1 John 3:14
We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brothers. He that loves not his brother stays in death.
We know that we have passed from death unto life, etc. To know our true character and condition in the sight of God is of the greatest importance. An earnest consideration of our text will help us to attain such knowledge. Notice -
I. THE GREAT CHANGE HERE SPOKEN OF. "We have passed out of death into life." Consider:
1. The state from which the Christian has passed. It is here spoken of as "death." The death is not physical, or intellectual, or social, but moral and spiritual. "Ye were dead through your trespasses and sins;" "alienated from the life of God." God is the Life of the soul. In union with him the soul lives; separated from him the soul dies. Sin separates from him. "Your iniquities have separated between you and your God ;" "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." Sin is fatal to all that constitutes the life of the soul - to truth and trust, to reverence and love, etc. A state of sin is a state of death.
2. The state upon which the Christian has entered. He has "passed out of death into life." He is united to God by faith in Jesus Christ, and thus participates in the Divine life. He has passed over from the sphere of the darkness into that of the light; from the dreary realm of death into the blessed kingdom of life. "He that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath eternal life, and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life" (John 5:24). "If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17); "And you, being dead through your trespasses... he quickened together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses" (Colossians 2:13). This great and blessed change is effected
(1) through the mediation of Jesus Christ (John 6:40, 47; John 10:10; John 14:6);
(2) by the agency of the Holy Spirit (John 3:5, 6, 8); and
(3) by the instrumentality of the sacred Word (James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23).
II. THE EVIDENCE OF THIS GREAT CHANGE. "We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren." There may he a reference in the term "brethren" to the common brotherhood of all men; but it seems to us that its chief meaning is the Christian brethren. The love spoken of is not simply natural affection, as the love of parent for child, child for parent, husband for wife, wife for husband, etc. Again, there may be certain social qualities in a Christian which are attractive to others, yet not distinctively Christian. He may be a useful man; in society he may be interesting and agreeable, and therefore he is admired and loved; but such love does not prove that they who exercise it "have passed out of death into life." Again, we may love Christians, not because they are Christians, but because they belong to our ecclesiastical party or share our theological opinions; but this affection is not to be taken as an evidence that we have experienced the great and saving change. The love of which St. John writes is a love of the brethren, not because they belong to us or to our party, but because they belong to the Lord Jesus. The affection which is a proof that we have passed from death unto life is a love of the brethren:
1. Because of their relation to Christ and God. They are one with Christ by faith and love. Through the Saviour they are children of the Divine Father. They are regarded by him with complacency. They are loved by him with the love of approbation. And they possess the filial spirit in relation to him (Romans 8:14-16). If we love God we shall love them, because they are his. "Whosoever loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him" (1 John 5:1). And such love is an evidence "that we have passed out of death into life."
2. Because of their resemblance to God in Christ. Our Lord and Saviour is the Supreme Revelation of God the Father to our race; and his character, "as he lived upon earth," as Hooper has said, "is like a perfect, many-sided crystal. Whichever way you look at it, it is without flaw. Whichever way you turn it, some new beauty of colour is reflected from the rays of light shining through it. The character of the Christian is like a crystal too, but a small one, full of cracks and flaws, which break up and disfigure the brilliant gleams reflected from the sunlight.... The Christian must be like Christ, or he is nothing; but it is a likeness with a vast distance between - the likeness of the infant to the strong man; the likeness of a feeble sapling to the full-grown giant oak." To love Christians because we discover in them this moral resemblance to God in Christ is an evidence "that we bare passed out of death into life."
1. If we have this holy, fraternal affection, let us draw from it the assurance which our text warrants. "We know that we have passed," etc.
2. Let us cultivate more and more of this Christian love. - W.J.
Parallel VersesKJV: We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.