Lesson Six
1 John 3:13-24

What is the basic, absolute, "bottom line" proof of obedience? If a person obeys in the truest sense of the concept, what does he do? "If a person obeys, he submits to proper authority." What does that mean? "It means that he does what the authority tells him to do." How does he do what the authority tells him to do? "He does exactly what he is told to do. He does not do anything more and he does not do anything less." So the concept of obedience is that you do exactly what you are told to do and nothing more? Are you confident that is God's concept of obedience? Are you confident that is God's complete concept of obedience?

Obedience has at least two primary responsibilities. In the first, ideal obedience is concerned about the best interests of the one who obeys. God asks us to obey because God seeks our best interest. In God's concern, obedience's objective is to prevent the injuries that result from the ignorance of the person who is to obey. Because of our ignorance, dangers, unrecognized and unknown to us can destroy us. In this concern, God asks us to obey to protect us from disasters created by ignorance.

In the second, ideal obedience functions on our understanding of God's purposes. An unselfish understanding of God's purposes dedicates the person to assisting God's purposes. This is the highest level of obedience that we want to develop in our children. When a child understands his or her parents' purposes and acts to assist those purposes, we rejoice in the child's wisdom. When Christians understand God's purposes and act to make those purposes happen, God rejoices in His children's wisdom.

  1. Let me use some simple illustrations of both basic aspects of obedience.
    1. You teach your four year old to never, never, never play with the stove.
      1. If the child plays with the stove, he or she will turn the stove on.
      2. He or she will not be aware that the stove was turned on, so he or she will not attempt to turn the stove off.
      3. If the skillet that you used to cook hamburgers happens to be on the eye that the child unknowingly turned on, the child's act will result in a serious fire.
      4. So because of what the child does not know, you punish the child when he or she plays with the stove.
    2. Your 13 year old learned to drive a driving a truck in grandpa's pasture.
      1. But he or she is under age and not permitted to drive your car.
      2. Your specific instructions: "Never start the car. Never move the car."
      3. Your house catches on fire, and thirteen year old alertly runs to the garage, starts the car, drives it a block down the street, and parks it.
      4. Do you praise your child's understanding of the situation, good judgment, intelligent decision, and prompt action, or do you punish him or her for moving the car?
      5. In that circumstance, the thirteen year old understood your purposes, and he or she acted in accordance with your purposes.
    3. Let me share a specific example regarding the church and Christians.
      1. I personally doubt any issue in the church is more emotional than the role of women in the church.
      2. When I was a missionary in West African, my evangelistic efforts in a large village resulted in the conversion of about ten women, all of whom were baptized within one week.
      3. For months that congregation had only women members.
      4. There were no preachers to send, no male Christians near, and I could not visit more than once a week on a weekday.
        1. I would go for public preaching once a week.
        2. Deborah Wilson, then Deborah Brown, went with me to teach the women.
      5. Which accomplished God's purposes in the crucifixion of Jesus?
        1. For the women to share nothing they learned with men in this large village because the declaration for women to be silent is more important than people learning about the Savior who died for our sins?
        2. Or for the women to share what they learned so the men in the village could learn about the Savior who died for our sins?
      6. I am not advocating anything; I am asking you to recognize the two basic concerns of obedience.

  2. In the first three chapters of 1 John the following conditions are acknowledged to exist in the Christian community, the family of God at this place.
    1. In chapter one:
      1. There were those who affirmed fellowship with God while they chose to live an evil lifestyle (1:6).
      2. There were those who affirmed fellowship with God because they declared that they did not sin (1:8).
    2. In chapter two:
      1. There were those who affirmed that they knew God but they refused to keep God's commandments (2:4).
      2. There were those who affirmed fellowship with God while they hated a Christian within the Christian community, God's family (2:9).
      3. Some who affirmed that God's love was in them loved the world [those things that oppose God] (2:15,16).
      4. Some were antichrists, Christians who declared that Jesus was not the Christ (2:18).
    3. In chapter three:
      1. Some practiced lawlessness (3:4).
      2. Some affirmed they were conceived by God but practiced sin (3:9).
      3. Some affirmed that loving Christians had nothing to do with loving God (3:10).

  3. John powerfully coupled the essential bond that exists between loving God and sustaining a fellowship of love with Christians.
    1. Carefully note the importance of a real love relationship between Christians.
      1. "Don't be shocked when those who oppose God hate you (3:13)."
        1. My personal understanding of the context of this statement is not restricted to those people outside the Christian community.
        2. Cain and Abel were in the same family, brothers, of the same parents.
        3. But Cain hated and killed Abel because of the influence of evil in his life.
        4. That is John's illustration, an "in-the-family" illustration.
        5. Remember the antichrists had been a part of the community, and I would not affirm that their choice to separate removed all their influence.
        6. Obviously, as we just noted, there were those among them that lived evil lifestyles and justified evil.
        7. They should not be shocked when these people hated them.
      2. They were to understand that the unquestionable proof of their transition from death to life was real (3:14).
        1. The undeniable evidence was their love for Christians.
        2. The Christian who does not love Christians lives in death, not in life.
          1. How different the church would be today if we stopped measuring faithfulness by checklists!
          2. How different the church would be today if measured faithfulness by Christians' love for Christians!
      3. This is the fundamental criteria of faithfulness: those who love God love His people; those who hate God's people do not love God (3:15).
        1. Christians who hate Christians spiritually are murderers.
        2. Eternal life lives only in Christians who love Christians.
      4. How much love are we to have for Christians? As much as Jesus has for Christians: enough to sacrifice life for them (3:16).
        1. The bond between Christians is such that they would die for the family.
        2. What bond exists today?
      5. John is writing about real love (3:17,18).
        1. It helps those who are in need; their hearts go out to each other.
        2. Their love is not merely limited to words; they love with deeds, with truth.
    2. How do we know that we are people devoted to truth (3:19-21)?
      1. Our hearts persuade us that we are devoted to truth because of our willingness to place ourselves before God.
      2. If our hearts will not let us stand before God Himself, if our own hearts condemn us, God will most assuredly condemn us.
      3. But if our hearts are confident before God, the all knowing God who is greater than our hearts will not condemn us.
    3. If we have that confidence, God will respond to our requests (3:22,23).
      1. Why?
        1. Our confident hearts stand before God obediently; we keep his commands.
        2. We do the things that are pleasing to God.
        3. We place our faith, our trust in Jesus Christ, God's Son.
        4. We love each other in the way that God commanded us to love each other.
      2. The person who keeps God's commandments continually lives in God and God continually lives in him.
      3. We know that God lives in us because God gave us His Spirit.

The number one commandment we must obey, the number one proof that we have passed from death to life, the number one reason that our hearts can stand before God in confidence, is this: we love Christians.

The number one proof that none of those things are true is this: we hate some Christians.

Christians too often teach and advocate stands and positions that motivate Christians to hate Christians. Christians too seldom teach Jesus Christ's teachings that motivate Christians to love Christians.

No matter who we are, when in the name of truth our teachings create and justify hatred, we desperately need to reexamine our concepts as well as our positions.

Only Jesus more powerfully made this point: Christians love Christians. The only thing Christians may have in common is Jesus, the Christ. But that is more than enough. When Christians know Jesus, the Christ, the love of Jesus, the Christ, teaches Christians to love Christians.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 28 March 1999
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