by Mike Ratliff
11 For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, 12 not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.
13 Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. 15 Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 1 John 3:11-15 (NKJV)
At least once every few weeks I encounter a “brother” or “sister” in the Lord whose “ministry” seems to be to generate as much hatred as possible within the visible Church for some other Christian or group of Christians. While I do discernment in this ministry and do point out to you those whose Christian disingenuousness is continually being revealed to us by their fruit, I find it very disturbing when some rise up with something they call “discernment” that leads many to attack the very ones who are ministering before the Lord to actually feed His sheep the pure milk from His Word.
Using the discernment the Lord gives me as I pray and seek His will through all this, I have found the one thing that separates what we do from what those with this false discernment do. We seek to warn the brethren about false teachers and use their false teachings in contrast to what the Word of God really says to do this. We seek the cleansing and healing of the Body of Christ and the repentance of those who have followed these false prophets. On the other hand, these with this false form of discernment attack their targets with innuendo, opinion, and guilt by association, but they never look at their godly fruit, their doctrines, their preaching, their teaching, et cetera. These do not seek to warn the brethren about false teachers using their false teachings in contrast to what the Word of God really says because they are unable to do this. They attempt to redefine truth to say that once a Christian leader uses a particular title or phrase in a message or whatever in which these words are also used by those “we know” are in error then this is “proof” that they are also guilty. This sort of thing may look similar to the real discernment work that many of us do, but it most assuredly is not. Let us look at a passage, 1 John 3:11-15 (above), in which the Apostle John tells us what is the true motivation for those who do this.
11 For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, 1 John 3:11 (NKJV)
11 Ὅτι αὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ ἀγγελία ἣν ἠκούσατε ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς, ἵνα ἀγαπῶμεν ἀλλήλους, 1 John 3:11 (NA28)
11 Because this is the message which we heard from the beginning, that we might love one another 1 John 3:11 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
The key word in this passage is, of course, “love,” however, the words, “should love “ is the Greek word ἀγαπῶμεν. This Greek word is used of God’s love toward man and vice versa. The verb grammar structure here is present tense, subjunctive mood, and active voice. In other words, we are to love another with continuous or repeated action. However, the subjunctive mood suggests that the action is subject to some condition. That condition is not that those we love this way are worthy. No, it is that we are commanded to do this by God Himself. Love who? We are to love one another. This is describing a mutual love amongst the brethren.
12 not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.
13 Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. 1 John 3:12-14 (NKJV)
12 οὐ καθὼς Κάϊν ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ ἦν καὶ ἔσφαξεν τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ· καὶ χάριν τίνος ἔσφαξεν αὐτόν; ὅτι τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ πονηρὰ ἦν τὰ δὲ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ δίκαια.
13 [Καὶ] μὴ θαυμάζετε, ἀδελφοί, εἰ μισεῖ ὑμᾶς ὁ κόσμος. 14 ἡμεῖς οἴδαμεν ὅτι μεταβεβήκαμεν ἐκ τοῦ θανάτου εἰς τὴν ζωήν, ὅτι ἀγαπῶμεν τοὺς ἀδελφούς· ὁ μὴ ἀγαπῶν μένει ἐν τῷ θανάτῳ. 1 John 3:12-14 (NA28)
The Greek word for “hates” in this passage is μισεῖ. This word describes a “detestation that leads to persecution.” This is hate with action. Examples in our time would include other professing Christians going to our Internet Service Providers with their complaints about our sites trying to have us taken off line. It would include attacks that fall outside of the realm of debate even going so far as to ignore what the Word of God really says in lieu of their own “doctrine” in a way that causes them to lash out in personal attacks that seek to silence us. John tells us here that these who do this sort of thing abide in death, μένει ἐν τῷ θανάτῳ. What does this mean? The word “abides” is the Greek word μένει, which describes those whose lives are marked by what it is in which they abide. If we abide in Christ, we will be marked by Christlikeness. However, these people are abiding in death, θανάτῳ. In this context, John is telling us that those who profess to be Christians, but who hate the brethren, are not abiding in life, but in spiritual death. They are not regenerate. Genuine Christians will not persecute other Christians. They may indeed seek to remove false prophets from their positions, but they will do so biblically. They will not do the things I described above. John tells us this very thing in v15.
15 Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 1 John 3:15 (NKJV)
To attack other believers like so many do today is a marker that they are devoid of eternal life. However, it is not our job to be the judge of these people. We do not determine who is and who is not a Christian. All we can do is look at their fruit and go from there. Only God knows who are His and who are not. The purpose of this post is to get you to look at your actions towards the brethren. Do you hate the brethren? If you are being convicted by God that someone is teaching false doctrine then you must pray and respond as God leads, but if you have no biblical basis for your contention then you have no grounds for any of this. I have been on the receiving end of this in our old Church when I was simply responding to some questions about reformed theology by simply reading scripture. I did not interject anything. I simply read what the Word said and two men in the class I was attempting to teach would not allow me to continue. This is not what genuine Christians do my brethren. If you love your doctrine more than what the Word of God really says, then you are an idolater. If you have no biblical basis for your contention against a Christian writer, teacher, preacher, et cetera then you are contending from something other than God’s truth and that is not a place into which God will ever lead us. We must judge with right judgement!
Soli Deo Gloria!