The following sermon was prepared by Ps Lucas Stoltz. Click here: 1 John 3:11-18, to download or stream the audio sermon, or click here: 1 John 3:11-18. for the video version. Alternatively, you can read the notes below, or follow along as you watch or listen.
1 John 3:11-18, The Assurance of Christian Love:
- We’re back in 1 John, and to recap, I thought I’d remind you that we’ve already seen the assurance of Christ’s humanity & deity, and of salvation, and of knowing God. We’ve seen the assurance of God’s Light, and of Christian Growth. The assurance of Eternal Life, Anti-Christs, Hope, and Deliverance.
- Now this morning we move on to the assurance of Christian Love. This assurance is once again practical as our actions toward those around us, reveal what’s truly happening in our hearts. One commentator put it this way, “We can tell what a tree is by its fruits, and similarly we can tell what a person is by their conduct.”
- And so John once again shows us that anyone who does not do what is right, proves they are not of God. Therefore, we’ll look at the theology & practice of Christian love which assures us of our eternal life in Christ Jesus.
- As we do this, I want you to note what Jesus said in John 13:35; “By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Love is the evidence that says, “my life belongs to Christ alone.” So on that note,
1. Theology of Christian Love:
- Text – 1 John 3:11-15
- Explanation – Now for one, we know that John is referring to the first time they heard the Gospel message. And of course, the result of hearing is faith. Paul says that faith comes by hearing the Word of God. And so we respond in repentance, trusting that the Lord has saved us and began the continual work of salvation.
- Having been saved, 2 Peter tells us that God has already given us everything pertaining to life & godliness. Which means we have been given the capacity to love. We love, because He first loved us. Therefore, when we read the command to love, we can’t respond with, ‘Hey, I can’t love…’
- To love is commanded, & not only is it commanded, but we have the ability to love. More so, to love is what forms part of our characteristic as Christian. This is not just a duty, or a responsibility. This is an evidence of the presence of God who is love living in your life, and of His Spirit producing love in your life.
- Illustration – We can tell what a tree is by its fruits, and similarly we can tell what a man or woman is by that person’s conduct. John refers to the very first reference of what hating your brother does. According to Genesis 4:8, Cain murdered his brother Abel after Abel’s sacrifice of the first born of his flock was accepted by God, while his own sacrifice of the fruit of the ground was not.
- And according to Hebrews 11:4 Abel’s sacrifice was acceptable to God because it was done in faith. Cain’s sacrifice evidently was not. And Cain’s lack of faith led to hatred for his brother which rose and rose until it finally issued forth in murder, a brutal murder.
- The Greek word literally means to “cut his throat” and could be translated “slaughtered” or “butchered.” And for John that murder was evidence that Cain was of the evil one. Cain, sharing the nature of the devil, who, according to Jesus in John 8:44, “was a murderer from the beginning.”
- Application – So how does Cain represent the world? John’s point is that Cain reflected the spiritual and moral characteristics of Satan, and he killed his brother out of jealousy, envy, resentment. Cain’s hatred was a picture of the world’s hatred of believers – The devil inspired jealousy within his heart; his jealousy gave rise to hatred; and his hatred issued forth in murder.
- And John presents Cain to us as the model of the world. Therefore, John says, “Do not be surprised that the world hates you.” After all, the same devil who inspired Cain to hate and ultimately murder Abel has the world in his grip.
- Conclusion – So the theology of Christian love according to verse 14 tells us that if we want any assurance of our salvation, it is in the loving of our brothers and sisters in the Lord. See, Jesus came to rescue us from darkness and to give us the light of life (Jn 10:10). This is the passing from death to life.
- Jesus said “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” (Jn 5:24). Are you alive? Well, do you love your brothers for Christ’s sake? Do you say to yourself, ‘That is one of Christ’s people; that is one who bears Christ’s cross; that is one of the children of God; therefore I love him, and take delight in his company’?
- Bridge – Then, that is an evidence that you are not of the world. So those who persistently and consistently love other people in heartfelt ways that are practical and sacrificial, will have the assurance that they possess the eternal life of God.
- Brothers and sisters, loving one another is not a small thing; it is not optional. Loving one another is critically important, eternally important. It is a matter of life and death. If you are not loving, you have not been made alive. And you are hating. Hatred means to dislike strongly, it is an ongoing, settled heart attitude.
- Spurgeon put it like this, “Every man who hates another has the venom of murder in his veins. He may never actually take the deadly weapons into his hand and destroy life; but if he wishes that his brother were out of the way, if he would be glad if no such person existed, that feeling amounts to murder in the judgment of God.” Now, this brings us to the…
2. Practice of Christian Love:
- Text – 1 John 3:16-18
- Explanation – Listen, God’s love is tangible and not theoretical. Our understanding of love is often misunderstood. Sure, we think about love, talk about love, write about love, and even sing about love. But do we really and truly know what love is? If you want to see what this love is, look at Jesus Christ. John says that in His death for us on the cross, it is fully displayed.
- Illustration – Now, there’s a really catchy song, very often sung in Pentecostal circles. The song is called ‘reckless love.’ The chorus of the song reads, “Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God. Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine. I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away. Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah”
- At first, despite Bethal Church’s reputation of false doctrine, I hoped it was a play on words. However, the writer of the song said, “When I use the phrase, ‘the reckless love of God,’ I’m not saying that God Himself is reckless. I am, however, saying that the way He loves, is in many regards, quite so. His love bankrupted heaven for you. His love doesn’t consider Himself first. His love isn’t selfish or self-serving. He doesn’t wonder what He’ll gain or lose by putting Himself out there. He simply gives Himself away on the off-chance that one of us might look back at Him and offer ourselves in return.
- The recklessness of His love is seen most clearly in this – it gets Him hurt over and over. Make no mistake, our sin pains His heart. Yet He opens up and allows us in every time. His love saw you when you hated Him – when all logic said, ‘They’ll reject me,’ He said, ‘I don’t care if it kills me. I’m laying My heart on the line.’“
- Application – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a says, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
- This is God’s description of love, and because God is love (1 John 4:8), this is what He is like. Love is an attribute of God. Love is a core aspect of God’s character, His Person. God’s love is in no sense in conflict with His holiness, righteousness, justice, and even His wrath. All of God’s attributes are in perfect harmony.
- Everything God does is loving, just as everything He does is just and right. God is the perfect example of love. Amazingly, God has given those who receive His Son Jesus as their personal Savior the ability to love as He does, through the power of the Holy Spirit (1 John 3:1).
- Conclusion – And so John says the love we know is the selfless, supernatural love that God is and God gives us through His indwelling Spirit (Rom 5:5). In context Christ’s love is clearly demonstrated by the costliness of His sacrifice. It is purposeful, Revelation 13:8 tells us that the Lamb was slain before the foundation of the earth.
- His love was costly and so should our love be for the brethren. This Christ-like love is not love that is felt as much as it is a love that is demonstrated, the ultimate demonstration being by what He did. John says He laid down His life for us! Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” (Jn 10:11)
- He also said, “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” (John 10:17-18)
- And He also said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) So He is our example. Therefore, verses 17–18, John gets down where the rubber meets the road and provides some basic, real, and practical advice about love in the context of everyday living.
- Bridge – Jesus had a life to give and you have stuff to give. Jesus saw your need and gave His life. You, however, see your brother’s need and “close your eyes.” How then, “can God’s love reside in” you? The obvious and undeniable answer is, “It doesn’t.” It is not there.
- John knows that our hearts control our hands. A closed heart will always result in closed hands and is evidence that your heart has never been opened by the “key of the gospel” of God’s grace poured out in Jesus. James 2:15–17 says, “If a brother is without clothes and lacks daily food and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself.
- Love is so much more than making a good profession. Love is an action word that always expresses itself in good deeds done in the context of truth. Words can be empty and actions can be hypocritical.
- You may choose to do nothing, though your words promise much. On the other hand, you may do something for someone, but your motives are impure and your intentions evil.
- Living out the gospel means having open ears, open eyes, and open hands for the hurting. It means loving others as we have been loved by Jesus. So, let us not just talk about love; let us truly demonstrate love. After all, Jesus didn’t just say something. He did something! So if you want to be sure of your salvation, continue loving each other.