1 John 3:16-24: The Definition and Value of Brotherly Love
“By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from them, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or tongue, but in work and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.
“Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things which are pleasing in His sight, and this is His commandment: that we should believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another as He gave us commandment. Now he who keeps His commandment abides in Him, and He in him. By this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us” (1 John 3:16-24).
John has given us two reasons in the previous verses we have examined (vv.10-15) for why it is necessary to love the brethren. First, it practices righteousness and distinguishes us as children of God; and second, it signifies a passing from death to life. But, what does it mean to truly love the brethren? What are its benefits? This will be the centerpiece of our study.
When I read this carefully, the characteristics which John presents in these verses is an indictment against the definition of what passes for Christian living today. I have never witnessed such an attitude of self-centeredness and ego-elevating individualism more profoundly than in the church today. The biggest perpetrator of this attitude is the cancerous growth of the “prosperity gospel,” bringing the Sovereign God of all Creation and Life down to the level of a butler or genie that when given the right words, will grant the individual health, wealth, and a disease-free life.
Well, who could resist that type of Christianity when presented in such a delightful package? Sadly, a lot of frankly gullible and naïve people have bought into this demonic heresy, and have lost money and have died sick without the promises the snake-oil salesmen on TV made so convincingly.
In the end, the only people who profited off this bait and switch are the so-called “anointed of God” who, when confronted with these heartbreaking and faith-destroying tales of righteous riches, blatantly exclaim that the person praying for healing or blessing has some kind of “secret sin” that caused their misfortune, getting these charlatans off the hook. They also threaten the inquirer not to touch “God’s anointed” when criticized, or attempt to examine why these servants of Satan are living so lavishly.
I will say this without apology or hesitation, and that is that the “prosperity gospel” and those who preach it are from hell itself and will drag unsuspecting victims to that place, believing that Jesus saves only to make you rich here on Earth, at the expense of your eternal soul. Riches, health, power. Didn’t Satan try to tempt the Lord Jesus with these things?
Concepts like service, giving, sacrifice, love for one another, and devotion to the will and direction of Jesus Christ, and laying aside all ideas of self-fulfillment in order for someone to hear and receive the good news of salvation seem to be in short supply in these last days (Matthew 24:12). It is no surprise that due to the deliberate ignorance of Scripture and the blatant failure to submit to the absolute Lordship of Jesus Christ that the church finds itself having more in common with the things and attitudes of the world than with the message of Christ.
I could say that an example of selfless love would be of a mother for her child, but that is not true today where women are told to take “control of their own bodies” and “choose” what to do about the new life that is growing in them. The result of that act of pure selfishness and murder has put the bodies of the unborn children in the hands of profiteers and garbage bags in the dumpster behind the abortion clinic. God sees this, and He will have His day of vengeance on those who believe they have the power of life and death according to their own perception and outlook on life.
The whole narrative of “pro-choice” is a lie from the pit of hell. The baby didn’t have a choice.
The absolute hatred I have for the devil who spawned this harvest of immoral mud and dung has done his best to water down the concepts of Christian living and total devotion to the things of God, and is making those who claim to be saved satisfied with a weekly dose of religious experience. They put themselves on the throne of their lives for the rest of the time, all the while keeping their camera phones on themselves, texting opinions about the trivial; and the thoughts about assisting someone in need is a task to be done by someone else.
I can say with a degree of confidence that the biblical worldviews which the church should demonstrate are now done by a remnant of people, young and old, who realize that life here on Earth is temporary and that the things of God have to be of utmost importance in their lives. These precious few are serious about their respective areas of service for the Lord Jesus Christ and are heeding what John is presenting in these verses.
John teaches that love for the brethren is not just words, but is put into action by the deeds of service towards one another, and should be edified by giving aid and the gospel to the individual who may have a hostile, indifferent, or ignorant attitude towards spiritual concepts.
The Romans who observed the deeds of the early church were struck by the selfless love the Christians had towards one another even in the midst of persecution and troubles. And despite attempts by various emperors to wipe out the movement, the work of Jesus has endured while ancient Rome is now a collection of ruins and museum pieces. Those enemies of Christ today need only to look at history and its attempts to get rid of the faith, only to find out that nations, skeptics, and evil intentions have never succeeded, and instead spread the news about Jesus to more people.
Today there are more Christians being slaughtered for their faith than at any other time in history, guilty of challenging the state or dominant religious tyranny that they are not the masters of the world. That glory and title only goes to Jesus Christ, and many have paid with their lives for making this declaration. These precious souls have risked all to put the principle of the Scriptures and the lifestyle it champions above their lives and what they believe is of value.
Right now we’re blessed to have an administration here in the United States that is friendly towards people of faith and seems to champion Christians for the moment. That scene could change in the years to come, and we need to look to Jesus Christ and not government officials as the source of our strength and faith. It will come down to looking out for each other as more waves of persecution and hatred come our way. A lot of those “believers” who put their faith in the Jesus of “stuff” will be the first to walk away and ally themselves with the forces of the impending darkness now enveloping the minds and souls of the unredeemed.
Those of us who make up the authentic body of Christ cannot allow the emotions and expectations of the world to dominate or compromise our walk with the LORD. Now is the time to stick together. John lived in that type of world, and this letter was not just a means of instruction to those in the first century, but to every generation afterwards who would put away their sins and trust in Jesus Christ for salvation. We cannot fail to love one another.
In looking out for the welfare of your fellow brethren, John tells us that neglecting to do so is a failure in the love you claim to possess as a follower of Christ. Our words and our deeds need to come together. It is love for one another that shows the truth of one’s faith. It is also an aid in demonstrating the assurance that you really are in Christ. If we are really in tune with the will of God, the Holy Spirit will convict us of anything that is contrary to that will. God will not condemn us for times of failure and leave us to fend for ourselves, but is always there to help us and instruct us on how to keep focused on our service to Him. He will let you know by His impression on your spirit when you are about to do something that will lead to sin and the possibility of causing another brother to stumble.
It is more difficult in these days not to be tempted by what is on the TV or internet or what we read in magazines that have become nothing more than soft porn in terms of material and focus. The devil cannot have you eternally, but he will use any means at his disposal to get your minds off of the LORD and the needs of your brethren in Christ. The unanswered prayers you’ve said may be delayed until you deal with everything and anything that could take your eyes off of the task that He has given you. This is true not only for you but is something that you might want to help someone with who is going through a similar situation.
Verse 22 states that we are to do those things that are pleasing in the sight of God. We are to take steps to rid ourselves of anything that does not please Him. This requires not just the aid of the Spirit, but also the almost lost concept of self-discipline and self-control. Our LORD presented these very same precepts in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:29-30).
The entirety of Scripture warns us that sin is not a trivial matter to be looked over and forgotten, but is of such a serious nature that neglecting to deal with it and continuing to live and behave in such a manner will lead to eternity in hell. The person who claims to be a Christian yet lives like the flesh and bears no fruit is a false convert and will hear the dreadful words of the Lord Jesus Christ telling him that He never knew that person, and will be cast into eternal death and damnation without a second chance or any signs of hope (Matthew 7:21-23, 25:41; Revelation 20:11-15).
If you’re playing some kind of convenient religion game, you have been warned. You’re without an excuse or alibi (Romans 1:18-20).
The truth of Scripture does not give way to what people think or by which they are somehow offended. Personally, I don’t care if I offend immoral, self-centered, unethical, egotistical persons who want us to affirm them in their sin, make them feel comfortable, and not set off a self-imposed trigger warning in them to run off to a “safe space” because they can’t handle the fact that life does not revolve on how they feel on any given day. That junk ends the day they take their last breath and stand before the Sovereign God who is offended every day by our sin and rebellion against His rule.
Hell doesn’t care what you think or feel.
There are a lot of so-called “believers” carrying that same attitude today. I would say with the authors of Scripture who preached Christ and Him crucified that if what I’ve just written gets you upset, get over it, grow up and get on your knees, confess your wickedness before the LORD, repent, and allow the Lord Jesus Christ to have complete and total control over your life. Your opinion and suggestions on how He does that can fly out the door. Now is the time to get serious about your walk with Christ. The day is coming when you may have to put your faith to the test. The Lord Jesus said so, and so did the apostles who wrote the canon of the New Testament, knowing that what they wrote and preached would cost them their lives.
Some time ago, I preached a message before a small congregation when, in the middle of the message, I felt ill and had to finish early and get home, which was a fairly lengthy drive. I knew then that after over thirty years of being on the road preaching, doing pastoral work, and public teaching in schools and Bible colleges that my days of active public ministry had come to an end. I felt that for the remainder of my days, I would devote myself to internet evangelism, writing, and developing an online Bible study website.
Most of you who have been following me know about the ups and downs I have had over the past year concerning my health. As the days for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to take His church away get closer with each sunrise, my whole purpose in writing these works is to wake up sleeping believers, examine where they stand with the LORD, and turn their eyes on Jesus – and live in such a way that the ones in the world who are sick of their sins can look at us and know that our talk about Jesus is in step with the walk He expects of His elect. The day is fast approaching where our opportunity to witness will be gone. Our lives and works as children of God will be judged by the Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 3:11-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
I know that I’ve overlooked opportunities in my life, and I’ll have to answer for that. We all will; and I hope that in spite of my own sins and shortcomings and forgiveness thereof, I will see not only my loved ones, but those who were won to Christ through what I’ve done for Him. I’m in no way boasting. I pray that I have been an example to people of what Jesus expected of me and that I followed the counsel of John and the brave, unselfish souls who put the words of God down to guide us as brethren in Him and soldiers in the fight (Ephesians 6:10-18).
When we gather next time, we’ll look at the plans of the enemy and false brethren. I pray that these teachings have helped you, and I pray God’s blessing upon you this day. Amen.