1 John 3:15 Commentary

 


1 John 3:15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him: pas o mison (PAP) ton adelphon autou anthropoktonos estin (3SPAI) kai oidate (2PRAI) hoti pas anthropoktonos ouk echei (3PAI) zoen aionion en auto menousan (PAP) . (Hates: Ge 27:41 Lev 19:16-18 2Sa 13:22-28 Pr 26:24-26 Mt 5:21,22,28 Mk 6:19 Ac 23:12,14 Jas 1:15 4:1,2)(has: John 4:14 Ga 5:21 1Pe 1:23 Rev 21:8)


  • NET - Everyone who hates his fellow Christian is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.
  • Wuest - Everyone who habitually is hating his brother [Christian] is a manslayer. And you know absolutely that no manslayer has life eternal abiding in him.

NOT LOVING IS HATING
AND HATING IS MURDER

John has just given us Cain's murder of Abel as a picture of what the world wants to do to genuine believers today (1Jn 3:13-note). Why? Because the fallen, devil-inspired world hates righteousness for it exposes their unrighteousness (John 3:18-19). In 1Jn 3:14-note he explains that our love of the brethren is evidence that we have been born again. Now John continues the thought of He who does not love abides in death.

Smalley adds "John picks up the content of the preceding phrase in 1Jn 3:14 (“anyone who does not love remains in death”), and intensifies it in similarly negative terms: “whoever hates his brother is a murderer.” The test of having crossed over from spiritual death to spiritual life is love for other people. Disobedience of the love command signifies exclusion from the blessings of eternal life, and therefore from God’s family; but it also means that the person who “hates his brother” is liable to the same judgment as any murderer. The theological ideas in 1Jn 3:14 and 1Jn 3:15 are not simply placed in parallel. As Malatesta (Interiority, 260–61) points out, there is a progression of thought from 1Jn 3:14 to the present v, where the “interior” of the one who hates is penetrated. Such a person has not been changed inwardly (1Jn 3:14); and, as a result, God’s life is not present in his heart (1Jn 3:15). Where life and love are absent the salvation of God in Christ cannot be enjoyed. (1, 2, 3 John Word Biblical Commentary - Stephen S. Smalley)

John Piper - John's argument for his last assertion in 1 Jn 3:14-note ("He who does not love abides in death") comes in 1Jn 3:15. "Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer." Now note the shift in terminology that takes place. In 1Jn 3:14-note John speaks about "not loving" and in 1Jn 3:15 he speaks about hating. It is very important for us to see how John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, equates the two. John is very black and white. He allows for no middle ground: you either love someone or you hate them. As much as you or I might like to try, we cannot sit on the fence and say, "I don't love that person, but I don't hate him either." John won't let us say that. Not loving is hating. And hate is tantamount to murder. "Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer". Now note the shift in terminology that takes place. In 1Jn 3:14-note John speaks about "not loving" and in 1Jn 3:15 he speaks about hating. It is very important for us to see how John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, equates the two. John is very black and white. He allows for no middle ground: you either love someone or you hate them. As much as you or I might like to try, we cannot sit on the fence and say, "I don't love that person, but I don't hate him either." John won't let us say that. Not loving is hating. And hate is tantamount to murder. "Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer". In equating the hater and the murderer John is faithfully reflecting the teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:21ff-note). This is no exaggeration. It shows Jesus' supreme concern for what goes on in the human heart. Hatred is the wish that another person was not there; it is the refusal to recognize his rights as a person; it is the longing to hurt or ultimately even to kill him. If I hate somebody, I am no different from a murderer in my attitude toward him. And with God it makes very little difference whether I actually have a chance to carry out the desires of my heart or not. People who hate are murderers according to Jesus and according to John and "you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him." John is not denying the possibility of repentance and forgiveness for the sin of murder. The thief on the cross is an example that that can and does happen. What John is stating is the general principle that to take life is to forfeit life and no murderer has eternal life as a present and abiding possession… Let us sum up, then, this section on the evidence of love. Lifestyles of love and hate (and I say lifestyles because all these verbs are in the present tense, and… present tense verbs in Greek denote ongoing, continual activity) are very revealing. Specifically they reveal whether one abides in death or whether he has indeed passed out of death into life (1 Jn 3:14-note). People who persistently and consistently love other people in heartfelt ways that are practical and sacrificial—all those people and only those people—can have assurance that they indeed possess the eternal life of God Himself. Brothers and sisters, loving one another is not a trivial thing; it is not optional. Loving one another is critically important, eternally important. It is a matter of life and death. (Love: A Matter of Life and Death)

Paul Apple outlines 1 Jn 3:14-15 - LOVE FOR THE BRETHREN PRODUCES SECURITY

I. (1Jn 3:14-15) LOVE FOR THE BRETHREN PROVES OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD

A. (1Jn 3:14a) Loving Indicates Life

"We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren."

John Piper: "Positively: loving another person in deed and in truth is concrete, visible evidence that we are of the truth. This evidence reassures our heart before God that we do in fact know him. Negatively: when we consistently fail to love our brother or sister, any assurance that we had that we were right with God, is called into question."

B. (1Jn 3:14b-15) Hating Indicates Death

1. Statement of Fact - "He who does not love abides in death."

2. Illustration to Prove the Point

"Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him."

Henry Mahan - John now shows what true love is. For an understanding of perfect love, he sets before us the example of Christ. He laid down his life for those whom he loved. This is the mark to which he bids us advance. Our love is approved when we transfer the love of ourselves to our brethren, forgetting ourselves and seeking the good and welfare of others. It is certain that we are far from being equal to Christ, but John recommends that we imitate him (Philippians 2:3-5; Romans 15:1-3; Romans 12:10). (1 John 3 Commentary)

Everyone (whoever) (cp 1Jn 3:3, 4, 6, 9, 10) - Pas is the Greek meaning all without exception. There is no middle ground for those who express continual hatred. Utley says it this way "The significance of this is that there are no exceptions to what John is saying. There are only two kinds of people, lovers and haters. John sees life in black or white terms, no pastels."

Here are all of John's uses (in his epistles) of the Greek word "pas" (all, every, everyone) - 1Jn 1:7, 9; 2:16, 19-21, 23, 27, 29; 3:3-4, 6, 9-10, 15, 20; 4:1-3, 7; 5:1, 4, 17-18; 2Jn 1:1, 9; 3Jn 1:2, 12;

Surprisingly some interpret this everyone as a Christian (Ray Stedman, Grant Richison, Thomas Constable, etc).

Adam Clarke - He has the same principle in him which was in Cain, and it may lead to the same consequences. Eternal life springs from an indwelling God; and God cannot dwell in the heart where hatred and malice dwell.

As stated above not loving (1Jn 3:14) is identified as hating! We see the same description (hates his brother) in Chapter 2…

The one who says he is in the light and [yet] hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the light and there is no cause for stumbling in him (Ed: description of a believer). But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes (Ed: description of an unbeliever). (1Jn 2:9-11-see commentary)

Hates (3404)(miseo) means to dislike strongly and in the present tense pictures this intense hatred as a way of life, an ongoing, settled heart attitude not a passing, transient flare of one's emotions! Miseo 5x in 1John - 1Jn 2:9,11, 3:13,15, 4:20.

Kruse - In both 1Jn 3:14 and 1Jn 3:15, when describing those who do not love and those who hate, the author uses present tense forms of the verbs, indicating that it is ongoing failure to love or ongoing hatred which he believes to be the mark of those who remain in death and therefore do not have eternal life in them. (The Letters of John The Pillar New Testament Commentary- Colin G. Kruse)

It is the thoughts of the heart that God searches and He accounts them as equivalent to the deeds they desire to carry out, in this case the deed of murder.

Burdick - Hatred is the desire to get rid of someone, whether or not one has the nerve or the occasion to perform the act.

John's words are similar to those of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount -

“You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever shall say to his brother, ‘Raca,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever shall say, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty [enough to go] into the fiery hell." (Mt 5:21-22)

Jesus' declaration of angry men going into the fiery hell are the "amplification" of the the truth that haters do not have eternal life abiding in them.

John Stott - clearly anyone who hates his brother does not possess eternal life either, because to hate is to be a murderer. (The Letters of John by John R. W. Stott)

Barker - In the heart there is no difference; to hate is to despise, to cut off from relationship, and murder is simply the fulfillment of that attitude.

Spurgeon - 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.

Matthew Henry - The hatred of our brethren is, on the contrary, a sign of our deadly state, of our continuance under the legal sentence of death: He that loves not his brother (his brother in Christ) abides in death, 1 John 3:14. He yet stands under the curse and condemnation of the law.

Brother (80)(adelphos from a = denotes unity + delphus = a womb) literally means brother referring to a physical brother or figuratively can refer to a brother in the spiritual sense.

John Piper - Hatred is the wish that another person was not there; it is the refusal to recognize his rights as a person; it is the longing to hurt or ultimately even to kill him. If I hate somebody, I am no different from a murderer in my attitude toward him. And with God it makes very little difference whether I actually have a chance to carry out the desires of my heart or not. People who hate are murderers according to Jesus and according to John and "you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him." John is not denying the possibility of repentance and forgiveness for the sin of murder. The thief on the cross is an example that that can and does happen. What John is stating is the general principle that to take life is to forfeit life and no murderer has eternal life as a present and abiding possession. (Love: A Matter of Life and Death)

H A Ironside has an excellent comment on this passage - . I heard a professed Christian woman speaking of another, and between her clenched teeth, she said, “I wish she were dead.” That is murder! That is what sends men to the electric chair. “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” “But,” you say, “you heard a Christian woman say that?” Yes, but that was just for a moment, when she allowed the old nature to assert itself. She soon judged it and put it away. If Christians get out of touch with God, there may be a demonstration of the old flesh, or carnal mind. But they are indwelt by the Holy Ghost, and He will soon make them intensely miserable, and they will judge their sin and put it to death. No one who willfully goes on in these sins has any business calling himself a child of God. No one who is characterized by hatred has eternal life abiding in him. No murderer possesses eternal life, and hatred is the root of murder. This does not mean that an actual murderer cannot be saved. It does mean that if he is saved, he will no longer live in hatred. (1 John 3 Commentary)

Murderer (443)(anthropoktonos form anthropos = man + kteíno = to kill) literally means a man killer or manslayer and is used only one other time in Jn 8:44 to describe Satan as "a murderer from the beginning." Lenski adds "anthropoktonos is the very word that Jesus used with reference to the devil in John 8:44; it applies to all the devil’s children (1Jn 3:10b); included among these are the anti-Christians who have gone out from us (1Jn 2:19). John has called the latter liars (1Jn 1:6, 10; 2:22) and combines liar and man-murderer as Jesus does in John 8:44. Let the deniers of the deity and of the expiation of Jesus (1Jn 1:7; 2:2) read this double verdict on them!"

And you know (1492)(eido) means you know intuitively that this is true, knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Smalley on you all know - John appeals to the common knowledge (literally, “and you know”) which is shared by the members of his community, both as Christian believers (cf. 3:5) and as natural human beings. It requires “neither demonstration nor even reflection” to tell that eternal life cannot dwell permanently in one whose policy is to take life (cf. Law, Tests, 242, who refers to Rev 21:8). (1, 2, 3 John Word Biblical Commentary - Stephen S. Smalley)

Hiebert adds that "Satan revealed his murderous spirit in the beginning of human history by leading Eve and Adam into sin, into destructive rebellion against the Word of God. Hatred and murder belong to the realm dominated by Satan. He who has such a spirit cannot belong to the realm of light and love of which God is the center and motivating power." (1 John 3:13-24 Online)(The Epistles of John- An Expositional Commentary)

Akin - The driving force that motivates the hater to commit murder stems from Satan himself and is thus a distinguishing mark of his children… It is evident that the one who hates has the same inner nature as his diabolical father. (1, 2, 3 John- An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture)

MacArthur - 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. All sinners can be saved, that's not what we're talking about here. We're not talking about who can be saved, we're talking about who is saved. And people with murderous hearts have never been transformed. They're just like Cain, they are children of the evil one. (True Christians Love One Another)

Salvato - John says here in 1Jn 3:14-15 Hatred un dealt with in the life of a person is evidence that they either do not know God or are not in fellowship w/ God. (Ref)

Eternal (166)(aionios from aion) means existing at all times, perpetual, pertaining to an unlimited duration of time. Akin adds that "The adjective eternal is both qualitative and quantitative. It is a quality of life that stems from the very nature of God Himself; thus it is a present reality for the believer, not just a future hope. It is also eternal in that it is neither gained nor lost by physical death. It is eternal in its duration."

Life (2222)(zoe) state of one who is possessed of vitality.

Smalley on eternal life refers to " quality of spiritual life, made available to the believer now through Christ, cf. 1Jn 1:2; 2:25; 5:11, 13, 20. Here it is the equivalent of the “life” (ten zoen) into which the believer crosses over (1Jn 3:14). Ultimately eternal life is synonymous with Jesus Himself, as John declares at 1Jn 5:20. Thus hatred means the refusal to accept Christ as the decisive revelation of God’s love to us (1Jn 4:9), and as the means of our love toward the brotherhood (1Jn 4:19–21). (1, 2, 3 John Word Biblical Commentary - Stephen S. Smalley)

Eternal life in John's epistle - As a descriptive Name of Jesus (1Jn 1:2), a promise to believers (1Jn 2:25), a warning to haters (1Jn 3:15), a gift from God as a witness (1Jn 5:11), a promise we can know we possess (1Jn 5:13), and realization in Jesus Himself (1Jn 5:2)

1John 1:2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and bear witness and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us–

1John 2:25 And this is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life.

1John 3:15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

1John 5:11 And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.

1John 5:13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life.

1John 5:20 And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding, in order that we might know Him who is true, and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. (NIV = He is the true God and eternal life.)

Eternal life - 41x in 41v - Mt 19:16, 29; 25:46; Mark 10:17, 30; Luke 10:25; 18:18, 30; John 3:15-16, 36; 4:14; 5:24, 39; 6:27, 40, 47, 54, 68; 10:28; 12:50; 17:2-3; Acts 13:46, 48; Ro 2:7; 5:21; 6:22f; Gal 6:8; 1Ti 1:16; 6:12; Titus 1:2; 3:7; 1 John 1:2; 2:25; 3:15; 5:11, 13, 20; Jude 1:21

Paul gave a similar warning

"Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions,envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal 5:19-21)

Note his "qualifier" is "those who practice such things" because all of us have been guilty of most if not all of these sins, but the distinction is that they are not our lifestyle, our habitual practice. Those who continually abide in this lifestyle will continually abide in eternal death, eternally separated from the Lord!

Akin - The one who is governed by a spirit of hate does not possess eternal life. This does not mean that the murderer cannot be transferred from the sphere of death to the realm of eternal life. Indeed, forgiveness is available to all who repent, including those who murder. This statement is one of present reality. No murderer possesses the eternal life that comes from “abiding in him.” (1, 2, 3 John- An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture)

John Kistemaker - The consequence of being a murderer is that the person forfeits eternal life… That is, a murderer has no part in the kingdom of God. Unless he repents and turns in faith to Christ, he is eternally lost. (Epistles of John- Simon J. Kistemaker)

Abiding (3306)(meno) remaining in him ever for meno is in the present tense which signifies continuance.

NET Note (and W Hall Harris) on abiding - The verb menō in 1 Jn 3:15 refers to a spiritual reality (eternal life) which in this case does not reside in the person in question. To speak in terms of eternal life not “residing” in such an individual is not to imply that at some time in the past this person did possess eternal life and subsequently lost it, however. The previous verse (1Jn 3:14) makes it clear that the individual under discussion here has “remained” in death (the realm of spiritual death) and so has never possessed eternal life to begin with, no matter what he may have claimed. Taken together with the use of meno in 1Jn 3:14, the use here implies that the opponents have “remained” in death all along, and have not ever been genuine believers.

Jesus used meno in His pronouncement - "And you do not have His word abiding in you, for (term of explanation = explaining the implications of not having His word abiding) you do not believe Him whom He sent." (John 5:38)

MacArthur on no murderer has eternal life abiding in him - That does not mean that a believer could never commit an act of murder, or that someone who has committed murder can never be saved. But it does mean that those who are characterized by hateful attitudes and who regularly harbor murderous thoughts evidence an unregenerate heart and will perish eternally (cf. Rev. 21:7–8; 22:14–15) unless they repent. (Editorial comment: By extension I would add that John's warning does not mean that a believer could never hate another believer, but that certainly would grieve the Spirit and temporarily interrupt one's communion with God. Jesus taught this same principle in Mt 6:14-15-note "if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions." Our sins are forgiven at the Cross, but our daily communion with God is distorted by unconfessed sin, including the sin of hatred. We need to confess and repent and seek forgiveness if we have hated a brother. But the warning in John is even more serious, because if we are living a lifestyle of hatred and are claiming to be a believer in Him Who is love personified [1Jn 4:8, 16], we have to seriously examine ourselves as to whether we have the Spirit [Who enables love - Ro 5:5-note, Gal 5:22-note] dwelling in our hearts. We may be deceiving ourselves, thinking that our continual practice of hatred is not a serious matter and thinking that we are genuinely saved when we are not! Now, don't misunderstand what I am saying, for I am not saying you can lose your salvation. Neither am I saying that your not hating merits your salvation. And I am not saying that we as genuine believers will never hate [or murder for that matter - witness David's murder of Uriah], but what I am saying is that if we are continuing for some time in this state of enmity, we are miserable and eventually [like David - cp Ps 32:1-7 and Ps 51:1-17] we will be convicted by the Spirit and will confess and repent. The absence of the latter heart attitude is what should be a cause of serious concern. I am not your judge. God is our Judge and before Him alone we will all stand. I pray we who still are too quick to sin, will be just as quick to confess and repent [1Jn 1:9-note]. Amen) (1-3 John- MacArthur New Testament Commentary)

Utley on no murdered has eternal life abiding in him - This is not saying someone who commits murder cannot be a Christian. Sin is forgivable, but lifestyle actions reveal the heart. It is saying that one who habitually hates cannot be a Christian. Love and hate are mutually exclusive! Hate takes a life, but love gives its life. (Commentary)

Vine - The destroyer of physical life is set in contrast with the possessor of spiritual life. The statement is parallel to that at the end of v. 14; the murderer is “he that loveth not,” and, not having eternal life, he “abideth in death.” While there is forgiveness in this life for the murderer, yet, for the destiny of him who remains in his guilt, see Revelation 21:8.

John Phillips - hatred—which is the root of the sin of murder—likewise proves that the person who entertains this murderous spirit is devoid of eternal life. Both the fruit and the root reveal the unregenerate nature of such a person.

Wuest - All of which means that the one who habitually hates his fellow-man to the exclusion, of course, of any good attitude towards him, is a potential murderer. Should occasion arise, his hate would issue in action like that of Cain. A person like that, John says, does not have eternal life abiding in him. In short, he is unsaved.

David Smith - Eternal life, which abides in God’s children, which is the living growth of the seed of God in them, is evidenced by love: if the very crown and issue of hate, homicide, be present, it is utterly impossible that this germ of life can be coexistent with it; can be firmly implanted and abiding (cf. John 5:38) in the man. (Expositor's Greek Testament)

Marshall - Hatred is the wish that the other person was not there; it is the refusal to recognize his rights as a person, the longing that he might be dead. We may not like to put the point quite so frankly, but it is good that the real character of hatred should be so unambiguously displayed, so as to warn us against it. If I hate somebody, I am no different from a murderer in my attitude toward him. Such a person shares the nature of the devil, the archetypal murderer, and therefore it should come as no surprise that such a person cannot possibly possess eternal life. Hatred is incompatible with spiritual life. Put otherwise, the person who hates another wants to deprive him of life; such a person clearly does not belong to the realm of life. (The Epistles of John (The New International Commentary on the New Testament- I. Howard Marshall)

Steven Cole - A person whose life is marked by selfish hatred of others shows no evidence of new life in Christ. That is the meaning of John’s words in verses 14 & 15. He is not saying that no murderer may be saved. Paul was a murderer before he was saved, and both David and Moses murdered men after they were saved. As in 1Jn 3:9, here John uses present tense verbs that point to the overall direction of a person’s life. A person whose life is marked by a pattern of selfishness, envy, jealousy, strife, and hatred gives evidence that he remains in spiritual death. While John’s words are an evidential test of a person’s spiritual condition, they are also an exhortation to those that profess to believe in Christ. As believers, we have to battle the hatred that stems from our own selfishness. While on the one hand, spiritual growth results inevitably from spiritual life, on the other hand it does not happen without our constant effort. Whenever the deeds of the flesh rear their ugly heads, we must put them to death and replace them with the fruit of the Spirit (Ro. 8:13; Gal. 5:19-23). (1 John 3:11-18 Hatred or Love?)

William MacDonald - When John says that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him, he does not mean that a murderer cannot be saved. He simply means that a man who characteristically hates his fellows is a potential murderer and is not saved. (Believer's Bible Commentary)

John Gill on no murderer has eternal life abiding in him - he has not the grace of life, or the beginning of eternal life in him; he has no meetness for it, being unregenerate; and no right unto it, being unrighteous; nor has he the earnest and pledge of it, being destitute of the Spirit of God; all which a regenerate man has, and has them abiding in him: not but that the sin of murder may be forgiven; a man guilty of it may truly repent, and have pardoning grace applied unto him, and enjoy eternal life, through the grace of the Spirit, and the blood and righteousness of Christ; but without these he is so far from having eternal life, that he is not only punishable with a corporeal death, according to the laws of God and man; but he is exposed unto, and will die the second, or an eternal death.

David Guzik - There are many people for whom being a Christian is a “none of the above” sort of thing. They consider themselves Christians because they are not Moslems, or Jewish, or Buddhists, or atheists. But being a Christian is never a “none of the above” kind of thing. Being a Christian is more than saying, “I am a Christian.” There are in fact some who claim to be Christians who are not. How can we know if we are one of these? John’s reply has been constant and simple. There are three tests to measure the proof of a genuine Christian: the truth test, the love test, and the moral test. If we believe in what the Bible teaches as true, if we show the love of Jesus to others, and if our conduct has been changed and is becoming more like Jesus, then our claim to be a Christian can be proven true. (1 John 3 Commentary)

Pulpit Commentary - As in 1 John 4:20, St. John passes at once from not loving to hating, treating the two as equivalent. He takes no account of the neutral ground of indifference. He that is not for his brother is against him. Indifference is hate quiescent, there being nothing to excite it. Love is the only security against hate. And as every one who does not love is potentially a hater, so every hater is potentially a murderer. A murderer is a hater who expresses his hatred in the most emphatic way. A hater who does not murder abstains for various reasons from this extreme way of expressing his hate. But the temper of the two men is the same; and it is obvious ( οἴδατε "ye know what needs no evidence") that every murderer is incapable of possessing eternal life. It is the murderous temper, not the act of homicide, that excludes from eternal life. St. John, of course, does not mean that murder is an unpardonable sin; but he shows that hate and death go together, as love and life, and that the two pairs are mutually exclusive. How can life and the desire to extinguish life be compatible? (1 John 3 Commentary)

S Lewis Johnson (former professor at Dallas Theological Seminary) says "Christian love is designed to characterize the church. Hatred characterizes the world. The prototype is Cain. It originates in the devil. It issues in murder. The evidence is spiritual death." (Divine Love and Its Inevitable Truth)

Andreas Kostenberger - John asserts that the Christian community is the company of those who love one another, echoing the pervasive theme of the gospel’s Farewell Discourse (John 13–17). This love is congruent with eternal life (1 John 3:14; cf. 1Jn 2:25), just as lack of love indicates that a person remains in a state of spiritual death. In fact, hatred is equivalent to spiritual murder, and no murderer will be granted access to God’s presence in heaven (1Jn 3:15). ()

Lenski - So much for the hating that is murder in God’s judgment. It is the evidential mark of the world, of all those who remain in death, who have not eternal life as an abiding possession, and who, like Cain, hate us who have stepped over out of their death into life and want to rob us of this life and often, therefore, persecute or even kill us physically.

The Easy English Bible commentary summarizes this passage in easy to understand language…

The *Lord Jesus taught that anger with no cause is the same as murder (Matthew 5:21-22). So here, John says that hate is the same in its effects as murder. Hate is often the first step to murder. Those who hate could go on to kill. That is what Cain did. Even if they do not kill, the attitude of mind is the same. Someone who murders does not have life with God. Those who hate have the same attitude in their mind. They do not have *eternal life. (Ref)

Charles Haddon Spurgeon - What a warning this is against the evil spirit of hate, revenge, and all that kind of feeling! These things are not compatible with the possession of the life of God. Where hatred lives, there is no life of God in the soul. That evil must be shot to the very heart, by the arrows of almighty grace, or else we are not free from the dominion of the devil. 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. It is not the lifting of the dagger, nor the mixing of the poison, that is the essence of the grime of murder, it is the hate that prompts the commission of the deadly deed; so, if we never commit the crime, yet, if the hate be in our heart, we are guilty of murder in the sight of God, and eternal life cannot be abiding in us. (God's Love to the Saints)

In fairness, it should be noted that there is another interpretation (one with which I strongly disagree and which is considerably in the minority among conservative expositors from my review of many commentaries on First John) and it is similar to that voiced by Thomas Constable commenting on no murderer has eternal life abiding in him - "John evidently meant that no Christian whose eternal life (i.e., Jesus Christ; 1 John 1:2) has control of him, who is walking in fellowship with God, will commit murder. Some believers have committed murder, but they were not abiding believers when they did so (cf. John 15:4)." This genre of interpretation seems to have its origin in the influential writings of Zane Hodges (whose unusual soteriological views have been mentioned above and who trained Constable at Dallas Theological Seminary) who writes these comments in the highly respected Bible Knowledge Commentary - "John does not say that someone who hates his brother does not possess eternal life, but rather that he does not have it abiding in him. But since for John, Christ Himself is eternal life (John 14:6; 1 John 1:2; 5:20), John’s statement is saying that no murderer has Christ abiding in him. Thus once more the experience of “abiding” is what John had in view." Keith Krell (who quotes Zane Hodges to buttress his own interpretations) offers this analysis "In the context leading up to 3:15, we have seen that believers may or may not be abiding in Christ (e.g. 1John 2:6, 28). (Ed: I disagree with his conclusion especially on 1Jn 2:6 but present it only as an example of how John's words can be taken by some to mean something so diametrically different than the interpretation of the majority of conservative commentators. Krell continues… ). The issue is not whether the believer is saved; the issue is whether the believer is abiding in the light of God’s presence and fellowship." Be a Berean (Acts 17:11). Do your own inductive Bible study and see if you think this is really what John is saying. Can you see how the two different interpretations might affect a reader, especially a reader who professes Christ but is living like the world? Read about some of Hodges' views that address this important question in the paper entitled The Unusual Teachings of Zane Hodges.


Hatred’s Bitter Fruit - One of the worst cases of hatred I have ever come across is found in a will written in 1935 by a Mr. Donohoe. It says, “Unto my two daughters, Frances Marie and Denise Victoria, by reason of their unfilial attitude toward a doting father,… I leave the sum of $1.00 to each and a father’s curse. May their lives be fraught with misery, unhappiness, and poignant sorrow. May their deaths be soon and of a lingering malignant and torturous nature.” The last line of the will is so vicious I shudder to quote it. It reads, “May their souls rest in hell and suffer the torments of the condemned for eternity.” (Read the original article - Spokane Daily Chronicle)

Such utter contempt didn’t develop in a day. It had to grow over a long period of time. We should never allow our minds to become fertile soil for the seeds of hatred. We would do ourselves a world of good by heeding the words of Paul, “Do not let the sun go down on your wrath” (Eph. 4:26). And James gave wise counsel when he told us to “be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20).

Let’s not forget that “whoever hates his brother is a murderer” (1 John 3:15). How important it is, therefore, never to nurture hatred’s bitter fruit! By Richard De Haan

When angry feelings go unchecked,
They’ll mushroom into hate;
So don’t let time feed bitterness—
Forgiveness must not wait. —Sper

Hate, like acid, damages the vessel in which it is stored and the object on which it is poured.


Oswald Chambers said: “The right of life is insisted on all through the Bible. As long as I do not murder anyone outright the law cannot touch me, but is there someone dependent on me to whom in the tiniest way I am not giving the right to live? Someone for whom I am cherishing an unforgiving dislike? ‘Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer’ (1 John 3:15).” Our hearts become hard through repeated refusals to yield to God. But they can be softened by obedience. When we say “yes” to God, the result is relief and life-giving release for our families, colleagues, and friends. What’s my frame of mind today?


In Defense Of Life - Read: 1 John 3:10-23 | You shall not murder. —Exodus 20:13

The Jews clearly understood that God’s commandment not to kill refers to murder-the malicious taking of human life. It doesn’t forbid governments to use the death penalty or to wage war. This commandment deals solely with private morality.

Exodus 20:13 is based on the divine truth that human life is sacred and that we must protect and preserve it. Every human being bears God’s image. Even an embryo is marked with a unique identity from the moment of conception. Life is God’s most precious gift, and only He has the right to take it. Abortion, euthanasia, and physician-assisted suicide must all be viewed in the light of God’s right to our life.

Jesus brought this commandment to everyone’s doorstep when He said that to be angry at someone without cause makes us guilty of murder (Matthew 5:21-22). And John wrote, “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer” (1 John 3:15). This makes us all murderers in desperate need of God’s forgiveness and mercy.

Thank You, Lord, for Your love and forgiveness. Help us by Your Holy Spirit to love others as You have loved us, and in so doing to value life, protect life, and enrich life as a gift from You. By Dennis J. De Haan

Points To Ponder
What did John mean when he said that if we hate someone we are murderers? (1 John 3:15).
How does this truth help us to forgive those who hurt us?
Anger is just one letter short of danger.


GREEK WORD STUDIES

Brother (80)(adelphos from a = denotes unity + delphus = a womb) means brother or near kinsman. "Adelphós generally denotes a fellowship of life based on identity of origin, e.g., members of the same family (Mt. 1:2; Lk 3:1, 19; 6:14); members of the same tribe, countrymen, and so forth (Acts 3:22; 7:23; Ro 9:3)." (Zodhiates) Figuratively, adelphos describes members of the Christian community, spiritual brother, fellow Christian, fellow believer (Ro 8.29). Jews used adelphos to describe fellow countrymen (Acts 3:22).

Vine - (1) male children of the same parents, Mt, 1:2; 14:3; Jn 1:41 (2) male descendants of the same parents, Acts 7:23, 26; Heb 7:5; (3) male children of the same mother, Mt 13:55; 1Cor 9:5; Gal. 1:19; (4) people of the same nationality, Acts 3:17, 22; Ro 9:3. With “men” (aner, “male”), prefixed, it is used in addresses only, Acts 2:29, 37, etc.; (5) any man, a neighbor, Lk 10:29; Mt. 5:22; 7:3; (6) persons united by a common interest, Mt. 5:47; (7) persons united by a common calling, Rev. 22:9; (8) mankind, Mt. 25:40; Heb 2:17; (9) the disciples, and so, by implication, all believers, Mt. 28:10; John 20:17; (10) believers, apart from sex, Mt 23:8; Acts 1:15; Ro 1:13; 1Th 1:4; Rev. 19:10 (the word “sisters” is used of believers, only in 1 Tim. 5:2); (11) believers, with aner, “male,” prefixed, and with “or sister” added, 1Cor 7:14 (RV), 15; Jas. 2:15, male as distinct from female, Acts 1:16; 15:7, 13, but not Acts 6:3. (Brother, Brethren, Brotherhood, Brotherly - Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words)

TDNT - 1. Physical Brotherhood. There are references to the physical brothers of Judah in Mt. 1:2, to brothers among the disciples in Mk. 1:16, 19, to the brother of Mary and Martha in Jn. 11:2ff., to Paul’s sister in Acts 23:16, to brothers of Jesus in Mk. 3:31ff., and to various other brothers, e.g., in Mk. 12:19–20; Lk. 15:27; Lk. 16:28; Lk. 12:13; and Mk. 10:29–30.
2. Spiritual Brotherhood. adelphós also refers to fellow believers some 30 times in Acts and 130 in Paul. This usage has an OT and Jewish basis (cf. Acts 3:22; Mt. 5:22–23; Acts 2:29; 3:17, etc.). Jesus uses the term in Mt. 23:8; 25:40. Christians are his brethren (Rom. 8:29) and are to love one another as such (1 Jn. 2–3). adelphótēs denotes the brotherhood (1 Pet. 2:17) and means brotherly disposition in Hermas (Mandates 8.10).

Adelphos in the Septuagint - brother Ge 4,2; brother (metaphorically) Job 30,29; kinsman Gen 13,8; other, fellow man Lev 19:17; (metaphorically) Job 41,9; neighbor, friend Ge 43,33;

Gilbrant - Adelphos in Classical Greek - Properly adelphos in classical Greek denotes a “brother,” that is, “the son of the same mother.” Other meanings, however, are equally apparent. It might indicate an ethnic relationship, such as a “fellow-kinsman, compatriot.” Also it might be used of a “colleague” or “associate.” As a term of affection it could even be used by a wife of her husband (Liddell-Scott). Grammatically, adelphos is also an adjective meaning “brotherly” (or “sisterly” for that matter). In general terms it describes anything paired or related (ibid.; cf. Moulton-Milligan). There is evidence that “brother” was used in the sense of a fellow-member in a religious fraternity or guild; that use, however, was probably imported from the East. Participants in Baal worship and initiates in the Mithras cult were called “brothers” (Günther, “Brother, Neighbour, Friend,” Colin Brown, 1:254). Josephus wrote that the Essenes referred to one another as “brother” (Wars of the Jews 2.8.3). In speaking of the relationship between things of the world, Plotinus (Enneads 2.9.18.20) said that they were all adelphoi, “brothers” (von Soden, “adelphos,” Kittel, 1:146).

The Septuagint reflects a broad understanding of adelphos. It is relied upon to translate 11 Hebrew terms and it is especially used to translate ’āch, “brother” (of the physical type) in such places as Genesis 4:2,8,9,10,11. The senses of “close relative” (Genesis 14:14) and “fellow citizen or fellow countryman” (Exodus 2:11; cf. 1 Maccabees 2:40; 5:13) are also present. The parallelism at Leviticus 19:17 attests to a close relationship between “brother” and “neighbor” (Hebrew, rēa‛), in other words, another person (cf. Genesis 43:33). The Qumran community expected love of fellow members (brothers) of its community, but “brother” or “neighbor” applied only to those within the community. The distinction between brother and neighbor was a burning issue in later Judaism, as is reflected in the legal expert’s questioning of Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (plēsion [3999]; Luke 10:29). (The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary)

Adelphos - 343x in 317v - believing husband(1), brethren(170), brethren*(13), brother(111), brother's(8), brothers(40).

Matt 1:2, 11; 4:18, 21; 5:22ff, 47; 7:3ff; 10:2, 21; 12:46ff; 13:55; 14:3; 17:1; 18:15, 21, 35; 19:29; 20:24; 22:24f; 23:8; 25:40; 28:10; Mark 1:16, 19; 3:17, 31ff; 5:37; 6:3, 17f; 10:29f; 12:19f; 13:12; Luke 3:1, 19; 6:14, 41f; 8:19ff; 12:13; 14:12, 26; 15:27, 32; 16:28; 17:3; 18:29; 20:28f; 21:16; 22:32; John 1:40f; 2:12; 6:8; 7:3, 5, 10; 11:2, 19, 21, 23, 32; 20:17; 21:23; Acts 1:14ff; 2:29, 37; 3:17, 22; 6:3; 7:2, 13, 23, 25f, 37; 9:17, 30; 10:23; 11:1, 12, 29; 12:2, 17; 13:15, 26, 38; 14:2; 15:1, 3, 7, 13, 22f, 32f, 36, 40; 16:2, 40; 17:6, 10, 14; 18:18, 27; 21:7, 17, 20; 22:1, 5, 13; 23:1, 5f; 28:14f, 17, 21; Rom 1:13; 7:1, 4; 8:12, 29; 9:3; 10:1; 11:25; 12:1; 14:10, 13, 15, 21; 15:14, 30; 16:14, 17, 23; 1 Cor 1:1, 10f, 26; 2:1; 3:1; 4:6; 5:11; 6:5f, 8; 7:12, 14f, 24, 29; 8:11ff; 9:5; 10:1; 11:33; 12:1; 14:6, 20, 26, 39; 15:1, 6, 31, 50, 58; 16:11f, 15, 20; 2 Cor 1:1, 8; 2:13; 8:1, 18, 22f; 9:3, 5; 11:9; 12:18; 13:11; Gal 1:2, 11, 19; 3:15; 4:12, 28, 31; 5:11, 13; 6:1, 18; Eph 6:21, 23; Phil 1:12, 14; 2:25; 3:1, 13, 17; 4:1, 8, 21; Col 1:1f; 4:7, 9, 15; 1 Thess 1:4; 2:1, 9, 14, 17; 3:2, 7; 4:1, 6, 10, 13; 5:1, 4, 12, 14, 25ff; 2 Thess 1:3; 2:1, 13, 15; 3:1, 6, 13, 15; 1 Tim 4:6; 5:1; 6:2; 2 Tim 4:21; Phlm 1:1, 7, 16, 20; Heb 2:11f, 17; 3:1, 12; 7:5; 8:11; 10:19; 13:22f; Jas 1:2, 9, 16, 19; 2:1, 5, 14f; 3:1, 10, 12; 4:11; 5:7, 9f, 12, 19; 1 Pet 5:12; 2 Pet 1:10; 3:15; 1 John 2:9ff; 3:10, 12ff; 4:20f; 5:16; 3 John 1:3, 5, 10; Jude 1:1; Rev 1:9; 6:11; 12:10; 19:10; 22:9

Septuagint - over 1000 uses - only Pentateuch uses listed - Gen 4:2, 8ff, 21; 9:5, 22, 25; 10:21, 25; 12:5; 13:8, 11; 14:12ff, 16; 16:12; 19:7; 20:5, 13, 16; 22:20f, 23; 24:15, 27, 29, 48, 53, 55; 25:18, 26; 27:6, 11, 23, 29f, 35, 37, 40ff, 45; 28:2, 5; 29:1, 4, 10, 12, 15; 31:23, 25, 32, 37, 46, 54; 32:4, 7, 12, 14, 18; 33:1, 3, 9; 34:11, 14, 25; 35:1, 7; 36:6; 37:2, 4f, 8ff, 16f, 19, 23, 26f, 30; 38:1, 8f, 11, 29f; 42:3f, 6ff, 13, 15f, 19ff, 28, 32ff, 38; 43:3ff, 13f, 16, 29f, 33; 44:14, 19f, 23, 26, 33; 45:1, 3f, 12, 14ff, 24; 46:20, 31; 47:1ff, 5f, 11f; 48:6, 19, 22; 49:5, 8, 26; 50:8, 14f, 22, 24; Exod 1:6; 2:11; 4:14, 18; 6:20; 7:1f, 7, 9, 19; 8:1; 10:23; 22:24; 28:1f, 41; 29:5; 32:27, 29; Lev 10:4, 6; 16:2; 18:14, 16; 19:17; 20:21; 21:2, 10; 25:25, 35f, 39, 46ff; 26:37; Num 6:7; 8:26; 16:10; 18:2, 6; 20:3, 8, 14; 25:6; 27:4, 7, 9ff, 13; 32:6; 36:2; Deut 1:16, 28; 2:4, 8; 3:18, 20; 10:9; 13:7; 15:2f, 7, 9, 11f; 17:15, 20; 18:2, 7, 15, 18; 19:18f; 20:8; 22:1ff; 23:8, 20f; 24:7, 14; 25:3, 5, 7, 9, 11; 28:54; 32:50; 33:9, 16, 24;

One of the same nature, a fellow man was regarded as a brother (Mt. 5:22–24, 47).

Adelphós also came to designate a fellowship of love equivalent to or bringing with it a community of life (Matt. 12:50; Mark 3:35; 10:29, 30; Acts 12:17).

In this manner Jesus speaks of His brethren (Mt. 25:40; 28:10; John 20:17; Rom. 8:29; Heb. 2:11, 17).

The members of the same Christian community are called brothers (Jn 21:23; Acts 9:30; Rom. 16:14; 1 Cor. 7:12).


1 John 3:14 Commentary <> 1 John 3:16 Commentary

Book