Love or Death: Part 2 (1 John 3:11–24)

1 john 3_18In my introduction to this article, we saw there are four levels of relationship on which a person may live: murder (1 Jn. 3:11–12), hatred (1 Jn. 3:13–15), indifference (1 Jn. 3:16–17), and Christian compassion (1 Jn. 3:18–24). The first two are not Christian at all, the third is less than Christian, and only the last is compatible with true Christian love. As we continue our study in John’s first letter (1 Jn. 3:11–24), we will look at the fourth level of relationship.

4. CHRISTIAN LOVE (3:18–24)

True Christian love means loving in deed and in truth. The opposite of “in deed” is “in word,” and the opposite of “in truth” is “in tongue.” James 2:15–16 gives an example of love “in word”: “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?”

To love “in word” means simply to talk about a need, but to love “in deed” means to do something about meeting it. You may think because you have discussed a need or even prayed about it that you have done your duty, but love involves more than words—it calls for sacrificial deeds.

To love “in tongue” is the opposite of to love “in truth.” It means to love insincerely. To love “in truth” means to love a person genuinely, from the heart and not just from the tongue. People are attracted by genuine love, but repelled by the artificial variety. One reason why sinners were attracted to Jesus (Lk. 15:1–2) was because they were sure He loved them sincerely.

“But does it not cost a great deal for us to exercise this kind of love?” Yes, it does. It cost Jesus His life. But the wonderful benefits that will come to you as by-products of this love more than compensate for any sacrifice you make. The principle, “Give and it will be given to you” (Lk. 6:38) applies to love as well as to money. John names three wonderful blessings that will come to a believer who practices Christian love.

The first blessing is assurance (vv. 19–20). A believer’s relationship with others affects His relationship with God. A man who is not right with his brother should go settle the matter before he offers his sacrifice on the altar (Matt. 5:23–24). A Christian who practices love grows in his understanding of God’s truth and enjoys a heart filled with confidence before God.

A “condemning heart” is one that robs a believer of peace. An “accusing conscience” is another way to describe it. Sometimes the heart accuses us wrongly because it “is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). The answer is, “God knows the heart!” More than one Christian has accused himself falsely or been harder on himself than necessary, but God will never make such a mistake. A Christian who walks in love has a heart open to God (“God is love”) and knows God never judges wrongly.

John may have remembered two incidents from Jesus’ life on earth that illustrate this important principle. When Jesus visited Bethany, He stayed at the home of Mary and Martha (Lk. 10:38–42). Martha was busy preparing the meal, but Mary sat at His feet and listened to Him teach. Martha criticized both Mary and Jesus, but Jesus knew Mary’s heart and defended her.

The Apostle Peter wept bitterly after he had denied his Lord, and no doubt he was filled with remorse and repentance for his sin. Jesus knew Peter had repented and after His resurrection the Lord sent a special message (Mk. 16:7) to Peter that must have assured the hot-headed fisherman he was forgiven. Peter’s heart may have condemned him because he knew he had denied the Lord three times, but God was greater than his heart. Jesus, knowing all things, gave Peter just the assurance he needed.

Be careful lest the devil accuse you and rob you of your confidence (Rev. 12:10). Once you confess your sin and it is forgiven, you need not allow it to accuse you anymore. Peter was able to face the Jews and say, “You disowned the Holy and Righteous One” (Acts 3:14) because his own sin of denying Christ had been taken care of, and was forgiven and forgotten.

No Christian should treat sin lightly, but no Christian should be harder on himself than God is. There is a morbid kind of self-examination and self-condemnation that is not spiritual. If you are practicing genuine love for the brethren, your heart must be right before God, for the Holy Spirit would not “pour out” His love in you if there were habitual sin in your heart. When you grieve the Spirit, you “turn off” the supply of God’s love (Eph. 4:30–5:2).

The second blessing is answered prayer (vv. 21–22). Love for the brethren produces confidence toward God and confidence toward God gives you boldness in asking for what you need. This does not mean you earn answers to prayer by loving the brethren. Rather, it means your love for the brethren proves you are living in the will of God and God can answer your prayer. “We receive from Him anything we ask because we keep His commands and do what pleases Him” (1 Jn. 3:22). Love is the fulfilling of God’s Law (Rom. 13:8–10); therefore, when you love the brethren, you are obeying His commandments and He is able to answer your requests. A believer’s relationship to the brethren cannot be divorced from his prayer life. If husbands and wives are not obeying God’s Word, for example, their prayers will be hindered (1 Pet. 3:7).

An evangelist preached about the Christian home. After the meeting a father approached him. “I’ve been praying for a wayward son for years,” said the father, “and God has not answered my prayers.”

The evangelist read Psalm 66:18—“If I cherished sin in my heart the Lord would not have listened.”

“Be honest with yourself and the Lord,” he said. “Is there anything between you and another Christian that needs to be settled?”

The father hesitated and then said, “Yes, I’m afraid there is. I’ve harbored resentment in my heart against another man in this church.”

“Then go make it right,” counseled the evangelist and he prayed with the man. Before the campaign was over the father saw his wayward son come back to the Lord.

These verses do not, of course, give us all the conditions for answered prayer, but they emphasize the importance of obedience. One great secret of answered prayer is obedience and the secret of obedience is love. “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (Jn. 14:15). “If you abide (remain) in Me and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you… If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love” (Jn. 15:7, 10).

It is possible, of course, to keep God’s commandments in a spirit of fear or servitude rather than in a spirit of love. This was the sin of the elder brother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk. 15:24–32). A believer should keep His Father’s commandments because this pleases Him. A Christian who lives to please God will discover that God finds ways to please His child. “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4). When our delight is in the love of God, our desires will be in the will of God.

The third blessing is abiding (vv. 23–24). When a scribe asked Jesus to name the greatest commandment, He replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind… And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:34–40). Faith toward God and love toward man sum up a Christian’s obligations (1 Jn. 3:23). Christianity is “faith that expresses itself through love” (Gal. 5:6).

Faith toward God and love toward men are two sides of the same coin. It is easy to emphasize faith—correct doctrine—and to neglect love. On the other hand, some say doctrine is not important and love is our main responsibility. Both doctrine and love are important. When a person is justified by faith the love of God is poured out in his heart (Rom. 5:1–5).

“Abiding in Christ” is a key experience for a believer who wants to have confidence toward God and enjoy answers to prayer. Jesus, in His message to the disciples in the Upper Room (Jn. 15:1–14), illustrated “abiding.” He compared His followers to the branches of a vine. So long as the branch draws its strength from the vine, it produces fruit. But if it separates itself from the vine, it withers and dies.

Jesus was not talking about salvation; He was talking about fruit-bearing. The instant a sinner trusts Christ, he enters into union with Christ; but maintaining fellowship is a moment-by-moment responsibility. Abiding depends on our obeying His Word and keeping clean (Jn. 15:3, 10).

As we have seen, when a believer walks in love, he finds it easy to obey God and therefore he maintains a close fellowship with God. “Anyone who loves Me will obey My teaching. My Father will love them, and We will come to them and make Our home with them” (Jn. 14:23).

The Holy Spirit is mentioned by name in 1 John for the first time in 3:24. The Holy One is the abiding Spirit (1 Jn. 3:24; 4:13). When a believer obeys God and loves his brethren the indwelling Holy Spirit gives him peace and confidence. The Holy Spirit abides with him forever (Jn. 14:16), but when the Spirit is grieved, He withdraws His blessings.

The Holy Spirit is also the attesting Spirit (1 Jn. 4:1–6), giving witness to those who are truly God’s children. When a believer is abiding in Christ the Spirit guides him and warns him of false spirits that would lead him astray.

He is also the authenticating Spirit (1 Jn. 5:6–8; Rom. 8:14–16), bearing witness to the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Each member of the Triune Godhead is involved in the “love life” of a believer. God the Father commands us to love one another; God the Son gave His life on the cross, the supreme example of love. God the Holy Spirit lives within us to provide the love we need (Rom. 5:5). To abide in love is to abide in God and to abide in God is to abide in love. Christian love is not something we “work up” when we need it. Christian love is “poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” and this is your constant experience as you abide in Christ.

As we have seen, there are four levels on which a person may live. He may choose the lowest level—Satan’s level—and practice murder. Murderers “have their part in the fiery lake of burning sulfur, which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8).

Or, a person may choose the next level—hatred. But hatred, in God’s sight, is the same as murder. A man who lives with hatred is slowly killing himself, not the other person! Psychiatrists warn that malice and hatred cause all kinds of physical and emotional problems.

The third level—indifference—is far better than the first two because the first two are not Christian at all. A man who has constant hatred in his heart or who habitually murders proves he has never been born of God. But it is possible to be a Christian and be indifferent to the needs of others.

A man who murders belongs to the devil, like Cain. A man who hates belongs to the world (1 Jn. 3:13), which is under Satan’s control. But a Christian who is indifferent is out of fellowship with God and is living for the flesh, which serves Satan’s purposes.

The only happy, holy way to live is on the highest level, the level of Christian love. This is the life of joy and liberty, the life of answered prayer. It assures you confidence and courage in spite of the difficulties of life.

A psychologist studied children to determine what affect love and neglect had on them. The survey proved children who were neglected and unloved were much slower in their development; some of them even died. In a physical sense, love is the very atmosphere of life and growth.

But it is even more so in the spiritual sense. In fact, it is a matter of love or death!

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About Pastor Joe Quatrone, Jr.

Pastor Joe has been serving in Christian ministry for 15 years. He desires to nurture and disciple believers, helping them experience a deeper level of commitment and faith in the Lord. He is the author of "Back to the Basics: A Guide for Christian Living." Through a commitment to servant leadership, he strives to proclaim relevant Bible truth, equip the saints for effective ministry, and build up the body of Christ. Married eleven years, Pastor Joe and his wife live in New Jersey and have two children.
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10 Responses to Love or Death: Part 2 (1 John 3:11–24)

  1. gailmanizak says:

    Good word, I feel as if God has really dealt with me about love and mercy this year more than ever, and it was needful. I kind of felt like the Theme for the Year 2014, for myself, was LOVE, tho I know God is about LOVE every year. So important to not only know His love for us but also how He wants us to become like Him, and show love and mercy to all people everywhere. TY for this post. God Bless

  2. ritap24 says:

    Christian Love is one of the most beautiful things in the world. I have received it from my daughter. It is not something I see every day, but once in awhile it shows up and I recognize it. Pastor Joe, you give yours to all who read your words. Thank you.
    I read your answer about hatred, indifference = Love of the Flesh and those who practice it serve Satan’s purposes. Thank you for being tje online pastor for so many. Your words go out to the world and you are well thought of. God bless you! You are one in a million!

  3. Wow Pastor Joe that was so uplifting with very good encouragement to seek the Lord with all our heart in all we do and say and what you said is very True, Love is the most powerful force in the Universe by it we and everything else were created, God is Love! and He said everything He made was very good but the black spots came!.

    I had a white dress with black stains on it so I used a white out marking pen to cover them up and it worked but a few washes later they were back so I did them again but once again they reappeared so I brought a new white dress and it has no black spots at all.

    We are like the Dress with the spots we can cover up out sinful nature, negative and sinful thoughts and attitudes and try to hide them or ignore them but they will return we have to be clothed in a new spotless garment which Jesus brought for us by His death but we can’t wear both, one has to go, this is why God tells us to put our evil flesh nature to death and as we choose to walk in The fruit of The Spirit ( Galations5 ) He empowers us to do so and so our flesh is put to death and what is so wonderful is our new Spiritual garments is without spot or wrinkle it’s all white meaning pure and Holy… the old has gone and the new has come…and Jesus has set us free from the Slavery of sin so no temptation will be greater then we can bear He provides the strength to resist it and so walk as He walked in Victory.

    God tells us to reckon ourselves dead to sin Romans 6:11 and aim for perfection but not as the world thinks about perfection but His perfection in Love (see below) and He delights in us when we do because we are no longer in darkness but as you said Darrell, we shine, shine, shine.

    1John 4:16-19 And we have known and believed the Love that God hath to us. God is Love; and he that dwelleth in Love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our Love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in Love; but perfect Love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in Love. We Love Him, because He first Loved us.

    Matthew 5:48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect.

    Colossians 3:4-6 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.

    Romans 8 :12-15 Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. or if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

    Galatians 24 -26 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. if we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

    Romans 8:1-4 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

    Christian Love in our Unity in Christ Jesus – Anne.

    • Absolutely Anne! I like your story about the dress. You are very knowledgeable about the Bible and your words are always encouraging to me. God bless!

      • Thank you Pastor Joe for your kind words but I am sorry about calling you Darrell, commenting can overlap at times, I often share similar thoughts and Scripture as The Holy Spirit brings God’s Truth to the hearts of His redeemed Children, I now save what may be needed and share them when I’m lead too.

        But once I was in great confusion about the Scriptures, so much different teaching and the Cults make it worse as their deception infiltrates the Churches but to cut a long story short although I have shared it on my Blog and in comments, God lead me to ask for The Holy Spirit and His wisdom in Christ Jesus, than all the pieces of the jigsaw came together and formed a complete Picture, yes I’m still learning but I don’t doubt His Truth in the Scriptures the same as you don’t but I can’t live them without His empowering and so I give thanks everyday that we don’t walk alone. Isaiah 43:1-3

        Blessings – Anne

  4. jannatwrites says:

    This was a great post. Your series on Christian love makes me realize that I need to reach out more to someone whom I currently either avoid, or carry on superficial conversation with. The actions vs. words part really stuck with me. It is easy to say we’ll be a certain way, but what really speaks to our heart is what we do. Thanks for your thoughtful posts, Joe!

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