1 John 3:12 Commentary

 


1 John 3:12 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 brother's were righteous: ou kathos Kain ek tou ponerou en (3SIAI) kai esphaxen (3SAAI) ton adelphon autou kai charin tinos esphaxen (3SAAI) auton hoti ta erga autou ponera en ta de tou adelphou autou dikaia. (as: Ge 4:4-15,25 Heb 11:4 Jude 1:11)(of: 1Jn 3:8, 1Jn 2:13,14 Mt 13:19,38)(And slew - 1Sa 18:14,15 19:4,5 22:14-16 Ps 37:12 Pr 29:27 Mt 27:23 John 10:32 15:19-25 18:38-40 Acts 7:52 1Th 2:14 1Pe 4:4 Rev 17:6 ) (and - Mt 23:35 Lu 11:51 Heb 11:4, 12:24)


NET - not like Cain who was of the evil one and brutally murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his deeds were evil, but his brother's were righteous.

Wuest - not even as Cain was out of the Pernicious One, and killed his brother by severing his jugular vein. And on what account did he kill him? Because his works were pernicious and those of his brother, righteous.


CAIN'S NEGATIVE
EXAMPLE OF LOVE

John now explains what it means to love one another, first from a negative example the prototype of which was Cain (1Jn 3:12-15) and then from a positive perspective, the prototype of course being Christ (1Jn 3:16-18).

Note that 1Jn 3:11 ends with we should love one another and in 1Jn 3:12 John gives us the negative example of love - "We should love one another, not as Cain… "

Piper explains "According to Genesis 4:18, 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. 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." (Love: A Matter of Life and Death)

James Montgomery Boice - Love between Christian brothers suggests hatred between brothers as its contrast. So John turns to the example of Cain and Abel. (The Epistles of John Expositional Commentary)

Vine - the contrast between the children of God and the children of the devil, having been followed by the mention of that which characterizes those who really belong to the former, leads to a typical case and the first instance of hatred to one’s brother.

Not as Cain (only OT reference in John's 3 epistles) - As introduces a term of comparison (specifically a simile), which should prompt a question like "What is the similarity the author is seeking to show us?" He is giving us the first Biblical example of NOT loving one's brother, explaining that the reason Cain did not love Abel is because he was of the evil one and his deeds were evil. Believers are of the Holy One and our deeds should be good (godly, God honoring).

Henry Mahan - Let us not be like Cain, who took his nature and got his motivation from Satan and killed his brother. This was the first instance and example of hatred of the brethren. What was the cause of this hatred? What moved him to hate and kill his brother? Abel attributed everything to God — all mercy, righteousness, forgiveness, acceptance and all grace. Cain attributed everything to himself. The controversy was over salvation by grace alone or by works! Cain hated his brother on this account. While his brother looked to God alone for salvation, Cain sought acceptance on the basis of his righteousness and works. So carnal men today hate those who find righteousness in Christ alone. (1 John 3 Commentary)

The application to the believer's life is that those who do not love us, hate us the way Cain hated Abel, possibly even to the point of killing us. Many believers in America are totally unaware of the martyrdom (Satanically influenced murder of saints just as Cain's hatred prompted him to slay Abel) - if you are one of those who are unaware, take a moment to click on the Voice of Martyr's map that gives details of ongoing persecution of believers today -- you may be shocked even though John says in the next verse "Do not be surprisedif the world hates you." (The Voice of the Martyrs Prayer Map).

Related Resource - Cain - International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

Of the evil one ("evil one" - 1Jn 2:13-14, 3:12, 5:18-19) - Evil one in context is a reference to the devil in 1Jn 3:8-note. The Greek word is poneros which describes the devil as pernicious and actively opposing all that is good and godly. Cain was of the seed of the serpent and manifested enmity toward Abel, the seed of the woman (Ge 3:15). Cain in the present passage is an illustration of the one who practices sin in 1Jn 3:8-note. Of the evil one means "out of" (preposition = ek = out) not in the sense that the evil one gave birth to Cain (cp "seed" Ge 3:15), but in the sense of Cain being under the devil's authority and influence (cp Acts 26:18 where Satan's "dominion" = exousia = the right and the might). John's description of the evil one exerting his influence on Cain reminds us of Paul's teaching on spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6 where he describes the "fiery missiles of the evil one" (Eph 6:16-note), which are to extinguished by taking up the shield of faith, something that Cain clearly did not do.

The evil one - “the Evil One” (ho ponēros) is the specific phrase used to describe Satan in Mt 5:37,39; Mt 6:13; Mt 13:19; Lk 11:4; Jn 17:15.

Vine - Cain showed his spiritual connection with the Evil One by the slaughter of his brother. Sin, which passed into the human heart through man’s willful yielding to the suggestion of him who “sinneth from the beginning,” took this form in Cain’s case in spite of the divine warning (Gen. 4:7), and gave evidence of his moral relationship with the Evil One (see John 8:44).

Harris writes that "In both Jewish and early Christian writings Cain serves as a model for those who deliberately disbelieve." (Ref)

Hawley - If we hate someone, we wish he or she were dead, and the Lord sees the inner desire as equal to the outward act that would result from it (cf. Matt 5:21–22). Therefore, those who hate are murderers.

Slew… slay (4969)(sphazo) means to kill, as in Ge 4:8 "Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him." It is interesting that sphazo is the usual expression in Classical Greek and the Septuagint to describe killing for sacrifice!

As Strauss says "The first murderer learned to kill from Satan. An evil man who hates and kills is demon controlled. (Ed: I might not go quite that for as it implies demon possessed. They are certainly strongly influenced by the demonic beings.)

Vine on the interrogative And for what reason did he slay him?- "The form of a question is used in order to stress the evil character of the murderer, and to contrast the character of Abel. The “And” stresses the question itself (for other instances see Luke 10:29; John 9:36)."

Because - It is always worth a "rest stop" to pause and ponder the terms of explanation (for, because, etc), asking what is God explaining? Many times (as in this context) the answer is very simple (in fact in this case God even asks the question for you!) and might lead you to think this is a waste of time. But beloved, pausing to ponder God's Word will never be a waste of time.

Vine on Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous.- this expresses not so much the motive in Cain’s heart as the nature within him; it was exhibited in his works in contrast to those of Abel, which revealed that he was righteous. The murder itself with its immediate motive, was the outcome of that nature by which Cain “was of the Evil One.” The righteousness of Abel (Heb. 11:4) incited Cain’s jealousy.

His deeds were evil - Remember that Scripture is always the best commentary on Scripture (See Comparing Scripture with Scripture), so let's look at some parallel passages to see if that helps us understand why Cain did what he did. First, notice that it wasn't that God had not given Cain a warning when He asked him "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen (see context = Ge 4:4-5)? “If you do well, will not [your countenance] be lifted up? And if you do not do well, SIN is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master (Heb = mashal = have dominion, have authority over) it.". (Ge 4:6-7) Sin has desire and Satan ("a murderer from the beginning" - Jn 8:44) can shoot fiery missiles to "fan the flame" of the evil desire. John had just explained that the devil had sinned from the beginning (1Jn 3:8-note), so one reason Cain practiced evil is because Satan, the "sin stimulator," was prowling around like like a roaring lion and he pounced on Cain in a moment of anger, tempting him to extract revenge on his brother Abel. (1Pe 5:8-note) Cain was vulnerable because he did not master the evil desire. And what was the root cause of Cain's hatred that led to murder? Hebrews says that "By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks." (Heb 11:4-note) Cain's basic problem was a defective, deficient faith which led to a disastrous disobedience. Genuine faith is always linked closely with obedience (see the phrase "obedience of faith" in Ro 1:5-note, Ro 16:26-note) Beloved, faith that does not obey (as this case the commandment to love one another) is not a saving faith!

Cain's deeds clearly demonstrated his "spiritual family", specifically identifying him not as a child of God but as a child of the devil (1Jn 3:9-note).

John Piper explains why Cain killed Abel - Not because Abel was evil, but just the reverse. According to the end of 1Jn 3:12, Cain murdered Abel "because his own deeds were evil and his brother's righteous." What was the motive for Cain's murder? Jealousy, envy. Jealousy is a common motive for hatred and for murder. In the movie Amadeus it was jealousy that moved Salieri to hate and to ultimately try to kill Mozart, jealousy over his superior musical gifts. But Cain's jealousy was not of this type. It was jealousy not over another's superior gifts, but over another's superior righteousness. It was the same jealousy that caused the Jewish leaders to crucify Jesus, the same jealousy that moved Saul of Tarsus to persecute Christians. John expresses it this way in John 3:19–20: "And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed." The light of Abel's righteousness (by faith—Hebrews 11:4) and God's acceptance of him revealed the darkness and sinfulness of Cain's own heart. And that was very, very threatening to him. And unless the Spirit of God has made you a very humble person, your instinctive response in that kind of threatening situation will be like Cain's, to lash out against the one whose righteousness has revealed the bankruptcy of your own soul. That's what happened to Cain. 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. The "world," that is, humanity aligned in rebellion against God, is Cain's posterity and it will continue to respond to righteousness in the same way he did. Therefore, says John in 1Jn 3:13, "Do not wonder that the world hates you." We should not be surprised if the world hates us as Christians. After all, the same devil who inspired Cain to hate and ultimately murder Abel has the world in his grip. (Love: A Matter of Life and Death)

Stott explains Cain's hatred noting that "Jealousy lay behind his hatred, not the jealousy which covets another’s greater gifts but that which resents another’s greater righteousness, the ‘envy’ which made the Jewish priests demand the death of Jesus (Ed: see Mt 27:18, Mk 15:10, cp reaction to Jesus' disciples in Acts 5:17-18, 13:45). Jealousy-hatred-murder is a natural and terrible sequence." (The Letters of John by John R. W. Stott)

Marshall - The nature of brotherly love is illustrated negatively by the contrast with Cain who murdered his brother and positively by the example of Jesus Christ Who laid down his own life for us (1Jn 3:16). Each of these illustrations is followed by a corollary. Thus believers must not be surprised if they are hated by people like Cain, and they must avoid the feelings of hatred which are tantamount to murder. In the same way, the positive example of Christ's self-sacrifice leads to an appeal for a practical love which goes beyond feelings to costly sharing of one's possessions with the needy. In this way, the paragraph is both an appeal for love and an explanation of the nature of love by contrast with its opposite, hatred. (The Epistles of John (The New International Commentary on the New Testament- I. Howard Marshall)

We see a parallel passage in John 3:19-21 which describes the contrast of the world's love of darkness and hatred of the light -

And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world (cp Jn 1:4, 8:12), and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. BUT he who practices (habitually, as the general direction of one's life) the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.

 

Evil (4190)(poneros from poneo = work or toil - idea is that labor is an annoyance; cp noun poneria) means evil in active opposition to good. Poneros is not only evil in its nature but is vicious evil in its influence and thus is actively harmful (murder in the case of Cain!). A related word kakos is translated evil, but kakos speaks of bad in character, whereas poneros speaks of bad in effect!

As Cain was of the family of the devil, Abel was of the family of God as indicated by his righteous deeds. As John wrote earlier "If you know that He (Father and/or Son) is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices (present tense = as the general direction of their life) righteousness is born of Him." (1John 2:29-note)

Sam Storms - Cain is said to have been "of the evil one." This was interpreted by some Jews in the first century to mean that Cain was biologically of Satan, i.e., he was the offspring of a sexual encounter between the serpent and Eve (this was supposedly the essence of the serpent's temptation of Eve in the garden). This is known as the Serpent-Seed doctrine. But surely John's point is that Cain reflected the spiritual and moral characteristics of Satan, not that he was literally his offspring. Cain "slew" Abel, literally, he slaughtered or butchered him (cf. Rev. 5:9). Why did he slay him? Jealousy, envy, resentment. The righteousness of the Christian will always appear to the world as arrogant conceit (cf. John 15:18-20). (First John 3:10b-24)

His brother's were righteous - Why were they righteous? Again let us allow Scripture to comment upon Scripture - in 1Jn 3:7-note John taught that "the one who practices righteousness is righteous." Abel's righteous deeds were the supernatural outworking of his righteous character. And how did Abel become righteous several millennia before Jesus died on the Cross to pay the penalty for our sins and pave the way for men to be declared righteous (cp Ro 1:16-17-note)? Hebrews 11:4-note indicates that Abel was a man of faith and thus his righteousness was imputed (reckoned to his "spiritual account") by God on the basis of his faith, "even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe." (Ro 3:22-note) While we do not know how much Abel understood of the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we know that he based his faith on the amount of "Gospel light" that had been revealed to him. There is no other way for a sinner in Adam's line (which we all are - see Ro 5:12-note) to be reckoned righteous (cp Ro 4:3-note, Gal 3:6)! And so the way of salvation in the Old Testament was the same as it is in the New Testament--by grace through faith in the Gospel message (which was preached in the OT - read Gal 3:8, Ge 12:3, 22:18 and compare with Ge 3:15 the so-called protoevangelium).

Righteous (1342)(dikaios from dike = right, just) defines that which is in accordance with high standards of rectitude, God's standard of perfection being the highest! Practically speaking dikaios describes one (Abel) who is in right relation to God and to men.

James Morgan - From this passage [in Gen. 4:1-26], united with the remarks of the Apostle in the text, we may fully understand the mind of Cain. It was envy that first moved him to the unparalleled iniquity. His offering was rejected, while Abel's was accepted. He was mortified by the distinction, and would be avenged. It is very instructive to mark the progress of his mind under the influence of his envious feelings. The first notice is, 'he was wroth.' He met the unexpected disappointment with a burst of anger. It is then added, 'his countenance fell.' That fit of passion fell down into a sullen melancholy, musing by turns on the injustice of God, and fraud of his brother, as no doubt he considered them. But his gloomy apprehensions were not unchecked. God remonstrated with him, probably by the whispers of his own conscience, or it may have been audibly and visibly. He was called upon to give a reason for his malevolent feelings. A faithful remonstrance was addressed to him, 'If thou doest will shalt thou not be accepted?' At the same time he was faithfully warned, 'if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door,' which seems to mean, that it lay there ready to entrap and destroy him, as an enemy that waited for his halting. Even the special enormity that began to assume some shape in his mind, seems to have been set before him to deter him against indulging the dark forebodings that cast their deadly shade over his spirit. 'Unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.' But it was in vain. He allowed the wicked one to harass and harden his soul more and more. An opportunity offered to carry his design into execution. 'Cain talked with Abel his brother, and they were in the field.' We may well suppose he addressed him in terms of bitter accusation. His fierce recriminations were uttered in the silence of the solitary field.' That very silence whispered, now is the seasonable time to be avenged for all the dishonour God has done thee in the preference of this hated brother. No eye shall see it. No ear shall hear it, no tongue shall tell it. So 'he rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him." What an instructive history! It is the progress of envy till it ended in fratricide. It began with anger, preceded in morose dissatisfaction, overcame the remonstrances of conscience, withstood the most solemn warnings, was goaded on to hatred and revenge, and seizing the favorable opportunity, terminated in murder." (The Epistles of John. Minneapolis, MN: Klock & Klock Publishers, Inc., 1865).

1 John 3:11 Commentary <> 1 John 3:13 Commentary

GREEK WORD STUDIES

Slay (4969)(sphazo) (sometimes spelled sphatto) means to kill, slay, slaughter, to butcher. "From Herodotus sphazo is also used for the profane slaying of a man. It is a vivid and grisly expression for murder. Various nuances may be caught: gruesomeness, undeserved fate, criminality, murder of kin, massacre after taking a city… slaughtering men is often mentioned in lists of vices." (TDNT) Liddell-Scott = "to slay, slaughter, properly by cutting the throat." A T Robertson - "to slay, to butcher, to cut the throat (Latin = jugulare) like an ox in the shambles." Of slaying the sacrificial animals (Lxx of Lev 1:5, 11, etc which are a shadow the Cross and in Lev 16:11, 15 describes the slaying of the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement, again a shadow of Christ's work on the Cross.). Sphazo often a violent death is in view and described the especially heinous crime of killing one's family member. Sphazo was also used to describe the way a wolf falls on its prey and kills it! Strauss says sphazo is a specialized word which means to butcher or slaughter by cutting the throat. Louw-Nida note that it means “to slaughter, either animals or persons; in contexts referring to persons, the implication is of violence and mercilessness - ‘to slaughter, to kill.’” As a reflection of this nuance, the translation “brutally murdered” has been used in the NET translation. In the Septuagint the first use describes Abraham and Isaac on Mt Moriah - "And Abraham stretched out his hand, and took the knife to slay his son." (Ge 22:10) Sphazo is used in the Septuagint of Ezek 23:39 - "they had slaughtered their children for their idols, they entered My sanctuary on the same day to profane it." Sphazo described the slaying of the prophets of Baal in 1Ki 18:40. Sphazo is used in the Septuagint of Ex 12:6 to describe the slaying of the Passover lamb which is very fitting in light of the fact that Rev 5:6, 9, 12, 13:8 all use sphazo to describe the slain Lamb of God! Jesus died like a lamb dies -- He was slaughtered! Indeed, His was a violent death.

The related noun sphage (from sphazo) is used in Acts 8:32 of Jesus "HE WAS LED AS A SHEEP TO SLAUGHTER; AND AS A LAMB BEFORE ITS SHEARER IS SILENT" and of believers in Ro 8:36 "We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered."

TDNT on the secular use of sphazo - Meat Offerings to the Olympian Gods. The word sphazo means “to slay,” “to slaughter,” “to kill,” “to murder.” Strictly it refers to the slaying of animals, especially in sacrifice. Ritual slaying takes place after prayer. Experts do it only when the animals are large or those making the offering are of high rank. Inclination of the head supposedly denotes consent. The ox is struck from behind, the neck is then bent back, the throat is slit, and the blood pours out. Boars may first be stupefied. In the case of smaller animals slaying is by cutting the throat with the neck bent back… Animals. Most slaughtering has ritual connections in antiquity. Domestic slaughtering includes simple ceremonies and the dedicating of parts to the gods. Yet a purely secular use of sphazo does occur. Indeed, the term is used for the wolf's slaying of its prey.

Sphazo - 10x in 9v - NAS Usage: slain(7), slay(2), slew(1).

1 John 3:12 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 brother's were righteous.

Revelation 5:6 And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain (perfect tense = past completed action = the Cross; with permanent effects or results), having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth.

9 And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain (aorist = past completed action = the Cross), and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.

12 saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain (perfect tense) to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing."

Revelation 6:4 And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men would slay one another; and a great sword was given to him.

9 When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained;

Revelation 13:3 I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain (perfect tense), and his fatal wound was healed. And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast;

8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain (perfect tense).

Revelation 18:24 "And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain (perfect tense) on the earth."

Sphazo - 72v in the Septuagint - Ge 22:10; 37:31; 43:16; Ex 12:6; 22:1; 29:11, 16, 20; 34:25; Lev 1:5, 11; 3:2, 8, 13; 4:4, 15, 24, 29, 33; 6:25; 7:2; 8:15, 19, 23; 9:8, 12, 15, 18; 14:5f, 13, 19, 25, 50f; Lev 16:11, 15; 17:3-5; 22:28; Nu11:22; 19:3; Dt 28:31; 1Sa 1:24; 14:32, 34; 15:33; 1Ki 18:40; 2Ki 10:7, 14; 25:7; Ezra 6:20; Ps 37:14; Prov 9:2; Isa 14:21; 22:13; 57:5; Jer 19:7; 41:7; 52:10; Ezek 16:21; 21:10; 23:39; 34:3; 40:39, 41f; 44:11

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