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1 John 3:10-14

Context
3:10 By this 1  the children of God and the children of the devil are revealed: Everyone who does not practice righteousness – the one who does not love his fellow Christian 2  – is not of God.

God Is Love, So We Must Love One Another

3:11 For 3  this is the gospel 4  message 5  that you have heard from the beginning: that we should love one another, 6  3:12 not like Cain 7  who was of the evil one and brutally 8  murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his deeds were evil, but his brother’s were righteous.

3:13 Therefore do not be surprised, brothers and sisters, 9  if the world hates you. 10  3:14 We know that 11  we have crossed over 12  from death to life 13  because 14  we love our fellow Christians. 15  The one who does not love remains in death. 16 

1 tn Once again there is the problem (by now familiar to the interpreter of 1 John) of determining whether the phrase ἐν τούτῳ (en toutw) in 3:10 refers (1) to what precedes or (2) to what follows. If it refers to what precedes, it serves to conclude the unit which began with 2:28. The remainder of 3:10 would then form a transition to the following material (another “hinge” passage). On the other hand, if the phrase ἐν τούτῳ refers to what follows, then the entirety of 3:10 is a summary statement at the end of 2:28-3:10 which recapitulates the section’s major theme (conduct is the clue to paternity), and provides at the same time a transition to the theme of loving one’s brother which will dominate the following section (3:11-24). Although R. E. Brown (Epistles of John [AB], 416) prefers to see the phrase as referring to the preceding material, it makes better sense to refer it to the remainder of 3:10 that follows, and see the entirety of 3:10 as both a summary of the theme of the preceding section 2:28-3:10 and a transition to the following section 3:11-24.

2 tn See note on the term “fellow Christian” in 2:9.

sn Does not love his fellow Christian. The theme of loving one’s fellow Christian appears in the final clause of 3:10 because it provides the transition to the second major section of 1 John, 3:11-5:12, and specifically to the following section 3:11-24. The theme of love will dominate the second major section of the letter (see 1 John 4:8).

3 tn It could be argued (1) that the ὅτι (Joti) at the beginning of 3:11 is grammatically subordinate to the preceding statement at the end of 3:10. As BDF §456.1 points out, however, “Subordination with ὅτι and διότι is often very loose…and must be translated ‘for.’” Thus (2) ὅτι assumes an inferential sense, standing at the beginning of a new sentence and drawing an inference based upon all that has preceded. This is confirmed by the structural parallel between the present verse and 1:5.

4 tn The word “gospel” is not in the Greek text but is supplied to clarify the meaning. See the notes on the words “gospel” and “message” in 1 John 1:5.

5 tn See the note on the word “message” in 1 John 1:5, where this same phrase occurs.

6 sn For this is the gospel message…that we should love one another. The structure of this verse is parallel to 1:5, indicating the beginning of a second major section of the letter.

7 sn Since the author states that Cainwas of the evil one (ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ, ek tou ponhrou), in the immediate context this imagery serves as an illustration of 3:8a: The person who practices sin is of the devil (ἐκ τοῦ διαβόλου, ek tou diabolou). This is similar to John 8:44, where Jesus told his opponents “you people are from your father the devil…[who] was a murderer from the beginning.” In both Jewish and early Christian writings Cain is a model for those who deliberately disbelieve; Testament of Benjamin 7:5 looks forward to the punishment of those who “are like Cain in the envy and hatred of brothers.” It is not difficult to see why the author of 1 John used Cain here as a model for the opponents in light of their failure to “love the brothers” (see 1 John 3:17).

8 tn For the Greek verb σφάζω (sfazw) L&N 20.72 states, “to slaughter, either animals or persons; in contexts referring to persons, the implication is of violence and mercilessness – ‘to slaughter, to kill.’” As a reflection of this nuance, the translation “brutally murdered” has been used.

9 tn Grk “brothers,” but the Greek word may be used for “brothers and sisters” or “fellow Christians” as here (cf. BDAG 18 s.v. ἀδελφός 1, where considerable nonbiblical evidence for the plural ἀδελφοί [adelfoi] meaning “brothers and sisters” is cited). Since the author is addressing his readers directly at this point, “brothers and sisters” (suggesting a degree of familial endearment) has been employed in the translation at this point, while elsewhere the less direct “fellow Christians” has been used (cf. v. 14).

10 sn Cf. John 15:18, where this phrase also occurs.

11 tn The first ὅτι (Joti) clause, following a verb of perception, introduces an indirect discourse clause giving the content of what the readers are assumed to know: that they have passed over from death to life, that is, that they possess eternal life. The author gives a similar reassurance to his readers in 5:13. Alternation between the verbs οἶδα (oida) and γινώσκω (ginwskw) in 1 John is probably a matter of stylistic variation (of which the writer is extremely fond) rather than indicative of a subtle difference in meaning.

12 tn This verb essentially means “to transfer from one place to another, go/pass over,” according to BDAG 638 s.v. μεταβαίνω 1.

sn In John 13:1 the same Greek verb translated crossed over here is used to refer to Jesus’ departure from this world as he returns to the Father. Here it is used figuratively to refer to the believer’s transfer from the state of (spiritual) death to the state of (spiritual) life. This use is paralleled in John 5:24, where Jesus states, “the person who hears my message and believes the one who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned, but has crossed over (same verb) from death to life.”

13 sn Cf. John 5:24, where this phrase also occurs.

14 tn The second ὅτι (Joti) clause in 3:14 is also related to οἴδαμεν (oidamen), but in this case the ὅτι is causal, giving the reason why the readers know that they have passed from death to life: because they love the brothers.

15 tn See note on the phrase “fellow Christian” in 2:9.

sn Because we love our fellow Christians. This echoes Jesus’ words in John 13:35, where he states, “by this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” As in 1 John 2:3 and 5, obedience becomes the basis for assurance. But the relationship between loving one’s fellow Christian (Grk “brother”) and possessing eternal life goes beyond a proof or external test. Our love for our fellow Christians is in fact a form of God’s love for us because as far as the author of 1 John is concerned, all love comes from God (cf. 4:7-11). Therefore he can add the next line of 3:14, “the one who does not love remains in death.” Why? Because such a person does not have God’s love residing in them at all. Rather, this person can be described as a “murderer” – as the following verse goes on to do. Note also that the author’s description here of the person who does not love as remaining in death is another way of describing a person who remains in darkness, which is a description of unbelievers in John 12:46. This provides further confirmation of the spiritual state of the author’s opponents in 2:9-11.

16 sn The one who does not love remains in death. Again, the author has the secessionist opponents in view. Their refusal to show love for the brothers demonstrates that they have not made the transition from (spiritual) death to (spiritual) life, but instead have remained in a state of (spiritual) death.



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