The Epistle of first John

Lesson Number 5


"7Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. 8He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. 9Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. 10In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. 11For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, 12not 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. 13Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you. 14We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. 15Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him." (1 John 3:7-15NKJV)


In the world, wisdom is often related to human philosophy. It frequently involves conjecture, opinion, theories, and assumptions. Because of this, worldly wisdom, however disciplined, cannot yield the "full assurance" of faith or hope in those embracing it. It is like a foundation of sand that shifts here and there, being unstable.

It is unfortunate that such wisdom has found its way into the professed church. An astounding amount of opinion and philosophy is being vaunted among believers. It is the source of division and contention that has often reached epochal proportions. Historically, it has even occasioned the violent death of those holding opposing views. In fact, professed followers of Jesus have even called themselves after the names of the men whose thoughts they have embraced.

All of this accentuates the nature of the times in which we are living. They are truly "perilous," because the truth itself is being given, at the best, secondary consideration. Whole denominations have been formed upon the flimsy foundation of purely human views. As if that were not transgression enough, these groups often condemn all who do not embrace their views, going so far as to consider themselves the solitary custodians of God's truth. All of this is done in the name of the Lord, yet is founded upon the words of men. Coincidentally, the preponderance of current Christian literature is nothing more than a purveyance of human opinion on subjects having little or nothing to do with eternity. This is the current environment in which faith must be maintained.

While this may appear to have little to do with our text, it is not at all divorced from it. When a person takes the Word of God in hand, and begins to search it with an intent to see the truth, a stark realization will dawn upon the soul. The Scriptures stand apart from all other literature. They do not promote private views or opinions, nor are they the expression of ideas developed by certain theological experts. There is a firmness in Scripture that is most arresting. Its power is in its affirmations-the pronouncements that it makes. They are without equivocation, and free from all ambiguity. Such statements are to be believed unreservedly.

For example, the word "verily," often translated "truly," is used at least 140 times in the Word of God. It is the prelude to a statement that cannot be controverted, and upon which men are called to put their trust. In keeping with this line of thinking, the expression "Thus saith the Lord" occurs no less than 415 times in Genesis through Malachi. The phrases "the Word of the Lord," "mouth of the Lord," and similar expressions, also speak to our faith. They summon us to embrace the Word with certainty, suspending our very lives upon it. God's word is free from any contamination, flaw, or element of falseness.

The text before us must be seen in this light. Certain statements will be made that will sound either too harsh or too lenient. They will appear on the surface to be stated in a general way. But that is not the case at all. People will be viewed as either of the world or of God, with nothing in between. People are either in Christ or not in Christ, of God or not of God, in light or in darkness, walking in love or not in love. They are either dominated by Christ or the devil, and there can be no neutral ground.

All of this is very apparent to faith, but it is totally obscured to the flesh. Frequently we will hear expressions like "carnal Christians," "worldly Christians," "sinning believers," and the like. Such expressions are nowhere found in Scripture. They represent certain views of Scripture that allow for a person in affiliation with Christ to maintain a close association with the world at the same time. The Spirit will confirm to our hearts that this is not possible.

Once these things are recognized, the one relying upon the Word of God develops a certain distaste for religious theorizing and philosophizing. Such things are seen as distracting, while others may see them as interesting, and even intriguing. Here, in my judgment, is an area where there is much room for improvement. There is altogether too much speculation among believers.

This very Epistle is written by the most seasoned believer, from the standpoint of time, the world has ever seen. He outlived all of the other Apostles, and is known as one especially close to the Lord-"the disciple whom Jesus loved" (John 13:23; 20:2; 21:7,20). He wrote this book nearly 30 years after Paul and Peter were martyred, and was in the inner circle of Christ's followers several years before Paul was converted.

Notice how this aged saint writes, as moved along by the Holy Spirit. He does not involve himself in the affairs of that time. Nor, indeed, does he engage in political and social analyses of the day. He does not pull our thoughts into the area of opinion, or tantalize us with intellectual novelties. Instead, he makes powerful statements concerning the way things really are. He ushers us into a thoughtful area where faith can do its work within us.

You will find John, as moved by the Spirit, will give no quarter to the flesh. He will not allow it, as it were, to live. It must be crucified! He will also strongly affirm the direct relationship of righteousness to Christ. He will not permit it without Jesus. Neither will he allow Jesus without righteousness. He will also declare that Satan, and Satan alone, is the source of sin and iniquity.


"7Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.NKJV" Here is a statement such as I have just described. See the total lack of any uncertainty or vagueness. First, the people are addressed as insiders, not outsiders-"Little children." Second, they are appealed to as dependent, not independent-"Little children." They are in Christ, in Whom certain safety exists, no man being able to pluck them out of His hand (John 10:28-29). Lest, however, we be lulled into complacency, we are reminded we are in a place where there is deception. "Let no man deceive you."

The Complexity of Spiritual Life

At once we see the complexity of spiritual life. Although we are in Christ, with sins forgiven and access to the throne of all grace, there is still the danger of deception. Even though we have access to all "the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col 2:3), there are cunning opponents capable of luring us away from safety. This should not surprise us, even though it contradicts no small amount of theology. If Adam and Eve were subject to deception when they were in a morally perfect state, with not so much as a shred of contamination, what would lead any naive soul to believe we are excluded from the dangers of deception?

AFTER Israel had been delivered from Egypt by the mighty hand of God, they were told, "Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them" (Deut 11:16). Similarly, Paul was concerned about some believers, "lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ" (1 Cor 11:3). He charged the Galatians with actually being "betwitched" and seduced into not obeying the truth (Gal 3:1). Thus, the admonition not to allow anyone to deceive us is a very real warning, not mere rhetoric.

Practices Righteousness

While the word "practices" is linguistically correct, it does not carry the strength of "doeth" or "does." The word used here means to "keep on doing," accomplish, and perform. The idea is that of living out righteousness-producing in life what is contained in the doctrine. Life that is not expressed is, at the very best, vastly inferior. Unless expression is realized, life cannot continue to exist, either in nature or in grace. "Righteousness," in the sense of our text, is the expression, or manifestation, of spiritual life in thoughts, words, and deeds. It assumes consistency and continuity in life-a manner of life. One cannot "do righteousness" sporadically. That is why it is evidence that the person doing righteous is actually righteous-even as Jesus is righteous. The expressions of such a person are nothing less than the revelation of the life of Christ within the individual.

While righteousness is certainly imputed to us Rom 4:22-24), it is not divorced from doing. It is true that we are legally righteous, without condemnation. But that is not to be construed as making allowance for living unrighteously. This is the reason for this statement. The very faith that causes righteousness to be imputed to us compels us to live in a manner acceptable to God. The grace of God which faith appropriates teaches us to "live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world" (Tit 2:11-12).

IS Righteous

The manner in which this is stated is crucial "he that doeth righteousness is righteous." Such an individual is not righteous because he does what is right. Rather, he does what is right BECAUSE he IS righteous. Here we see a critical distinction between the Law and grace. Under the Law, righteousness was the result of human achievement. Such righteousness is called "the righteousness of the Law." Now, rather than being achieved by us, as was required under the Law, it is "fulfilled in us." As it is written, "that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit" (Rom 8:4).

The person who "doeth righteousness" is walking in the power of the Spirit. He has been lifted above the flesh into heavenly realms, being freed from both the guilt and power of sin. The proof of their condition is seen in their walk, or manner of life.

If one affirms they know the Lord, yet live according to the flesh, they have not told the truth. If they preach a Gospel that allows people to claim identity with Jesus, yet live according to the flesh, do not believe them. They are deceivers, and are to be so regarded, party affiliation notwithstanding.

AS He IS Righteous

The Spirit further defines what He means by righteousness. It is not merely doing deeds that appear to be right. The truly righteous person is "righteous just as He (Jesus) is righteous." The meaning is that such righteousness is of the same kind as that belonging to Jesus. It is a righteousness that proceeds from a pure heart and a genuine love for righteousness and hated of evil.

Doing what is right is not merely living by a code of ethics. It is the result of a new sense of values, created by the new birth and sustained by the Spirit's tutelage. It is said of Jesus, "Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity" (Heb 1:9). That very character is given to us when our sins are removed and we are reconciled to God. That is involved in the glorious affirmation, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" (2 Cor 5:17).

Thus we are reminded of three revelations of righteousness. First, Christ Himself is righteous. He is appropriately called "Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1). By this, the Scripture means He is the embodiment, or personification, of righteousness. In Him true and flawless righteousness was made known to humanity.

Second, the righteousness of God is imputed to those in Christ. This imputation, or accounting of righteousness to them, is upon the basis of their faith. Thus it is written, "And therefore it (faith) was imputed to him (Abraham) for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification" (Rom 4:22-25). The righteousness conferred upon us is just as real as the faith through which it comes. It is the very righteousness of God. As it is written, "even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe" NASB(Rom 3:22).

Third, the person to whom righteousness is imputed does righteousness, living it out in the crucible of conflict. The conferment of God's righteousness upon the believer is effective, involving a transformation of character. God does not merely call the person righteous, but makes him righteous. As it is written, "For He (God) hath made Him (Christ) to be sin for us, Who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (Christ)" (2 Cor 5:21). The latter accomplishment ("made the righteousness of God") is just as real as the first ("made Him to be sin"). God made Jesus "to be sin" by placing our sin upon Him, causing Him to bear our sins in His body on the tree. He made us righteous by placing His own righteousness upon us. This, and this alone, is what enables the believer to DO righteousness.

We must settle it in our minds that no one belongs to Jesus except those who have been made righteous, and show that righteousness by their works. This is consistently taught in Scripture, and we must not balk at it. This is precisely the point James was making when he wrote, "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone . . . But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?. . . For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also" (James 2:17,20,26). Such a view is no more popular in our day than it was when James wrote these words. Nevertheless, the people of God must heartily embrace them.

Thus we see the marvelous reasoning of this passage. When we know the Source of righteousness, we will also be persuaded that those ENACTING righteousness do so because they have, in reality, been made righteous. This is another reason the one born of God also loves those begotten of God. Such are recognized as God's "workmanship," and are thus loved greatly. They bring a certain refreshment to the soul that is both enjoyed and required. Thank God for His children!


"8aHe who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning." Just as righteousness has a Source, so does sin. Again, the Spirit will give no latitude in this matter. Those whose manner it is to sin are traced back to the devil himself, who "has sinned from the beginning." This is an awesome consideration, and must be approached with great sobriety. The Spirit will allow no excuse for sin, and, with remarkable consistency, will trace it back to the Tempter. Sinners are connected to him!

Professed Believers the Issue

At this point, our text is not commenting on those who have never embraced Jesus, but to those who bear His name, yet live in practical alienation from Him. The Spirit will arrest our attention by saying the person living in sin really has no association with the Lord Jesus Christ. His sin springs from his affiliation with, and obedience to, Satan.

Former Enslavement to Sin

The person "who sins" is the one living in sin-the individual enslaved to it. As it is written, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin" NKJV(John 8:34). Prior to being in Christ, we were in bondage to sin, and could do nothing but sin. Thus, our conversion is vividly described in this manner. "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin" (Rom 6:6). Well did Solomon say, "the plowing of the wicked is sin" (Prov 21:4). Showing the far-reaching effects of servitude to sin, the Spirit also says, "but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled" (Tit 1:15). When the heart is impure, it corrupts everything issuing from it.

Every person "baptized into Christ" (Rom 6:3; Gal 3:27), begins in spiritual freedom. Sins are forgiven, and its shackles are removed from both mind and soul. There is neither obligation nor a will to sin in such a person. That is the way every person in Christ begins, and it is glorious.

However, as long as we are in the world, we are subjected to competing influences. Essentially, these may be summarized as the Holy Spirit and the adversary, the devil. The Holy Spirit will never lead a person to sin. The devil will never guide a person to do righteousness. There is not the slightest deviation from these rules at any time, or in any place. When sin is committed, it is always owing to the devil. That is a reality believers must fix in their minds.

When Judas betrayed Jesus, the dreadful deed occurred after "Satan entered Judas" (Lk 22:3). When Ananias and Sapphira conspired to lie about their gift, Peter said, "Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit" (Acts 5:3). He that commits sin, is of the devil!

Outward Is Conduct the Point

It is important to note that outward conduct is the subject of this text-things that are observable. The life of Christ and the righteousness of God cannot produce perverse and wicked acts. Where such deeds are found, the devil is at work, and the individuals involved are, in those deeds, his subjects. Just as Christ is the Fountain of all righteousness (1 Cor 1:30), so Satan is the rootstock of all sin.

This truth is affirmed again and again in Scripture. After identifying the "works of the flesh," the Spirit adds, "they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (Gal 5:21b). Again, before reminding the Corinthian believers of the pit from which they were digged, the Spirit solemnly stated, "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?" (1 Cor 6:9). Lest some be tempted to think expressions of sin can be lightly regarded, this very point is again affirmed with unquestionable clarity. "Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience" NKJV (Col 3:5-6). Again, it is written, "For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience" NKJV(Eph 5:5-6).

Indeed, "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness" NKJV(Rom 1:18). God is absolutely indiscriminate in His judgment against unrighteousness. Either unrighteousness is forsaken, or His wrath will be experienced. In my judgment it is particularly necessary to declare this in our time. There is a degree of tolerance for sin among those professing the name of Christ that jars upon the soul of the godly. Often we are asked to overlook serious transgression, and treat the offenders as though they were our friends. For this very reason, immortality is not uncommon in the professed church.

No Middle Ground

With great power, the Holy Spirit now confirms to our hearts that there is no middle ground in the matter of righteousness and sin, or of identity with Christ or Satan. A person is either in Christ, or under the dominion of Satan. It is not possible to be simultaneously governed by both. "He that commits sin is of the devil!"

The Spirit will not speak of "carnal Christians," or "worldly believers," for such is a contradiction of terms-like saying an godly demon, or a holy devil. He will squarely align those who commit sin with the devil, making no provision for such to be associated with "Jesus Christ the righteous." Either the sin is abandoned, or their association with Christ is severed.

From the Beginning

" . . . for the devil has sinned from the beginning." The nature of sin is defined by its perpetrator. The phrase, "sinned from the beginning" does not draw our attention to a point in time, but to the origin of sin. It is like considering the source of a river. In that case, time is not the point. So it is with this phrase, "sinned from the beginning." It is as though He said, "The devil committed the first sin, and has never ceased to sin."

The point is this: Since Satan was the first to sin, and has continued to sin from that time, those who sin are related to him. They are his offspring, just as surely as those who do righteousness are Christ's offspring. With great pungency, Jesus charged His enemies with being Satan's children. "You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it" (John 8:44). Their desire to oppose, and even kill, the Lord Jesus was the direct result of their union with and enslavement to the devil. Their diabolical deeds were the proof of that. Remember, they claimed to be of God, just as those to which John refers. But Satan's children act like him, not Jesus.

It is Satan's strategy to put his children among the people of God. We must take care not to adopt a view of either God or man that does not allow the embrace of this truth. Jesus pointedly taught this to be the case in His parable of "the tares of the field." Our Lord explained both the "enemy" and the "tares," that were to be plucked up and burned, in these words. "The tares are the sons of the wicked one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil" NKJV(Matt 13:38-39). These are the people to whom John is referring. It is the business of the "children of the Kingdom" (Matt 13:38a) to recognize such children, not allowing them to pull them into the vortex of iniquity. Just as Christ works through His children to bring others to Himself, so the devil works through his children to induce men to come under his influence.

The Nature of Sin

It is necessary for us to briefly consider the nature of sin, lest we be tempted to indulge in it. Satan will tempt us to think we can quickly exit from transgression at will. However, this is not the truth. Sin has a captivating nature about it. It will not allow men to dabble in it, but requires their whole heart and soul. Satan himself is the proof of this. He has neither the power nor the will to extricate himself from sin. He is altogether dominated by it, and has given himself wholly to it.

Should we imagine that we are, of ourselves, able to rise above this, we must ponder our condition prior to life in Christ. The Spirit vividly portrays us as "dead in trespasses and sins," walking, or living, "according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience" (Eph 2:1-3). We were absolutely dominated by sin! Satan ruled over us, and we were his slaves. It took a heavenly Liberator to free us from his grasp. Jesus did precisely that, praise the Lord!

See, that is the nature of sin. That is what it does-enslaves those committing it. Were it not for an appointed Savior, we would never have been freed from sin-never! No amount of earthly wisdom could have released us, or even clearly identified our situation. That understanding is primary throughout Scripture. Had God not undertaken to save us, we could not possibly have been saved. No created personage was capable of making Satan release his hold upon us. This reality was sufficiently confirmed during 2,500 years without Law, and 1,500 year with Law-a Divinely revealed moral code. In that combined 4,000 years, there was not a single individual who did not sin and come short of the glory of God, except the Lord Jesus. Not one representative of the human race managed to free himself from the shackles of sin. We needed a Savior!

In spite of this rather obvious fact, men continue to haggle over the role of men and the role of God in salvation. That both have a role cannot be denied. Man's role, however is not an initiatory one. Rather, it is one of responding to Divine initiative. The very fact of faith assumes an existing Person and accomplishment, both of which must be accepted.

I mention all of this to point out the absolute unreasonableness of sin. It is the devil's work, and those who live in it are his children. They are not of God, but of the devil. Who can controvert it? "He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning." When that persuasion settles in our souls, it will strengthen our essential nature. Then we become more alert to the devil's devices, and develop a protecting hatred of his ways. No person who does not deplore the devil's ways will be able to avoid ensnarement in them. It is only the one who has "suffered in the flesh" that has "ceased from sin" (1 Pet 4:1). When sin hurts us, we will draw back from it.


"8bFor this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil." The Spirit will not let us go far without again confronting us with the glorious Gospel of Christ. He does not take for granted that we have a grasp on this truth. Because it is so divers from all other messages, the Gospel of Christ can easily be neglected. This is particularly true because of the distractions of the world, and the corrupt teaching that is spewed out in the name of the Lord. When our attention is turned to issues of this world, the Gospel appears to be less relevant, and men take for granted they have a grasp on it simply because they believed it sometime in the past. However, the power of the Gospel can only be realized while men are believing it, and relying upon the truth of its proclamation. It is the "power of God unto salvation" to everyone who is believing-not simply believing something, or some doctrine, but believing the Gospel itself. That is why the Spirit brings the Gospel to bear upon every circumstance with which He deals.

He Was Manifested

The purpose for Jesus being manifested is divers-multifaceted. The second verse of this Epistle affirms the "the life was manifested," that is, "the Word of life" (1:1-2). That Revelation is related to "eternal life," which is the "gift of God" (1:2; Rom 6:23). Earlier it was also avowed, "He was manifested to take way our sins" (3:5). Later John will write, "In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him" (4:9).

The manifestation, or display, of the incarnate Word is not to be viewed as a mere historical fact. While that appearance is certainly historically factual, its value is appropriated by faith. Both the reality and reason for Christ's appearance must register upon the conscience. Faith must take hold on the REASON for Jesus coming into this world. Once this takes place, powerful incentives are created in the soul, enabling the individual to take hold on eternal life (1 Tim 6:12). In the strength of faith, the advances of the devil can also be resisted (1 Pet 5:8). All of this is immediately related to the Gospel of Christ-the good news about Who He is and what He has accomplished in our behalf. Now, again, the Spirit brings before us the purpose for which the Son of God was manifested.

To Destroy the Works of the Devil

"For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil." When it comes to fallen humanity, the revelation of the Son of God brought hope and restoration. For the kingdom of darkness, however, it brought decimation and devastation. It is written that Jesus partook of flesh and blood "that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil" (Heb 2:14). The wreckage wrought by the Son of God was remarkably thorough. At His weakest point, on the cross (2 Cor 14:4), He "spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it" (Col 2:14). He so completely disarmed Satan and his hosts that they could no longer retain their hold on a single soul who set out to come to Christ! Moral and spiritual prisons that held men within their grasp had their doors removed, and, through the Gospel, liberty is now proclaimed (Lk 4:18). The fact of the matter is this: there are no moral prisons with doors. Only delusion and unbelief can keep men from coming to Jesus!

Now the Spirit introduces another aspect of the ruination accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not only something He came to do, it is something that is realized through faith. He was revealed "to destroy the works of the devil." And what are these "works"?They are nothing less than his accomplishments in men-SIN. Remember, sin is what Satan does-"from the beginning." Wherever it is found, Satan is at work. Jesus came to destroy that work.

The word "destroy" is not synonymous with annihilation. The word actually means "To loosen.' It comes from the Greek word lu,sh|, which is defined as follows. "Loose, untie, release, set free, break, set aside, destroy, pull down, break up" Barclay-Newman Greek Dictionary. The idea is that the Son of God was made known to break the power of sin over men-i.e., to render it impotent, thereby enabling men to effectively resist the devil and live righteously.

Accomplished in Two Ways

The destruction of the devil's works is accomplished in two essential ways. First, the guilt of sin is removed through just forgiveness. Thus the individual is justified, pronounced free from the defiling effects of sin. In this, the conscience is purged from guilt, which, when present, enslaves men to sin (Heb 9:4,9; 10:22). But this is not the whole of the matter.

The Spirit develops the extent of the destruction of reference in Romans and Colossians. In Romans, it is affirmed that the whole "body of sin" is "destroyed" when we are brought into Christ. The result is this: "He that is dead is freed from sin" (Rom 6:6-7). The expression "body of sin," refers to the "flesh," or the sinful nature-the whole of it. It is the propensity to sin that was birthed in Adam, and passed to all of his progeny. This is the part of our persons that is "crucified with Christ." While it has not ceased to exist, it has no dominion over us as long as it remains crucified. Mind you, our new life in Christ begins with the crucifixion of the "flesh," also called the "old man" (Col 3:9-10). That is something performed for us. It is our business to keep the flesh on the cross, not allowing it any degree of freedom.

In Colossians, this wonderful truth is expressed in yet another way. There it is called "the circumcision of Christ," and is also associated with our baptism, as in the sixth chapter of Romans. The language is precise and strengthening. "In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ"NKJV (Col 2:11). The phrase "the body of the sins of the flesh" equates to "the body of sin" mentioned in Romans 6:6. It refers to the whole sinful nature which is cut away from our essential persons by Jesus. This act is also called "the operation of God" (Col 2:12). It is precisely at this point that our dual nature commences-the "old man" and the "new man." The conflict of these opposing natures is the theme of Romans 7:15-25.

Being loosed from the dominion of sin through the circumcision Christ, "we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh" (Rom 8:12). We are no longer obligated to sin because the sinful nature has been cut away from our essential persons. While it is present with us, it no longer belongs to us. That is why the righteous may say of its influence, "But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me"NKJV (Rom 7:17). That sinful principle found in the flesh, now severed from us, is "another law," that "wars against the law" of our minds, or real self (Rom 7:23).

In another statement that clearly shows the glorious effects of Christ's manifestation, the Spirit affirms, "I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh" (Gal 5:16). With great disappointment, I must confess I have scarcely been able to find a group of believers that have a grasp of this truth. Satan has succeeded in so diverting people from God's great salvation that they are not even aware of what Jesus has accomplished for and in them.

Why Bring This Up?

Why is this line of reasoning introduced? It is to show us the utter unreasonableness of sin. It has no place in the Kingdom of God, and is never excusable. Not only has God "forgiven" us "for Christ's sake" (Eph 4:32), He has neutralized the power of the flesh by making it the inferior and subordinate part of us.

Thus, several things are revealed when sin is found in the person bearing Christ's name. (1) Satan has worked in the person. (2) The Gospel of Christ as been forgotten. (3) The Spirit has been quenched. (4) The flesh was let off of the cross. (5) A sense of forgiveness was thrust from the individual. (6) What was separated from the essential person was allowed to once again dominate.

It is no wonder the Spirit speaks with such firmness in this passage. The people of God must develop such a hatred for sin that they suffer when it comes near to them. They are to "hate even the garment spotted by the flesh" (Jude 23), and "abstain from ALL appearance of evil" (1 Thess 5:22). To do otherwise is to deny the Lord Jesus, do despite to the Spirit of grace, and count the sanctifying blood of the covenant an unholy thing (Heb 10:29). Sin is never innocent. It is always evidence of Satan's work. It always reproaches Christ, gives the advantage to the powers of darkness, and weakens the one committing it. O, how a profound sensitivity to sin is required in God's people!


"9Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God." Here is a most profound utterance. It is not to be stuffed into preconceived notions of either the purpose of God or the nature of the experience of the believer. The Spirit is quite capable of speaking "expressly." At the very beginning of our consideration of this text, it is imperative that we think in a spiritual manner. No part of Scripture is to be filtered through merely human thinking. This not only involves religious commentaries, but dictionaries, lexicons, and other fleshly means of determining the meaning of a text. While measured value can be found in all of these things, and they are not to be altogether despised, they are never to become the basis for "spiritual understanding." In the text before us, there are views that are based upon the tense of the word, rather than the teaching of the text.

A Brief Consideration

Those with a working knowledge of the Word of God are aware that weighty words are defined by doctrine, or teaching, and not by linguistic definition. Some very pivotal words that illustrate this are "Lamb," "altar," "priest," "body" (of Christ), "flesh," "blood," "temple," etc. Other words, common in English, but signifying foundational concepts, are "faith, "love," and "hope." The comprehension of such terms requires a spiritual understanding. The knowledge of language cannot produce this kind of understanding. Linguistic expertise can, at the best, be supportive of true understanding. It cannot, however, produce it. Two or three examples of this will suffice.

When Jesus said, "Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life" (John 6:54), He put the truth beyond the grasp of flesh. No student of language, however disciplined, will be able to understand this saying apart from the teaching of Christ. The words for "flesh" and "blood," from the standpoint of language, are no different that the words used for the flesh of men, beasts, fowls, or fish (1 Cor 15:39; Heb 13:11). The meaning of Christ's "flesh" and "blood" are determined doctrinally, not etymologically. "I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" (John 6:51). "For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed" (John 6:55).

The "body of Christ" is also an example of this principle. The word "body" is not unique in the original language, but it is in respect to "the body of Christ." The word translated "body" is precisely the same one used to describe the fleshly human body, the resurrection body, and the "body of sin" (Matt 6:25; 1 Cor 15:44; Rom 6:6). Its meaning, in "the body of Christ," is determined doctrinally. "Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually" (1 Cor 12:27). "The church, which is his body . . . " (Eph 1:22-23).

Does Not Sin

"Whoever has been born of God does not sin." The strength of this statement cannot be denied. The Spirit states the case very concisely. He does not say a Christian does not sin, or those who have been baptized do not sin. Nor, indeed, does He say whoever is born of God does not "continue in sin"-a phrase used by the Spirit in Romans 6:1. There the phrase is not an announcement, but a point of reasoning. Those who are fond of saying "does not sin" means "does not continue to sin" must explain to us why that is not what the Spirit said. The text does not say whoever is born of God does not "remain in sin" or "abide in sin," but "does not sin."

Not Completely Regenerated

Are the children of God completely regenerated, or "born of God," at once? Is that the description of a single event? If it is, then our text is most difficult, indeed. But that is not the case, and the Scriptures emphatically affirm it is not. Those who are in Christ currently have, at the very best "the firstfruits of the Spirit." The good work of God has "begun" in them, and has not yet been culminated. To be sure, faith is confident that "He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ" NKJV(Phil 1:6). We do not yet have the whole of salvation, but only the earnest, or down payment, of it (2 Cor 1:22; 5;5; Eph 1:14). The remnant of our old nature remains with us until the day we are "absent from the body."

It is this condition that occasions the frequent warnings about sin, Satan's delusion, and falling into error. The determinist, who imagines those coming into Christ can never again revert to their former state overlook this truth, if, indeed, they know it at all. Considering the presence of the "flesh," "natural man," "old man," and the contrary "law within our members," it requires an unusual degree of spiritual stupidity to affirm no danger exists for the believer. Notwithstanding that circumstance, the child of God is not to live in fear and trepidation, or doubting he has been received by God. That is one reason for this strong affirmation-to gender hope within us.

In confirmation that I have precisely represented the situation, consider the depiction of our present status, as stated in Romans 8:22-23. "For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body." Mark this well, while we have already "received the Spirit of adoption" (Rom 8:15), yet we are "eagerly waiting for the adoption." The Spirit then refers to the culmination of the work God has begun in us: "the redemption of our body." It should be abundantly clear to every believer that their body is not yet saved. Our bodies are not yet reborn, or regenerated. But they will be. Until then, we are "being saved."

There Is A Part that is Born of God

While we are not yet wholly regenerated, there is a part of us that is. That is the part of us to which the Holy Spirit testifies. As it is written, "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Rom 8:16). Our "spirit" is the essential part of our persons, and has been "born of God." That is why the Holy Spirit can bear witness to it, confirming that we are the children of God. He does not bear witness with our body, for it is "vile." Nor, indeed, does He bear witness with our soul, which must be possessed, or managed (Lk 21:19). He brings a confirming witness to the part of us that has been "born of God."

In further confirmation of this, Galatians 4:6 states the same thing, referring to our essential component as the heart. "And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, 'Abba, Father!'" The Lord made known through the prophet Ezekiel that He was going to give His people a new heart and a new spirit. "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you" (Ezek 36:26). I understand this to be two views of the same thing. The "new heart" emphasizes the sensitivity of the new creation, while "new spirit" underscores its expressive capabilities.

This is the part of us that is "born of God." The resurrection will bring no change to this part of our beings. Our bodies will be changed, but our spirits will be "holy still," and "righteous still."

Does Not Sin

"Whoever is born of God does not sin." This is the revitalized part of us that "is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him" (Col 3:10). This is nothing less than "Christ in you" (Col 1:27), or "Christ dwelling in your heart by faith" (Eph 3:16-17). At this point, no other part of your person is "born of God." But know this of a certainty, that part that is "born of God" does not sin. It has no inclination to sin, and cannot be lured into it.

This is precisely why we are admonished to "put on the new man" (Eph 4:24; Col 3:10). He does not sin. To sin, he must be ignored, and heed be given to "the old man." God's people must see this vital truth! This is the reason why we are told, "I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh" (Gal 5:16).

There is a certain dichotomy within the believer-two contradicting natures. The flesh profits nothing, is weak, and can do no righteousness. The Spirit profits everything, is strong, and can do no sin. Both are crying for our attention. As it is written, "For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please"NASB(Gal 5:17). James also refers to the strong desires of the Spirit. "Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, 'The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously'?" (James 4:5). This is another way of saying the Spirit longs for the fellowship and sensitivity of our spirit-our real person. He, and He alone, can fortify us for the battle, and give us the joy, peace, and hope of the Lord (Rom 5:5; 15:13; 14:17). You may rest assured, the Spirit has no yearning for our flesh, or for the "old man" within us. He is longing for that which is "born of God" within us. That is, He yearns for us to be dominated by the "new man" so He can work in and for us. He knows that nature cannot sin, and He wants us to know it also.

His Seed Remains in Him

Here is a New Covenant distinction, never before realized by the sons of men. There have been men upon whom the Holy Spirit came. They were holy men, and they possessed faith. However, they were not regenerate in the sense of the New Covenant. Those of them who believed, the Spirit affirms, "having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect" (Heb 11:39-40). That "better thing" is involved in the statement of our text. Prior to Jesus, some of the very people upon whom the Spirit came, also experienced His departure from them (1 Sam 16:14; Judges 16:20). But now the provision of redemption is announced.

"Whoever is born of God" is the object of consideration. It has already been affirmed that generation "does not sin." It will also be affirmed it "cannot sin." The reason: "His seed remains in him."

There are at least two possible views of this affirmation. (1) His seed remains in HIM, "Him" (being God). In this view, whoever is born of God is the "seed," in the sense of Galatians 3:29. (2) His SEED remains in him (whoever is born of God). In this view, the new life received from God remains in the one born of God, keeping him alive. In my judgment, both of these views are true, and are intended by the text. The life that comes from God can only exist in association with God. It dies in any other surroundings. Thus, whoever is born of God remains in God, deriving sustenance that can only be obtained there. Conversely, the life of God remains in whoever is born of God, for that is where it is meant to reside.

To the degree that this new life is nourished and heeded, sin will not occur. To the degree it is ignored and men walk in the flesh, it becomes impossible to avoid sin.

He Cannot Sin

Now the Spirit further fortifies His case. Not only does "whoever is born of God" NOT sin, he "CANNOT sin." Those in Christ are made "partakers of the Divine nature" (2 Pet 1:4), and that nature is incapable of sin. Again, the text does not say the Christian cannot sin, or that the believer cannot sin. He has already announced provision for sin, should it be found in us (1 John 1:9; 2:1).

The phrase "cannot sin" is especially strong. The word "cannot" comes from the Greek word du,natai, which means is unable or incapable of doing such a thing.Barclay-Newman Greek Dictionary The part of you that is born of God cannot be seduced or drawn into sin. The idea is that sin is totally foreign to the life we receive from God. The Divine nature in you is repulsed by sin just as surely as it was in Jesus. That new creation simply cannot sin. The new heart cannot entertain a love for sin. The new spirit cannot indulge in iniquity. It is against that nature to do such things.

Taking this text, some have taught that while we are in the body, we reach a state where sin becomes impossible. Those who entertain this nonsense forget that we are not totally reborn. There remains a part of us that is not only capable of sin, but which can do nothing but sin. It is "the flesh," which is totally rejected by God. It is so corrupt that it cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 15:50).

While John holds out to us the reality of the new creation, Paul also confirms the presence of the remnants of sin within us. He solemnly warns us to see to it that we do not walk after the flesh. "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God" (Rom 8:5-8).

Were it not for the marvelous realities declared in our text, and other kindred passages, godliness would appear beyond our reach. You must remember, therefore, that you do have a part that is just as incapable of sin as the flesh is incapable of righteousness. See to it that you nourish the part that is "born of God." It lives and gains strength in the presence of the Lord, and subsists on "every Word of God." Put that "new man" on, allowing him the dominance in your life. Follow his inclinations, and be alert to the things offensive to the new nature. You will only have to endure the sinful nature until you leave the body. Until then, praise God for the purity of what is born of Him!

You have, by the grace of God, received a new heart and a new spirit. If you live in the energy of that newness, sin will not have dominion over you, and Satan will not seduce you. That type of life requires your fullest attention and commitment. That degree of devotion, however, will yield rich and satisfying results to you.


"10In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother." Having established the make-up of "whoever is born of God," the Spirit now deals with the revelation of that nature. He will show us that just as the flesh cannot hide what it is, so whoever is born of God cannot hide what he is.

Two Generations

There are two generations of people in this world. Both of them are traced back to Adam from the standpoint of the flesh. But that is not their main association, only their natural one. Fundamentally, everyone is either born of God or born of the devil: children of God or children of the devil.

Those belonging to Christ are called "the children of God" (Matt 5:9; Rom 8:16; Gal 3:26) and "the children of the Highest" (Lk 6:35). Their illumination by God compels them to be called "the children of light" (John 12:36). Because they belong to another domain, they are called "the children of the Kingdom" (Matt 13:38). These are a "chosen generation" (1 Pet 2:9), "begotten of God" Himself (1 John 5:18), and in strict accordance with His will, and by the Word of truth (James 1:18). In every sense of the word, we are "His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus" (Eph 2:10). Our status as "the children of God" is not the result of our own doing, but is the work of God. The predominant expression of this generation is righteousness (1 John 2;29; 3:7).

The Scriptures also speak of "children of Belial" (Deut 13:13; Judges 19:22), "sons of Belial" (2 Sam 23:6), and "children of the wicked one" (Matt 13:38). Paul referred to Elymas the sorcerer as the "child of the devil" (Acts 13:9). Judas is called "the son of perdition" (John 17:12). Jesus said to the corrupt leaders of His day, "You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do" NKJV(John 8:44). The predominant expression of this generation is sin (1 John 3:8). Both generations are characterized by these expressions, and cannot depart from them.

These two generations are absolutely incompatible. Like Ishmael and Isaac, they cannot get along (Gal 4:28-31). They are locked in combat from the very beginning, as Jacob and Esau (Gen 25:22-23). The nature of each generation comes from a unique source. The "children of God" have the nature of God. "The children of the devil" have his nature.

Their Natures Will Show

Each generation has undeniable and perceptible traits. It is understood that neither the spirit of Satan nor the Spirit of God can remain hidden. Both will show themselves in expressions matching the character of their source.

Two specifics are mentioned, and they are preeminent characteristics. God will allow no compromise in these matters: "whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother." Again, notice the firmness with which this is stated. The person who does not do righteousness "is not of God," profession notwithstanding. Further, the person who "loves not his brother," by that very condition, confirms he is "not of God."

The strength of this text can only be realized when it is taken at face value. If we attempt to neutralize it with fanciful explanations, it will soon have no meaning for us at all. The life of God simply cannot fail to do what is right. Nor, indeed, can it refuse to love those begotten of God. Only the LACK of spiritual life yields such failures. To put it another way, the new nature cannot do what is wrong, and the old nature cannot do what is right. Both are locked into their state of character. Both express themselves with perfect consistency. The old nature can no more do righteousness occasionally than the new nature can sometimes sin.

It now becomes a matter of which nature we will heed, for both of them are resident within us while we are in this world. The nature that dominates us is the one that will be reckoned to us. This is the point of the solemn admonition, "Therefore, brethren, we are debtors; not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live" (Rom 8:12-13).

Loving the Brethren

While the matter of loving "the brethren" will be developed more fully later, it is necessary to make a few observations about this now. The contemporary church is so structured that loving "the brethren" has little or no significance. Seemingly devout men have no difficulty at all rejecting professed followers of Christ upon the basis of purely human opinion. Often such bigots even condemn those with whom they cannot agree. What is more, the point upon which agreement is sought is not the Lord Jesus, or such central matters as justification and the hope set before us. Rather, they are areas in which Jesus nor His salvation are central.

It is a most tragic circumstance. But lest we brush it aside as though it is nothing, remember what the Spirit says in our text. The person "who does not love his brother," is "not of God."  That is the way it is, and it cannot be altered.


"11For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another." In his commentary on Galatians, Jerome (1400's) said this of John the beloved. "When John became too infirm to preach, he used often to say no more than this, 'Little children, love one another.' His hearers at last wearied of it, and said, 'Master, why dost thou always say this?' 'It is the Lord's command,' he replied; 'and if this is done, it is enough.'" Jerome on Galatians 6:10

An Intriguing Thought

The point of reasoning here is most intriguing. We have just been told that the children of God and the children of the devil are made known, or revealed, in the doing or not doing of righteousness. Then, the concept of doing righteous is extended to the matter of loving "the brethren." It is this latter extension of thought that now becomes the subject of reasoning. Lest we be diverted from the main line of reasoning, we are being shown how the children of God and the children of the wicked one are revealed.

In the first of this book, the Spirit affirmed "the message" to be "God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all" (1:5). Now He states the message is "that we should love one another." On the surface, the two statements seem quite different. But that is not the case.

The Supreme Revelation

The supreme revelation of God, in Whom no darkness exists, is found in His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Further, the supreme act of Jesus, through which God is made known, is found in His voluntary sacrifice. At precisely that point, the love of God was made known. "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us . . . Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (3:16; 4:10). In each of the above references, the perception of Divine love is said to be evidenced in our love of one another. To put it another way, once we see more clearly the wonderful reality of God's love for us, we will be drawn to those who also have experienced that love. Because this same subject is developed later in this book, I will wait to elaborate further on this line of reasoning.

The Commandment of Jesus

The commandment to love one another was, indeed, an emphasis of our Lord. It is a word spoken to His disciples, and not the world in general. Hear His gracious words again, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another"NKJV (John 13:34-35). "This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you"NKJV (John 15:12). Here, however, John does not call the requirement for loving "the brethren" a commandment, but "the message."

There Is a Message in the Commandment

By saying "message," the spirit is showing us there is more in the commandment than a mere requirement, or condition. There is also a "message," or signification, in it that can be grasped by the heart. While a commandment is something to be done, a message is something to be comprehended. There is a spirit in the commandment as well as a letter. As Jesus well said, "The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63). Jesus did utter commands that carried such power they accomplished miraculous results. Mentioning a few of them will at once make this matter clear. "Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house . . . Little girl, I say to you, arise . . . Lazarus, come forth!" (Matt 9:6; Mark 5:41; John 11:43). In each case, the power to obey came with the command!

It is no different with the commandment to "love one another." That is what makes this word a "message" as well as a "commandment." Stated another way, "Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith"NKJV (1 Tim 1:5). That "purpose" is realized only in "the children of God." They have "believed the report" concerning Christ Jesus, and have cast themselves upon the Stone, gladly relinquishing carnal self interests. The proof of their perception and embrace of God's love is seen in their preference for the children of God.

God Placed Us in Christ's Body

When the Lord saved us, He placed us among His people. While salvation is personal, it is not only personal. Thus it is written, "And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved" (Acts 2:47). Again, it is written, "Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually" (1 Cor 12:27). It is not simply that individuals become a part of an impersonal mass of people. They have a particular role to play, and it can only be carried out within the context of God's people. "But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased" (1 Cor 12:18).

Salvation makes no provision for ignoring or neglecting the people of God. The "message" to love one another is found everywhere. At no point, for example, can any member of Christ's body conclude there is no need for the other members. "And the eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you'; nor again the head to the feet, 'I have no need of you.' No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary" (1 Cor 12:21-22).

You will find that the closer you come to Christ, the closer you become to those who also are "in Him." That is the nature of the Kingdom. It is not simply that obligation is laid upon every professing Christian to love "the brethren." Those who have no heart for this need life from God, not another requirement.

The Message is Clear

Regardless of their profession, those lacking the love in reference are, to that degree, of the devil, and not of Christ. That is the clear teaching of our text. The love of "the brethren" is a point at which the children of God and the children of the devil are revealed. I do not know what kind of logic could be put forth to justify the conclusion that a person could hate the people of God and still be "in Christ." In this very text, the Spirit is pulling down that stronghold of thought. There is no truth to such an imagination. A person who does not love his brother in Christ IS a child of the devil. Hear the affirmation again. "In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother" (3:10). Such a person simply has not believed "the message" heard from the very start, and thus has received no power to obey it. Faith always brings with it the power to obey, and to walk in the way it leads. Such is the heritage of God's people.


"12Not 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." The Spirit will now confirm to our hearts that a fundamental enmity exists between "the children of God" and "the children of the devil." It is as real and consistent as the conflict between Jesus and Satan, light and darkness, good and evil. It is not possible for Satan to have a child that loves the people of God. Nor, indeed, it is possible for God to have a child that has a preference for the children of the devil. It makes little difference whether or not this meshes with our view of the Lord and His work. The Spirit will now confirm that there is a basic hatred for "the children of God" within the "children of the devil."


To confirm the basic nature of the conflict between the children of God and the children of the devil, we are taken back to the first man "born of a woman"-Cain. The very first thing said about Adam and Eve, after they were expelled from Eden, concerns the birth of Cain and Abel. "Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, 'I have acquired a man from the LORD.' Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground"NKJV (Gen 4:1-2). Notice the difference between Eve's assessment and that of our text. She said, "I have acquired a man from the Lord." Our text says Cain was "of the wicked one." Actually, both are true. The first is true in the sense of the origin of life-"from the Lord." The second is true in the sense of the acquisition of character-"of the wicked one."

There are a few things we know about Cain. He was a "tiller of the ground" (Gen 4:2). He brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground (4:3). God did not receive his offering (4:5). Cain would have been accepted if he did well (G4:7). Cain "talked with Abel his brother," then killed him (4:8). God talked with, and cursed, Cain (4:9-11). Although a "tiller of the ground," God caused the earth to refuse to fruit to him (4:12a). He was cursed to become a restless wanderer in the earth (4:12b).

The Lord placed a mark upon Cain that prohibited anyone from killing him (4:15). He lived in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden (4:16). He built the very first city, naming it after his firstborn son Enoch (4:17).

All of this points out that Cain was not recognized as "of the wicked one" in the normalities of life. He took residence in a country, married a wife, had children, and built a city. But none of these showed him to be a child of Satan. It was his conduct toward his brother Abel that revealed who he really was! Cain and Abel had the same parents, and lived in the same place, but Cain hated Abel. That hatred moved him commit the very first murder-and it was his own brother.

A Principle to be Seen

There is a spiritual principle to be seen here. The one that is first hates the one who is second. To put it another way, the person that is "of the flesh" (first) hates him who is "of the Spirit" (second). Confirming the sequence here revealed, the Scriptures say, "However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual"NKJV (1 Cor 15:46). This principle is also lived out in Ishmael and Isaac. Ishmael was first, being born "of the flesh." Isaac was second, being born "of the Spirit." The outcome-Ishmael "persecuted" Isaac (Gal 4:29-30).

Again, the principle is seen in Jacob and Esau. In this case, the boys were twins. Esau was born "first," and "after that" Jacob (Gen 25:25). Yet "Esau hated Jacob" because he received the blessing of his father (Gen 27:41). God said of Esau, "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated" (Rom 9:13). Malachi wrote, "Was not Esau Jacob's brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau" (Mal 1:2-3). And why so? Because Esau was a "profane person . . . who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright" (Heb 12:16). Now, whenever the twins are mentioned by God, Jacob is first: i.e., "Jacob and Esau"-even though Esau was born first (Josh 24:4; Heb 11:20).

Not as Cain!

The consist message we have heard is "that we should love one another." Then the Spirit adds, "NOT as Cain, who was of the wicked one." We have no record of any conflict between Cain and Abel until it came to the matter of God. It was precisely at that point that the enmity surfaced. God respected Abel's offering, but rejected Cain's. Precisely how this was made known to the two, we do not know. But Cain knew it, and refused to acquiesce with the judgment of God. He was motivated by Satan, while Abel was constrained by faith (Heb 11:4).

The power of this text is staggering. "And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother's righteous." And what works of Cain "were evil"? It was nothing less than an offering to God! His hatred for Abel was made known, so to speak, in the realm of religion. Abel's response to God elicited the hatred of his own brother, Cain.

The Sectarian World

We are to make it our business for such a response NOT to be found in us. The hatred of the children of God is always evidence of the work of the devil. It can never be dignified or explained away. All of this is of particular relevance in the Christian world of our day. Sectarianism is a religious structure that allows for the hatred of God's people who do not subscribe to a particular sectarian dogma. People are too often received and preferred upon the basis of their identity with the institution, with no regard for their affiliation with the Living God through Christ Jesus. Such a condition is not an innocent one.

The divided Christian world has so obscured the truth that some can scarcely recognize "the children of God." Because of this, professed believers are approved and received upon the basis of their embrace of views, as opposed to the Lord Jesus Himself. As though that were not bad enough, in that process, many of those who have been received by God are actually rejected as heretics. History is cluttered with such rejections, many of them leading to the martyrdom of believers by other professed believers. How serious a text is before us!

A Point of Consideration

Lest we be tempted to become judgmental in our view of men, there is another matter to consider. There are people who are not yet born again, yet have a certain attraction to the people of God. They evidence a desire for God, even though they have not yet been reconciled to Him. Such people are not to be viewed as hopeless, or as our enemies. A few examples will suffice to confirm this point.

A Certain Centurion

On one occasion, a "certain centurion" with a sick servant, when he heard about Jesus, sent some Jewish representatives to Him, asking that He come and "heal his servant." Although he was not technically qualified for such a benefit (for Jesus was sent "to the lost sheep of Israel"-Matt 15:24), yet a plea was made to Jesus upon the basis of this man's interest in the chosen people. "The one for whom He should do this was deserving, for he loves our nation, and has built us a synagogue." The result was that "Jesus went with them." After an additional expression of faith, Jesus said of that man, "I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!"NKJV (Lk 7:2-6). That man was NOT of "the world." Jesus recognized it, and he received the blessing.


Another classic example is found in Cornelius, described as "a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always." Although he was not in Christ Jesus, the Lord sent Peter to him. The reason for the gracious mission was declared by an angel to Cornelius. "Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved" (Acts 10:2; 11:14). As time would confirm, Cornelius was not "of the world."

God's People in Corinth

One further example of this perspective will suffice. When Paul came to Macedonia (Corinthian in particular), he encountered much opposition. As he testified to the Jews in that area, the opposition became so fierce that it is written, "But when they opposed him and blasphemed, he shook his garments and said to them, 'Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.'" Departing, they entered into a house next to the Synagogue, which belonged to "a certain man named Justus." The outcome of the events that followed was that Crispus, ruler of the synagogue, his household, and many of the Corinthians, "hearing, believed and were baptized."

Later, in a night vision, the Lord appeared to Paul saying, "Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city." Paul remained there for "a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them" (Acts 18:2-11). It did not appear as though there were "many people" belonging to God in that city. Yet, in the process of time, these people were revealed by being drawn to those declaring the Gospel.

The point to see that there are some people who are yet in the world that are attracted to the people of God, like those just mentioned. While they are still in the world, technically, they are (from heaven's viewpoint) people belonging to God. As we "let our light shine" in their presence, and faithfully present the Gospel, these people will be drawn to us. That is how their real inclinations will be revealed. This is one of the factors of spiritual life that contribute to alertness and expectation. We are not to conclude from our present circumstances that we are surrounded by hopelessness, or that God has no people in our vicinity. Although it may appear that way, that may not be the case at all.


"13Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you." Here is a reality that is not to befuddle, or confuse, us. When "the world," or those who are not regenerate, despise you, you are not to be surprised, "as though some strange thing happened unto you" (1 Pet 4:12). Human nature has remained the same since the fall. All of the supposed advances in the sciences has not made a single change for good in the character of man. The truth of the matter is that "the world" cannot be made good. It is precisely for this reason that believers are taken "out of the world," i.e., separated from the condemned order (John 15:19; 17:6; Gal 1:4). Its spot is not to be found upon us, which is a mark of "pure and undefiled religion before God" (James 1:27).

Confirmed by Jesus

Our Lord echoed the truth of these words during His last night with the disciples. He confirmed to them that oneness with Him placed them at enmity with the world. "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you"NKJV (John 15:18-19).

Just as the love of "the children of God" confirms we are aligned with Jesus, so the hatred of them confirms men are of the world. On one occasion, our Lord said to those rejecting Him, "The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil" (John 7:7). Among other things, this substantiates the wide disparity between the world and the Lord Jesus Christ. The two are so at variance with one another, that we must delivered from "this present evil world" in order to be accepted by God (Gal 1:4). It is imperative that those joined to Christ continue His testimony of the worlds's evil works. We must not shrink back from this, even though it incurs the world's hatred against us.

With great power, John confirms how obvious this is to faith. "We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one"NKJV (1 John 5:19). It is important to note that the righteousness of the children of God has not caused the world to be ungodly. It has only brought that wickedness to the surface. It is revealed in the hatred of the world against those who are born of God.

Do Not Marvel!

What does he mean by "marvel?"? To "marvel" is to be astonished, or surprised at something unusual. It is not that marveling itself is wrong. Jesus "marveled" at the faith of the centurion (Matt 8:10). That is because the Centurion's faith was most unusual. Jesus also "marveled" at the unbelief rampant in His own country (Mk 6:6). That too was extraordinary, particularly after they had seen so much incontrovertible evidence, and heard such gracious words.

But in the matter of the world hating the children of God, marveling is out of order. It was unusual for the Centurion to have faith. It was completely unreasonable for those in Christ's home country to be dominated unbelief. But it is neither out of order nor unreasonable for the world to hate those in Christ. They have been removed from the world order, and now have citizenship in heaven. The world really has no alternative but to hate us, for we are a threat to it.

Worldly people sense the conflict between our manner of life and theirs. The world has presence of mind enough to realize that if the children of God are right, then they are wrong. Rather than concede this to be the case, they hate the saints. We should not marvel at this, or be so taken back by it that we become discouraged or faint in the way. The world can really do nothing else. It must hate the children of God.


"14We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death." Remember, the reason for this Epistle is clearly stated. (1) To have fellowship with the Father, the Son, and those who also have fellowship with them (1:3). (2) That our joy may be full (1:4). (3) That we do not sin (2:1). (4) That we might know we have eternal life (5:13). With these objectives before us, this verse is particularly precious.

A Contrast with Nature

In nature, we pass from life into death. In grace, we pass from death into life. Just as in the flesh, there are two realms in the spiritual world: life and death. Also, just as with nature, only one of these realms can be occupied at a time.

We Know

The contrast between the world's view of the children of God and their own perception is found to be in sharp contrast. This chapter began with a statement concerning the world's view of us. "Therefore the world does not know us" (3:1). Candidly, they do not know what has happened to us. They simply know we do not belong in their realm anymore. It is because of "the manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us." This love is of such magnitude and power that it has constituted us "the children of God." Because the world is at enmity with God, and has no understanding of Him, they have no care for us either.

But those in Christ are not in the dark concerning their new status. They have immediate evidence that confirms what has happened to them. They "know," or are perceptive, that they have "passed out of death into life."RSV They have been "delivered from the power of darkness," and "translated into the kingdom" of God's "dear Son" (Col 1:13). Once they were "dead in trespasses and sins," but now they are "alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Eph 2:1; Rom 6:11). Not only as this happened, "the children of God" KNOW that it has occurred.

Death and Life

Death and life are very real conditions. These are not theoretical circumstances or metaphorical states.


The domain of death, from which we have passed, is one in which the individual is "alienated from the life of God" (Eph 4:18). Those in such a state are like a valley of dry bones before the Lord. This is a realm dominated by Satan. It is where "the flesh," or the natural part of us, operates and feels comfortable. Death is marked by insensitivity to God. Blindness of heart and deafness of ears characterize those dwelling there. They are controlled by things that are seen, and have no regard for the things that are not seen, or the "things in heaven, where Christ sits at the right hand of God" (Col 1:1-3).

By nature, everyone outside of Christ occupies this realm-"death." Such are called "dead in trespasses and sins," "dead in sins," and "dead in your sins" (Eph 2:1,5; Col 2:13). There is a controlling law, or principle, operative in all who occupy this realm . It is "the law of sin and death" (Rom 8:2). Of ourselves, we were incapable of freeing ourselves from the dominion of this law. Prior to being in Christ, we ourselves are described as "without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world" (Eph 2:12). That was the "death" of which our text speaks.


In Christ, life is not mere animation or excitement, although it involves both. "Life" is a condition in which response to, and preference for, the living God are prominent. It is a state in which we are given "ears to hear," "eyes to see," and a "heart to perceive" the "things of the Spirit of God" (Deut 29:4). This is a different kind of life than any other known to man. That is why those raised with Christ through baptism are said to "walk in newness of life" (Rom 6:4). Those occupying this realm are "alive from the dead," and "alive unto God" (Rom 6:11,13). They have experienced a spiritual resurrection, and it is very real. Thus it is written, "But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph 2:4-6).

How We Know

All who are in Christ Jesus have "passed from death unto life." They have been delivered from the dominating "law of sin and death." This is the freedom, or liberation, of which Jesus spoke. "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed" (John 8:34-36). Further, those who are freed are to see to it that they remain free, resisting Satan's efforts to lure them back into bondage. "It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery"NASB (Gal 5:1). The admonition to maintain the status of freedom confirms that it is a very real one. We are free just as surely as we were formerly bound. The "Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" (Rom 8:2), is just as effective in its rule as "the law of sin and death" that formerly dominated us.

The question now becomes that of confirming we are actually free and alive unto God. The Lord declares that we are alive, and have passed from death unto life. However, it is our Lord's manner to confirm the truth to us by two witnesses. Confirming this characteristic of the Kingdom, Paul explained his repeated coming to Corinth in these words, "This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established" (2 Cor 13:1). Mind you, multiple witnesses are not required to establish the truth of God's Word itself. It is "forever settled in heaven" (Psa 119:89). The confirming witness is for our confidence and assurance. The Lord knows that if we are not confident in our sonship and spiritual liberty, we will take little advantage of it. In such a case, Satan will more easily lure us back into sin. Thus, it is imperative that we "know we have passed from death unto life."

Because We Love the Brethren

Our love of "the brethren" confirms we have passed from death unto life! Herein is a marvelous evidence. Note, the text does not say we love "our brethren," as though only those of our group or persuasion are intended. Even though the NIV reads "because we love our brothers," that is not a correct view. The phrase from which this expression is translated is avgapw/men tou.j avdelfou,j, meaning and we are loving the brethren. This may appear to be an incidental point, and of little consequence. But we must not allow ourselves to think in such a manner. The significance attached to loving "the brethren" demands that we have a proper understanding of it.

The corruption of the truth, so prevalent in our day, has robbed the saints of many things. Not the least of these matters is the identity of "the brethren." Religious men, even devout religious men, are prone to speak of our brotherhood, a term and concept that is not honored by God. These are "brethren in the Lord" (Phil 1:14), not theological persuasion. They are "brethren" because of their identity with Jesus, not a movement. In fact, technically speaking, they are HIS brethren. As it is written, "that He might be the Firstborn among many brethren" (Rom 8:29). More precisely, they are related to Jesus because God is their spiritual Father. As it is written, "For both He who sanctifies (Jesus) and those who are being sanctified (believers) are all of one (the Father), for which reason He (Jesus) is not ashamed to call them brethren" (Heb 2:11).

Thus, "the brethren" refers to "the household of faith," or all who are believing in Christ. All of them are our brothers, but they are primarily the brothers of Jesus. Those who restrict their religious affiliation to those of their particular assembly (a very common practice) are not doing well. Too, an approach to life in Christ that confines our attentiveness and appreciation to a particular movement, however noble that movement may be, diminishes the evidence of passing from death unto life. Jesus has not freed us to love some of His brethren, but all of them. Wherever they are found, the new creation is inclined to love and prefer them above all others.

A Small Consideration

To emphasize the nature of this text, it may be of profit to consider what it does NOT say. The Spirit does NOT say we know we have passed from death unto life because we are evangelistic, attend a good church, or have a successful church program. It is not because we have the right position, have mastered the text of His Word, or regularly do good works. All of these things are fine in their place. But they do not produce the evidence required for strong confidence, fellowship with God, and the joy of the Lord. You may experience all of those involvements and still not know you have eternal life!

The Role of the New Birth

The love of which our text speaks is not natural love, or fleshly preference. Such a love could carry no evidence of a Divine work within. This is a love that has resulted from being born again. To further confirm the role of loving "the brethren", we are told through Peter that the new birth was in order to an genuine and sincere love of "the brethren." "Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit UNTO unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever" (1 Pet 1:22-23). The RSV reads, "FOR a sincere love of the brethren."

The above passage speaks powerfully to our hearts. If the purification of our souls and obedience to the truth is in order to an unfeigned love for "the brethren," who can justify their lack of such love? The purity and obedience Peter mentions is confirmed to be the result of "being born again." The regenerate are recreated with a capacity to love the people of God-all of them. That is why they are admonished, "love one another with a pure heart fervently."

By This We Know!

The love of "the brethren" is a preference for them. It involves a desire to do them good, and to benefit from what they have received from God. This love acknowledges the relationship to the children of God is of greater significance than that of flesh and blood. It transcends all other relationships.

As one might expect, the Lord Jesus Himself provides the supreme example of this love. On one occasion, when Jesus was teaching, the Spirit relates a most interesting situation. "While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him." Noticing the situation, someone said to Jesus, "Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You." How will Jesus respond to that? The relevance of His response to us is confirmed by its presence in the Word of God. "But He answered and said to the one who told Him, 'Who is My mother and who are My brothers?' And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, 'Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother'" (Matt 12:46-50).

Here was One in Whom the "fulness of the Godhead" dwelt "bodily" (Col 2:9). He is confronted with a competitive situation. Those related to him in the flesh wanted to talk with Him while He was discoursing to those akin to Him in a higher sense. He acknowledged the higher relationship.

Let none imagine that Jesus was not mindful of His mother and brothers. He did provide for His mother while upon the cross. Incidentally, it is most interesting that Jesus did not leave His mother in the care of one of His brothers according to the flesh: James, Joses, Simon, and Judas (Matt 13:55). This is because, at that time, they "did not believe in Him" (John 7:5). Thus, He left His mother in the care of one more closely related to Him at that time.

Thus, the love of "the brethren" confirms our possession of the very Spirit of Christ. Therein we are assured that we have, indeed, "passed from death unto life."

Evidence Versus Cause

There are fundamental differences between the economies of Law and grace. One of the primary ones regards the expression of godly attitudes and works. Under the Law, such expressions were what induced life. As it is written, "Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD" (Lev 18:5; Ezek 20:11; Lk 10:28; Rom 10:5; Gal 3:12). In that case, doing preceded, and was the cause of, life. However, during all of the administration of the Law, not a single person received that promise. Thus it was confirmed that spiritual life cannot be produced by doing.

How different it is in Christ Jesus. In Him, men are first made alive, then they DO. First they are "raised up" and made to "sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph 2:6). They are first created in Christ Jesus in order that they may be able to do good works. As it is written, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them"NKJV (Eph 2:10). First we are reconciled, then we work (Col 1:21)! First we are given the Holy Spirit, then we work (Gal 4:6)! First we are put into Christ, then we work (1 Cor 1:30)!

In this arrangement, doing "the works of God" becomes an evidence of spiritual life, not the cause of it. The "fruit of the Spirit" is the result of His presence, not the cause of it (Gal 5:22-23).

Already John has introduced this principle. "Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments" (2:3). "But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him" (2:5). Later, the Spirit will declare this principle again. "My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him" (3:19). "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" (3:24). "By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit" (4:13). "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments" (5:2). God's people are to look for evidence!

Judge for yourself which has the greatest impact upon your soul: perceiving the love of "the brethren" as a mere responsibility, or as evidence that you have passed from death unto life.

The One Who Does Not Love

The Spirit continues the thought because of its centrality in the Kingdom. "He who does not love his brother abides in death." That is a most arresting consideration! Particularly when you ponder the hatred, suspicions, and rejection that sectarianism has created. Notice, salvation makes no provision for rejecting the people of God! It is not simply that failing to love the people of God will keep some good things from you. Those who do not love "the brethren" are not merely deprived of some of the grander things pertaining to life and godliness. Such are not afforded the privilege of staying alive, as it were. The one who does not love his brother, whoever it may be, "abides," or remains, "in death."

Is the Spirit saying such a person was never born again, or that they never were alive in Christ? I do not believe this is the intent of the verse, although that may very well be the case. The idea is that not loving "the brethren" is a condition brought on by death, not life. Whatever may have occurred in the individual before, at the time he is not loving "the brethren", he is in the grip of death-the very death from which Jesus once delivered him.

Observe that failing to love "the brethren" is not a sign of ignorance, but of death. It is not the evidence of a lack of understanding, but of a lack of life. The absence of love implies the atmosphere of death! The life of Christ never fails to love "the brethren." The Holy Spirit is incapable of ignoring or not loving the children of God. That condition characterizes the "wicked one," and belongs to the domain of death.

I want to underscore this because of its obvious importance. This must be done without fostering disdain for people, or provoking us to be judgmental of others. Having said that, wherever lack of love for and consideration of the people of God is found, death exists. There, in that very place, the devil is at work, and influentially so. Hearts are thereby revealed to be alienated from God. There is a deadness to God wherever the love of "the brethren" is not found. Such individuals are, by their failure to love "the brethren", rendered incapable of spiritual discernment. God does not share His secret and show his covenant to those abiding in death (Psa 25:14).

This must not be construed as harsh and unreasonable. It is the Holy Spirit who has made the assertion, and it is to be believed. "He who does not love his brother abides in death." This is, indeed, a most sobering statement, and is to be embraced with zeal and resolve. The Lord will not permit any person wearing His name to fail to love His people. He loves them, and so do we.


"15Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him." As if the case has not been stated with sufficient strength, the Spirit further elaborates on the matter of loving "the brethren." He will now show us there is no middle ground-no place of moral neutrality, where "the brethren" are neither loved nor hated. Those who do not "love the brethren," by that very omission, confirm that they "hate" them.

Now the Spirit affirms that the one failing to love "the brethren" not only hates them, but is a murderer and eternal life does not abide in him. I cannot conceive of anything being stated more strongly. Should anyone entertain the thought that loving "the brethren" is inconsequential, this verse should certainly bring them to their senses.

The very word "murderer" brings feelings of disdain. Nowhere is any sympathy or encouragement for a murderer found in Scripture. Solemnly the Law said, "the murderer shall surely be put to death" (Num 36:16,17,18). Jesus said of Satan, "He was a murderer from the beginning" (John 8:44). One of the points on which the Jews were condemned in their rejection of Jesus is this: "But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you" (Acts 3:14). Revelation 21:8 declares that "murderers" will "have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimestone: which is the second death." Let no one, therefore, doubt the gravity of the statement before us. In my judgment, he could not have described the disdain of God's people in a more pungent manner. He does not say one hating "his brother" (any one of "the brethren") could become a murderer, but that he already is one!

The Spirit has equated "not loving" with "hating." Now, he equates "hating" with "murder." By his very nature, a murderer is driven by hatred. He does not care for the life of another, but thinks nothing of expressing that hatred in the most emphatic way. Even though a person might not actually take the life of another, hating the individual confirms he has the spirit, or temperament, of a murderer. Thus, that is what he is called, for that is what he is in character.


It will be of profit to briefly say something about hatred. The seriousness of this expression is confirmed by what is said of the one possessing it: he is a "murderer." The meaning of the word "hatred" might appear to NOT justify such a conclusion. In the Greek, it means despise, disregard, indifferent to.Barclay-Newman Greek Dictionary It also includes the ideas of loving less, preferring less, rejecting, and not choosing.Thayers

In order to help us understand the gravity of such an attitude, Jesus spoke of the time when the sheep would be divided from the goats, the righteous from the unrighteous. In one particular teaching, He said the eternal destiny of men would be determined by how they treated His "brethren." Those who neglected to minister to even"one of the least" of His brethren, will "go away into everlasting punishment" (Matt 25:31-46). And why so? Because they simply neglected the brethren of Jesus, thereby revealing their true attitude toward Him.

An Attitude, Not A Deed

It is quite true that some, in the name of Christ, have actually killed some of Christ's brethren. Some of the great persecutions of history were instituted by professing Christians. Even at this very time, professed Christians in the Mexico are killing believers who refuse to be aligned with their institution. But John is not limiting hatred to that sort of conduct. He is speaking more of an attitude than of an action.

If what Jesus said, and what the Spirit through John said, is true (and it is), then neglecting, or even maligning, the children of God is serious beyond measure. It might surprise you how many of God's people have suffered from the neglect, and even opposition, of the very ones with whom they have been associated. The Christian community is cluttered with the spiritual carcases of precious souls that have been cast out by their brethren, like Joseph was by his brothers. There have been deep hurts given to some of God's people, and that in the name of the Lord. None of these abuses have gone unnoticed by heaven.

Eternal life

"Eternal life" is the only life recognized and honored in heaven. It is not earned, but is "the gift of God" (Rom 6:23). However, it is not given nor maintained indiscriminately. Our text says, "no murderer has eternal life abiding in him." Remember, the "murderer," in this case, is the one neglecting, and even rejecting the people of God.

Should we come upon an individual who wears the name of Jesus, yet has no respect for the people of God, we have happened upon a murderer. That individual, regardless of religious affiliation or personal profession, does not have eternal life abiding in him. He is governed by death, not life. Remember that eternal life is knowing God and Jesus Christ (John 17:3; 1 John 5:20). It is personal involvement with the Lord. However, God will NOT become involved with those rejecting His people.

Whether we choose to accept it or not, our receptivity to God and fellowship with His Son, are directly proportionate to our attitude toward "the brethren." That attitude reveals the degree of our love for for God and Christ. It is written, "Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him" (1 John 5:1). In fact, our view of "the children of God" reveals the measure of our familiarity with the Lord.

It should be obvious to all that the abiding of eternal life in us is a requisite to glory. No one wearing the name of Jesus will be forever with the Lord who did not have eternal life abiding in him in this world.


The strength of the passage we have just considered is apparent. It all has to do with worldly connection. This present evil world and the realm of the Spirit cannot mingle. That is why Jesus came to deliver us from the world. It is also the reason for God raising us up to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. By the grace of God, we have been placed in Christ's body, a society of kindred spirits. The new heart and spirit which we have received is knit, not only to Jesus, but to all others who are in Him. The fact of that situation, however, and the awareness of it, are two different things. The intent of the Spirit, and consequently the purpose of the Apostle inspired by Him, is to make believers aware of who they are in Christ. They "are the sons of God," and "ought" to be called precisely that. However, it is the awareness of that condition that brings the confidence and joy required to walk by faith.

Power In Perception

The power of the truth is realized in its perception-when it is seen more clearly. Our text confirms that the life of faith contains certain evidences that will strengthen our hearts and confirm what God has said of us. Without that confirming evidence, we will be weak and vacillating, unable to stand against the wiles of the devil.

Further, we are not left to our own resources to discover the appointed evidence. Rather, it is declared to us. Among other things that confirms the effects sin has had upon us. It also verifies the great love of God for us. He desires that we clearly see who we are in Christ, and rejoice in the confidence that knowledge genders.

A Matter of Concern

It is a matter of great concern to me that much of the religion with which I have been acquainted, actually fosters inconsideration of "the brethren." The faithful in Christ do overcome these things, yet they must contend with them. The gathering of the saints is an example at hand. What do you suppose is the source of promoting infrequent gatherings of believers? How about gatherings noted for their brevity? Or, what about gatherings that lack spiritual substance, providing little, if any, nourishment for the soul? What of the current trend of replacing joint assemblies with small groups that meet in divers places? What spirit has driven these trends?

It should not surprise you that much of this is done in the name of consideration for "the brethren." While it is neither my purpose nor inclination to speak against those fostering such trends, I cannot believe the Spirit of God is behind them. In Christ, you cannot promote brotherly love by infrequent exposure to them. Nor, indeed, can "unfeigned" and "fervent love" for the "brethren" be properly advanced by focusing on only a few of them. Unless such fads are overcome, they will eventually lead to the hatred of the brethren. By that, I mean the people of God will eventually be neglected in favor of other relationships.

It is also in order to say a word about preachers and teachers who do not feed the flock. Such have revealed their disdain for the people of God, and thus of the Lord Himself. Once Jesus said, "Go ye into all the world." Thrice He said "Feed my sheep." Those who leave the people of God spiritually malnourished do not love them. It makes no difference what they say! When the saints come hungering and thirsting for righteousness, and are fed meager portions, and even inferior food, no real love for them has been shown.

By the grace of God, you can rise above all of these things. You have been created in Christ Jesus with a capacity for and propensity to the love of "the brethren." As you life by faith, walk in the Spirit, and fellowship with Christ, you WILL love "the children of God." You will develop a joyful preference for them, and seek to do them good. In that very circumstance, your own affiliation with the Lord will be confirmed. By the very fact that you love "the brethren," you will know you have "passed from death unto life."