Coming off a long hiatus from memorizing makes for a bumpy re-entry. Restoring this discipline to its place in my daily routine has been easier than reminding my brain what we’re doing. However, my efforts at discipline and my rusty brain aren’t the only players in this scheme. The Holy Spirit is helping me, and he will help you as well, to hide God’s word in our hearts.
Week 10 ended with the reminder that loving one another is the message we have heard from the beginning, which gives us a solid tether to week 11 starting with an event that occurred way back at the beginning: Cain’s murder of his brother, Abel. John links murderous intent with hate for one another, just as Jesus equated murder with anger in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:21-22). This is a deeper layer of the contrasts John has been using all through his epistle. Love for one another is life-giving; hate for one another is life-taking. Continuing the theme of children of God and children of the devil, John makes his case that children of the devil not only keep on sinning, but, like Cain, they hate those who are righteous with a murderous hatred.
We should therefore not be surprised that the world hates us. Just as love for the world is incompatible with love for the Father (2:15), hatred for our brothers and sisters in Christ is incompatible with being a child of God! In contrast, John tells us that love for the brothers is yet more assuring evidence that we have passed out of death into life. John reiterates his love test again, paired with the contrasting hate of the world. Murderers who do not love abide in death and do not have eternal life abiding in them. John is not making an absolute statement that those who commit murder are forever excluded from life in Christ. We know that the word of God assures us that everyone who believes in Christ—regardless of the sins they have committed or will commit—will be saved. Not saved because of their faith, but because they have been chosen before the foundation of the world by God, saved by his grace because of his lavish love, and given faith to believe (Eph. 1-2:9).
The point John is making is that it is absolutely uncharacteristic of a Christian to not love other Christians, and he will continue to build this case. John is contrasting the one-another love of those who are born of God with those who are from the world, and therefore hate Christians with murderous hatred because they are of the devil. Therefore, we who are of God, and have been loved with the love which was given its highest expression in Christ’s laying down his life for us in his sacrificial death, ought to also love our brothers and sisters in the faith and lay down our lives for them (16).
Now, to the memory aids:
12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil
one and murdered his brother. And why did he
murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and
his brother’s righteous.
We (John includes himself) should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one (because of who he belonged to) and murdered his brother (because of what he did). (Ask yourself-) And why did he murder him? (Answer- 2 reasons) Because his own deeds were evil and (in contrast) his brother’s righteous.
13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world
Do not be surprised, (it’s too obvious- really!) brothers, that the world hates you.
14 We know that we have passed out of death into
life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does
not love abides in death.
We know (here’s the assurance) that we have passed out of death into life (why?) because we love the brothers. (in contrast) Whoever does not love abides in death. [Notice that once we also were abiding in death, but now we have passed out of death into life. We underwent a necessary transformation. Keep praying for those who have yet to pass out of death into life!]
15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer,
and you know that no murderer has eternal life
abiding in him.
Everyone who hates his brother (no exceptions) is a murderer, and you know (certainty) that no murderer (no exceptions) has eternal life abiding in him. (paired with the previous verse, it is logically inconsistent for one to abide both in death and in life. Murderers cause death and abide in death/ they take life and therefore cannot abide in life.) [Again, no murderer, while abiding in death, has eternal life abiding in him, unless and until he is called out of death into life by the Life-Giving God]
16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life
for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the
By this (pointing forward to the example) we know love (here’s the preeminent example of love- the highest definition), that he (Christ) laid down his life for us, and (therefore) we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. (because Christ loved us sacrificially, so we ought to love one another sacrificially.)