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1 John 3


To not love our brother is a sin (1 John 2:9). Here John reminds us that to “do what is right” in our daily lives means above all to love others15—especially our brother16 (John 13:34; Galatians 6:10). The entire law—all of God’s commands—are summed up in the command to love others, to love our neighbor (see Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14 and comments).


11-12 Cain was the oldest son of Adam, the first man God created. Cain killed his brother Abel, because Cain was evil and his brother was righteous (Genesis 4:1-8). Evil always opposes righteousness; there can never be peace between them. John says: Do not be like Cain.

13 Why does the world17 hate and oppose those who believe in Christ? Because believers are not of this world. They are of heaven; they have been born of God (John 1:12-13; 15:18-19). If the world hated Christ, it will also hate His followers.

14 In 1 John 2:29, John says: … everyone who does what is right has been born of him (God). That is, the one who does what is right has been born anew spiritually; he has received new spiritual life. To do “what is right” means to believe and obey. To obey means to love (see verse 10 and comment). Therefore, to love means to have spiritual life. Thus, if we love our brother, we can know that we have passed from death to life (see John 5:24). The fruit of hatred is death. The fruit of love is life—eternal life.

15 To hate one’s brother is to murder him. We murder him not with our hands; we murder him with our thoughts. Jesus taught that if we are angry at our brother we will face judgment as murderers (Matthew 5:21-22). Hatred and murder lead to spiritual death; there can be no eternal life for those who do such things.

16 By His own example, Jesus showed us what love is. We should follow His example. If He loved our brothers so much that He gave up His life for them, surely we should be willing to love them too. More than that, we should be willing to love them as Jesus loved them; we, too, should be willing to give up our lives for them. We must not love our own life; rather, we must be ready to lay it down for the sake of others (John 15:12-13; Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:9-11).

It is not usually necessary to die for others. What is always necessary, however, is to live for others. In fact, living for others is more difficult than dying for them!

17-18 True love arises from our hearts; it comes from within us. But true love is always manifested outwardly; it is manifested by works of love. If it is not, then it isn’t true love (see James 1:22; 2:14-17).

19 This then is how we know that we belong to the truth. It is because of the outward manifestation of our love that we know we belong to the truth. This is similar to verse 14, where John says that because of our love, we know we have life. To “belong to the truth” and to “have life” are essentially the same thing. Jesus Himself was both the truth and the life (John 14:6). When we continue in love, the truth is in us, life is in us, Christ and God are in us. This being so, what can we fear? Those who love have nothing to fear (1 John 4:18). Therefore, we can set our hearts at rest; that is, we can reassure ourselves that we are indeed children of God and that we can come into His presence without fear. Therefore, if we want to put our hearts at rest and be able to stand before God with confidence, then we need to love our brothers.

20 Sometimes our own hearts condemn us. Our hearts say to us: “You are a sinner; you are not worthy to be a child of God.” But God knows more than our hearts do. Even though our hearts condemn us in this way, God declares us innocent. God is greater than our hearts; and He will not condemn us (Romans 8:1).

21 According to verse 20, even if our hearts condemn us, God does not. Therefore, according to verse 21, if our hearts do not condemn us, we can have even more confidence that God won’t condemn us either.

If our conscience is clear—that is, if our hearts have nothing to accuse us of—we will have confidence before God and our hearts will be at rest (see Romans 5:1; Hebrews 4:16).

22 Because we obey God’s commands, we can ask Him for anything and we will receive it. If God does not give us exactly what we ask for, it is because we have not asked correctly (James 4:3). But God will always give us some answer to our prayers; He will always give us what is needed for our spiritual welfare.

Here we must look more closely at this subject of prayer. John says in this verse that we receive from [God] anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. If we do not obey His commands and do not live according to His will, then our prayers will be in vain.

Therefore, in order to receive from God the things we ask for, the first requirement or condition is that we must be obedient. The second requirement is that we must pray in faith (Matthew 21:22; Mark 11:24). The third requirement is that we must pray in Jesus’ name, that is, for His sake, for His glory; we must not pray for our own sake, or for our own glory (John 14:14). The fourth requirement is that we must pray according to God’s will (1 John 5:14-15). These four requirements or conditions for prayer are summed up in this one statement of Jesus: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (John 15:7).

23 What must we do to please God? Here in this important verse, John again gives us the answer to this question: To please God we must believe in Christ and obey (love) Him. True faith never exists by itself; it is always expressed through obedience, and obedience is always expressed through love (see Galatians 5:6; James 2:17 and comments). Faith is the tree; obedience (love) is the fruit.

To believe in the name of Christ is the same as to believe in Christ. Jesus’ name tells us who He is. He is the Christ, the Savior, the Son of God. He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 19:16). All these are names of Jesus.

24 Jesus said: “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love” (John 15:10). Here John says: Those who obey his commands live in him. To live in Christ and to remain in Christ’s love is the same thing. To live (or remain) in Christ is the most important thing in our lives (1 John 2:28). But in order to live in Him, we must obey his commands.

How do we know that Christ lives in us? We know it by the (Holy) Spirit (Romans 8:16; 1 John 4:13). The Holy Spirit is Christ’s Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is in us, Christ also is in us.

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