Here's one of John's key determining factors to identify true Christians.
When someone claims to be a Christian, we are instructed here to examine the character of their love life, for therein lies the proof of their claim. Welcome to Grace To You. On today's broadcast, John MacArthur continues a series of landmark sermons from his decades of pulpit ministry, titled The New Testament, Beginning to End. Today's lesson is from 1 John, and it focuses on the love that should characterize your life if you're a follower of Christ. But before we begin today's lesson, John, it's hard to believe you began preaching more than 50 years ago. In the early days of your ministry, your messages didn't even reach beyond the walls of your home church. But today, anyone with internet access can download your sermons from GTY.org.
So as you look at how this ministry has grown, I'm wondering, what's been the most unexpected way the Lord has used this ministry? Yeah, I actually began preaching, if you add it all up, 60 years ago, when I was very, very young. And yeah, in the early days of my ministry, I preached sermons, thankfully, that weren't recorded, because they should have died when they were spoken.
They should have evaporated into the air and never been heard again, but you have to start somewhere. But when I got to the place where I was preaching, something that was true and helpful and useful, recording had become available. How wonderful is that? And today, anyone anywhere on the planet can download my sermons from GTY.org.
Just think about that. This ministry has grown and grown over the years, and I've preached messages that are available on the Grace To You website, and they're being downloaded all over the planet, and it's pretty remarkable. The Word of God is not bound by time, it is not bound by culture, it is not bound by geography, and particularly in the world in which we live. That is a shocking reality to me. And who would have ever dreamed of this?
Certainly not me. Yeah, thank you, Jon. And friend, thanks for what you do to support this ministry. Thank you for praying and for partnering with us financially as you're able to strengthen believers around the world with biblical truth.
You can connect with us at GTY.org, and I'll have more of those details before we close today. But for now, follow along as Jon continues his look at the New Testament beginning to end. Well, we return in our study of the Word of God to 1 John chapter 3. Now, as you know, in looking at this epistle, the theme that runs all the way through this entire letter is identifying marks of true Christians. This is Jon's concern, the whole epistle of the Christians.
This is Jon's concern. The whole epistle gives us revelation by which we can discern who is real within the family of God. And as we come into chapter 3 and verses 11 through 18, we come to the subject of love, or better yet, we come to the test of love, or the mark of love. Here is one of Jon's key determining factors to identify true Christians. When someone claims to be a Christian, someone claims to be in union with God, in union with Jesus Christ, possessing eternal life, we are instructed here to examine the character of their love life, for therein lies the proof of their claim.
Christians who are genuinely born of God manifest that transformation by means of righteousness and love. Those are the two basic behavioral tests, the two measurements of conduct. The first moral test, the first behavioral test to validate one's claim to be a Christian is the test of righteous conduct. The second is the test of love. We have been given then in Christ a capacity to love.
It is more than a mandate, it is a capacity, it is more than a capacity, it is a characteristic. That's why Paul said, I don't need to teach you how to love, you're taught of God to love one another. It is natural to the believer to love another believer. Now as we begin this passage, let's go back to chapter 3 and verse 11. For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. Now why does he say it that way? Why does he say this is the message which you've heard from the beginning?
I'll tell you why. This is not the first time he has so spoken. Go back to chapter 2 and verse 24. As for you, he says, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning.
Here's the problem. They had the truth right at the beginning because it was delivered to them by apostles. They had the truth about the gospel right. They had the truth about the person of Christ right. They had the truth about their own sinfulness right. They had the truth about righteousness and obedience right. They had the truth about love right because it was delivered to them by the apostolic preachers. It was delivered to them by those who brought them the true revelation of God and the gospel. However, after some period of time, they had false teachers come in and they were getting another message.
And so John says, look, back up, run this thing back, skip over what you heard and go all the way back to the beginning. This is the message which you heard from the beginning that we should love one another. The false teachers might be telling you that that doesn't matter.
They might be telling you that there is no requirement of loving one another, that that's not a part of knowing God. Heretics always come along and boast about new teaching. Anything that's new is not true. That's just sort of a basic axiom.
If it's new, it's not true. You may find somebody who has a fresh insight into the truth, but anything that's new is not true because the faith was once for all delivered to the saints and nothing shall be added to it or nothing taken away from it. That's how the Bible ends with that warning that anybody who does that is in grave danger from the judgment of God. Jesus commanded His disciples in that upper room in chapter 15 of John, this is My commandment that you love one another just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one laid down his life for his friends. Jesus is saying it's an old command, but it has a newness because now I am taking it to the point where it is absolutely self-sacrificing. And again in verse 17, just a few verses later, this I command you that you love one another.
It is a command, there's no question about that, but as well as a command, it is also a privilege because we have been given the capacity to do that. And that's the passage in 1 Thessalonians 4, 9, now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another. God works in your life to produce that love. In fact, even Peter, one of my favorite comments about this love is found in the words of Peter, 1 Peter 1.22, since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls. He's talking about salvation. You've come, you heard the truth, you obeyed the gospel, your soul was purified. Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls, listen to this, unto a sincere love of the brethren.
What a great statement. He's saying this is who you are, you obeyed the truth, your soul was cleansed, produced...produced a genuine love for the brethren and since that has happened, he adds, fervently love one another from the heart. The command is based upon the capacity. Since God has wrought that in you, that capacity, do it fervently. Fervently is the Greek word ektines, it is used of a muscle that is taught, that is literally stretched to its capacity. And he is saying, love as far as you can love, stretch yourself as far as you can go in love.
Reach out as far as you have capacity to reach. You have literally obeyed the truth, been purged unto this genuine kind of love, exercise it to the max. So back to our opening statement in 1 John 3, you have heard from the beginning this message that we should love one another.
I don't care what anybody comes along and says, this is true. This is not just command, this is God-given capacity. So we are obeying it and are able to do so because of the wonderful work of the Spirit of God in shedding the love of Christ abroad in our hearts. Now having introduced that theme of love in verse 11, John moves into a contrast. Contrasts are very typical of John, all through his gospel, all through his epistle.
We've said this before, he's sort of the black and white apostle and we see it here again. And in regard to this matter of love, he contrasts the children of the devil with the children of God. And it's a simple contrast, the children of the devil hate and the children of God love. The children of the devil resent and the children of God respect. The children of the devil are selfish, the children of God are sacrificial toward one another. Let's start out, as John does, and look at the characteristics of the children of the devil.
They occupy most of the passage we're going to look at. Let's see the characteristics of the children of the devil. And they are characteristics that demonstrate the absence of love, okay? The absence of love.
The first one is murder. I would say that's a fairly good demonstration of the absence of love, wouldn't you? Murder, that is the ultimate act of hate. Verse 12, you're to love one another not as...now we have the contrast as we look at the children of the devil...not as Cain who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him?
Because his deeds were evil and his brothers were righteous. Here is the lowest level, obviously, the lowest level that any relationship can ever descend to, would you agree? They can't get any worse than that when you kill the other person. This is hate's extremity.
You can't go beyond that, the lowest level. It is characteristic of those who do not know God to be murderous...to be murderous. Cain was not an atheist, he was a religious person. And he came as a worshiper of God. And you want to understand this, folks, some of the most murderous people who exist, some of the greatest haters of those who are truly gods are those who are religious.
In fact, you could make a case that they're the worst. It wasn't atheists who murdered Jesus. It wasn't atheists who screamed for His blood and demanded that the Romans crucify Him, it was religionists. It's clear that even though he was not an atheist, even though he was worshiping the true God, he was worshiping Him in a wrong way and he was worshiping Him from a wicked heart. And so you know the story. The real test of Cain's true religion wasn't even his sacrifice. That was one test, that wasn't the full test. We could say, well, he was trying to get there by works and that's bad.
It was worse than that. He despised the man who was obedient to God. Cain showed his spiritual connection to Satan by murdering his brother. The word here regarding Cain slew his brother, is the word svadzo in Greek. And let me tell you what it means. It means to butcher by cutting the throat. He slit his brother's throat. That's an important thing to say.
And I'll tell you why. Because there had only been, up to this point, one indication of a death prior to this murder, and it was God killing an animal. Remember to take the skin to cover Adam and Eve. And very likely, God had killed that animal by slitting its throat, which became the standard practice in the sacrificial system. He literally came up behind his brother and butchered him by cutting his throat. The term is used in classical Greek, svadzo, to refer to the slaughtering of victims for sacrifice by cutting their throat, cutting their jugular. It is used in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, Leviticus 1.5, to refer to the slaying of sacrificial animals. It was as if Cain said, oh, okay, God, you want to sacrifice, do you?
You want an animal sacrifice, here's one. That's the vitriol that existed in Cain's heart. And the writer here, John, uses a vivid, strong word to describe the murder. There is another word that means to kill, apothnesko, but he doesn't use that word.
He uses the word to butcher by cutting the throat. So ultimately, in its extreme, the absence of love is a murderous heart, characteristic of all the children of the devil. You say, well now, wait a minute, you're seeming to say that everybody who's an unconverted person would murder people. Well, that's what the Bible says, that they don't all have the opportunity to do that. They don't all actually do that, but that's in their hearts.
But that takes us to the second thing. If not murder, there's another characteristic of the children of the devil, and it's hatred. Verse 13, do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you.
Don't be surprised if the world hates you. We know that we've passed out of death into life because we love the brethren. He who doesn't love abides in death. Then verse 15, everyone who hates his brother is a murderer. And you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. People with murderous attitudes don't have eternal life because eternal life makes you love, not hate. Most people have never murdered anybody. They would have liked to have. That's the only difference.
They've just not done it. The only difference between murder and hate is the act. The attitude is the same, right? The attitude is the same.
Maybe you never had an opportunity to do it. You were restrained because of the consequences. But in God's eyes, hatred is the moral equivalent of murder. Hatred is the moral equivalent of murder. You're not off the hook just because you don't kill somebody. You are children of the devil and whether you kill somebody or not, that will manifest itself in your hatred of others. Could you without negative consequences carry out your murder?
Is there ever a reason to do it? Is there ever a reason to assume that you would do it if there were no retribution, if there were no judgment, if you'd never be held responsible? Listen to the words of Jesus in Matthew 5 21, you have heard that the ancients were told, you shall not commit murder and whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court. I say to you, everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court.
Whoever says to his brother, you good for nothing, an epithet that seems rather mild, but in those days it would come out differently. A person who says that, that is to say curses someone, shall be guilty before the Supreme Court and whoever says, you fool, shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. You're going to go to hell for your hate whether or not it ever materializes into murder. As I said, hatred is the moral equivalent of murder, it just doesn't exercise the option. Most people haven't murdered anybody, but people who are the children of the devil are characterized by hate. And so, go back again, verse 13, don't be surprised, do not marvel, do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you. It goes with the territory. It's because they're the children of the devil and they have nothing in common with us, absolutely nothing in common.
Marvel here, or surprise, has to do with something that's shocking, mysterious, amazing. The hatred of the world is not amazing, it's not shocking, it's not mysterious, not hard to figure out. It's just the same as Cain and Abel. He hated his brother because his deeds were evil and his brothers were righteous.
It's only to be expected that the wicked would continue to regard and treat the righteous the same way that Cain regarded and treated his righteous brother, because they all have the same father. Hatred for believers is a giveaway that you don't know God. In John 15, 25, that they have done this to fulfill the Word that is written in their law, they hated Me without a cause taken from the Psalms. There's no real reason for the world to hate us.
We don't harm the world. There's no reason for people in our society, the elite, the rich and the famous, the sinful, the publicly sinful, the blatantly sinful, to hate anybody who's righteous except for the fact that they manifest that they're the children of the devil, right? It's a dead giveaway.
It's a dead giveaway. By its hatred, the world reveals its true character. Cain hated Abel. People hated Jesus. Jewish leaders hated him. They hated the Apostles and they martyred all but one, and they exiled him. And through the history of the church, the church's leaders have been hated. The Reformers, the non-conformists, persecuted, hated, and even today there are more Christians being persecuted for the cause of Jesus Christ than ever in history, tens of thousands dying all over the world under the hateful, murderous people who are the children of the devil. So this is what is characteristic of them.
Don't be surprised if they hate you. Then verse 15, everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. It's a dead giveaway. But on the other hand, verse 14, and we'll say more about this, we know that we've passed out of death into life because we love the brother.
That's the contrast. Murderer is the word here that just means that, someone who slays a man. No murderer has eternal life abiding in him. Are you saying that if someone commits a murder, they can never be saved?
No. I am saying that if someone continues with a murderous heart, they're not saved, right? Paul was a murderer, was he not? Didn't he persecute and kill Christians?
He says, I was a blasphemer and a murderer, but he repented and was forgiven. Murder is the worst. Hate comes next, but there's a third characteristic of the children of the devil. The third characteristic of the children of the devil. The third characteristic, indifference. This is the best that can be said of them.
This is the best. They're indifferent. Not all the children of the devil are equally evil in their actions. They all are characterized by some level of murderous attitude. They are all characterized by some level of hatred of those who are righteous. But not all of them are driven by the same degree of hate, nor do all of them carry to its extreme and kill. The best that can be said is that they manifest indifference, verses 16 and 17. We know, loved by this, that He laid down His life for us and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
Contrast that with verse 17, whoever has the world's goods and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? This is indifference. This is another evidence of the unregenerate. They have the world's goods. They make no sacrifice for anyone else. They're dominated by selfishness. If they do give away a little pittance here and a little pittance there, it is to pacify their own conscience and have the appearance of philanthropy.
The children of the devil are consumed with themselves. They're unconcerned with others. You say, what about those people who are somewhat sacrificial and get involved in charitable work?
Again, they do that for the purposes that accrue to their own glory. It's not because their hearts are genuinely broken in love for others. People in the world don't love like that. They say they're in love, but that didn't last very long, does it? They say they love, but they make very little sacrifice.
The characteristic of these people at best is indifference. They shut their heart against the one in need. And then in verse 16, we know love by this, that he lay down his life for us and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. We don't want to kill and hate and be indifferent.
We want to do the opposite. We'll give our lives away. This is what characterizes the true child of God, total selflessness, a willingness to give up everything because this love has so permeated our being by the goodness of God, we have been delivered from our former attitude. Jesus demonstrated that greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Jesus did that. We're to love in the same sacrificial way. We're to love so that we bring life, not death. We're to love so that we bring affection, not hatred. We're to love so that we meet need sacrificially, not indifferent.
The contrast is stark here and unmistakable. And if you are a killer at heart and if you are indifferent at heart, your claim to know God means nothing. How does...the end of verse 17...the love of God abide in such a person?
Well the answer is it doesn't. And then in verse 18 there is a final statement in this text which is an injunction to us little children, let us love little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but indeed in truth. We will know by this that we're of the truth and assure our hearts before Him. Not only is your love a testimony to everybody around you that you belong to God, it's an assuring testimony to yourself, isn't it?
Profession is not enough, it's not enough for those around you and it's not enough for you. He says, love not just in word and tongue, but in deed and truth, genuine action. Love sacrificially, love in the way that's been described, love by giving your life away, verse 16, laying down our lives for the brethren. Love, verse 17, by seeing a brother in need and opening up your heart to him. Love, verse 18, not just in what you say, but in how you act. It isn't just words on your tongue, it's deeds that manifest the truth of that love in your heart. Here then again does John identify for us, unmistakably, the manifest nature and character of a true Christian. Well, that's it for today.
We'll see you next time. Your gifts enable us to encourage believers and local churches across the globe with the verse-by-verse teaching of God's Word again to express your support visit gty.org or give us a call at 800-55-GRACE. And when you get in touch let me encourage you to pick up a copy of our flagship resource, the MacArthur study Bible. It's an all-in-one spiritual library that contains about 25,000 study notes written by John, full introductions to each book, more than 140 charts and maps, all of it crafted to help you understand and apply the life-changing truth of God's Word. The MacArthur Study Bible is available in the New King James, New American Standard, and English Standard versions of Scripture.
To order, call us at 855-GRACE or visit the website GTY.org. Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson. Thanks for starting your week off with Grace To You, and join us tomorrow when John shows you the trait you should be known for if you're a Christian. It's another half-hour of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time, on Grace To You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-26 15:02:35 / 2023-02-26 15:12:37 / 10