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Necessary Tension: I John 3:13-17

I John: LIGHT/LOVE
Necessary Tension: I John 3:13-17
Pastor John Weathersby
Sunday March 20, 2022

Draft, Not Transcript

In our study today, John encourages the believers in the early Church in the midst of the persecution that they’re experiencing.  John gives them a vision for why it is happening rooted in the eternal loving nature of God and gives them a vision for the future of the Church.  John demonstrates a necessary tension and opposition between good and evil. 
 
1 John 3:13–17 (ESV)
13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.
 
At first read, we could tend to move past this too quickly without giving it time to have its Holy Spirit intended impact. 
 
Let us read above for context, then come back to verse 13.
 
1 John 3:11–13 (ESV)
11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 
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 deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. 
13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.
 
In verse 12 a clear picture of how the natural man is energized.  Later, verse 13, where we start today, is illuminated and helped by the conclusion in verse 12.   
 
1 John 3:12–13 9ESV)
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. 
13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.
 
What John does is starting with Cain, demonstrates the tension and opposition between good and evil
 
Let’s read Genesis 4:1-13 for context on Cain and Able:
 
Genesis 4:1–14 (ESV)
 
1 Now Adam knew Eve, his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.”
2 And again, she bore his brother Abel.  Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain, a worker of the ground. 
3 In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground,
4 and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions.  And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering,
5 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard.  So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 
6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 
7 If you do well, will you not be accepted?  And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door.  Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”
8 Cain spoke to Abel his brother.  And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. 
9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?”
10 And the Lord said, “What have you done?  The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. 
11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 
12 When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength.  You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.”
13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear.
14 Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” 

What happened here?
 
Sure, Cain killed Able – but more than that, we see the tension and opposition that exist between good and evil.  We would do well to remember that both the tension and opposition exist until Jesus’ return because our hearts are evil and naturally react in resistance to God’s Holy character.
 
It is important to note, and this story points to this fact, that God isn’t interested in our outward offering but in the condition of our hearts. The question this poses is, “do we trust Him by faith for all things.”  Or do we hold on to some vestige of this life for our safety?  Able brought a sacrifice to bring God honor.  Cain, through his offering, exposed his character, demonstrating that his heart was far from God.  The hatred and rage caused by seeing his deeds exposed against a man of faith caused Cain to be angry with his brother.
 
Why?
 
This is the natural tension and opposition that exists between good and evil.
 
1 John 2:15 (ESV)
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
 
 
When John says 1 John 3:13 (ESV)
13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.
 
When John talks about the “world,” the word he uses is kosmos.  The world’s system is energized by a common hatred of God, people seeking after their own desires, with no selfless love set free for a time to chase after their own benefit to the exclusion of others.   
 
That describes the world.  Have a look around you.
 
Starting from Cain and Able’s story, John encourages the Church that hatred from the world shouldn’t be a startling upending surprise. Instead, he will continue it is a natural measured reaction to Godliness.
 
John will give an approach to the world’s hatred that is helpful to the believer.  It lasts through to us today, and therefore we cannot move too quickly beyond verse 13. 
 
We need to know, deeply, that there is a natural and necessary tension and opposition between good and evil.
 
John writes verse 13 with a construction that lets the Greek reader know that there ARE some already who are surprised that the world hates them.  He is encouraging them – don’t be so surprised.  ESV, NASB, NIV all say “do not be surprised” the NRSV says “Do not be astonished” as believers. We must not marvel, be surprised, or be astonished at a cold dead world’s hatred.  
 
That hatred, John explains, is precisely how the lost heart reacts to God. 
 
Earlier in 1 John 2:29-3:1, we read:
 
1 John 2:29–3:1 (ESV)
29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.
3:1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.  The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
 
“The World” are not children of God – the world are “children of the devil, having wicked deeds…
 
When the Holiness of God is found in us, the lost, dying world reacts in hatred much like Cain.  When I step on one side of a seesaw, the other goes up. It is a fundamental truth, and so too the world reacts when it sees a true Godly character and love of God.
 
John 15:18–21 (ESV)
The Hatred of the World
18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you
19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world. Therefore the world hates you
20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.  If they kept my word, they will also keep yours
21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.
 
 
Matthew 5:11–12 (ESV)
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account
12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
 
1 Peter 4:13 (ESV)
13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
 
Peter’s is a Biblical picture of the Christian life – rejoice in the sufferings of Christ in a world opposed to Him. When we feel hatred from the world, we should be encouraged that Christ was found in us. 
 
1 John 3:13 (ESV)
13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.
 
Do not be surprised, brothers […]
 
Brothers here is adelphoi, of the same fold.  Jesus uses this form in Matthew 12:50 and John 20:17 John adds himself to the brethren who are being hated by the world, Christian community this is just how a self-loving heart who doesn’t know God reacts to the God it hates.

Matthew 12:50 (ESV)
50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

John 20:17 (ESV)
17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
 
1 Corinthians 1:18 (ESV)
18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
 
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” in verse 14 is those brothers who are feeling and marveling, surprised by, astonished at being hated – have passed out of death and into life.
 
1 Corinthians 15:55–57 (ESV)
55    “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
 
Why have we passed from death – it moves past the hatred of the world, which is a measured reaction to God to what we are that causes the hatred.
 
1 John 3:14b “[…] because we love the brothers.”
 
Consistent with
 
John 5:24 (ESV)
24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.  He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
 
We have, in this life, passed from one marked by death to one characterized by life – death and dying have no sting – want to know if you love the father, ask – do you love the brethren. 
 
When I hear Christians say they’re not in local fellowship, I wonder how this displays brotherly love. 
 
John 13:35 (ESV)
35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
 
John 15:13 (ESV)
13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
 
Proverbs 18:1 (ESV)
Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire;
he breaks out against all sound judgment.
 
Hebrews 3:13 (ESV)
13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
 
Hebrews 10:25–26
25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
 
If you want to have Christ’s fellowship and want to avoid the saints your issue isn’t with the Church or with me. Your problem is with the God of scripture and you’re in a dangerous place. 
 
1 John 3:14 (ESV)
14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers
 
This brotherly love we have described by verse 14a isn’t the cause our salvation. Rather, it is the fruit OF our salvation.  It provides the evidence, Luke 7:47
 
Luke 7:47 (ESV)
47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much.  But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

Take it a step further he who is neither forgiven, nor sees a need for forgiveness, loves how much according to Jesus’ formula in Luke 7?
 
1 John 3:15-16 (ESV)
15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 
16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
 
A condition of hatred demonstrates distance from God.  This is the natural conclusion that John has walked us into. He starts from the first brothers in Genesis 4, continuing through to the world reacting to the early Church, the brethren, and leaves behind an eternal principle for us today.  ANYONE who continuously hates is not of God because hatred is the moral opposite of love
 
Consider John 8:44.  Those who are abiding in Christ are not expressing the moral opposite of God’s character of love. We are NOT marked by hate. 
 
If the world hates you for godliness, find the courage and stand firm, and continue to follow after Christ.  The world’s hatred isn’t what passes you from death to life, nor is Godly love – instead, these are consequences and fruits of Holy living in a fallen world. 
 
This is why we need to know, deeply, that there is a natural and necessary tension and opposition between good and evil.
 
 
Verse 16, by this we know – ginosko, we know because we’ve thought deeply about it.  When I tell someone about my belief in God, I don’t say I think that God created the earth and everything in it because I don’t “think” it. I know it.  I don’t say I believe in John Nicholas. I say I know him.  The statement “by this we know,” in verse 16, carries the same assurance – by possessing the moral opposition to hate, love, we KNOW through experience and direct knowledge, not academic thought in our present life, that we’re God’s children.
 
By the love we have for the brethren, we know it. 
 
17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?
 
We leave with an open question. 

The question asks us to understand both a general and specific care inside the Church for one another.  We, by way of being God’s children, have compassion for one another.  Like in a family, you may be able to say things about your sibling – or one sibling can say something about mom or dad, but it is unnatural and unacceptable for someone outside that fold. 
 
In the unity of the Christian family who forms into one body – who fellowship and have a unique love one for another, we don’t just accept someone being in need. We have compassion and care for that person. This is the fruit of God in us. 
 
John here gives the Church a vision for why hatred of them is happening, demonstrates it is rooted in the eternal loving nature of God and gives them a vision for the future of the Church – which distinguishes us from the world.
 
Now we get to live in that mode worshipfully – the question we leave in verse 17 is, “does God’s love abide in us.”  The question isn’t are we giving everything away – that misses the point. The point is found in the question ‘do we care’ is there evidence that we care for and love the brethren. 
 
Hatred is the moral opposite of love, and this is the tension and opposition between good and evil.  We shouldn’t be surprised by it. We shouldn’t be discouraged by it. We shouldn’t revel in it – instead, we should push on carrying the death of Jesus so that His life would be shared with all.

Pray, Observe, Apply.

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