Sermon on 1 John 3:11-18

When it comes to loving God, if we are not loving others, we are not experiencing the life God offers us. True love for God will result in a selfless abandonment to service others. We don’t just say we love, we live out our love authentically and faithfully. 

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Sermon Outline:

Only do this: Love God, Love others (v. 11)

Seeds of jealousy bear fruit of hatred (vv. 12-13)

Seeds of love bear fruit of life (vv. 14-16)

Love is more than lip-service (vv. 17-18)

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Sermon Transcript:


Have you heard the story about the woman who wrote a sweet letter to her ex that went something like this:

Dearest Jimmy,

No words could ever express the great unhappiness I’ve felt since breaking our engagement. Please say you’ll take me back. No one could ever take your place in my heart, so please forgive me. I love you, I love you, I love you! Yours forever, Marie.

P.S., And congratulations on willing the state lottery.

True love has no motive but to love selflessly. Let me say that again, true love has no motive but to love selflessly. To give everything we have to another person, no matter what they have given first or in return. Love is more than just a feeling; love is more than just a 3-word phrase; love is action lived out in obedience.

Thomas a’ Kempis, said it well: “Whoever loves much, does much.” That statement agrees with the concept we are going to look at today written in God’s Word. Love does much. If we are honest, we like it when love is acted out on us. It doesn’t matter if your love language is acts of service, gift, words of affirmation or donuts, we all love when someone displays their love for us.

At the heart of 1 John, we see the author tell us—don’t just receive love, give love. Look with me at 1 John 3:11-18 on page 1022 in the ESV or on the Bible App. This is the start of a new section in John’s letter. Some believe it is the core of the letter—everything to this point was just building up to give the most important part: love one another.

This section is giving the believer what they are to do; seemingly his list of “do nots” are done (most of 1-3:10) and now John tells the believers how to live. Love was the basis of His whole command. Before learning what love is, we learn what love is not. Let’s start in verse 11:

[11] For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.

For this is the message,” he starts. What is? Check this out: “Message” in verse 5 of chapter 1 is the same word as it here in 3:11. These are the only two places that this word appears in the NT. The message is the love of God; that love of God has been proclaimed since the beginning by the coming of Christ into the world. John wrote in His Gospel “For God so love the world he gave us his son.” That is the message!

So he is starting this all-important section by saying, the love of God has been proclaimed to us (1:5) by Jesus Christ. Therefore, we should love one another. This is not merely a command, but the natural response to the gift of God’s love that has already been given to us. The absence of love for others in the life of a child of God would be inconsistent with the message of love that has been proclaimed to us. You heard this from the beginning—He love you, so love others. Love proclaimed results in love displayed.

So track with me on this, because God first loved us, then we really only have to do two things in response: Love God and love others. This is the greatest commandment, Jesus said: The only thing you have to do is this: Love God, Love others. My mentor told me that he had these two rules, and only these two rules, as he raises his teenagers. Whenever his kids asked him if they could do something, he said, “As long as it doesn’t break the two rules, go for it.” He said they would always stop and have to contemplate, is this thing I want to do loving to God; is it loving to others. He said there were many times they would choose not to do something because it didn’t pass the rules. I love that.

Christian love is fundamental to being a child of God. Our father is love; love is grounded in the very nature of God. We will see that further explained in chapter 4:7-8.

In the previous chapters, John said, “avoid sin” don’t “Love the world or anything in it.” He made the case that the believers are characterized by righteousness and abstinence from a life of continual sin. John now adds that a person who love one another as a normal and consistent habit of a life that is God’s not the devil’s. He proves it when a negative example in verse 12:

[12] We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.

Cain is an illustration of the absence of love, which marks him as a child of the devil.

They story of Cain and Abel recalled

Sometime after Adam and Eve sinned against God and were forced out of the Garden of Eden, they began to have children. The first son was Cain and he was a farmer. The next son was Abel who was a shepherd. When it was time to offer sacrifices to God, Cain brought fruit from the ground and Abel brought the fat portions from some of the firstborn. God favored Abel’s sacrifice, but He didn’t extend that same grace to Cain. This rejection made Cain angry and God admonished Cain to do the right thing and his sacrifice would be accepted. Cain was also warned that if he refused to do the right thing—sin was ready to consume him.

Cain disregarded God’s admonition and warning. Instead he took out his anger on his righteous brother, Abel. In a premeditated manner, Cain invited Abel out to the fields where he murdered him! Later God approached Cain about the whereabouts of Abel just as He did with Adam and Eve with their sin. Cain (being a child of sin and the devil) lied and countered the all-knowing God with the infamous question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

God responded quickly with the pronouncement of his punishment: Cain would be driven from his people, no longer able to farm the land and he would be a wanderer. Cain’s response lacked remorse for his dead brother, but rather that his punishment was too severe and that he would be killed in revenge. The Lord God, being full of mercy and grace, put a mark on Cain to keep people from killing him. As a result Cain left the presence of God, started a family, and built a city. His descendants were prosperous, worldly, and without God. The legacy of Cain led to the destruction of the entire world with the flood. (You can read the Biblical account of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4)[i]

Don’t be Cain

So back to this passage in 1 John, we are told, “Don’t be like Cain.” We know that in Genesis 4:7, God warned Cain that “Sin was crouching at his door.” Yet he let sin and the works of the devil in his life. The fact that Cain is referred to as a child of the devil, shows the active deceit that was happening to Cain at the time of his murder.

To live like Cain is to plant seeds of jealousy that grow and bear fruits of hatred. Even the smallest feelings of jealously can turn into bitterness & rule your life.

On the other hand, Abel was righteous. His sacrifice was pure and he did what was right in God’s eyes. John is pointing at the outward action and the inward attitude.

John is saying, when you live like Abel—a pure heart of love for God—don’t be surprised when you have a Cain in your life that hates you for it. Look at verse 13:

 [13] Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.

This is not a quick change of topic, rather John is actually building off of the Cain and Abel story— Do not be surprised he says, making the point that Abel did what was right, but was hated for it. So also, we will be hated for doing what is right.

Jesus had said, “The world will hate you, but remember it first hated me.” We are not surprised when we love but are not love in return; Jesus himself came to love the world, but the world rejected Him.

Does this mean we don’t love? No, we love all the more. It is natural to love people that love us, but it is supernatural to love them that hate us. Only Christ can help us love those who are hard to love or even those who chose to hate us. But we have life:

[14] We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.

We know that we are loved; that inward confidence should produce the outward example of love. To have passed out of death can literally be translated as to take steps over, as if it never took place. We are give true life, but faith in Christ, to move from the death we once were in—a meaningless life—to a life of loving others. This “passed out of death” is in the perfect tense, to show that the transfer has already happened; the event has already occurred. We have already been given life; not later, but now.

The term because here is to show that the very thing that should bring us assurance is the love that we can have toward others. If we are honest, people can be hard to love. John is saying, in his honest style, it can only be God’s work in us enable us to love others. Truth be told, without Christ, we will always be embittered toward those who don’t do things our way.

I sat with a man this week who told me that at times it is so hard for him to love his wife because of the way she acts. She doesn’t do things the way they agreed, it affects their kids, their business, their love life… He would tell you, he is continually struggling to love her and not grow angry with her.

We sat over coffee and and talked about how we should not be so quick to get angry at others for not acting the way we want; we can’t even get ourselves to act the way we want. Yet, God has loved us and forgiven us, so we too should be quick to forgive others.

John is saying that loving others is an avenue of assurance of eternal life, but it is not the means for obtaining it. We only have eternal life by God’s doing, but the fruit of that life in us is the love we have toward others.

John then gives the other had – if you don’t love, you are still dead. If you do not love then you are just doing what you were born into (Ephesians 2:1 – dead in your sins and trespasses) and doing exactly what you were wired to do. In Christ, we are made a new creation, so whether it is loving our spouse or roommate who annoys us, or our enemy who hates us, we love because we have been so deeply loved. This is more than do I show love, or be tolerant when I need to be nice and not annoyed but it is a heart issue. The Bible says that if your heart is not right, then you are not any better off than a person who commits a terrible sin of murder. Look at verse 15:

[15] Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

John agrees with the teaching of Jesus in the sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:22, 28). You and I may be able to outwardly conform to God’s command that “You shall not murder,” (Ex. 20:13) but that is not enough. Even a heartfelt hate toward another person breaks the command that Jesus gave us to love one another.

He is saying that the destructive nature of hatred is equivalent to the act of murder itself. One commentator said, “Hatred is the desire to get rid of someone, whether or not one has the nerve or the occasion to perform the act.”[ii] We may NEVER think of taking another person’s life. I can barely like a bug or an animal, yet alone a person. But if I hate someone, that is just as severe of a sin as if I took their life.

Why? Because love and hatred are moral opposites. If I am in a relationship with God, who is love, yet I hate, the punishment is removal from God. A break in fellowship.

Christian, this passage should cause you to true self-examination to asking do I distain, loathe, dislike, or hate someone? If so, stop it. Now! There is no room for hate when I have fellowship with God. I have been forgiven, so I forgive. I have been loved, so I love.

Now if you read this passage you may say, really, a murdered can’t even have eternal life. That is not what it is saying. Rather, it is saying that one who murders (actively) and engages in hate (actively) does not abide in God. Yet, when we repent—change our way of acting and thinking, we can be welcomed into a life giving relationship with God.

Take Jeffery Dahmer for example. You may remember that serial murderer who dismembered 17 people in the 80’s and would eat their flesh. He was known as the Milwaukee Cannibal yet later in life claimed that Jesus Christ was His Lord and Savior. One day Wisconsin State Prison called a pastor Ray Ratcliff to come baptism one of their prisoners, but little did He know that that man was Jeffery Dahmer. That man, convicted of terrible murders, was baptized and claim to know Jesus as His Lord and Savior many times on public television.

This passage is not saying that Jeffery Dahmer can’t be saved; rather, it is saying that when he committed murder there is no way that he could be walking with God. We all get that. All sin is forgiven, even the sickest murder. BUT if you go on hating, you are no different than a murderer and you cannot abide in the light of Christ.

In Christ we have life, and life abundantly. We are given a relationship with Him. When we plant Seeds of love we will bear fruit of life.  Jesus gives us life! He takes away the old life of hate and embitterment and gives us a life of love and compassion. The only way this can be done, is not in our own efforts, but by what Christ did for us. He showed us love, look at verse 16:

 [16] By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

Ultimately, the way that Jesus laid His life down selflessly is the way that we are to lay our lives down for others. Christ was the means by which God proclaimed love to us, but is also the example we are to follow to exclaim love to the world. Christ’s sacrifice is the supreme example of what genuine love entails.

Laid his life down for us” only appears here in the New Testament, yet has become a common phrase when we talk about Christ. it refers to the idea presented in 2:2, that Jesus gave his life to appease the wrath of God, for us. He didn’t die of pure martyrdom; he died out of his own selflessness to give us what we could not get ourselves.

Life is our most precious possession; Christ’s willingness to lay down his life on behalf of others gives us the greatest possible expression of love. John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

And when John writes, and we ought to lay our life down he is making the point that that Christians have an obligation to follow the example of their Lord even unto death if such an occasion presents itself. That is no small thing.

Clearly, the most difficult act is to lay your life down for another. Yet that is the extreme a Christian is called to do. In our marriage, we are selfless. In our parenting we are selfless. In our singleness, we are selfless. In our working, we are selfless! In all things, we give freely because of what Christ did for us.

John knows, however, that not many of us are required to perform the heroic deed of giving our life for another, BUT he is well aware that the opportunity to help someone else is constant. The challenge for John’s hearers is to apply their Christian love to a context that is true to everyday life, one in which they repeatedly find themselves.

[17] But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? [18] Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

John’s challenge in these concluding two verses is for his readers to be genuine in their love. One of the distinguishing marks of the child of God is love. Our love originates in God and it displays itself in actions of self-sacrifice. We will not be remembered by what words or talk we have, but by the actions of love we display. We are not remembered by what we know, but how we love.

As Christians, and even here at Grace Chapel, we claim to love the whole world, but the truth is that we permit ourselves exceptions. We will love the world, even living a missional life to reach a lost world for Christ, but there are some we choose to dislike. Loving the world means that we do not have distant for anyone in our life. There are no exceptions for love: not our Neighbors, fellow parents, drivers on I-25, people who are seeking to take you down… no one.

This is not some moralistic message—Love and peace to all. No, this is a Christian command to keep fellowship with God by keeping peace with others. The height of our love for God will never exceed the depth of our love for one another. Our prayer should be, “God help us master ourselves that we may be servants to others. Don’t let my own preferences, pretenses, or pride get in the way of me loving others. Not now, not today, not ever. Let me follow my savior’s example to love gallantly.”

Love for others is never wasted; if it is given selflessly, it will flow forth and soften a bitter heart—my heart, and the person I am loving.

John’s point is this: Love is more than lip-service it is a way of life. Don’t just say it, live sacrificially in the little things. Dispel hatred; live selflessly to honor our Savior.

I have to tell you a story that I think illustrates this point well:

Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room. One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room’s only window. The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back.

The men talked for hours on end. They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation. And every afternoon when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window. The man in the other bed began to live for those one-hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the outside world.

The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake, the man said. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Lovers walked arm in arm amid flowers of every color of the rainbow. Grand old trees graced the landscape, and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance. As the man by the window described all this in exquisite detail, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine the picturesque scene.

One warm afternoon the man by the window described a parade passing by. Although the other man couldn’t hear the band, he could see it in his mind’s eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words. Unexpectedly, an odd thought entered his head:

Why should he have all the pleasure of seeing everything while I never get to see anything? It didn’t seem fair. As the thought fermented the man felt ashamed at first. But as the days passed and he missed seeing more sights, his envy eroded into resentment and soon turned him sour. He began to brood and he found himself unable to sleep. He should be by that window – that thought now controlled his life.

Late one night as he lay staring at the ceiling, the man by the window began to cough. He was choking on the fluid in his lungs. The other man watched in the dimly lit room as the struggling man by the window groped for the button to call for help. Listening from across the room he never moved, never pushed his own button which would have brought the nurse running. In less than five minutes the coughing and choking stopped, along with the sound of breathing.

Now there was only silence —– deathly silence.

The following morning the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths. When she found the lifeless body of the man by the window, she was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take it away — no works, no fuss. As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone.

Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look. Finally, he would have the joy of seeing it all himself. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window beside the bed.

It faced a blank wall.


[ii] Daniel L. Akin, 1, 2, 3 John, vol. 38, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001), 157.




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