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.
Air and earth, fire and water, good and evil, light and darkness, are not more contrary the one to the other, than are the people of the world and the true members of the Church. Their views are contrary, the one class looking at the things of eternity merely in the light of time, the other looking at time in the light of eternity. Their tastes are contrary, the one being "of the earth, earthy," the other spiritually minded. Their pursuits are contrary, the one "walking according to the course of this world," the other "walking with God." Their destiny shall be contrary "these shall go away into everlasting punishment, and the righteous into life eternal."
I. "WE SAVE PASSED FROM DEATH UNTO LIFE.'' Let it be carefully observed this is a change which is declared to have already taken place. "We have passed." Whenever a sinner believes he is put in possession of everlasting life, that is, of the germ or beginning of it. The words are expressive, however, not merely of a change that is supposed to be past in point of time, but of one most blessed in its nature. What is so much shunned as death? And what is so prized and preserved as life?
1. Death is used in the Scriptures to express a state of condemnation, and life one of acceptance. In the one case there is a sentence of death, and in the other of acquittal.
2. Death is also used in the Scriptures to express a con dition of sinfulness or depravity, and life that of holiness. The sinner is pronounced to be dead; and is he not so? He has all the features of death upon him.
(1) There is insensibility. He is in sin, and ever committing it, but he does not seem to be conscious of it.
(2) There is inactivity. He possesses powers which he does not employ. On the other hand, it is the office of grace to make him alive to God, when it does effectually operate upon him this is the result. The sinner is made "alive to God." You have seen the oak struck by the lightning of heaven. Its juices were dried up, and its branches withered away. You pronounced it dead. But the husbandman came: he lopped off the withered boughs. He manured its roots and watered its branches. The process of decay was arrested. Life was restored. It sent forth its foliage and bore its fruit as before. It was a resurrection. So it is with the sinner under the blight of sin, when he is visited by the grace of the Spirit. His decayed powers are animated with a new life. He puts forth the powers in active energy, which before were paralysed in spiritual death. He is "passed from death unto life."
II. THE EVIDENCE SPOKEN OF IN THE TEXT, "we know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." Brotherly love is the proof of conversion here cited by the apostle.
1. There is the natural affection which binds us to those with whom we are allied according to the flesh. It is true there may be this love when there is no grace. In that case brotherly love is no proof of the great change of which we have spoken.
2. The evidence arising from the exercise of brotherly love towards the people of God is still more unequivocal. It may be sometimes difficult to distinguish between the natural and gracious affection in the case of those who are closely allied to us. But where we love the godly, simply because they are such, the proof is unequivocal. Its peculiarity is that, apart from other considerations, our love is attracted by their godliness.
3. Still, love is not to be confined to them. It is to be extended to all men. And as it is so we strengthen the evidence of our gracious state.
III. THE ASSURANCE OF OUR SALVATION, ARISING OUT OF THIS EVIDENCE. "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." We may know it then. This is assumed. The term is the most expressive of certainty that could be used. It is not, we think or hope or desire, but we know. He ought to know it. It is not a privilege merely, but a duty. He ought to know it for the sake of his own holiness. He ought to know it for the honour of Christ.
(J. Morgan, D. D.)
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.