Living a Balanced Life
(An In-Depth Study of First John)
Loving the Brothers and Sisters
1 John 3:11-18
To genuinely love someone is to forget about self. The thought that connects this week’s text and the preceding paragraph that we studied last week comes in 1 John 3:10. “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” The first clause of that verse sums up the previous paragraph (3:4–10) in which John argued that a lifestyle of righteousness, or of not sinning, is the essential evidence of being a child of God, indwelt by the very seed of God (v. 9), increasingly sharing the nature of him in whom there is no sin (v. 5). On the other hand, a lifestyle of habitual, persistent, unrepentant sin is clear evidence of being not a child of God but a child of the devil, sharing the nature of him who has been sinning from the beginning (v. 8).
Verse 11 begins with the conjunction “for” and shows that in John’s mind verse 11 is the foundation of the idea in verse 10. Verse 10 makes the shift from the idea of practicing righteous in general to loving your brother specifically. The reason he can make that shift is that the command to love one another was what his readers had heard from the beginning. The moral imperative for Christians to love one another was at the heart of the apostolic gospel. And it still is. From the very beginning, from the very first time they heard the gospel, John’s readers knew beyond a shadow of a doubt what God would expect. God expects it only because God empowers it. What God empowers John’s readers to do is both simple and profound; love your brother.
Doctrine is of the essence of the gospel—doctrine about the character of God; about human sin; about the mediator, Jesus Christ, who is the God-man; about his life, death, and resurrection to forgive the sins of his people and give them eternal life; about the need for a personal response of faith to appropriate the work of Christ into one’s own life. But it is equally true that the essence of the gospel includes the moral imperatives of repentance and of a new life of love lived under the lordship of Christ and empowered by his Spirit. Any gospel you believe, any gospel you proclaim that does not include both doctrine and ethics (truth and love) is only half a gospel, totally out of balance, radically distorted, hopelessly deficient. Both doctrine and ethics are at the heart of the gospel because they are so inextricably linked. Therefore, righteous living void of love is hollow religion. This section of text calls for balance in a way that is not optional in relation to salvation.
Message Heard from the Beginning (vs 11)
Simple message – “love one another”
Profound in its essence – no Gospel without it; vs 3:10
Old Commandment – Love vs 2:7-10
Walking in the Light, free to love
Lifestyle of Love (vs 14)
Proves we move from death to life
14a – love the “brethren”
14b- love for all
A lifestyle of love is a matter of life or death
Either Love or Murder (vs 15)
Matter of love or hate, life-giver or murderer (no one sits the fence)
John learned from Jesus (Matthew 5:21-22)
Example of Cain (vs 12-13)
Original account – Genesis 4 Cain murders Able
Able sacrificed in faith – Hebrews 4:11
Darkness wants to murder Light (1 John 3:19-20)
Example of Christ (vs 16)
We know love because we have seen love
- Great Sacrifice
- Meets our deepest needs
- Had the greatest possible motive
Allowing the worlds goods to be a vehicle of love not a source of pride
Allowing our eyes to “see” needs
Being righteous without love is a good definition of Religion. So, Religion is Rules without Relationship. Here is the illustration of Religion vs Gospel:
RELIGION: I obey-therefore I’m accepted.
THE GOSPEL: I’m accepted-therefore I obey.
RELIGION: Motivation is based on fear and insecurity.
THE GOSPEL: Motivation is based on grateful joy.
RELIGION: I obey God in order to get things from God.
THE GOSPEL: I obey God to get to God-to delight and resemble Him.
RELIGION: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I am angry at God or my self, since I believe, like Job’s friends that anyone who is good deserves a comfortable life
THE GOSPEL: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I struggle but I know all my punishment fell on Jesus and that while he may allow this for my training, he will exercise his Fatherly love within my trial.
RELIGION: When I am criticized I am furious or devastated because it is critical that I think of myself as a ‘good person’. Threats to that self-image must be destroyed at all costs.
THE GOSPEL: When I am criticized I struggle, but it is not critical for me to think of myself as a ‘good person.’ My identity is not built on my record or my performance but on God’s love for me in Christ. I can take criticism.
RELIGION: My identity and self-worth are based mainly on how hard I work. Or how moral I am, and so I must look down on those I perceive as lazy or immoral. I disdain and feel superior to ‘the other.
THE GOSPEL: My identity and self-worth are centered on the one who died for His enemies, who was excluded from the city for me. I am saved by sheer grace. So I can’t look down on those who believe or practice something different from me. Only by grace I am what I am. I’ve no inner need to win arguments.