WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson LXXIII) 10/22/21

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

Stephen S. Smalley (1931-2018) points to the quality of spiritual life available to the believer through the Anointed One. No wonder, everlasting life is synonymous with Jesus. Therefore, hatred means “refusing to accept the Anointed One as the conclusive revelation of God’s Love.”[1] It indicates that no believer has everlasting life without the Anointed One dwelling in them. So, a hater loses their access to eternal life because they reject Jesus, who is everlasting life.[2]

Michael Eaton (1942-2017) says that hatred begins to develop in the heart of a believer when they start to tolerate their hatred. That’s why the Apostle Paul cautioned believers, not to let a day end without taking care of any anger that tends toward retaliation.[3] If that happens, then, says Eaton, their relationship with the Anointed One, who is their everlasting life, ceases to have any effect. That means any progress in the direction of perfection is halted in readying them for His return. Spiritual liveliness comes from being in union with God. Therefore, the Christian who hates finds themselves powerless, joyless, and unable to resist the temptation to hate.[4]

Colin G. Kruse (1950) notes that by the Apostle John saying that anyone who hates their fellow believer is a murderer may be pointing to Cain killing Abel, something he mentioned earlier.[5] Alternatively, John may be alluding to the teaching of Jesus that those who are angry with their fellow believers will be subject to judgment in the same way as those who commit murder.[6] John then continues by reminding his readers that no murderer has eternal life in them.

The purpose of this whole verse, says Kruse, appears to give greater impact to what John said in verse fourteen that anyone who does not love others is spiritually dead. Such a person is like a murderer, and those consumed with murderous intents have no spiritual life in them. When describing those who do not love and those who hate, [7] John uses present tense verbs. It indicates an ongoing failure to love or constant hatred that he believes marks those who remain spiritually dead and do not have eternal life.[8]

Judith M. Lieu (1951) refers to the subjects of love and hate and their ties to the concept of “justice.” As the Apostle John sees it, hatred is an injustice, therefore, a sin. In that sense, Cain was unjust in killing his brother Abel. In fact, other than for sin and Satan, the Scriptures do not allow hatred. It should be no surprise then that Satan promotes hatred because he was Cain’s murder of Abel. That’s why those who hate are called the devil’s viper brood.[9]

Bruce B. Barton (1954) says that the Apostle John indicates that hate fills the void if a heart is empty of love.[10] There is no middle ground between love and hate, light and darkness, spiritual life and death. Where a person has one, it deprives the other. If a person hates someone, it is like wishing that the other were dead, and the Lord sees the inner desire as equal to the outward act it would bring.[11] Therefore, anyone who hates another brother or sister is a murderer at heart. The loveless believer has given up abiding in light but chooses to live in darkness.[12] They rebel against God and join the devil’s brood.[13] John describes love as the outward test that a person has passed from spiritual death (degenerate condition) to spiritual life (regenerate state).[14]

Daniel L. Akin (1957) tells us that loving others has numerous positive benefits and blessings. One is that we know we are born again and have eternal life. In fact, John says we have an abiding and settled knowledge “that we have passed from [spiritual] death to eternal [spiritual] life because we are loving [continually] our brothers and sisters.” In contrast, John says here in verse fourteen that the one who does not love is spiritually dead.”

Interestingly, says Akin, the word “brother” or “brethren” occurs 14 times in this letter and almost always has in view the family of God. John, no doubt, would affirm our love for all mankind and women in general, but here he calls for us to love our brothers and sisters in the Lord in particular. Paul says something similar to the Galatians, “That’s why whenever we are able, we should always be kind to everyone, and especially to our Christian brothers and sisters.”[15] Those whose lives are characterized by hatred have never been born again, or they are “spiritually dead.”[16] Further, not only do they live in a world of spiritual deadness, they are murderers in God’s eyes. John is explicit: an attitude of hate in your heart is equivalent to murder in your hands. John is again drawing from words he heard from Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.[17] [18]

Bruce G. Schuchard (1958) emphasizes that the person who does not love does more than simply hate. Haters are character assassins eager to take away the other person’s joy and livelihood. So, we can see how monstrous it is for a “so-called” believer to hate another. In doing so, they reveal themselves possessed by the same spirit as the devil’s viper brood.[19] As Christians, we are to mirror the image of the Anointed One in our words, deeds, and behavior. Who can imagine a hater believing that others can still see the image of the Anointed One in them?[20]

David Guzik (1961) admits that many people trying to select the options for living a holy life offered in the Scriptures answer, “none of the above.” They consider themselves Christians because they are not Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu or atheist. Claiming to be a believer is more than saying, “I am a Christian.” There are, in fact, some sinners claiming to be saints. How can we know if we are one of these? The Apostle John has been constant and straightforward. There are three tests to measure the proof of genuine Christianity: The Truth Test, [21] the Love Test, [22] and the Moral Test.[23] If we believe what the Bible teaches is valid, meaning we show the love of Jesus to others because our behavior has changed, becoming more like Jesus, then it proves our claim of being a Christian is valid.[24]

Peter Pett (1966) sees Cain as representative of the world’s rebellion against God’s will. So, we should not be surprised if we, as faithful Christians, seek the will of God, and the world hates us for it. And yet, they dislike being reminded of the fact. On the contrary, they want congratulations for thinking it is fine for earthlings to believe there is nothing wrong with their immoral living and behavior. Consequently, if anyone dares to do otherwise, they will find themselves hated. Furthermore, the world belittled them if they spoke out. Thus, the world becomes irritated by them.

Pett points out that the Bible calls them murderers. That is, like Cain, rebelling against God’s will and word. But hate here in this verse is not a consuming hatred (although it can become that); it is to have a dislike, in this case, for the truth. As a result, they cannot have eternal life dwelling in them, for they have the murder virus within their hearts. Not only that, but those who continue to think this way reveal that they insist on living contrary to God’s will. As a result, they remain lost in the darkness of self-deception.[25]

David Legge (1969) supposes that’s why Christians don’t take hatred as seriously as murder, but God does. Answer this: “Since you call yourself a Christian, do you have a grudge against another brother or sister?” Don’t misunderstand; it’s not saying that if you get angry with somebody at some time, or you’ve stopped talking to each other, you’re on your way to hell. We all get angry from time to time, especially when they follow us too closely on the highway or cut in line at the bank. The Apostle John is talking about those who pursue a habitual lifestyle of breaking the law.

Therefore, notes Legge, the Apostle John, says that anyone who continues to hold on to resentment against some brother or sister in the Lord needs a wake-up call. Unwillingness to let go of an unsettled grievance is hateful; you need to be careful – why? Because, just as the Lord Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount, “If you do not forgive people their wrongdoings, your Father will not forgive your misconduct.”[26] Oh, we quickly skip over that one! We’re all for free grace; grace is free! I know it’s free, but not at any price – forgive your brother or sister, or God will have no interest in pardoning you.[27]


[1] See 1 John 5:20

[2] Smalley, Stephen S., 1,2,3, John – Word Vol. 51, op. cit., pp. 191-192

[3] Ephesians 4:26

[4] Eaton, Michael, 1.2.3 John, Focus on the Bible, op. cit., p. 112

[5] 1 John 3:11

[6] Cf. Matthew 5:21

[7] 1 John 3:14-15

[8] Kruse, Colin G., The Letters of John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, op. cit., Kindle Edition

[9] Lieu, Judith M., I, II, & III John – NT Library, op. cit., pp. 148-149

[10] 1 John 3:14

[11] See Matthew 5:21-22

[12] 1 John 2:11

[13] 1 John 3:8

[14] Barton, Bruce B., 1, 2, & 3 John (Life Application Bible Commentary), op. cit., pp. 74-75

[15] Galatians 6:10

[16] Cf. Ephesians 2:1-3

[17] Matthew 5:21-22

[18] Akin, Dr. Daniel L., Exalting Jesus in 1,2,3 John (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary), op. cit., Kindle Edition.

[19] See John 8:44

[20] Schuchard, Bruce G., 1-3 John – Concordia, op. cit., pp. 379-381

[21] Truth Test: Do we meet the requirements of Scripture for being born again?

[22] Love Test: Are we genuinely practicing loving God and loving His children equally?

[23] Moral Test: Is our behavior that of a saint or a sinner?

[24] Guzik, David – Enduring Word, op. cit., p. 59-60

[25] Pett, Peter: Truth According to Scripture, op. cit., loc. cit.

[26] Matthew 5:15

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

About drbob76

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