The First Letter of the Apostle John : Study No.9

Study No.9 (1 John 3:11-24)

Review (1 John 3:1-10)

God’s love is a lavish love. He delights to lavish His love upon His children who walk by faith in Him. They are His delight and pleasure. When you consider the wickedness of the human heart and the deeds that spring forth from it the reality is why would God love any of us? What is there within us that is really lovable? Jeremiah the prophet wrote; “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). When we came to the cross and knelt at the feet of Jesus, repented of our sin and confessed it without excuse, and believed on Him who shed his atoning blood for our sins, we were pardoned, cleansed and reconciled to God our creator. God became our spiritual father and we were accepted by Him in the beloved Jesus (Ephesians 1:6).

While we have been cleansed from sin we still groan inwardly because of the sinful nature that continues to fight against the desires of the Spirit within us. As Paul writes; “So while we are in this tent, we groan under our burdens, because we do not wish to be unclothed but clothed, so that our mortality may be swallowed up by life. And God has prepared us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a pledge of what is to come” (2 Corinthians 5:4-5).

At times we may not feel like we belong to God because of heaviness through manifold trials and temptations and because we are still very conscious of the wicked tendencies that still lay within our old nature. Yet the truth is that we are children of God even though we may not see how that could possibly be when we compare God’s perfection with our imperfection, but never the less it is true if we are living by a faith that produces faithfulness and pleases God (Hebrews 11:6). This kind of love relationship we have with God the world knows nothing about. The world’s definition of love cannot be compared to God’s definition of it. Now even though we see things through a dark glass and that dimly when the Lord Jesus comes back we will see clearly and be face to face with Him.  We shall be just like Him, perfect, immortal and free from all and every sin (1 Corinthians 13:12). Keeping this in view will enable us to purify ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit and to perfect holiness in the fear of God, or out of reverence for Him and His absolute power. As the apostle Paul writes, “Therefore, beloved, since we have these promises (God’s Word), let us cleanse ourselves from everything that defiles body and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1). If we have His law written on our heart by the Holy Spirit we will not be living in sin or living a life of sin because the Lord Jesus was manifested to take away our sins and to drive them out of our life and to cleanse us from them all.

He is without sin and is at work in us to separate us from every weight of sin that can so easily entangle us spiritually so that we might run with perseverance the race the Lord Jesus has set before us with our eyes firmly fixed on Him, the author and perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2). What He starts He fully intends to finish! The only way to be kept free from sin is to constantly abide in the Lord Jesus, drawing on His indestructible life by faith in Him moment by moment of every day. Whoever sins continuously or is living a habitually sinful life does not know Him at all.

Righteousness is bestowed upon us by faith in the Lord Jesus and if we have that righteousness it will be evident in what we think, say and do every day. We will practice righteousness and say and do those things that please God and empowered by the Holy Spirit to live as Jesus lived. As the apostle Paul writes; “For the grace (unearned and unmerited favour) of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Messiah Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:11-14). If we are sinning continuously then we are of the devil and reflecting his nature.  Instead off practicing righteousness we will be practicing sin. Satan’s power was destroyed at the cross and when a sinner repents and believes on the Lord Jesus Satan’s power is broken over their life and they are loosed from their sins by the blood of Jesus applied to their heart by the blessed Holy Spirit (Revelation 1:5b).

Whoever has been spiritually reborn from above has the seed of God’s eternal life within them and they cannot go on sinning as they did before they were saved. Righteousness and not sin becomes a way of life for those spiritually reborn from above. They are in the Messiah and have been made new creations in Him deep down on the inside and the old manner of sinful living has gone and the new manner of righteous living has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). This is how we distinguish between those who are children of God from those who are children of the devil. If we practice righteousness then we are of God and will love our fellow brothers and sisters in the Messiah.

Exposition (1 John 3:11-24)

(Vs.11-13) “For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you.”

Love is the royal law of God’s eternal kingdom. The whole law of God swings on the hinge of Loving God with all of our being and loving our neighbour. If we love God and His love has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit then we have the supernatural ability to love God and to love others. The Lord Jesus said that if we loved our brothers and sisters in the same way He loves us then the whole world would know for sure that we are His disciples. He said; “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).   He also said; ““If you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31). If we really love the Lord Jesus then we will love His Word, the Bible and continue to read and to study it. If we do not love the Bible then we do not love Him because He is the Living Word of God made flesh, the Bible is all about Him from Genesis to Revelation. If we really love Him then we will do what He says (John 14:15).

Cain murdered his brother in cold blood. It was a settled and brooding attitude that would not be placated. God said to Cain sin is crouching at the door of your heart and its desire is to have you but you must master it. God warned him not to act out what was in his heart. However, because Cain was not spiritually regenerated by the Holy Spirit he acted out of his fallen human nature which cannot help but sin.

Added to this, he had previously approached God, offering to Him the fruit of his own hands from the soil but it was rejected by God because the ground had been cursed because of the fall. Cain had tried to approach God on the basis of his works. He was a proud man. Abel approached God with a sacrificial offering to atone for his sin and God accepted that sacrifice in his place. Cain was jealous because the spirit of religious pride caused him to persecute and kill Abel his brother. Cain we are told was of the wicked one.

This is why today religious people persecute those spiritually reborn by the Holy Spirit. It was a false religious spirit that persecuted and killed the prophets, the Lord Jesus and all of the apostles except John. All religion is man-made and his attempts to reach God by virtue of works and good deeds but they all fall short because they are tainted with sin and not acceptable to God.

The unsaved will always persecute the righteous because those who preach and live by God’s righteous standards in this world are targeted by unprincipled and wicked men who suppress the truth by their wickedness. The Lord Jesus himself said; “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).

When a believer is misrepresented or treated unfairly because of their loyalty to the Lord Jesus it is a hard thing to bear because we all like to be accepted and affirmed by others. The world does not understand the Love of God as they are under the power of the wicked one and they do his will even though they are not aware that they are doing it. We can readily love those who love us but we find it hard to love those who oppose us, criticise us, speak falsely against us and hate us with a vehemence that not even they understand why they do.

Many will willingly receive a Jesus who is rather indulgent and easy-going and does not really ask for a real commitment and one who at times ‘winks’ at sin and wrong doing. Other see the Lord Jesus as a spiritual dispensing machine that will give them what they desire with no questions asked. Many today hunger and thirst after healing, miracles, signs, wonders, prosperity, blessing, manifestations and having it good in this world but very few hunger and thirst after that righteousness without which no one will see God. As the Lord Jesus also said; “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6). Do we hunger and thirst after righteousness?

If we take up our cross to follow the Lord Jesus in this life there will be occasions when we are persecuted for our faith by the unsaved and those who have a religious spirit but who have never been born again. Persecution comes in various ways, prison, beatings, loss of a good job, and missed opportunities in business, the loss of family members who reject a believer in the Lord Jesus because of his or her faith. As Paul also writes; “”Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

The word for “tribulations” in the Greek text is a word that describes “hardships, Persecution, affliction, distress. It is derived from the Greek word “thlibo” from which we get “thlipsis” which means “to press hard upon” as one presses down hard when crushing grapes. When we are under this kind of pressure we will be tempted to get out from under it but sometimes we can’t and have to weather the storm but the Lord will always rescue us in the end as His timing is always prefect in all such matters. It can be said that “Satan proposes but God disposes.” Having said this we need to reaffirm that Love is the royal law of God’s kingdom and the portion of all his saints who by the new birth have had the love of God shed abroad in their hearts by the blessed Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). And so John continues….

(Vs.14-15) “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”

In our fellowship with other believers there will come times when we will be hurt, rejected, misunderstood and even maligned by those who are our brother and sisters in the Lord Jesus. We are living stones in God’s Temple and the Lord Jesus, being the cornerstone, presses the bricks together so that they rub up firmly next to each other. God always places His ‘living stones’ wisely and no stone is exactly the same.

God will always place opposites together as He often does in a marriage He has sanctioned because He wants that couple to learn how to love each other despite their differences in personality. It is the same way within the local Body of the Messiah. He places us in fellowships where at times others will rub us up the wrong way because as living ‘bricks’ in God’s living temple we are pressed together with them. It is the pressure sustained by the cornerstone that keeps the stones tightly together. Through this applied pressure we learn to love our brothers and sisters in the Messiah and learn how to put the interests of others before our own interests. Only the blessed Holy Spirit can do this work in us because in our flesh dwells nothing good at all as it is completely devoid of any spiritual virtue (Romans 7:18).

Now all of us get angry at times. It can be between a husband and wife, a parent and their child or between two or more believers in the local fellowship. While anger is a normal emotion and at times justified it does not sit well spiritually to hang on to anger and allow it to become a brooding and abiding attitude. The Bible says; “Be angry, yet do not sin. Do not let the sun set upon your anger, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:26-27). The apostle James gives us good advice when he writes; “My beloved brothers, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:19-20).

To harbour a brooding attitude of anger accompanied with an unwillingness to forgive or forget will, if not brought under the control of the Holy Spirit, will lead into hate and an attitude that cannot be placated. This is why we must deal with the anger before we go to sleep because it will ferment overnight and in the morning be spiritually toxic. This was what Cain allowed to happen and in the end he murdered his brother. One can commit murder with their tongue by the things they say against a brother or sister. While the anger may be from a genuine cause we must not let it fester otherwise it will eventually turn spiritually caustic, not only for us, but for others we come into contact with in the fellowship. Hate can spread like gangrene through a local fellowship and produce all kinds of evil and wicked work that play right onto Satan’s hands.

To refuse to love those in the fellowship who have wronged us is to abide in death and if that is the case then we cannot possess eternal life so long as we continue abiding in an unforgiving heart. The Lord Jesus spoke about this when He said; “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:14-15).

(Vs.16) “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”

The Lord Jesus spoke about this when He said; “Greater love has no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). He proved this by literally laying down His life in death that His brethren might live. This is the ultimate way to lay down one’s life for a fellow brother and sister in the Messiah. This revelation of God’s love shown in the Lord Jesus when He laid down His life must come by the inward revelation of the Holy Spirit. The word John uses again for the word “know” is “Ginosko” signifying a supernatural experiential revelation. However, John also adds another dimension to this statement which in some ways is harder to do. He writes…

(Vs.17) “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?”

Whoever abides in hate abides in death but he or she who abides in love abides in life. One of the ways we show our love for the brothers and sisters is how we share what we have with those who are less fortunate in the fellowship. If we really love God then we will love our neighbour and especially our fellow believers in a practical way. This kind of love expressed in practical actions marked the first century Church. In the Book of Acts it was after they were filled with the Holy Spirit that they immediately shared everything they had so that no one went without in the fellowship (Acts 4:32-35). When believers are individually or corporately filled with the Holy Spirit they will be filled with the abiding love of God so long as they remain under the control of the Holy Spirit. If we see a brother or sister in need and we can help them but choose not to then we must ask ourselves the hard question; “Does the love of God really abide in us?” The hard thing for us is “to walk the talk.” And so John continues…

(Vs.18) “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”

Little children are always apt to fight and argue and to fight over their toys and possessions. They are controlled by their emotions and know nothing about how to control their temperament. This self-control must come over a period of time as they learn to relate to and to get on with others especially their siblings, if they are to become effective members of society.  In the local fellowship sometimes even young men and fathers in the faith will act like children and have their differences just as Paul did with Peter and Paul did with Timothy over Mark. In those situations love was required but also loving rebuke. Each has its place. Love is protective and emotional at times but also requires discipline and chastisement at times.

The Agape of God always places the emphasis on the action of the will far more than it does on the expressions of the emotions. Feelings are the bi product of the action of the will. It is not the other way around. Love is not a feeling but a continuous action of the will to love and can only be maintained in walking moment by moment by faith and under the control of the blessed Holy Spirit. Apart from His enabling power we cannot love in the way God loves. Our words towards others are important as the power of life and death is in the tongue according to scripture but our words must always be backed up by our actions otherwise we do not have genuine Biblical love.

(Vs.19-20) “And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.”

Once again John uses the word “Ginosko” for the word “know” and we have the inner assurance of the Spirit that we really belong to God if we love our fellow believers in word and deed. In doing this we are fulfilling the royal law which is “a faith that works by love” (Galatians 5:6). As it is written; “Love fulfils the law” (Romans 13:10). If we walk under the power of God’s love we will keep His commandments. He Himself said; “If you love Me you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). If we are not speaking and acting in love then we will not have the full assurance of God’s blessing on our life. If we live in the power of God’s love then we will have the assurance that we really belong to Him. After all we are called and predestined to be conformed to the image of God’s Son (Romans 8:29). If we are a member of God’s company of elect people then we will become more like the Lord Jesus everyday as we learn to walk in the Spirit moment by moment by faith. As we do this we will be able to resist the fleshly sinful appetites that want to draw us away and out from our strong refuge in God (Galatians 5:16).

(Vs. 20) “For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.”

God knows everything about us. There is nothing hidden from Him. As it is written; “Man looks on the outward appearance but God looks upon the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).  As the writer to the Hebrews says; “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight; everything is uncovered and exposed before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13). He knows our deepest and innermost thoughts and desires (Psalm 139:1-4). Sometimes we can fall under the condemnation of Satan, “the accuser of the brethren, who accuses them day and night before our God” (Revelation 12:10b). If we become conscious that we have sinned or failed to do something the Lord has commanded us to do then we must not run from Him but run to Him and to “the fountain (of Jesus blood) “opened up for uncleanliness and sin. “ (Zechariah 13:1). It is only the blood of Jesus that can scour out the deepest stains of sin (1 John 1:7-9). As my dear spiritual father in the Lord Jesus Alex Hill used to say to me over 50 years ago now; “son always keep short accounts with God.” As it is written; “The Name of the LORD is a high tower, the righteous run into it and are safe” (Proverbs 18:10). God’s name can do anything He can do!

(Vs.21-22) “Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.”

If we have a clean heart and conscience before the LORD then we will have confidence towards Him to ask for what we desire because our desires will be conformed to his desires for us. As it is written; “Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). If we delight in Him He will so change our inward desires that we will end up desiring the very same things He desires for us as we allow Him through his Spirit to do His sanctifying work in us. This confidence in the LORD will empower us to ask for what we desire in prayer and if we know it is line with His will for us then we will surely receive it. His Word is His will and if we ask anything according to what He has promised to do in His Word then we know that we will have what we have petitioned Him for. Added to this John tells us is that we are keeping God’s commandments and doing those things that please Him, and If we have a clear conscience, a sincere faith, a desire to do God’s Will, and a desire to keep His commandments by doing what pleases Him them our prayers will be answered.

(Vs.23) “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.

If we really believe on the Lord Jesus and in His name, confessing Him with our mouth and believing in our heart that God has raised Him from the dead then we are truly saved and have the accompanying witness and assurance of the Holy Spirit that we really belong joined to the LORD and one spirit with Him. If we have this salvation we will be compelled to love our brothers and sisters in the Messiah. We will do this not because we feel like doing it but because we are commanded to do it and when we do it we are fully pleasing to God.

(Vs.24) “Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.”

The secret to loving God and loving our neighbour and walking in all of God’s commandments is to abide in the Lord Jesus, to remain connected to Him by a faith that produces obedience in the life (John 3:36 NASB) (Romans 1:5; 16:26). Just as the branch draws the nourishment from the vine to produce physical fruit so as we remain by faith connected to the true Vine our Lord Jesus then the spiritually nutritious divine ‘sap’ of the Holy Spirit Himself will keep us connected to the Lord Jesus and produce in our life the fruit of the Spirit. It will appear all at once and increase.

The fruit of the Spirit will be love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-25). Where these are manifested no law is required because those exhibiting this spiritual fruit will keep the commandments of God and that from the heart! We all need to learn that apart from being connected to the Lord Jesus by the Holy Spirit through faith we cannot produce any spiritual fruit for God and neither can we keep His commandments. After all, “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Unless His Spirit constantly abides, rests and persistently remains in us we will not have the power we need to do the will of God (John 15:1-8) (Galatians 5:22-25). Someone has said; “Unless there is within us, that which is above us, we will soon yield to that which is below us!”

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