By Stan Brown
I John 3:18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.
For the fourth time in this epistle John refers to His readers as little children as he concludes this section on loving each other. This is an elementary piece of living out who we are in Him. In 2:28 he had said And now little children, abide in Him, in order that when he appears you might have boldness and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. This is part and parcel of that admonition. Loving each other is a direct outpouring of our love for God. The two are vitally related and we cannot love God without loving each other. Neither can we love each other without loving God. We must love one another if we expect to meet Him when He appears with bold confidence.
Imagine the scene at the rapture where many believers have heard the trumpet and the shout and in an instant are on their way to meet the Lord with great excitement and expectation. While there are others who are thinking on the way up, “Where can I hide? Paul said I would be taken whether or not I am loving (whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. (I Thess. 5:10)). But now I understand what John meant by shrinking back at His coming. I will live with Him forever, but right now there is no place to hide in the midst of my shame.” We must love one another now that we might be boldly confident at His coming. (This depiction is meant for illustrative purposes. We won’t really have time for much thought on the way up.)
This verse might be paraphrased as “put your money where your mouth is or perhaps put your action where your talk is”; or maybe “Be quiet and start loving”; or maybe “Don’t forget that love is a verb”. Screaming loudly that we love is no substitute for love expressed by what we do. Words spoken with the tongue are a hollow substitute for deeds rooted in truth.
“How do we practice truth in relationship to love? We know that Jesus is the truth as He proclaimed in John 14:6. Deeds of love must be performed in response to His example and His power in our lives. And then John has not been reticent to speak of deeds done in truth in this letter. It goes back to walking in the light. Truth exists only in the light. Truth cannot be practiced in the realm of darkness. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth (I John 1:6). It relates to recognizing and dealing with sin. We must recognize sin in order to confess. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:8-9). Truth dwells in us when we really know Him. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him (I John 2:4).
So, what is going on? We must understand the first twenty-one verses of the epistle in order to understand loving one another. Love can only be expressed in light of God’s truth. We must walk in the light in order to love. Acts of pseudo love that are only performed to make us look good don’t count. Love is based in our intimate relationship with the Father and the Son. Love is based on fellowship with the Father and the Son as we walk in the light. Let us walk in the light that we might love one another.
Daily Devotion by Stan Brown
I John 3:17 But whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?
We do not often face the choice of actually dying for one another so John gives this illustration to make his argument more practical. He does this with an interesting play on two Greek words that are usually translated life. He uses the Greek word “psyche” in verse sixteen (lay down our lives for the brethren). In this verse he uses the Greek word “bios” “But whoever has this world’s goods”. The latter phrase could then be translated But whoever has this world’s life or perhaps But whoever has the things that sustain life in this world. John started in verse sixteen with the example of Christ literally laying down His life for us just as Jesus declared in John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life (psyche) for the sheep. He then tells us that we need to be willing to lay down our lives for one another. In effect, he is saying ‘It may be easy to declare that you are willing to give your life “psyche” for one another since it is not often that that occurs but you do possess a life “bios” (life sustaining goods) that you can give right now. It is often easier to express a willingness to die for one another than to actually offer aid in a time of need.
There are three pieces to this that John expresses here. First, he speaks to the believer who has the needed resources to provide for a fellow believer. He does not ask us to give that which we do not possess. My wife is better at recognizing the fact that we do possess the resources while I am thinking that we may need this five years from now. She knows God will provide. Second, he speaks to the believer who recognizes that a fellow believer has a need. Maybe we need a nudge from the Holy Spirit but the recognition is there. I must say that my wife is also better at recognizing needs than I am. Third, he brings the accusation as he says; you have the resources; you recognize the need; but you fail to respond. He uses the elucidating phrase shuts up his heart to express this. Hodges suggests that it might be translated locks up his sympathies. The KJV translates it, possibly more literally but certainly more vividly as shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him.
John concludes by asking the question “How in the world can you possibly claim that God’s love is active in your life (psyche) if you act like this toward each other? Jesus gave his life “psyche” for you and you refuse to even give a slice of bread (perhaps slice of life) “bios” to your fellow believer.”
If we claim that the love of God and eternal life are abiding in us then we must open up our hearts to the needs of one another. (I almost said in the fashion of the KJV ‘unclog our bowels of compassion’ but I thought that might be a little too vivid.) When we fail to demonstrate God’s love in this fashion, we remain saved, but are obstructing the flow of God’s love through us. I am beginning to get the impression that John believes loving each other is important.
Daily Devotion by Stan Brown
I John 3:16 We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
I know that the chapter and verse designations are not inspired but it is interesting that I John 3:16 describes the love that is set forth in John 3:16. The Gospel describes it from the Father’s perspective as it says For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son while the epistle speaks from the perspective of the Son Who laid down His life for us. This is the greatest example of love that exists. The Father gave His Son for us. Jesus gave His life for us and not only for our sins but also for those of the whole world. The love expressed by Jesus emphasizes the holiness of God. God’s holiness demanded that only by this supreme act of love could we be freed from the bondage of sin. This act of love moved us from darkness into light; from death into life; from bondage of sin to freedom in righteousness; from hatred to love; from the world of deception to the sphere of truth. (Quick rabbit trail: I could comment in depth about all these transitions and the one John stresses here is hatred to love. But when one considers the world of extreme deception that Satan has created it is amazing, that people could be so easily fooled as God is completely removed from the picture. Believers can also be affected by the delusions of Satan. He is really good at lies. We must remain in the light. We must love the truth. Rabbit trail ends here.) So, the death of Jesus is the example of love. John says that His example demands a response from us.
The bar is set high. The example of love is what Jesus did for us. We need to be willing to give of ourselves for fellow believers including the unlovely and unlovable for that is what we were when He died for us and we often are today. Let’s face it. This is not easy. Believers are sinners and they may do things that stab us to the heart. Sure, sometimes we are overly sensitive but there are occasions where believers do things to other believers that are just plain evil. John says we are to love and forgive those folks. (One more quick rabbit trail. It should be noted that God’s love and forgiveness do not always involve immediate restoration to fellowship but God always loves us. Our love and forgiveness for others does not always restore fellowship between us but we must continue to love as God loves. Forgiveness and love are especially difficult when someone we love is hurt. Think how the Father must feel when we deny the Son by what we do, yet with arms wide open He welcomes us because He loves us. Let’s face it. This is not easy. One more time. This is not easy. That rabbit trail was slightly longer than I thought but it ends here.)
The bar is set high as John says and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. It is not often that we are asked to literally die for one another but this is the standard. What is it that we are willing to do for one another in need? On the positive side, I see believers loving each other on a regular basis. We need to be known for caring for each other just as Jesus cares for us. This is who we are!!
Daily Devotion by Stan Brown
I John 3:15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
In discussing love for one another, John raises its opposite, that is hatred, to a new level. He equates it with murder. When believers hate their brothers and sisters, they are no different than a murderer. Earlier, in this section, he had told them not to be astounded when the world hates them. Now he might be understood to say that they should be absolutely shocked when they see a believer hating another believer or to make it more personal, I should be astounded when I find myself hating a fellow believer. Whenever that feeling begins to arise, I must confess and continue to walk in the light where the cleansing blood of Christ gives me fellowship with my God. Unfortunately, we are often not shocked enough when hatred runs rampant in the church, indeed, as it seeks to control our minds and our actions.
Once more, John is writing to believers. It would be difficult for one to hate his brother if he were not a believer. The one hating and the one hated are brothers. They are both believers. For John, as he emphasizes opposites, if we are not loving we are hating. When we fail to love, we are lumped together with killers. The eternal life which we possess having believed in Him is not abiding in us. Think about this for a moment. I, as a believer, possess eternal life; yet I do not let eternal life possess me. All the resources of God Himself are available to me and I step away because of one “annoying” believer that I refuse to love. Fortunately, I never annoy anyone else (sarcasm intended).
This thing about loving other believers is of paramount importance or John would not spend so much space emphasizing it. It begins with the love of God with which He loved us by dying for us when we still hated Him.
It continues as Jesus declares in His High Priestly prayer, and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:26). When we fail to love we fail to declare God to the world.
It is so important that we must seek to make things right with each other before worshipping Him. In fact, making things right with one another is part of worship. “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering (Matt. 5:23-24).
It places us with Cain who wanted to keep his sins in darkness with no light revealing them. (unlike Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother's were righteous (I John 3:12).)
It seats us in the arena where Satan holds sway through his tactic of deception. You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44)
In order to possess all that God wants us to experience, or as John states in this verse, have it (eternal life) possess us, we must love one another. Next, John will spend a few verses describing this love.