even a sense of extreme hostility toward another. It can be expressed in two different ways. It can be active in that we indulge in malicious talk or injurious actions toward another. But even passive hatred is still hatred. It can also be expressed by indifference, by coldness, by isolation, by exclusion, and unconcern for another. Someone has said that indifference is the cruelest form of hate.

Hatred of other Christians is a sure sign that one is not abiding in Christ. Obviously, genuine Christians have hated other Christians. If the Bible taught that feelings of hatred were a sure sign of an unsaved condition, then virtually no one in the whole church would be saved!

In this Epistle, eternal life is promised to those who believe in him (2:25); it is found in Christ, the Son (5:11), who is the true God and eternal life (5:20). This life was with the Father from the beginning and appeared in the person of Yeshua to eyewitnesses (1:2). Those who believe in Christ may know that they have eternal life (5:13) because they have the Son and those who have the Son have eternal life (5:12). As far as John is concerned, eternal life is not an unending extension of life as we know it but is rather "having" the Son, Yeshua the Christ, for eternal life. It is all tied up in him.

The NIV paraphrase, "no murderer has eternal life in him," is misleading. The key is found in the concluding phrase, "abiding in him." John evidently meant that no Christian who has eternal life (Yeshua the Christ) abiding in him and no one who is walking in fellowship with God will commit murder. Some believers have committed murder, but they were not abiding in Christ.

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5 ESV

Love is the fruit of the Spirit and it is produced in those who abide in Christ.

"Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer"—John is echoing what the Lord Yeshua has already taught in Matthew's Gospel in the Sermon on the Mount. Here Yeshua associates anger with murder. Yeshua is looking at the command, "You shall not murder," and is giving the background for it. If you are going to obey this command, it is not enough simply to have never killed anyone. The condition of your heart is what is being examined before God. You can be a murderer in your heart even though you have not carried it out in your deeds. You would be glad if God would intervene and give the person some dreaded disease which would take his life.

The word "murderer" in our text is from the Greek word anthrōpoktonos. The only other occurrence of this word in the New Testament is found in John 8:44 where the devil is described as a "murderer from the beginning." This is a reference not only to the devil's role in bringing death to Adam and Eve but also to his involvement in Cain's murder of his brother, Abel. To hate a brother is to be like Cain who was on the side of the evil one.

What does a true Christian love look like? John now tells us what Love is in 3:16-18.

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 1 John 3:16 ESV

This literally reads, "By this we have experientially come to know love, that One laid down His life for us." For John, this act of selfless sacrifice on Yeshua's part becomes the very standard by which love is measured. It is also the standard of love expected between believers in the Christian community to which John is writing.

When John speaks of Christ's laying down his life for us, he is almost certainly picking up the teaching of Yeshua as it is presented in the Fourth Gospel. There Yeshua speaks of himself as the Good Shepherd:

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. John 10:11 ESV
just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. John 10:15 ESV

This is the opposite of taking another person's life, as Cain did. The cross is the supreme demonstration of what real love—God's love—is. There is hardly a passage in the New Testament that speaks of God's love that does not also speak of the cross.

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 ESV
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 ESV
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 ESV
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Ephesians 5:25 ESV
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:10 ESV

If you want to know what God's love is like, look at Yeshua, the Righteous One, who willingly sacrificed Himself on behalf of the ungodly. There is a real sense in which we would not know what love was all about if not for the work of Yeshua on the cross. The love of God is epitomized in Christ and perfected in Christ. The greatest standard and expression and measure of that love is Calvary.

So, John comes from this great illustration in Christ to the application, and that application is an obligation to everyone who names the name of Christ. "We ought to lay down our lives for the brothers"— Yeshua "laid down His life" once, but we ought to "lay down our lives" repeatedly, in self-sacrificing love, as the tenses of the Greek verbs suggest. This sounds like what Paul said to the Philippians:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Yeshua, Philippians 2:5 ESV

He is telling them to have the same attitude of self-sacrificing humility that Christ had:

who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:6-8 ESV

He is saying that we should love to the extent that we are willing to lay down our lives for the brethren. This means that we should regard the lives of other believers as more significant than our life.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4 ESV

This is Christian love.

This laying down of lives for the brothers happened in the early church. They literally laid down their lives for one another. In Romans 16, we find that Priscilla and Aquila put their neck on the line for the apostle Paul, and he counted it as a great act of love and commended them for it.

Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Yeshua, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. Romans 16:3-4 ESV

While self-preservation is the first law of physical life, self-sacrifice is the first law of the spiritual life. Now someone may be thinking that he would lay down my life for a fellow Christian if he ever had the chance. In reality, however, most of us will never have that chance. Therefore, John goes on to say:

But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? 1 John 3:17 ESV

"Goods" here is from the Greek bios which according to Strong's means "life, that is, (literally) the present state of existence; by implication the means of livelihood." The word here refers to "resources needed to maintain life, means of subsistence." In other words, it is material goods or property.

The word "heart" here is splagchnon. It means "(the "spleen); an intestine (plural); figuratively pity or sympathy." The bowels (the intestines) were understood in the ancient world to be the seat of affections. It is similar to how we use the word "heart" today.

If a believer shuts off his compassion and his feelings from a brother in need, the love of God does not abide in him. Again, we could say, He is not abiding in Christ.

When I give to a brother "in need" what might keep me alive, I have followed the Lord Yeshua's example of self-sacrificing love. Our love for God is manifested by obedience, but our love for other Christians is manifested by sacrifice.

Self-sacrifice is never convenient. It is always more of a hassle to meet someone's needs than it is to ignore him. But John's point is the same as Yeshua's point in the parable of the Good Samaritan: We must not ignore others' needs, but rather, sacrifice our time, energy, and money to help them out.

Deuteronomy 15:7–9 may provide the background to the idea of closing one's heart towards others in need.

"If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be. Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, 'The seventh year, the year of release is near,' and your eye look grudgingly on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the LORD against you, and you be guilty of sin. Deuteronomy 15:7-9 ESV

In this passage, the Israelites were cautioned against allowing a calculating meanness to cause them to close their hearts when confronted with a poor and needy person. They were to be generous and lend to the poor even if the seventh year (when all debts would be cancelled) was near.

John is again telling us to be like Yeshua:

whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 1 John 2:6 ESV

If we are abiding in Him, we will love like He did. Just in case you may think that this is too difficult for mere humans, we have biblical illustrations of believers living like this:

I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me. Philippians 2:25-30 ESV

Epaphroditus loved the Philippians, whom he was representing, and Paul, whom he was ministering to—so much so that he almost lost his life through pouring it out in sacrificial service to meet Paul's physical needs.

"God's love"—here it could mean "love for God." If so, it would be in line with what John says later: "If anyone says, 'I love God,' yet hates his brother, he is a liar." Alternatively, it could mean the "love that comes from God." The verse would then say that love coming from God is not found in a person who shows no pity to those in need. Both are true.

Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:18 ESV

If you have the capability to meet a brother's needs, but you do nothing to meet those needs, how can you, then, say that you love that brother? How does the love of God abide in you?

John is teaching that words are produced by the tongue, but the (righteous) deeds with which believers are supposed to love one another are produced by the truth. This sounds a lot like James 2:

If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? James 2:15-16 ESV

Our love for others needs to be in deed and truth. Love is a verb; it is action.

The early church was renowned for their love. The Emperor Hadrian of Rome, in the early second century, summoned a man named Aristides to the palace to have him describe what Christians really were like. This is what he said: "They love one another. They never fail to help widows, they save orphans from those who would hurt them. If they have something, they give freely to the man who has nothing. If they see a stranger, they take him home and are happy as though he were a real brother. They don't consider themselves brothers in the usual sense, but brothers instead through the Holy Spirit of God."

The early Christians were renowned for their love. In another example, the Emperor Julian the Apostate complained during his short reign from AD 361 to 363 that "The impious Galileans" [another name for Christians] support not only their own poor, but ours as well!"

If we lived like that today, our Christianity, just like that of the early church, would have a positive effect on all who know us. Believers, to abide in Christ is to abide in love.

Continue the Series

Berean Bible Church provides this material free of charge for the edification of the Body of Christ. You can help further this work by your prayer and by contributing online or by mailing to:

Berean Bible Church
1000 Chattanooga Street
Chesapeake, VA 23322