Notes on 1 John 3:13-17

by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)

1 John 3:13 Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.

The readers may have been startled by John’s abrupt statement here. First, the command is in the present tense which may be rendered, “Stop wondering why the world hates you, brothers”.
Apparently the readers, especially the believers, were indeed wondering or marveling or didn’t understand why they were being hated by the world, or the unbelievers.

Yet Jesus Himself had spoken about this in Luke 6:22, early in His ministry; and in John 7:7 and 15:18. In those two verses, Jesus reminded the hearers that the world hated Him because of Who He was. Even so, the hatred of the world will never defeat the Love of God!

14 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.

Here John paraphrases John 5:24. Jesus Himself was speaking to a crowd at or near the Pool of Bethesda, just after He healed a man, who had suffered from an infirmity for 38 years! The unbelieving Jews “persecute(d) Jesus (5:16)” and attempted to put Jesus to death. This action certainly was not loving the brothers (!) but did show the fact that these unbelievers were indeed abiding in death.

15 Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.

Perhaps John is making reference here to verses 11-12, the incident of Cain and Abel.

16 Hereby perceive we the love (of God), because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

In contrast to someone who hates his brother and is a murderer, John reminds the readers of how Jesus did indeed lay down His life for us (John 10:15, 10:17) and stated that no one has greater love than to lay down his own life for his friends (John 15:13, paraphrased). Jesus spoke these words after Judas had already left to betray Him (John 13:26-30), knowing also that the remaining disciples would not remain with Him for much longer after He was taken captive in the garden (John 18:8, compare with Mark 14:50).

17 But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels (of compassion) from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?

In this verse, John reminds the readers of what James had said some years before. James was speaking to Jewish-Christians, probably among those of the first generation of believers, but even then there were problems. James was direct in pointing out how useless it was to simply speak words when there was a chance or opportunity to meet another person’s needs (see James 2:14-17). James was stressing the importance of deeds backing up one’s words; John, the question of could someone “shut up his bowels of compassion (turn off any kind of feelings)” and still have God’s love dwelling in the body.

Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV)

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