Whose Child Are You?

Good morning! If you are visiting with us today, I want to welcome you once again to Grace Bible Fellowship Church. It‘s an honor to be worshiping with you today.

We are back in 1 John where John is going to highlight the distinguishing mark of a Christian and where he also contrasts the difference between those who follow after Satan and the true children of God. In 1 John 3:11-18, John says:

John 3:11 For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; 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. 13 Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 16 We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.

As I was preparing for today’s sermon, I read some information regarding a book written by Francis Schaeffer, who was a noted apologist, evangelist, and author. He introduced a book in 1970 that was entitled, “The Mark of the Christian.” He makes the following statement:

“Through the centuries men have displayed many different symbols to show that they are Christians. They have worn marks on the lapels of their coats, hung chains about their necks, even had special haircuts.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with any of this, if one feels it is his calling. But there is a much better sign—a mark that has not been thought up just as a matter of expediency for use on some special occasion or in some specific era. It is a universal mark that is to last through all the ages of the church till Jesus comes back.

What is this mark? At the close of his ministry, Jesus looks forward to his death on the cross, the open tomb and the ascension. Knowing that he is about to leave, Jesus prepares his disciples for what is to come. It is here that he makes clear what will be the distinguishing mark of the Christian:

‘Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me; and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you. A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another’ (John 13:33–35). This passage reveals the mark that Jesus gives to label a Christian, not just in one era or in one locality but at all times and all places until Jesus returns” (Schaeffer, 1970).

Love, yes love, has always been an essential characteristic and distinguishing mark of a true Christian. Just look at the rest of the New Testament where this truth is consistently reinforced over and over. Here are just a few verses:

Romans 5:5 Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

1 Thessalonians 4:9 Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.

1 Peter 1:22 Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart.

2 John 6 And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it.

God not only commands us as His children to show love, He also enables us to obey that mandate by empowering us with the capacity to do what He requires. As we just read in Romans 5:5, “…the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” God has given all His children the ability and desire to love others.

There is nothing new or novel in this passage regarding John’s teaching that Christians are marked by love for one another. This point was highlighted back in 1 John 2:7-11, where John specifically emphasized the one who loves his brother is one who abides in Jesus Christ. Because God loves His children, we are to reflect that love in our relationships with others. Paul states in Ephesians 5:1-2, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” So John’s instruction here is not new but is “an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard.”

John’s readers knew that truth, because the apostolic preachers had faithfully delivered it to them. We also know the truth because we have the entire Canon of Scripture, including John’s letter, and many other books that provide direct commands that we are to love one another. Unfortunately, false teachers had also come in and taught their perverted gospel which apparently included teaching that brotherly love is not an essential mark of true salvation. To correct the thinking of believers and remind them of the truth, John directs his readers and us back to the message they had heard from the beginning; it is the gospel that you first heard. It is the truth about Jesus Christ; the gospel message, mankind’s sinful condition, and the need for righteous living, as well as the command to love one another. John is urging everyone who claims the name of Jesus Christ to remember what we were first taught and to not allow anyone to lead us astray with a perverted gospel created by man.

In one sense, the Lord’s command back in the Gospel of John 13:34–35 may seem very old but, in another sense, it is new. That’s because love had never before been manifested as it was by Christ, with a resounding crescendo in His sacrificial death for those He loved. Jesus declared later, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12–13). The Lord Jesus Christ is the perfect model of the love God has always commanded. Though we cannot love to the degree He loves, we can obey His command to love one another the way Christ loved, by the power of the Spirit, lovingly and selflessly sacrificing for others.

Having stressed the importance of love in 1 John 3:11, John now contrasts the children of God, who obey that command, with the children of the Satan, who do not. Instead of being characterized by love, Satan’s children are marked by murder, hatred, and indifference toward the children of God. So, the first point is found in verses 12 and 14:

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.

1 John 3:14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.

When you think about what it required to end the life of another person when the motivation is based on a sinful desire, it must be the personification of evil. Murder is the ultimate act of hate and demonstrates a complete absence of love. To illustrate this point, John references the first murderer: Cain. Cain killed Abel with sinful motives and desires.

If you go all the way back to Genesis 4:2-8, we find that Cain seemingly worshiped God and offered Him a sacrifice. However, unlike his brother Abel, Cain did not bring an acceptable sacrifice to God. Abel brought an animal sacrifice, which was in obedience to God’s command. On the other hand Cain, in his self-proclaimed religion, ignored the divine requirement for an animal sacrifice and instead brought the fruit of the ground for his offering. It is there that Cain’s true faith is revealed. He was not a true worshipper of God. Both Cain’s disobedience and the fact that he slew his brother revealed that he was a child of Satan, a child of the evil one. Cain belonged to the kingdom of darkness, as did the unbelieving Jews who, like Cain, hated true righteousness and sought to kill Jesus. Jesus said to them in John 8:44, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him…”

I did some research on the word translated “evil one” (ponēros). It means determined, aggressive, and fervent evil that actively opposes what is good. But its meaning extends beyond basic evil or corruption to include a type of malignant sinfulness that pulls others down into ruin. In other words, Satan desires nothing more than to destroy your life and your testimony as a believer in Jesus Christ. Think for a moment about how devastated we are when someone, whom we have held in high esteem as a follower of Christ, sins against God and others. Satan tries to use that against all of us in order to bring us to ruin. Let me encourage you to love one another. Rebuke if necessary, but never forget we are in a battle against the “evil one.” We must love our brothers and sisters in Christ and help to restore and reconcile with them. Don’t let the “evil one” gain a foothold against the Children of God.

John goes on to ask a rhetorical question, “And for what reason did he slay him?” Why did Cain slay Abel? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous. It is as simple as that. Cain was evil and hated righteousness so greatly that he even killed his own brother whose righteous deeds had rebuked him. Abel did not rebuke Cain, it was his righteous deeds that rebuked Cain. Just like Cain, the ungodly resent those who seek righteousness because through their righteous actions, the ungodly’s false beliefs and wicked practices are exposed.
We have another example of this evil that hates righteousness in Matthew 14:3-5. Herod had John the Baptist arrested and wanted to put him to death but he was more afraid of the crowd. So he did not kill John the Baptist. However, the daughter of Herodias ultimately had John beheaded. This ungodly woman despised the righteousness that John the Baptist displayed, so much so that she wanted it extinguished. She wanted it stomped out so none could see the light that exposed her sinful unrighteous belief and actions.

In contrast, those who have passed out of spiritual death into everlasting life are assured of this reality because of their love for the brethren (1 John 4:7). The new birth, receiving Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior, grants life to the spiritually dead because we have “put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in the righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4:24). Salvation through Jesus turns hateful and even murderous attitudes into loving ones. John therefore reminds his readers and us that anyone who does not love has not received spiritual life but instead abides in spiritual death. John continues to highlight differences between Satan’s Children and God’s Children in verses 13 and 15:

1 John 3:13 Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you.

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

God says, hatred is the moral equivalent of murder; thus “everyone who hates his brother is a murderer.” Although it is true that a very small percentage of people physically murder someone, there have been many who have been angry enough to have done so if the circumstances had been slightly different and the consequences of their actions less severe. (Matthew 26:52; Romans 13:4). Technically, the only outward difference between murder and hate, is the deed itself—the attitudes are the same. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made this abundantly clear when he said, “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…” (Matthew 5:21–22). The ungodly, those who have rejected Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, will be eternally condemned to Hell for their habitual attitudes of hate, even if their attitudes never translate into physical actions.

John warns us that even though we were transformed to love both believers and unbelievers, we should “not be surprised … if the world hates” us. Rather than being surprised by the world’s opposition, we should expect it because the world has nothing in common with the kingdom of God, and the lives of the righteous act as a rebuke to those of the unrighteous. If you recall, Jesus promised the apostles when he met with them in the upper room, that the world would hate them: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.… He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘They hated Me without a cause’” (John 15:18–19, 23–25).

Satan’s children have always revealed their true character by their hatred. All of history contains many instances of the world persecuting God’s people. People of His own town hated Jesus and attempted to kill Him after hearing just one message from Him. Luke 4:28-29 says, “And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff.” However, that wasn’t the end; the nation’s leaders plotted to kill Him some time later. The world also hated the apostles and martyred all of them but the apostle John, who was exiled to the island of Patmos (Revelation 1:9). Enemies of the gospel have always persecuted those who love the truth. Even today, believers around the world die under the hateful, murderous hands of the children of Satan.

John, with his black-and-white, no-gray style, absolute standard, reminds us that people filled with such hatred are murderers and as such, have no eternal life abiding in them. Certainly, that doesn’t 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 unless they repent of their sin and acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

The last major point that John makes in this passage is that Satan’s children are indifferent toward God’s children. Look at verses 16-18 where John says:

1 John 3:16 We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.

The phrase “we know love by this” once again affirms genuine love as the outstanding mark of the Christian just as we discussed earlier in verse 11. A Christian’s loving desire and willingness to give up everything to help others should permeate our character and our attitudes in our everyday lives. The New Testament contains several notable examples of such sacrificial love. One such example was Epaphroditus, whom the apostle Paul commended to the Philippians in the book of Philippians 2:25-30. Epaphroditus was eager to go to minister and almost died for the work of Christ. He was willing to risk his life to complete the work of God while he was serving others.

Certainly Paul is another incredible example of loving others. He was willing to surrender his life for the cause of Christ: He said “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Of course, the Lord Jesus was Paul’s role model, because at the cross He laid down His life for all who believe. My question to all of us is, “How willing are we to serve our brothers and sisters in Christ?” Does our willingness result in action?

The expression “laid down His life for us” is unique to the apostle John. In addition to “life” itself, it refers to separating ourselves from anything that would distract us from loving others. Obviously, Christ’s atoning death is the supreme example of selfless love. So John is exhorting all of us as followers of Christ that we “ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” Following Christ’s example, we should be willing to give up our lives as necessary. Although there are parts of the world that this ultimate sacrifice may be necessary, that is seldom the case in our culture today. However, this will likely change in the not so distant future. John is referring to something broader. Giving our life—that is an ultimate example of love, but he is also talking about the need to help others in the day to day activities of life with the material goods that God has provided to each of us.

There is no doubt that the unbeliever’s selfish indifference is a sharp contrast to the generous, compassionate love that believers should exhibit. John illustrates the difference in attitude in a very practical comment and question: “But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” Obviously, Satan’s children have some of “the world’s goods” at their disposal and in many cases significant goods and finances. However, when they give to charities to help others, they are motivated by some form of selfishness; maybe it’s to pacify their consciences or satisfy their emotions, all of which bring honor to themselves rather than glory to God. As an example, remember the parable of the Widow’s Mite? Mark 12:44 says, “for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.” The widow was giving out of a heart of true love. How are we doing?

As God’s children, we are to give and be prepared to give sacrificially. As John finalizes his thoughts here, he says:

1 John 3:18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.

It is not enough for any of us to merely profess love for others, it requires a genuine love that can be seen in our deeds. Are we loving others by giving of our time, talents, and yes, finances to help the brethren who are in need?

John has made a very clear distinction between Satan’s children and God’s children. Those who murder, habitually hate, or are chronically self-centered and indifferent to the needs of others, do not have eternal life with the Father. But those who not only claim to be God’s children, having repented of their sin and trusted in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, have also renounced murderous, hateful attitudes and all cold, selfish indifference to the needs of others—these have both professed and demonstrated they are a Child of God. As Believers, we are to manifest genuine love to others and especially fellow believers, because the love of God resides in our hearts.

Today, I have only a few questions that each of us needs to answer: Whose Child am I? Do I really love others? Is my love for others manifested through my deeds or are they just words that I say? Am I willing to sacrificially give with a loving heart to help my brothers and sisters in Christ? Am I willing to sacrificially love others in a way that represents Jesus Christ well?

I know these are all simple questions. Yet the answers are profound for they truly identify who we are! Why? Because your answers will absolutely give clarity to whether you are a child of the one true King or a child of Satan. John says:

John 3:11 For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; 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. 13 Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 16 We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.

References:

Schaeffer, F. A. (1970). The Mark of the Christian. Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.