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14We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them. 16We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. 17How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?

18 Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.


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14. We—emphatical; hated though we be by the world, we know what the world knows not.

know—as an assured fact.

passedchanged our state. Col 1:13, "from the power of darkness … translated into the kingdom of His dear Son."

from death unto life—literally, "out of the death (which enthrals the unregenerate) into the life (of the regenerate)." A palpable coincidence of language and thought, the beloved disciple adopting his Lord's words.

because we love the brethren—the ground, not of our passing over out of death into life, but of our knowing that we have so. Love, on our part, is the evidence of our justification and regeneration, not the cause of them. "Let each go to his own heart; if he find there love to the brethren, let him feel assured that he has passed from death unto life. Let him not mind that his glory is only hidden; when the Lord shall come, then shall he appear in glory. For he has vital energy, but it is still wintertime; the root has vigor, but the branches are as it were dry; within there is marrow which is vigorous, within are leaves, within fruits, but they must wait for summer" [Augustine].

He that loveth not—Most of the oldest manuscripts omit "his brother," which makes the statement more general.

abideth—still.

in death—"in the (spiritual) death" (ending in eternal death) which is the state of all by nature. His want of love evidences that no saving change has passed over him.

15. hateth—equivalent to "loveth not" (1Jo 3:14); there is no medium between the two. "Love and hatred, like light and darkness, life and death, necessarily replace, as well as necessarily exclude, one another" [Alford].

is a murderer—because indulging in that passion, which, if followed out to its natural consequences, would make him one. "Whereas, 1Jo 3:16 desires us to lay down our lives for the brethren; duels require one (awful to say!) to risk his own life, rather than not deprive another of life" [Bengel]. God regards the inward disposition as tantamount to the outward act which would flow from it. Whomsoever one hates, one wishes to be dead.

hath—Such a one still "abideth in death." It is not his future state, but his present, which is referred to. He who hates (that is, loveth not) his brother (1Jo 3:14), cannot in this his present state have eternal life abiding in him.

16. What true love to the brethren is, illustrated by the love of Christ to us.

HerebyGreek, "Herein."

the love of God—The words "of God" are not in the original. Translate, "We arrive at the knowledge of love"; we apprehend what true love is.

he—Christ.

and we—on our part, if absolutely needed for the glory of God, the good of the Church, or the salvation of a brother.

lives—Christ alone laid down His one life for us all; we ought to lay down our lives severally for the lives of the brethren; if not actually, at least virtually, by giving our time, care, labors, prayers, substance: Non nobis, sed omnibus. Our life ought not to be dearer to us than God's own Son was to Him. The apostles and martyrs acted on this principle.

17. this world's good—literally, "livelihood" or substance. If we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren (1Jo 3:16), how much more ought we not to withhold our substance?

seeth—not merely casually, but deliberately contemplates as a spectator; Greek, "beholds."

shutteth up his bowels of compassion—which had been momentarily opened by the spectacle of his brother's need. The "bowels" mean the heart, the seat of compassion.

howHow is it possible that "the love of (that is, 'to') God dwelleth (Greek, 'abideth') in him?" Our superfluities should yield to the necessities; our comforts, and even our necessaries in some measure, should yield to the extreme wants of our brethren. "Faith gives Christ to me; love flowing from faith gives me to my neighbor."

18. When the venerable John could no longer walk to the meetings of the Church but was borne thither by his disciples, he always uttered the same address to the Church; he reminded them of that one commandment which he had received from Christ Himself, as comprising all the rest, and forming the distinction of the new covenant, "My little children, love one another." When the brethren present, wearied of hearing the same thing so often, asked why he always repeated the same thing, he replied, "Because it is the commandment of the Lord, and if this one thing be attained, it is enough" [Jerome].

in wordGreek, "with word … with tongue, but in deed and truth."




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