1 John 3:10-15 - Loving The Brothers
Our text is 1 John 3:10-18,
10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 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. 13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 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? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
I would like to begin this morning with a story about three men: John Greenwood who was born in 1560 and died in 1593. Henry Barrow who was born in 1550 and died in 1593. And John Penry who was born in 1559 and died in 1593.
All three of these men died in the same year. They were not victims of a great earthquake. They did not die during the Plague. They were not in the same place when a great fire burned through an entire town. No, these men were all hanged by the state for an act of civil disobedience, namely secession from the established teaching of the church.
One wonders what their crime was that these men were all found guilty so that they had to pay for it with their lives. Did they deny the Trinity? Did they teach a false Christ? Did they teach a damnable heresy that compromised the Gospel? Did they condone sin and lawlessness of an extremely vile nature?
When Penry was being examined by the state authorities, he was adamant that a true church was ‘a company of those whom the Word calls Saints, which do not only profess in word that they know God, but also are subject unto His Laws and Ordinance.’
In saying these words Penry was criticizing the idea that a parish church membership was made up of every person who lived within the geographical boundaries of the parish. This was the heresy that these three men committed and for which they would die. They dared to state that a member of the church is not simply one because they lived in a certain area, but they must profess faith in Jesus Christ and show fruits of that conversion.
In the book, Baptist Foundation, Mark Dever and Jonathan Leeman say of Penry, “One gets a sense of how committed these men were to their understanding of the Bible from words spoken by Penry shortly before his execution, when he affirmed that ‘imprisonment, judgments, yea, death itself, are not suitable weapons to turn away men’s consciences, which are grounded on the Word of God.’
Take a moment and consider the fact that these three men were willing to loose their lives over a doctrine concerning ecclesiology. In our day church membership is taken so lightly. Church membership seems trivial, unimportant, it seems inconsequential and insignificant to the majority of people today. Being a member of the visible body of Christ is considered meaningless, petty, superficial and immaterial by a the vast majority of people today. In their day, men and women thought that it was their right to be a member of the parish even if their lives did not reflect it. Today, we believe the opposite in many ways. The majority of people simply don’t see the need to be a member of the church and to be accountable to the local church.
Yet, these three men were willing to be killed, to be hung by their necks from the gallows, so that the visible church might be made up of professing Christians who had submitted their lives to the Laws and Ordinances of the church. They were willing to die at the ages of 33, 34 and 43 for the belief that not everyone is a Christian and not everyone should be a member of the church just because they live in the same geographical area as the parish.
How many of us would die on the gallows over the issue of church membership today? Yet, as we see in Penry’s final statement, he had no choice because for him this was a scriptural issue. It is a doctrine that is found in Scripture and so it was worth dying over. These men were like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They were willing to be the die if it was the LORD’s will.
The apostle John writes this letter to believers whose churches had been overrun with false teachers and their teachings. These worldly men and women attended the church, were members of the church, participated in the teaching and ordinances of the church.
As a result of this, John writes this letter to encourage the true believers how to determine who are the true believers and what is the real teachings of the church. In other words, the apostle John had a high view of true believers and their membership in the local church.
Last week we ended with 1 John 3:10, “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.”
This verse leaves us looking back at the context and also looking ahead to what John is going to say next. Verse 10 sums up John’s instructions regarding living righteously. Then it points us forward into our text today in which John writes that true believers will love other believers. (John 13:35, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”)
Last week we learned that our righteous deeds and our love for the people of God comes from our new birth. We do not love to become children of God; we love because we are now children of God. We learned about the profound changes that have happened to the believer by the grace of God that make it possible for a believer to live righteously and to love believers. (1 John 3:7-10)
They have been born again and are no longer of the devil.
They are a child of God and no longer a child of the devil.
They are righteous as He is righteous; they no longer make a practice of sin.
They have been given the Holy Spirit.
Because of these things a believer will love the body of Christ. Wouldn’t this be a dramatic testimony to the world. The church is made up of all types of people (men and women, rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, slave and free, young and old).
If one does not love the body of Christ they are giving evidence that they have not been born again. However, those who practice love towards other believers are giving evidence to the fact that they are indeed children of God. John says, “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil…”.
There are three reasons why we come to see that John is talking about a love that is to be seen in the church among believers. (Dr. David Thompson)
First, there is an article that occurs before the noun ‘brother’ in 1 John 3:10. It would read something like, “...whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his (the) brother.” The same article occurs again in 1 John 3:14 when John says, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers.”
In 1 John 3:11 John says, “For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” The Greek word for ‘another’ speaks of loving someone of the same kind.
Finally, we can see this in the illustration that John uses. John speaks of Cain who killed his brother Able. He uses an illustration concerning two men who really were brothers in the same family. He writes in 1 John 3:12-13, “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. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.”
This brings us to the theme of our text today: One who enjoys life and true fellowship with God is one who makes a practice of loving the brothers and sisters in the body of Christ.
Again, none of us is perfect at loving those in the church or our neighbor in general. One time I had a difficult encounter with some people. I did not respond the way I should have. Shortly after that happened I received a text from someone who was unaware of what had just. It said, 2 Timothy 2:24-25 - “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.’
When I received that text I wondered if this person was being used by the LORD to admonish me about some areas I need to reflect Him better in. None of us can say that we love the brothers and sisters in the church blamelessly, faultlessly and perfectly; however, a believer will make it a practice to love the body of Christ and they will not make a practice of hating them.
It is also important to notice that the word used for ‘love’ here in the Greek is agape. This speaks of a love that is a decision of one’s will to love others. It is the same type of love that God loves us with. It is not a love that is shown because of certain feelings or some merit that was earned.
We begin to see this in1 John 3:11, “For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” The decision to love is based upon the teaching of Scripture and not upon our feelings concerning a person.
Penry said he was able to die because the doctrine was in the Word of God. He said, “...imprisonment, judgments, yea, death itself, are not suitable weapons to convince men’s consciences, grounded on the word of God.” Similarly, John grounds this teaching about loving the brothers on the foundation of the Word of God. He says, “For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.”
John also says that this message is from the beginning and that it has never changed. This is a remarkable statement. In the church love is tested, tried, strained and put to the test. Yet, John says that this teaching has never changed.
Think about what goes on in the life of the church.
One is offended by another brother and asks, “Do I have to love this person anymore?” The answer is ‘Yes’.
Someone asks, “Do we have to forgive this person seven times?” The answer is, ‘Yes, seventy-times seven.’
An employee asks if they had to forgive a harsh manager who attends the church? The answer comes back, ‘Yes’.
This is the message that has been taught consistently from the very beginning. Jesus taught it. All the apostles teach it and nothing has changed since then. Why should we love our brothers and sisters when it is so difficult? Because God has changed us and we are to obey Scripture.
1 John 3:12 tells us that the love we are to have is not like the example of Cain and his brother Able. John says, “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.”
These two brothers had the same parents but Able was a son of God and Cain was a son of the devil. Able was righteous and Cain was evil and hated his brother. Cain may have said that he loved his brother but he murdered him. Cain did not keep a close eye on his heart which was filled with jealousy and anger.
Observations to consider:
Some people will suffer at the hands of evil people simply because they are righteous. They will be verbally attacked or maligned simply because they are righteous.
One who continually hates a brother does not know God or enjoy fellowship with God.
In the church we are called to edify each other. We are to confront people in the church, but it does not mean that we attack them verbally aggressively.
In 1 John 3:13 we are told to not be surprised that the world hates believers. We read, “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.”
This verb is in the present imperative form. It communicates that this action needed to be stopped and no longer continued. John is telling these believers to stop continually being surprised that they are hated because of their faith in Jesus Christ. They will only stop hating Christ and His church when they are born again just like happened to you.
Jesus says in John 15:18-20, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 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. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.”
In 1 John 3:14-15 we find that there is a way to know who is right with God and enjoying fellowship with Him, and who is not right with God and who does not enjoy fellowship with Him. John says, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”
We began this sermon by talking about Penry, Greenwood, and Barrow who were killed because they believed it was important to know who the true believers were in the church. Not everyone who attends a church is a believer.
The apostle John believed that this was important as well and he has given us some ways to tell the difference. Those who make a practice of unrighteousness are not of God. And those who make a practice of not loving the members of the church are not children of God. But those who practice righteousness and love the members in the church are experiencing the life of God and have the love and righteousness of God in their hearts and are enjoying deep fellowship with the LORD.
As we close I would like you to consider several things.
First, men have died because they saw the biblical mandate to belong to a church and to protect it from false teachers and wolves. This may seem harsh to some but these men loved these unbelievers enough to say, “Just because your a member of this church because of where you live does not mean you are truly a Christian.” Consider just how many people there are this morning who are attending church and believe that they are right with the LORD when they are not. They also loved the body of Christ enough to protect them from those who were not God-fearing; but who were actually God-haters.
Do you have a high view of the things John has been talking about in our text today? Does your fellowship with believers display this priority in how your loving the body of Christ?
Secondly, are you loving the body of Christ with an agape kind of love? Have you made a decision of your will to love the body of Christ? Or do you only love if you have felt loved or when some criteria has been met? John has called us to love the body of Christ with the same love that Christ loves His bride. He loves us with a steadfast and unconditional type of love. Are you willing to love the body of Christ because the Scriptures tell us to do this?
Thirdly, do not be surprised that the world hates believers? If we are living and speaking faithfully in this world we will encounter the wrath of this world. When this happens we need to remember this text and support the believer who stood up for righteousness.
Finally, as we come to communion I would like to read Colossians 3:12-18,
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Communion Text: Mark 14:22-25