For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 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. 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.
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 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? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.
Understanding And Applying the Text
The theme of this section is love; love for Christ and our Christian brothers and sisters. This theme is not unique to this passage or even to John. We find the same teaching in the writings of the other gospel writers and the words of Christ Himself.
Christ commanded us to love. In verses 3:1-10 John talks about the love we have received. In verse one, he says, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” We have received a great love and so we should love. Christ preached this theme. Here are a few passages; Matthew 5: 43-45, Matthew 18:26- 34, Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12:12:29-31, Luke 6:26-28, John 13:34-35, John 14:12-24, John 15:16-18
It appears John may have had in mind Jesus’ sermon in Luke chapter 6. That is the Sermon on the Plain. Or in Matthew chapters 5-7 the Sermon on the Mount. That may be why John said, “this is the message that you have heard from the beginning that we should love one another.”
During this passage, John takes two little side trips. The first is how can we know we are saved, that is assurance of salvation. The second is self-condemnation.
John lists 3 ways we can be sure of our salvation; we love the brothers, the actions our love produces, and the Spirit abides in us. If we do not love God is not with us. This is contrary to the popular notion that your faith is a private thing. If God has redeemed you, there will be a public manifestation of that fact.
The second side trip John makes is self-condemnation. If I condemn myself that does not mean it is true. God is bigger than us. God can and does forgive us.
Our actions or as Paul says our fruit can of course be counterfeit. And many have gotten the causal relationship confused. Our love produces our actions. But our actions may also be the result of other reasons.
We see the effect of true redemption. And so we try to reverse the relationship. We work hard trying to be nice to people and to be honest and kind. We work hard at looking like we love. We may even convince others and ourselves that we love. But we do not.
To love more, do not try to love more, rather than draw closer to Christ. As you learn more of what Christ has done for you the more you will love. As John said, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us…” It is not our love. Rather it is Christ’s love flowing through us.