3:14 We know that 1 we have crossed over 2 from death to life 3 because 4 we love our fellow Christians. 5 The one who does not love remains in death. 6
1 John 3:17Context
3:17 But whoever has the world’s possessions 7 and sees his fellow Christian 8 in need and shuts off his compassion against him, how can the love of God 9 reside 10 in such a person? 11
1 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.
2 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.”
4 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.
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.
6 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.
sn Note the vivid contrast with Jesus’ example in the preceding verse: He was willing to lay down his very life, but the person in view in 3:17 is not even willing to lay down part of his material possessions for the sake of his brother.
9 tn Here a subjective genitive, indicating God’s love for us – the love which comes from God – appears more likely because of the parallelism with “eternal life” (ζωὴν αἰώνιον, zwhn aiwnion) in 3:15, which also comes from God.
sn The love of God. The author is not saying that the person who does not love his brother cannot love God either (although this may be true enough), but rather that the person who does not love his brother shows by this failure to love that he does not have any of the love which comes from God ‘residing’ in him (the Greek verb used is μένω [menw]). Once again, conduct is the clue to paternity.
10 sn Once again the verb μένω (menw) is used of a spiritual reality (in this case the love of God) which does or does not reside in a person. Although the author uses the indefinite relative whoever (Grk ὃς δ᾿ ἄν, Jos d’ an), it is clear that he has the opponents in view here. This is the only specific moral fault he ever charges the opponents with in the entire letter. It is also clear that the author sees it as impossible that such a person, who refuses to offer help in his brother’s time of need (and thus ‘hates’ his brother rather than ‘loving’ him, cf. 3:15) can have any of the love which comes from God residing in him. This person, from the author’s dualistic ‘either/or’ perspective, cannot be a believer. The semantic force of the deliberative rhetorical question, “How can the love of God reside in such a person?”, is therefore a declarative statement about the spiritual condition of the opponents: “The love of God cannot possibly reside in such a person.”
11 sn How can the love of God reside in such a person? is a rhetorical question which clearly anticipates a negative answer: The love of God cannot reside in such a person.