Well, we return in our study of the Word of God to 1 John chapter 3. And I – I always want to let you know how grateful I am for your faithfulness to come and to hear the preaching and teaching of the precious Word of God. This is, of course, in direct obedience to the Lord Himself, putting yourself in the place of blessing as you take in the glorious truth of Scripture, putting yourself in the place of usefulness so that knowing the Word of God you can pass it on to others, so that knowing it you can live it out to His honor, your own joy.
Now as you know, in looking at this epistle, the theme that runs all the way through this entire letter is identifying marks of true Christians. This is John’s concern. The whole epistle gives us revelation by which we can discern who is real within the family of God. And as we come in to chapter 3 in verses 11 through 18, we come to the subject of love. Or better yet, we come to the test of love, or the mark of love. Here is one of John’s key determining factors to identify true Christians. When someone claims to be a Christian, someone claims to be in union with God and union with Jesus Christ, possessing eternal life, we are instructed here to examine the character of their love life, for therein lies the proof of their claim.
Christians who are genuinely born of God manifest that transformation by means of righteousness and love. Those are the two basic behavioral tests, the two measurements of conduct. And we have looked at the first, that is righteousness, in the prior passage. You remember we started in verse 4, moving down through verse 10. And we were told that the one who practices righteousness, verse 7, is righteous. Verse 8, the one who practices sin is of the devil. In verse 9, “No one who is born of God practices sin because his seed abides in him, he cannot sin, he’s born of God.” Verse 10 finally summing it up, “By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious. Anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God,” – and then comes the transition, verse 10 – “nor the one who does not love his brother.”
The first moral test, the first behavioral test to validate one’s claim to be a Christian is the test of righteous conduct. The second is the test of love. Now remember, there were false teachers who were in this particular church who were coming against this particular assembly of believers, and they were claiming to have a relationship with God. They were claiming to have a relationship with the Creator and to have a relationship with Christ. And they were, however, not willing to acknowledge their sin. In fact, according to chapter 1, they may have been guilty of denying they had any sin, nor were they manifestly characterized by love for the brethren. And John is pointing out here that no matter what somebody claims, the truth can be determined in these two behavioral ways. Obedience, righteous behavior and love are evidences of true sons of God.
Now this is not the first time that John addresses this. Go back for a moment, just so we remind ourselves, into chapter 2 in verse 7. And you find that he begins in verse 7 talking about not writing a new commandment but an old commandment. In verse 8, it is new, it does have some new characteristics. And he says in verse 9, “The one who says he’s in the light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now, the one who loves his brother, abides in the light and there’s no cause for stumbling in him. The one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”
He says, “If someone claims to belong to Me, claims to be in the light, but they hate the brother, they abide in the darkness.” Anybody who hates his brother is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, doesn’t know where he’s going, is blinded by the darkness. So here again is the indication that one might claim to be a believer but if there’s no manifest love for others, identified as brothers, others who are believers, that claim is meaningless. This is nothing new, John says. This is nothing new. The people of God have always been marked by love for others. You find that if you go back into the nineteenth chapter of Leviticus, you find it if you go back in to the book of Deuteronomy. Over and over again the people of God are commanded and known by loving their neighbors, loving others.
And so John is cycling back to this same subject. This is one of the characteristics of this epistle. And I don’t want to belabor you with the technical aspects but this is sort of a spiral epistle. He deals with a subject at this level and then he deals with it again and – and it goes deeper. It’s like sort of screwing truth into our minds. It starts out penetrating a little bit and then it goes deeper and deeper as he cycles back through the truth and twists it again into our thinking, deeper and deeper with every turn. Love is an indispensable feature in the lives of God. We are taught of God to love. The apostle Paul wrote, “The love of Christ is shed abroad in our hearts,” Romans 5:5 says. We possess the fruit of the Spirit which is love and joy and all the rest.
We have been given then, in Christ, a capacity to love. It is more than a mandate, it is a capacity. It is more than a capacity, it is a characteristic. That’s why Paul said, “I don’t need to teach you how to love, you’re taught of God to love one another.” It is natural to the believer to love another believer. And we will see that that will be repeated again in this epistle. This is not the last time we will come across that. You can look for a moment at chapter 4 verse 7, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and everyone who loves is born of God.” Verse 8, “The one who does not love, does not know God, for God is love.”
If God lives in you, if you share the life of God, God is love and you will also love. God loves those who are His and you will love those who are His as well. This is not merely a duty, this is not merely a responsibility. This is an evidence of the presence of God who is love living in your life, of God having shed His love abroad in your life, of God having placed His Spirit there who is manifestly producing love.
Now as we begin this passage, let’s go back to chapter 3 in verse 11. “For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” Now why does he say it that way? Why does he say this is the message which you’ve heard from the beginning? I’ll tell you why, this is not the first time he has so spoken. Go back to chapter 2 in verse 24, “As for you” – he says – “let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning.” Here’s the problem. They had the truth right at the beginning because it was delivered to them by apostles. They had the truth about the gospel right. They had the truth about the person of Christ right. They had the truth about their own sinfulness right. They had the truth about righteousness and obedience right. They had the truth about love right because it was delivered to them by the apostolic preachers. It was delivered to them by those who brought them the true revelation of God and the gospel.
However, after some period of time, they had false teachers come in and they were getting another message. And so John says, Look, back up, run this thing back, skip over what you heard and go all the way back to the beginning. This is the message which you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. The false teachers might be telling you that that doesn’t matter. They might be telling you that there is no requirement of loving one another, that that’s not a part of knowing God.
They may also tell you that you can deny the deity of Christ, you can know the Christ as some spirit, or you can deny the humanity of Christ, you can know Him as only some spirit, you can know Him as some created spirit or some spirit that’s a phantom spirit, either not God or not flesh or not either. They may tell you that but you go back to the beginning, you know that’s not the message you heard. They may tell you that you’re not called on to love, that love is not an element of – of true salvation. I’m telling you, you need to go back to the beginning. You need to go back to what you heard when you first heard the truth.
Heretics always come along and boast about new teaching. Anything that’s new is not true. That’s just sort of a basic axiom, if it’s new, it’s not true. You may find somebody who has a fresh insight into the truth, but anything that’s new is not true because the faith was once for all delivered to the saints and nothing shall be added to it or nothing taken away from it. And that’s how the Bible ends with that warning that anybody who does that is in grave danger from the judgment of God. Back in chapter 1 verse 5, he kind of began at that point. “This is the message we have heard from Him and announced to you.” I’m telling you the message, John says, that I received from Jesus Christ. And I don’t care what anybody has said to you since. It’s not true.
That’s what the cults all do, don’t they? They take the Bible and then somewhere in more modern history there is a revelation from an angel or there’s a revelation from some supernatural source to somebody who writes that revelation down whether it’s Ellen G. White, or whether it’s Annie Besant, or Madame Blavatsky, or Judge Rutherford, or Joseph Smith, or whoever else it is in whatever cult, or whatever. It is our responsibility to say that’s not divine truth, go back to the original revelation. And that’s what John essentially is saying. Let’s go back to what we taught you in the beginning.
There’s nothing new. The truth is not altered. It doesn’t change. The truth about Jesus Christ doesn’t change. The truth about the gospel doesn’t change. The truth about man doesn’t change. He’s sinful and that doesn’t change. The truth about obedience and righteousness does not change and neither does the truth about loving one another. Go back to what you first heard and don’t get led astray. And what did you first hear with regard to this particular emphasis? That, in verse 11, we should love one another. This is the manifestation of transformation.
Now you remember that passage, familiar passage; we’ve noted it a couple of times, even recently, in John 13:34 and 35, where our Lord Jesus identifies this distinguishing mark of His disciples. “A new commandment I give you that you love one another, even as I have loved you.” The command to love was not new, as John indicated, as I read to you back in chapter 2. The commandment to love was very old, it goes clear back to the Old Testament. But it had a newness to it, and the newness to it is this, “A new commandment I give you,” – not just that you should love one another, but – “you should love one another as I have loved you.” It’s another level of love.
It’s a level of love that demonstrates itself in magnanimous self-effacing, self-sacrificing affection, to love the way Jesus loved. That’s the newness because there had never been an example like that. There is a newness in the command once you see it exhibited in Christ. And then He says, “That’s how you should love one another and by this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love one for another.” You can tell a true Christian because he loves other believers. We’re talking about the family here. It is impossible for a true believer not to love other believers. That is a distinguishing mark of the presence of a loving God. God loves us. Because He loves us, He takes residence in our lives and manifests that very love through us.
Jesus commanded His disciples in that upper room in chapter 15 of John. “This is My commandment, that you love one another just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus is saying it’s an old command but it has a newness because now I am taking it to the point where it is absolutely self-sacrificing. And again, in verse 17, just a few verses later, “This I command you, that you love one another.” It is a command. There’s no question about that. But as well as a command, it is also a privilege because we have been given the capacity to do that. And that’s the passage in 1 Thessalonians 4:9, “Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write you for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.” God works in your life to produce that love.
In fact, even Peter – one of my favorite comments about this love is found in the words of Peter, 1 Peter 1:22. “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls,” – he’s talking about salvation, you’ve come, you’ve heard the truth, you’ve obeyed the gospel, your soul was purified – “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls” – listen to this – “unto a sincere love of the brethren.” What a great statement. He’s saying this is who you are, you obeyed the truth, your soul was cleansed, produced – it produced a genuine love for the brethren. And since that has happened, he adds, “Fervently love one another from the heart.”
The command is based upon the capacity. Since God has wrought that in you, that capacity, do it fervently. Fervently is the Greek word ektenōs. It is used of a muscle that is taut, that is literally stretched to its capacity. And he is saying, love as far as you can love, stretch yourself as far as you can go in love. Reach out as far as you have capacity to reach. You have literally obeyed the truth, been purged unto this genuine kind of love, exercise it to the max.
So back to our opening statement in 1 John 3, “You have heard from the beginning this message, that we should love one another.” I don’t care what anybody comes along and says, this is true. This is not just command, this is God-given capacity. So we are obeying it and are able to do so because of the wonderful work of the Spirit of God in shedding the love of Christ abroad in our hearts. Now having introduced that theme of love in verse 11, John moves in to a contrast.
Contrasts are very typical of John. All through his gospel, all through his epistle. We’ve said this before; he’s sort of the black and white apostle and we see it here again. And in regard to this matter of love, he contrasts the children of the devil with the children of God. And it’s a simple contrast. The children of the devil hate, and the children of God love. The children of the devil resent and the children of God respect. The children of the devil are selfish. The children of God are sacrificial toward one another. Let’s start out, as John does, and look at the characteristics of the children of the devil. They occupy most of the passage we’re going to look at tonight.
Let’s see the characteristics of the children of the devil, and they are characteristics that demonstrate the absence of love, okay? The absence of love. The first one is murder. I would say that’s a fairly good demonstration of the absence of love, wouldn’t you? Murder. That is the ultimate act of hate. Verse 12, “You’re to love one another not as” – now, we have the contrast as we look at the children of the devil – “not as Cain who was of the evil one and slew his brother and for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil and his brother’s were righteous.” Here is the lowest level, obviously, the lowest level that any relationship can ever descend to. Would you agree? They can’t get any worse than that, when you kill the other person. This is hate’s extremity. You can’t go beyond that, the lowest level. It is characteristic of those who do not know God to be murderous, to be murderous.
John introduces the one Old Testament reference in this epistle. There’s just one Old Testament reference in this entire epistle and the only proper name in this epistle and he picks Cain, the classic example of a murderer. Cain and Abel had the same parents, Adam and Eve. They were raised in the same home. They had the same influences. They were called to the same God to offer sacrifice. They both brought sacrifices to God. Cain is never presented as an atheist. He is presented as a religious man. He is actually a worshiper and a worshiper of God. The only God they knew about was the creator God, and they knew the God who was Creator.
Their parents, after all, had walked and talked with Him in the cool of the day and their parents had certainly told them all they knew about God. They weren’t very far removed from personal testimony. They knew the true God who was Creator. They knew the God who had acted in judgment against their parents because of their – of their sin. They knew the God who had cursed the earth and had put the curse upon the serpent. They knew the God who had pronounced not only the curse but blessing on Adam and blessing on Eve. They knew the God who had promised that there would be a seed of the woman who would eventually bruise the serpent’s head. They knew the one true God, they both did.
Cain was not an atheist, he was a religious person. And he came as a worshiper of God. And you want to understand this, folks, some of the most murderous people who exist, some of the greatest haters of those who were truly God’s are those who are religious. In fact, you can make a case that they’re the worst. It wasn’t atheists who murdered Jesus. It wasn’t atheists who screamed for His blood and demanded that the Romans crucify Him. It was religionists, who were in their own twisted way worshiping the God of Israel, the God who was the very God and Father of the one they sought to kill.
Outward ritual, outward religiosity is no proof that a person is born of God. Cain was a very religious man. He didn’t bring the right sacrifice because he had a self-styled religion. There’s no question in my mind that he had been commanded to bring an animal sacrifice as his brother did, and that’s why God accepted Abel’s sacrifice and didn’t accept Cain’s because Cain didn’t bring what God asked. Rather than bring a sacrifice which God asked, he brought the fruit of the land which he himself had toiled to produce. And so for him he was going to make his relationship with God based upon what he accomplished, and that never gets you to God. But he was a religious man.
But he failed the test of love. It’s clear that even though he was not an atheist, even though he was worshiping the true God, he was worshiping Him in a wrong way and he was worshiping him from a wicked heart. And so, you know the story, the real test of Cain’s true religion wasn’t even his sacrifice. That was one test; that wasn’t the full test. We could say, “Well, he was trying to get there by works and that’s bad.” It was worse than that. He despised the man who was obedient to God. He despised the man who was truly righteous.
And false teachers are like that. The false teachers that came in to pollute the clear waters of truth in the lives of these people to whom John writes hated true righteousness. They hated the true Christ, they hated true religion, they hated true righteousness. They despised it because those people who are outside the Kingdom of God and do not possess true salvation even though they are religious are the children of the devil.
I gave you an article, Patricia. Could you give it to me for just a second? I think this is kind of interesting. I meant to bring it up here. And it illustrates this. I don’t usually walk around, thank you, hon. I thought this was kind of interesting, Bill Zimmer handed it to me tonight and I just thought of it. There’s a man named Gore Vidal who is an enemy of Christianity. This is sort of typical. This is what he says and I’m quoting him. And he’s speaking on behalf of some of this Hollywood crowd that’s anti-Bush and anti-America and anti-Christianity. This is a quote. “Some of us, a group of like-minded souls, got together just to discuss informally who we might back to be President in the next election. We want a leader who won’t lie to us. Mr. Bush is a ‘come to Jesus’ kind of fellow who believes he’s doing God’s work and explains why Tony Blair has gone along with him. He too is a secret Jesus lover and together they’re very dangerous.”
That’s really the bottom line, isn’t it? It’s the people who hate Jesus who hate the people who love Jesus. It’s the unrighteous that hate the righteous. It’s the ungodly who hate the godly because we expose them, because we call them into question as to what they believe and how they behave. Go back to Genesis chapter 4. Just in case you may have forgotten the account, here it is. “The man had relations with his wife Eve,” – verse 1 – “she conceived, gave birth to Cain, she said, ‘I’ve gotten a man child with the help of the Lord.’ She gave birth to another, his brother Abel. Abel was a keeper of flocks, Cain was a tiller 26:35 to the ground.
“It came about in the course of time, Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. Abel on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and their fat portions and the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering,” because God had already revealed that He wanted an animal sacrifice, because that was the picture, wasn’t it? That picture of the coming Messiah. Because sin requires death, there has to be a sacrifice for sin and it’s pictured even then in Abel’s sacrifice. “God had no regard for the offering of Cain.” Verse 5 says, “Cain became very angry, his face fell and the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry, why is your countenance fallen? If you do well will not your countenance be lifted up and if you do not do well sin is crouching at the door and its desire is for you, but you must master it.’”
You better get a hold of yourself, you better deal with your sin, God says. This attitude that you have, this anger over being rejected because you came the wrong way, this anger because your brother was accepted and you were not, you better deal with this sin because it’s crouching at the door. And if you don’t master it, it’s going to take over. “Cain told his brother Abel and it came about when they were in the field that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and murdered him.”
Back to 1 John. A characteristic of the children of the devil is murder, murder. Cain was – notice back in verse 12 – “of the evil one.” He was of the evil one. He belonged to the kingdom of darkness. John 8:44, “You are of your father, the devil,” Jesus said. Why? Because they were – they were – the Jewish people to whom Jesus said that had developed a work system just like Cain. And they hated true righteousness and they were plotting to kill Jesus. And Jesus says to them, “You’re of your father, the devil, who was a murderer from the beginning.” Notice the terms he uses here. “Not as Cain who was of the evil one.” The word is ponēros in the Greek and it means evil in active opposition to good, aggressively evil, fervently evil, determinately evil.
It’s the same phrase, by the way, used back in chapter 2 verse 13 to describe Satan. It is evil in active opposition to good. There are other words for evil, there’s the word kakos, which means evil in itself. Ponēros goes beyond that. In my understanding, ponēros means evil to the extent that you want to pull everything down with you. It’s one thing to be kakos, that is to perish in your own corruption. It’s another thing to be ponēros. And that is to sweep everybody you can into that corruption so they all go down with you. That’s Satan. He is ponēros. He is consummately evil in that he is not content to go down and perish in his own corruption, he wants to take the whole world with him.
Cain showed his spiritual connection to Satan by murdering his brother. The word here regarding Cain “slew his brother,” is the word sphazō in Greek and let me tell you what it means. It means to butcher by cutting the throat. He slit his brother’s throat. That’s an important thing to say and I’ll tell you why. Because there had only been up to this point one indication of a death prior to this murder and it was God killing an animal, remember, to take the skin to cover Adam and Eve. And very likely God had killed that animal by slitting its throat which became the standard practice in the sacrificial system.
He literally came up behind his brother and butchered him by cutting his throat. The term is used in classical Greek, sphazō, to refer to the slaughtering of victims for sacrifice by cutting their throat, cutting their jugular. It is used in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, Leviticus 1:5 to refer to the slaying of sacrificial animals. It was as if Cain said, “Oh, okay, God, You want – you want a sacrifice, do You? You want an animal sacrifice, here’s one – shuck.” That’s the vitriol that existed in Cain’s heart. And the writer here, John, uses a vivid strong word to describe the murder.
There’s another word that means to kill, apothnēskō, but he doesn’t use that word. He uses the word to butcher by cutting the throat. Cain slit his brother’s throat, almost an act of defiance. Okay, God, You want a sacrifice, this is the way the animal – and this indicates to me that Cain knew God wanted a sacrifice and knew how sacrifices were killed. This may have been the only way he knew to kill. There hadn’t been that many deaths. As far as the record of Scripture, just one and God slew that one, no doubt, in this fashion. And as I said, it was God’s revealed way to sacrifice something to Him, an animal. So listen to this, the human race learned to murder when it was taught to worship. You can teach people to worship, but if they belong to the devil they’ll use what you teach them to murder. That was Cain.
Why did he do that? It tells you right there, verse 12, for what reason did he slay him? Why did he do that? Simple, “Because his deeds were evil and his brother’s were righteous.” And evil people hate the righteous.” Three out of five places where Abel is mentioned in the New Testament, he’s described as righteous, righteous. God had given clear instruction how to worship Him. God had very likely even instructed about how to kill the animal in the quickest most humane way by the slitting of the throat.
God had revealed that this was to be an act which depicted a sacrifice and not bringing the works of your own hands. Cain rejected God’s revelation, decided to do it his own way. Then in an act of unbelievable defiance, manifesting that he was a child of the devil, he said, “Okay, God, You want a sacrifice? Here’s one.” And he gave to God righteous Abel. Cain had the opportunity of obedience, but he followed his father. Not his father Adam, but his father Satan. And rather than repent, he killed the rebuking brother. And the Bible doesn’t say that Abel rubbed it in. It doesn’t say that Abel said anything to intimidate his brother or to sort of elevate his anger. It simply says here he killed him because his deeds were evil and his brother’s were righteous.
The world is murderous, always has been. And the evil, wretched world under the prince of the power of the air, the children of Satan, hate the righteous. They hate the righteous. Jealousy of acceptance with God, anger at being indicted leads to murder. This is life on the level of the children of Satan. And frankly, that’s why God put government in the world. That’s why He put capital punishment in the world. That’s why He gave government the right to punish and take a life, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Because you have a world full of the children of the devil so you have a world full of people who are liars and killers.
And how are you going to deal with that? There has to be some power. There has to be some threat. There has to be some severity of consequence to restrain people. That’s why there’s government. That’s why there are armies and police and executioners, and have been throughout all history. And we fear – of all things that we fear, we talk about freedom and freedom and freedom and we’re big on that in America. But of all things that we fear, we fear ultimate freedom most because that’s anarchy and if everyone is set loose and there’s no consequences for what people do, the killers will destroy us all. We have to have a collective system of protection and that’s the primary function of government. If government did what it should do – I don’t want to get political – that’s what it would do, that’s what it would do. That’s all it’s really mandated to do in the Scripture. And you can leave all the rest to private enterprise.
So ultimately. in its extreme the absence of love is a murderous heart, characteristic of all the children of the devil. You say, “Well now wait a minute. You – you’re seeming to say that they – that everybody who is an unconverted person would murder people.” Well that’s what the Bible says, that they – they don’t all have the opportunity to do that. They – they don’t all actually do that, but that’s in their hearts.
But that takes us to the second thing. If not murder, there’s another characteristic of the children of the devil and it’s hatred. Verse 13, “Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you.” Don’t be surprised if the world hates you. “We know that we passed out of death into life because we love the brethren, he who doesn’t love abides in death.” Then verse 15, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” People with murderous attitudes don’t have eternal life because eternal life makes you love, not hate. Most people have never murdered anybody. They would like to have. That’s the only difference. They’ve just not done it.
The only difference between murder and hate is the act. The attitude is the same, right? The attitude is the same. Maybe you never had an opportunity to do it. You were restrained because of the consequences. But in God’s eyes, hatred is the moral equivalent of murder. Hatred is the moral equivalent of murderer. You’re not off the hook just because you don’t kill somebody. You are children – you are children of the devil and whether you kill somebody or not, that will manifest itself in your hatred of others. Could you, without negative consequences, carry out your murder. There’s every reason to assume that you would do it, if there were no retribution, if there were no judgment, if you’d never be held responsible.
Listen to the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:21, “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder and whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ – an epithet that seems rather mild, but in those days it would come out differently. A person who says that, that is to say curses someone – “shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.” You’re going to go to hell for your hate, whether or not it ever materializes into murder. As I said, hatred is the moral equivalent of murder, it just doesn’t exercise the option.
Most people haven’t murdered anybody, but people who are the children of the devil are characterized by hate. And so, go back again to verse 13, Don’t be surprised, do not marvel, “do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you.” It goes with the territory. It’s because of the children of the devil and they have nothing in common with us, absolutely nothing in common. “Marvel” here, or “surprise” has to do with something that’s shocking, mysterious, amazing. The hatred of the world is not amazing, it’s not shocking, it’s not mysterious, not hard to figure out. It’s just the same as Cain and Abel, he hated his brother because his deeds were evil and his brother’s were righteous.
It’s only to be expected that the wicked would continue to regard and treat the righteous the same way that Cain regarded and treated his righteous brother because they all have the same father. Hatred for believers is a giveaway that you don’t know God. In kind of expanding out thought on that, just one other passage. John 15 and that’s, of course, the night of Jesus’ betrayal. We’ve already commented on the element of love there, but I want to talk about the element of hatred there which is also in that same text. John 15:18, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.”
Don’t be surprised, I mean, the world hates Me because the world is made up of the children of the devil. The devil hates Me, the devil loathes and despises Me, so his children feel the same. “If you were of the world,” – verse 19 – “the world would love its own. Because you’re not of the world, but I choose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.”
I understand that. That’s why I don’t expect to have a platform in the world. I’m always shocked when anybody puts me on any secular media, puts me in any secular media environment. I’m – I'm shocked. I wonder how I ever get there because the unregenerate world hates everything that I represent. But there are always some Christians in some places who open up opportunities, thankfully, even in the midst of an environment of hate to speak the truth. In John 15:25, “But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their law, they hated Me without a cause,” taken from the Psalms.
There’s no real reason for the world to hate us. We don’t harm the world. There’s no reason for people in our society, the elite, the rich and the famous, the sinful, the publicly sinful, the blatantly sinful to hate anybody who is righteous, except for the fact that they manifest that they’re the children of the devil, right? It’s a dead giveaway. It’s a dead giveaway. By its hatred, the world reveals its true character. Cain hated Abel. People hated Jesus. Jewish leaders hated Him. They hated the apostles and they martyred all but one and they exiled him.
And through the history of the church, the church’s leaders have been hated, the Reformers, the non-conformists persecuted, hated. And even today there are more Christians being persecuted for the cause of Jesus Christ than ever in history, tens of thousands dying all over the world under the hateful murderous people who are the children of the devil. So this is what is characteristic of them. Don’t be surprised if they hate you.
Then verse 15, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” It’s a dead giveaway. But on the other hand, verse 14, and we’ll say more about this. “We know that we’ve passed out of death into life because we love the brethren.” That’s the contrast. And as I said, we’ll say more about that later. Murderer is the word here that just means that, someone who slays a man. No murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
Are you saying that if someone commits a murder they can never be saved? No. I am saying that if someone continues with a murderous heart, they’re not saved, right? Paul was a murderer, was he not? Didn’t he persecute and kill Christians? He says, “I was a blasphemer and a murderer.” But he repented and was forgiven. All sinners can be saved, that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re not talking about who can be saved, we’re talking about who is saved. And people with murderous hearts have never been transformed. They’re just like Cain, they are children of the evil one.
Murder is the worst, hate comes next, but there’s a third characteristic of the children of the devil. Third characteristic, indifference. This is the best that can be said of them, this is the best. They’re indifferent. Not all the children of the devil are equally evil in their actions. They all are characterized by some level of murderous attitude. They are all characterized by some level of hatred of those who are righteous. But not all of them are driven by the same degree of hate nor do all of them carry it to its extreme and kill. The best that can be said is that they manifest indifference. Verses 16 and 17, “We know love by this, that He lay down His life for us and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
Contrast that with verse 17, “Whoever has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him. How does the love of God abide in him?” This is indifference. This is another evidence of the unregenerate. They have the world’s goods. They make no sacrifice for anyone else. They’re dominated by selfishness. If they do give away a little pittance here and a little pittance there, it is to pacify their own conscience and have the appearance of philanthropy. The children of the devil are consumed with themselves. They’re unconcerned with others. Now remember, these are general designations and they are generally true.
You say, “What about those people who are somewhat sacrificial and get involved in charitable work?” Again, they do that for the purposes that accrue to their own glory. It’s not because their hearts are genuinely broken in love for others. People in the world don’t love like that. They say they’re in love, but that doesn’t last very long, does it? They say they love but they make very little sacrifice. The characteristic of these people at best is indifference. They shut their hearts against the one in need.
Now they – to go back to verse 16 – they certainly aren’t going to die for somebody, if you want to press the point. They might kill somebody but they’re not going to die for somebody. That’s very, very rare, unless a person is utterly swept away in some fit of nobility, that’s not generally characteristic. And if they do die, it may be some misguided selfish act like the terrorist who blows himself up so he can arrive in heaven and find the 72 virgins sitting on the green pillows waiting, or so that he could be some kind of hero.
The children of the devil are murderous, hateful and indifferent. “Whoever has the world’s goods,” – that is to say has material wealth – “sees his brother in need” – recognizes that he can meet that need; this particularizes the general here, specific. If that’s the case – “and he closes his heart” – his inner parts – closes down his compassion. it’s actually the word bowels, splagchnon. He shuts off his compassion, shuts off his feelings. If that’s his habit, the love of God is not in him. It doesn’t matter what he claims. He might claim to be a religious person, he might claim to be a passionate sympathetic person, but if he slams the door in the face of the one in need, he’s not the child of God.
Pure religion and undefiled is to visit the fatherless and the widows. Eternal life does not dwell in those who murder. Eternal life does not dwell in those who hate. Eternal life does not dwell in those who are indifferent and self-centered and selfish. Those are all characteristics of the children of the devil. And the characteristics of the children of God are just the opposite, aren’t they? Go back to verse 14, “We know that we have passed out of death into life because we love the brethren.” We don’t want to kill anybody, we don’t even hate. We want to bring life to those around us. We want to be the source of blessing to them. We love them because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts. We – we don’t kill. We want to bring life.
And then in verse 16, “We know love by this, that He lay down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” We don’t want to kill and hate and be indifferent, we want to do the opposite, we’ll give our lives away. This is what characterizes the true child of God, total selflessness, a willingness to give up everything because this love has so permeated our being. By the goodness of God we have been delivered from our former attitude.
I always think about “Epaphroditus,” – Philippians 2:25 – “my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier and minister to my need; because he was longing for you all and was distressed because he heard – because you had heard that he was sick. Indeed he was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow.” And then it says, “Receive him then in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard; because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was deficient in your service to me.
Here was a man who was manifesting that he was a child of God because he was giving his life away for the cause of Christ. Paul had the same attitude, “For to me to live is Christ, to die is gain.” He said, “I offer my – my life on the sacrifice and service of your faith.” I’ll give my life away getting the gospel to you. Jesus was his model. Jesus demonstrated that greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Jesus did that. We’re to love in the same sacrificial way. We’re to love so that we bring life, not death. We’re to love so that we bring affection not hatred. We’re to love so that we meet needs sacrificially, not indifferent.
The contrast is stark here and unmistakable. And if you are a killer at heart and if you are indifferent at heart, your claim to know God means nothing. How does – the end of verse 17 – the love of God abide in such a person? Well the answer is, it doesn’t. And then in verse 18 there is a final statement in this text which is an injunction to us. “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue but in deed and truth. We will know by this that we’re of the truth, and assure our hearts before Him.” Not only is your love a testimony to everybody around you that you belong to God, it’s an assuring testimony to yourself, isn’t it?
Profession is not enough, it’s not enough for those around you and it’s not enough for you. He says, “Love, not just in word and tongue, but in deed and truth,” – genuine action, love sacrificially. Love in the way that’s been described, love by giving your life away. Verse 16, laying down our lives for the brethren. Love, verse 17, by seeing a brother in need and opening up your heart to him. Love, verse 18, not just in what you say but in how you act. It isn’t just words on your tongue, it’s deeds that manifest the truth of that love in your heart. Here then again does John identify for us unmistakably the manifest nature and character of a true Christian. Whatever somebody claims, here’s the real evidence. And more of that is yet to come. Pray with me.
As we bring this day to an end, Lord, this is such a wonderful way to draw it to a conclusion. As we think about the responsibility that we have as believers, because we have the capacity to love, because we have the love of Christ shed abroad in our hearts, because we have the indwelling Holy Spirit whose fruit is manifestly love, because we have been taught by You to love, let us love fervently. Not just in word and tongue, but in deed and truth. Not just in what we say that just comes off the tongue, but with what we do that comes from deep within the heart.
And so therefore, may we fully manifest that we are Your children. We remember the words of our Lord who said, “If you love your enemies, you will make it known that you are the children of God.” And how much more is that true then that if we manifest our sonship by loving the ungodly, even as You do, we would even more manifest our sonship by loving those whom You love, Your own beloved children.
I do believe in my heart, Lord, that one of the reasons this church, which You have blessed, one of the reasons this church is so unique, one of the reasons it is characterized by such love, such sacrificial affection, such meeting of needs, such kindness, such deeds of mercy and compassion and sympathy is because it is a church made up of true believers.
And that, because we understand the true gospel and for that we thank You that indeed this congregation has been taught by You to love. And therein is the manifest testimony that sets us apart from the children of the devil and makes it known to all who see us and to us ourselves, that we are Your children known by our love for one another. Thank You for this work on our behalf. May we be faithful to it, for Your honor. In Christ’s name, Amen.
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