1Jn 3:15 Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.
This is a very striking statement from the book of 1 John. Since the consequence of “hating your brother” is to be devoid of eternal life, it is most important to understand the implications of this verse!
An important rule of interpretation which must be followed to understand what any given verse means is to carefully consider the context–what comes before and after the verse in question.
1 John 3:11 For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
1 John 3:12 Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.
Note the motive assigned to Cain’s action of murdering his brother Abel: in some sense, Cain was jealous or envious of his brother Abel because he recognized that Abel was righteous and that he was not.
1 John 3:13 Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.
Another motivating factor in Cain’s murder of his brother Abel is hatred: Cain hated Abel because he recognized that Abel was righteous and that he was not.
1 John 3:14 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.
Very clearly, the death spoken of here is not physical death, but spiritual death. We know we have escaped spiritual death in our life because we love the brethren. Failure to love our brother means we abide or remain in spiritual death. Abiding in spiritual death means we are not saved (though we may think we are!). One example of our failure to love our brother (or sister–the terms here are called “generic” in English and Greek grammar so that the masculine gender is used for both genders) is to not receive, or not welcome a person into our church fellowship, contrary to the command given in Romans 15:7, “Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.” Failure to receive one another may indicate that those who shun and reject newcomers to their fellowship or church may be an indication that they are not saved themselves (though they think they are!). Failure to receive one another really exhibits hatred toward the rejected person or even family. Jesus gave severe warnings about this (see Matthew 25:40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46)!
John echoes this severe warning when he writes:
1 John 3:15 Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.
Therefore, anyone who hates his brother is a murderer and does not possess the gift of eternal life. There are different ways of manifesting hatred to our brother, and John will apply this truth to one of those ways shortly in the following context.
1 John 3:16 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
Notice also, that 1 John 3:16 indirectly declares the deity of Christ. The words “of God” in the expression “the love of God” are not present in the Greek text, but they are implied, because 1 John 3:17 contains the expression “how dwelleth the love of God in him?”
1 John 3:17 But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?”
When we encounter a brother or sister in the Lord who is in need, and we are in a position to be of help to them, but fail to act to help meet that need, John asks the pointed question, How can we claim that the love of God dwells in us?
1 John 3:18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.
It is easy to “talk the talk,” but the reality of our faith in Christ is demonstrated when we act in accordance with the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 John 3:19 And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.
When we readily act upon the truth we know that we have learned of our Lord Jesus Christ as it is found in His written Word, this, John tells us, furnishes firm grounds for assurance on our part that “we are of the truth,” another way of saying that we know that we are truly saved and belong to Him.
There is much more vital truth contained in these verses than what I have briefly sketched out here. Now that I have shared the context for 1 John 3:15 with you as the first step in its proper interpretation and application, the second step will be to share with you what the rest of the Bible has to say about the themes in 1 John 3:15 by means of cross reference Bible study, what I plan to share next time.