To Know the Meaning of Love
1 John 3: 11-18
Additional texts: Gen. 4:1-16; John 5:24; Phil. 2:1-11; 1 Peter 2:21-25; Mark 10:41-45: 1John 2:7-11
In these verses John once again encourages Christians to love one another. In the previous verses (1John 2:28-3:10) John elaborated on the meaning of love and how the children of God demonstrate this same love to one another. John continues these same thoughts, yet he goes deeper into the heart of the commandment to Love one another as inspired by Jesus' teaching and his life. The commandment is based on and in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which we should exemplify by loving one another in the same boldly sacrificial way Jesus loves us. John's message strikes at the heart of the Christian faith and should form the foundation of our relationship with God, Jesus Christ and with one another.
1. Why does John use the example of Cain as the contrast to our loving each other? Is John's example too extreme? Why or why not? Note: Gen. 4:1-16
As John encourages Christians to Love one another, he gives us an example of stark contrast in Cain and Abel from Genesis 4:1-16. In these Old Testament verses we learn how envy can develop into a hate so strong it motivates Cain to act on the unthinkable; the murder of his brother. This Old Testament story has been used many times in the New Testament as well as in secular literature throughout the ages. Cain, a man full of hatred, is the example we should avoid at all costs. Our example of Love is Jesus Christ because he gave his life for us.
Although this example is extreme, it shows the extremes of the real world and the reactions people may have to righteous living. John declares that the world kill hate Christians. If we are walking in the Light then we will attract the attention of the world around us. There is a cost to Living a Life of fellowship with Jesus. There is a cost to being “of God” and being His children.
2. How is our failure to love our brother related to the act of murder?
John focuses on the reality of attitude verses actions. Ultimately our attitude is reflected in our actions. Although we may not act on an impulse, our heart may harbor deep feelings of hatred. Can we truly love people if our heart or attitudes are not pure? John hopes that we will go beyond the worldview of false attitudes and “lips service” to actually changing our hearts.
We should note that the Greek word for murder in these verses means “to cut the throat”, as in a sacrificial rite. Do we “sacrifice” others on the altars of our own selfishness? We must ask ourselves about our attitude toward others. Remember the words---- “what a man purposes in his heart….”
3. How does passing from death to life relate to our love for one another? Note: John 5:24
If we have passed from death to life through our relationship with Jesus, we will put to death the worldly actions of our lives, including our worldly heart. Paul said that some people were dead through their the trespasses and sins in which they walked (Eph.2: 1). Thus death is related to sinfulness. It is what John called “walking in darkness”. We should avoid this “death” and actively seek life in the Son. Our motives should reflect God's desires rather than our own ambitions.
The concept of “passing” from death to life signifies an act of accomplishment. We have changed from a life of decay to an eternal form, which is secured by the blood of Jesus. This eternal life is a promise from God because of our faith in Him (John 5:24)!
Another issue is “Who is our Father?” Remember from the previous lesson that if we have been born of God, then we should display the characteristics of God. We cannot be a child of two different Fathers. We must choose. Will we be from the line of Cain or Abel?
4. According to John, what is the model of love for Christians to exhibit? Note: Phil. 2:1-11; 1 Peter 2:21-25; Mark 10:41-45
John brings to our attention the fact that knowing Jesus as Lord and King is a fact as well as an experience. Jesus Christ came to this earth to become the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. We can experience this salvation as members of his family and as God's children. Jesus told his apostles that the world would know that they were his followers by their Love from one another. We can only reflect this love because God loved us first and completely. We reflect His Love for us to our fellow man.
5. What does love involve according to John? How do we “lay down our life” for our fellow Christians? How literally should this be taken?
Love involves a full time commitment. This Love is agape Love and is not a part-time activity. We must walk in the Light and in Love. Our example is the good shepherd who will lay down his life for his sheep (John 10:11). Jesus also said that it is his choice to lay down his life for us. We have that same choice to Love so much that we are willing to die for each other.
6. Compare these verses with 1 John 2:7-11. What did John add to our understanding of Love using 1 John 3:11-19?
In the pervious verses, John tells us to Love one another, which is a command from the beginning. In the present verses, John gives us the divine example of this Love. We move from command to attitude and example. The example forces us to see the world differently from a spiritual context. The Law of Love is there but now we are ask to demonstrate our faith by acting out that commandment not from fear but out of gratitude!
Church of Christ
5120 Franklin Road
Nashville, Tennessee 37220
Phone: (615) 832-2541
Fax: (615) 832-2583