WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson LXXI) 10/20/21

3:14 If we love our brothers and sisters who are believers, it proves that we have left behind the emptiness of spiritual death leading us to hell and moved onto the fullness of life leading us to heaven. But those who do not have God’s Love are still spiritually dead.

Bruce B. Barton (1954) makes it clear that while the world may hate Christians, Christians must express love for one another. Love for fellow believers proves that a believer has passed from the realm of being spiritually dead to the sphere of being alive with eternal life.[1] The word “Passed” is a perfect-tense verb indicating that something experienced in the past continues to have lasting results. We know that Christians experience the permanent passage from being spiritually dead to becoming spiritually alive at the time of regeneration. Their love does not earn them eternal life; instead, their love proves that they already have eternal life.[2] Christians must know they have this love. If they do, they can be sure that they have eternal life and that this will reveal itself when the Anointed One returns. On the other hand, a person who has no love remains dead spiritually. It is everybody’s nature to be that way. A person who does not have love shows that they have not “passed from spiritual death to spiritual life.”[3]

Bruce G. Schuchard (1958) hints that this passing from spiritual death to spiritual life illustrates the faithful versus the unfaithful in the congregation. It also shows the dividing line between belief and unbelief in God’s Word and Jesus the Anointed One as the world’s only Savior. These are all manifested in whether a person loves or hates their fellow man. The one who fails to stay in union with the Anointed One will forget to love, and the one who forgets to love will fail to live spiritually. In the Apostle John’s eyes, those who remained in the congregation passed the test of loving God, while those who abandoned their fellow believers fell short of being counted as lovers of God.[4]

David Legge (1969) sees here, in the first part of verse fourteen, a second application on how we can know we are a spiritually alive child of God. It is in knowing we have passed from being spiritually dead to being alive in the Anointed One when we love our brothers and your sisters in Him. First, from the beginning of verse fourteen, it says we can “know,” which contradicts those who say you cannot know and be sure of your salvation. That’s what this epistle is all about, and here the Apostle John is repeating it. Loving each other is easy to discern in people who call themselves Christians. Yet, you may think that someone you know has eternal life, but it’s hard to determine if they love their brothers and sisters. These are those who only profess Christianity. John speaks here of this lack of brotherly love that proves an absence of eternal life. The truth is, if you don’t love your brothers and sisters, you’re spiritually dead![5]

Douglas Sean O’Donnell (1972) says that structurally speaking, the term “we know” follows the phrase “by this.[6] in all but one occurrence. Thus, that verse is critical, not merely because it differs grammatically but also because it summarizes this text’s theme. At issue in verses, eleven to twenty-four is Christian assurance. So, how can we know that we are Christians? One answer is: that we demonstrate Christlike love for other Christians.[7]

3:15 Anyone who hates his Christian brother is a murderer at heart; you know that no one wanting to commit murder has eternal life within.

EXPOSITION

The Apostle John does not mince words here. He calls anyone who destroys the faith and belief in another believer’s heart a murderer. The Greek adjective here is anthropoktonos, which means literally “man-[anthro] slayer [poktonos].” It is not something new to John; he heard it from the Savior.[8] We also find the sinful origins of this shameful thought back in the time of Jacob and Esau. Furthermore, you don’t need to commit such an awful deed to be a murderer. Spreading lies and false rumors about someone can put their livelihood in danger, and if they end up losing their lives, you can be charged as an accessory to the murder.[9] This is what happened to King David when he ordered that Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, be placed on front-line facing fire on the battlefield,[10] and Absalom, David’s son when he had some assassins kill Amon for raping his sister.[11] No doubt that’s why King Solomon advised everyone to be cautious of what other people are thinking about you because they may be smiling on the outside with kind words but grinning on the inside with evil thoughts.[12]

Then Jesus gave a more precise definition of how murder by the mind is as wrong as murder by the hand.[13] It certainly is going on in the mind of Herodias, the wife of Herod, about John the Baptizer.[14] And the Apostle Paul was under a similar threat. So, even though only one in the gang of forty may have carried out their plan to kill Paul, they would all be guilty of murder before God’s eyes.[15] And the Apostle James asked everyone if they knew where fights, arguments, and disputes originated? They come from the selfish desires that make war inside you. You want things, but you don’t get them. So, you kill and are jealous of others.[16] The killing mentioned here by John may involve the ending or ruin of another person’s reputation, business, career, marriage, livelihood, spirituality, etc. I used to hear this idiom, “If looks could kill you, I would be dead right now.”

Such people, says John, do not have the source of eternal life that springs up within a person who is in union with Jesus the Anointed One.[17] People with these kinds of ideas, intentions, and immoral desires have no place in the kingdom of God.[18] They belong to the eternal Lake of Fire, from which there is no redemption or escape.[19] A person must be born again to have a new life to follow God’s pathway to holiness.[20]

The Apostle John passes from not loving to hating, treating the two as equivalent.[21] He does not mention the neutral ground of “I couldn’t care less.” The person who is not for their fellow believers is against them. Being indifferent is inactive hatred, there being nothing to provoke it. Love is the only security against animosity. And as everyone who does not love is potentially a hater, every hater is potentially a murderer. A murderer is a cynic who expresses their hatred in the most emphatic way. The antagonist who does not murder abstains for various reasons from this extreme way of expressing their hostility.

However, the temper of the enemy and murderer is the same; it is evident that every murderer is incapable of possessing eternal life. Therefore, the lethal temper, not the act of homicide, excludes eternal life. The Apostle John, of course, does not mean that murder is an unpardonable sin; but he shows that resentment and death go together, as love and life, and that the two pairs are mutually exclusive. How can life and the desire to extinguish life be compatible? Therefore, it is a forced interpret of the Greek adjective anthrōpoktonos (“manslayer”) as either “destroyer of one’s soul” or “destroyer of the hated person’s soul,” by provoking them to return hatred with hate.

When the Apostle John says, “whoever,” he is not painting everyone using the same color. John is pointing to Christians in particular. He is not talking about earnest believers, but those who profess but do not possess eternal life. But that doesn’t let believing Christians off the hook. According to this verse, even a Christian can murder a fellow Christian. Note what the Apostle Peter says about such people: “Don’t let me hear of your suffering for murder or stealing or making trouble or being a busybody and prying into other people’s affairs.”[22] Doing this makes a Christian who hates their brother or sister commit a form of mental murder. In this case, they would participate in character assassination [murder] and push someone out of the way to take their spot [stealing].

Some Christians feel that if they refrain from physically murdering people they want to kill in their minds, they’ll do just fine. However, the biblical view is that you are in the same class as a murderer if you want to kill mentally.[23] I wonder how many murderers will sit in your church this Sunday. People in church look lovely on the outside, but they may not look so wonderful if we could read their minds. However, God reads our minds. There has never been a thought that God did not read or unspoken words He did not hear, yet He loves us with unchanging love.  Amazingly, God loves us after knowing everything about what we do and think. God does not love us because we tried to impress Him; He loves us because it’s His character.  God does not love us because we give to the church or because we share our faith. It is not what I do; it is what Jesus helped me to do that makes an impression on God.


[1] John 5:24

[2] See 1 John 2:10

[3] Barton, Bruce B., 1, 2, & 3 John (Life Application Bible Commentary), op. cit., pp. 73-74

[4] Schuchard, Bruce G., 1-3 John – Concordia, op. cit., pp. 376-379

[5] Legge, David: Preach the Word, 1,2,3, John, op. cit., Sermon 10

[6] This is true except in one occurrence, 1 John 3:14

[7] O’Donnell, Douglas Sean, 1-3 John (Reformed Expository Commentaries), op. cit., Kindle Edition.

[8] John 8:44

[9] Leviticus 19:16-18

[10] 2 Samuel 11:14-24

[11] Ibid. 13:22-28

[12] Proverbs 26:24-26

[13] Matthew 5:21-22

[14] Mark 6:10

[15] Acts of the Apostles 23:12-14

[16] James 4:1-2a

[17] John 4:14

[18] Galatians 5:21

[19] Revelation 21:8

[20] 1 Peter 1:23

[21] Cf. 1 John 4:20

[22] 1 Peter 4:15

[23] Cf. Matthew 5:28

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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