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 3:15 Everyone who hates his fellow Christian 7 is a murderer, 8 and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing 9 in him. 3:16 We have come to know love by this: 10 that Jesus 11 laid down 12 his life for us; thus we ought to lay down our lives for our fellow Christians.
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.
8 sn Everyone who hates his fellow Christian is a murderer. On one level it is easy to see how the author could say this; the person who hates his brother is one and the same with the person who murders his brother. Behind the usage here, however, is John 8:44, the only other occurrence of the Greek word translated murderer (ἀνθρωποκτόνος, anqrwpoktonos) in the NT, where the devil is described as a “murderer from the beginning.” John 8:44 refers to the devil’s role in bringing death to Adam and Eve, but even more to his involvement (not directly mentioned in the Genesis account, but elaborated in the intertestamental literature, especially the writings of Philo) in Cain’s murder of his brother Abel. This was the first incident of murder in human history and also the first outward demonstration of the full implications of sin’s entry into the world. Ultimately, then, the devil is behind murder, just as he was behind Cain’s murder of Abel. When the hater kills, he shows himself to be a child of the devil (cf. 1 John 3:10). Once again, conduct is the clue to paternity.
9 tn The verb μένω (menw) in 3:15 refers to a spiritual reality (eternal life) which in this case does not reside in the person in question. To speak in terms of eternal life not “residing” in such an individual is not to imply that at some time in the past this person did possess eternal life and subsequently lost it, however. The previous verse (3:14) makes it clear that the individual under discussion here has “remained” in death (the realm of spiritual death) and so has never possessed eternal life to begin with, no matter what he may have claimed. Taken together with the use of μένω in 3:14, the use here implies that the opponents have “remained” in death all along, and have not ever been genuine believers. Thus “residing” rather than “remaining” is used as the translation for μένουσαν (menousan) here.
10 tn Here the phrase ἐν τούτῳ (en toutw) is followed by a ὅτι (Joti) clause which is epexegetical (or explanatory), and thus ἐν τούτῳ refers to what follows.
11 tn Grk “that one.” Context indicates a reference to Jesus. The mention of the sacrificial death in 3:16 (ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἔθηκεν, Juper hmwn thn yuchn autou eqhken) points to Jesus as the referent here. (This provides further confirmation that ἐκεῖνος [ekeinos] in 2:6; 3:3, 5, and 7 refers to Jesus.)
12 sn References to the fact that Jesus laid down his life using the verb τίθημι (tiqhmi) are unique to the Gospel of John (10:11, 15, 17, 18; 13:37, 38; 15:13) and 1 John (only here). From John’s perspective Jesus’ act in giving up his life sacrificially was a voluntary one; Jesus was always completely in control of the situation surrounding his arrest, trials, and crucifixion (see John 10:18). There is a parallel with 1 John 2:6 – there, as here, the life of Jesus (during his earthly ministry) becomes the example for believers to follow. This in turn underscores the importance of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry (especially his sacrificial death on the cross), a point of contention between the author and his opponents in 1 John. See 1 John 4:10 for a further parallel.