1 John Lessons


1John 3:10-15 Literalize

vs 10  In this the children of God and the children of the devil are being revealed:
Whoever does not characteristically do righteousness is not of God,
nor is he who does not characteristically love his "brother".

vs 11  For this is the message that you heard from the beginning,
that we should characteristically love one another,
vs 12  not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his "brother" at some point in time.
And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his "brother"’s righteous.

vs 13  Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world characteristically hates you.
vs 14  We have perceived that we have passed from death to life,
because we characteristically love the brethren.
He who characteristically does not love his "brother" dwells in death.
vs 15  Whoever characteristically hates his "brother" is a murderer,
and you have perceived that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.



The Distinguishing Marks

1John 3:10  In this the children of God and the children of the devil are being revealed:
Whoever does not characteristically do righteousness is not of God,
nor is he who does not characteristically love his "brother".

The Greek word for "revealed" here ("phaneros") means to be plainly recognised. This verse is one of many which answers the question as to how we can plainly recognize whether a person in the Christian community has been born of God or whether they are still children of the devil.

The two distinguishing marks here are:
1. Do they do what is right in God's eyes?
2. Do they love fellow Christians?

A principle of logic can be utilize to elaborate upon what John is saying here. Namely:

To say:
if not A or not B then not C
is logically equivalent to:
if A and B then C

Thus another way of stating what John is saying is the following:
Whoever characteristically does righteousness AND characteristically loves his "brother" is of God.

To be noted here is that observing one absent from the other is not sufficient to conclude such a person is born of God. In fact if either of these qualities are missing with regards to the person's characteristic behavior, such is indicative that the person is not born of God. What is implied that if one is born of God, these two attributes must be inevitable. And that would in fact follow from verse 9 which explain why such behaviors are inevitable for those born of God.

Now if you think a person loves his "brother" but in other ways he does not characteristically do what is right, such a person has not been born of God. In fact the two go hand in hand and as such the absence of one implies the absence of the other.


Misconceptions of Popular Historic Theologians

This is an optional topic one may digress upon. Much of denominational Christianity (which is to say non-Berean) derives their dogma from the opinions of popular theologians of the past without scrutinizing such theologians. Yet it's become clear to me upon reading a number of such theologians that they often haven't considered all the possibilities when deriving an interpretation nor considered whether the implications of their conclusions are consistent with the rest of scripture. Popular theologians are largely overrated.

Take Augustine, a 4th Century theologian, for example. Augustine is one of the "Church Fathers" of Catholicism as well as one who influenced Calvin's writings, which defined Reformed Theology. In fact in much of Calvin's writings he seems more interested in parroting Augustine's opinion than he does quoting the Bible. The he differs with Augustine on some points, the following being an example.

In Augustine's 5th Homily on 1John he presents a paradox in 1John that many recognize. Namely that while 1John 3:9 (also in 1John 3:6) John indicates that those born of God don't sin, while 1John 1:8 (Also 2:1) indicates they do. His resolution to the paradox was to propose that "don't sin" refers to one particular sin and not to others, namely to fail to love one another. Such an interpretation opens a door for Antinomian theology.

Augustine was mistaken. There are many ways to show Augustine's error. One obvious one is here in 1John 3:10 where John speaks distinctly of doing what is right and loving one's brother as two separate conditions, whereas Augustine considered the two to be equivalent. Though it's somewhat understandable that Augustine simply hadn't considered the possibility that it may have something to do with the original language 1John was written in. Though no excuse for fudging the answer.

The disadvantage Augustine had to correctly resolve the paradox is the same disadvantage many today face when reading translations of 1John. For, as the Wikipedia entry notes, Augustine was Latin-speaking, whereas John wrote his epistle in Greek. Wasn't until the Reformation when the Bible was made available to the public in the orginal language, based upon Greek manuscripts when the correct resolution to this paradox was popularized - as I have also resolved on my own. And that's why Calvin had to take a different stand than Augustine concerning 1John.



The Mark of Cain

vs 11  For this is the message that you heard from the beginning,
that we should characteristically love one another,

vs 12  not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his "brother" at some point in time.
And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his "brother"’s righteous

Prior to the murder, the only thing recorded of Cain is the following:

Gen 4:3-5  In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD.  But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
Cain was a religous man, like many who refer to themselves as "Christian". Yet apparently there was something evil about Cain's sacrifice. It says in Heb 11:4,5 "By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings."

While under the Law of Moses grain offerings were accepted, they were contingent upon blood offerings to atone for sin. The modern equivalent would be to feign friendship with God apart from the blood offering made by Jesus Christ. That is to enter God's house not through the door but through some other way.

Cain was involved in a religious activity which outwardly was to honor God, but in fact he was doing evil. So also both in Jesus' time and today, those most hostile against the children of God are those who are zealously involved in false worship. And those who are of the evil one, rather than dealing with their own guilt will characteristically lash out against those who are behaving properly.

Whenever the word "brother" is used in 1John it is preceeded by "his". In this way I believe John was trying to indicate he was speaking of "brother" in a generic sense, much as one would put quotation marks around "brother" as I have throughout the text. Some argue the fact that John uses "brother" proves that such people are God's people. But as you can see from this example, while Cain was the brother of Abel, John characterizes him here as "of the wicked one", that is the devil. Similarly throughout the text whenever it speaks of "his brother" it is speaking in a generic sense and should not be assumed that such people are necessarily genuine believers.

A similar usage is found in 1Cor 5:11 "I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner——not even to eat with such a person." And he follows with: "Expel the wicked man from among you." 1Cor 7:13 and "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God?" 1Cor 6:9 Thus this one referred to as "brother" is one who in fact is not saved.



If the World Hates You

1John 3:13  Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world characteristically hates you.

Jesus said, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you." John 15:18,19 and He prdicted, "You will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved." Mt 10:22

And why did the world hate Jesus? Jesus said of his unbelieving brothers, "The world cannot hate you. It hates me because I testify that what it does is evil." John 7:7 If you are born of God you should expect the world to hate you. And why would the world hate you? Because, just like Jesus, you are to testify that what it does is evil.

The world hates being convicted of sin. In fact when you convict the worldly of sin, they typically will respond by claiming that you hate them. Such is the case of false brethren in the Christian community. If other Christians hate you for illegitimate reasons, don't be surprised if they turn out to be children of the devil. For Cain was also a religious man, offering sacrifices to God. But he became jealous of his religious brother over a religious matter. What does that imply of the theme of 1John?

Sermon on the Mount:

"Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets." Luke 6:22,23

"Woe to you when all men speak well of you, For so did their fathers to the false prophets." Luke 6:26

And in one of Jesus last prayers he says of his disciples, "I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world." John 17:14



Love and Murder

vs 14  We have perceived that we have passed from death to life,
because we characteristically love the brethren.
He who characteristically does not love his "brother" dwells in death.

vs 15  Whoever characteristically hates his "brother" is a murderer,
and you have perceived that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

Those who have been born of God have already passed from death to life. Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life." John 5:24

The evidence John speaks of here that a person has come to genuine faith in Christ, and has consequently passed from death to life, is their love for fellow Christians. Hatred for fellow Christians is akin to murder - just as John spoke of the Cain as a precedent for such.

Murderers, along with many other categories of sinners, do not have eternal life. To name a few: "the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars— their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur." Rev 21:8 Similar lists are found in 1Cor 6:9,10; Eph 5:5,6; Gal 5:19-21

Here's a bit of controvery, if murderers don't have eternal life what might we derive from the fact that a number of popular church leaders or theologians of the Reform movement, like John Calvin, were involved in murder - killing fellow Christians for illegitimate reasons without regret, (See The Murder of Michael Servetus ), or those who advocate murder, such as Martin Luther who said, among his many anti-semitic comments, "I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb."


The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources

Jul 29,2015