A Study of 1 John
Love Your Brother
1 John 2:7-11 SCC 6/19/11
If you sincerely value having fellowship with God; if what is primarily important to you is that God is pleased with you; if what you desire most of all is to know that you know God intimately; then you can test that by means of your relationship with other believers. You may be surprised to know that your fellowship with God is not maintained by how much money you invest in God’s kingdom or by how many times you share the gospel with the lost or by how much bible knowledge you possess. You can test the reality of your fellowship with God by the love you possess for a fellow believer and not hating him. If you claim to have fellowship with God then it becomes evident in how you relate to your brother. So fellowship with God is not possible if you hate your brother.
WE STILL HAVE THE RESPONSIBILITY TO LOVE OUR BROTHER 7
Verses 3-6 introduced the theme of obeying Christ’s commandments as a test of our fellowship with God v 3. But what commandment does this specifically speak of?
First, John did not have in mind a new commandment. This is not something the readers have not heard of. This is not some new obligation out of the blue of which they are unaware.
Second, rather it is an old command, which had come from or they had since the beginning. The beginning here is that of Jesus ministry—since the beginning of that ministry. To emphasize the point he adds ‘this old commandment is the word you have heard’. That is which you heard Jesus teach and we continue to emphasize in our teaching to you.
PT: John is telling us that Jesus teaching established something that began then but is still in effect some 40 years later. He had begun a new emphasis then that has still not changed. It is binding in this age from the moment Jesus taught it—that we love our brother in Christ. So their real responsibility was to a commandment, which they had heard from the very start of Jesus ministry. Nothing had changed.
LESSON: It is important that we understand what God’s priorities are for us. If you desire intimate fellowship with your Father in heaven, then you will want to know and do what is pleasing in His sight. The pursuit of that knowledge and understanding is associated with all of the commandments of Christ we have in the New Testament. At the top of the list is our responsibility to love our brother today.
THIS COMMAND TO LOVE OUR BROTHER BELONGS TO THIS NEW AGE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS 8
First, ‘on the other hand’ it is a new commandment John is writing. It is new in the sense of Jesus giving this command a prominent place. The commandment to love our brother was elevated to a new status. Jesus did not merely repeat the Old Testament commands but He gave new ones that are for this age—the one in which we live—the age of the church. We are not obligated to keep commandments of a previous age unless they are repeated. The command to multiply and fill the earth was for Noah’s age after the flood (Gen 9:1) but not for Abraham, Moses, Christ, or us although we do apply it by realizing God places value in people and reproduction in marriage.
Second, ‘and its truth is seen in Him and you’. So this command to love came to its fullness first in Jesus Christ and then in his followers. Its truth is seen in him. Jesus Himself is the greatest example of this commandment. He will not ask us to do something that He has not already done himself. Think of his love for the 12 disciples; a. Patience with Peter’s impulsiveness’; b. Patience with Thomas’ unbelief; c. Patience with Judas’ treachery. What is true in Christ ought to be demonstrated in us. It is no longer simply one of many commandments. Christ raised it to a new level. Now it stands at the top of the list and it is still there in this age.
Third, ‘the darkness is passing away’. The world and its values will eventually be dismissed 2:17. In its place is the dawning of a new age inaugurated when Jesus was incarnated here on the earth. His teaching and ministry laid the groundwork for an entirely new kind of life. One begun here in the Spirit and culminating in God’s very presence forever. ‘And the true light is already shining’. Jesus incarnation is the point at which this light began to shine. John tells us so in the beginning of his book. The new Age has dawned and is defined above all by the revelation of God’s love in Christ. This light does not belong to the presently passing dark age. This age is on the way out!
LESSON: We are to live in this passing Dark Age as belonging to a new Age Jesus inaugurated in His incarnation—we are to love our brother and not hate him. It is the darkness of this present world and all its hatred, which is destined to disappear forever. (Shane and robbery by gunpoint).
HATING OUR BROTHER IS LIVING CONSISTENT WITH THE PASSING DARKNESS OF THIS WORLD 9-11
Five times he refers to ‘the darkness’. It is darkness associated with ‘hating your brother’. Even though this darkness—that associated with this present age—is passing away to be replaced by the age of righteousness inaugurated at Jesus incarnation, a believer may not genuinely escape from the darkness of this present passing age. He can still hate his brother. Twice John warns of this possibility. So what are the implications of this danger?
First, you cannot claim fellowship with God—being in the light—and hate your brother v 9. If you do this you are still living within the realm of the darkness of this age and not that of the new age Jesus has inaugurated. There is no fellowship with God within the world’s dark realm. To hate your brother is to choose against your brother. We choose to hate by active hostility or passive insensitivity. You can have an active hand in harming him in some way or you can intentionally look the other way when you could serve the best good for him. Either way, claiming fellowship with God is a sham.
Second, in contrast, the one who loves his brother remains in the light—in fellowship with God v 10. He lives in the light of the new Age, which has dawned in Christ. Within that realm is fellowship with God. The outcome is ‘there is no offense (scandal, snare, or trap) in him’. In context this means that hating my brother can lead to a disastrous spiritual outcome. But calamities which this hatred may lead to can be avoided by one who loves his brother.
Third, you face potentially grave dangers if you hate your brother v 11. This is a marked contrast to the previous verse. While one loving his brother escapes potentially harmful outcomes, the one hating his brother walks right into them. Out of fellowship with God, one is vulnerable to spiritual temptations, and snares designed to destroy his or her life. We learn what happens in the darkness: (1) The one who hates his brother is in the darkness. So you are living consistent with the hatred the world uses to advance its own interests. (2) And walks in the darkness. Walking in the darkness seems to be a codeword for being out of fellowship with God. (3) And does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes. Harboring hatred for a brother one loses a real sense of direction and is like a wanderer aimlessly pawing in the darkness facing potentially harmful dangers in his next step or when he makes his next decision.
LESSON: To love is to choose for. Love is to do the best good for someone. So John seems to say three things by way of application.
1. Loving my brother is essential to have fellowship with God. These are Gods terms.
2. Loving my brother is characteristic of the age to come. Christ kingdom is based on this.
3. Hating my brother indicates that I am not in fellowship with God. When I choose to hate my brother by slander, anger, impatience, unkindness, rudeness, gossip, lack of compassion, I use the tools of this dark world to get ahead. That is silly since this age is passing away as well as its ways. Keep in fellowship with God—love your brother.