1Jn_3:14. Brotherly Love the True Evidence of Religion
"We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren."—1Jn_3:14.
Two things are very desirable; that we should know our natural and ruined state; and that we should know that that state is changed, and that the ruin is averted. Christianity is a system of evidence, and a work of holy and happy experience. Many modes of ascertaining our true character, by careful scriptural examination, by the desires and delights of our hearts, and by the inward testimony of the Spirit of God with our spirits, that we are the children of God. The text furnishes another: "We know that we have passed from death unto life," &c.
Notice, I. The Change described. And, II. The Evidence Adduced,
I. The Change described
"We know that we have passed from death unto life."
The change is represented as a change,
1. From death.
Death is the condition of all the unregenerate. They are dead in state; spiritually dead; dead by law. Under sentence of death: "He that believeth not is condemned already." Joh_3:36; Rom_5:12
2. Spiritually dead.
Every sign of death is upon the soul. As it respects God, religion, and the proper exercise of its faculties, the soul is really and properly dead.
(1) There is coldness and want of feeling. No desire after God. No abiding sense of God's existence or omniscience, omnipresence, justice, or goodness. "Without God in the world."
(2) There is want of action. No powers employed for God. Tongue never praises God. Feet in the ways of disobedience and death. Heart cold and icy. Will rebellious. Understanding dark. Judgment perverted. Conscience impure.
(3) Loathsomeness. The spirit in its carnal state is crooked and perverse. Diseased with the foulest leprosy. Unfit for God's service, and incapable of heavenly felicity,
3. Exposed to eternal death.
"The wages of sin is death." The first death, viz., that of state, is the legal separation of the soul from God. The second or spiritual death, is the moral separation of the soul from God. And the third is, the separation of the soul from God forever. But the gracious change expressed in the text is,
4. From death to life.
(1) No longer under condemnation, Rom_8:2; Rom_5:1, Rom_5:2.
(2) No longer spiritually dead. Soul alive. Every sign of life. Holy breathing. Pulse of prayer. Heart warm with love. Powers employed for him, &c. &c. Beauty for ashes, &c. Created anew in Christ's lovely likeness. Eph_2:1.
(3) No longer exposed to eternal death "There is, therefore, now no condemnation," &c. Gift of God, eternal life, &c. Joh_3:14, Joh_3:16, Joh_3:36. There is,
5. The knowledge of this change.
"We know that we have passed from death unto life." Paul knew in whom he had believed, &c.; 2Ti_1:12. Peter also; 1Pe_1:3-9. John also; 1Jn_2:17-20. This knowledge is evidently the Christian's privilege, and when experienced, produces great comfort of mind.
Notice the certainty of this change, from,
II. The evidence adduced.
"Because we love the brethren" Brethren includes all fellow-men.
1. Love—Signifies affection for, complacency or delight in them.
This love to the brethren must be,
(1) Spiritual. Not for any human excellency, or ornament of mind or disposition; but because they are the spiritual seed of Jesus Christ.
(2) It must be constant. At all times, and in all circumstances.
(3) It must be universal. To all the brethren; of every name, and creed, and country; rich and poor, great and small. Jam_2:1-16.
(4) It must be manifest. By preference. By words of love. By beneficence, sympathy, &c.
2. Love to the brethren is evidence that we have passed from death unto life.
(1) As it is the fruit of the Spirit, which the saints only possess; Gal_5:22.
(2) It is true conformity to Christ's holy likeness; Joh_13:34.
(3) This is the true gospel obedience. "A new commandment I give unto you," &c.; 1Jn_3:23.
(4) This is the appointed badge of our religion. "For by this shall all men know that ye are my disciples;" Joh_13:35.
(5) This is the surest sign of our true love to God. "For he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" 1Jn_4:20. See also 1Jn_4:12; 1Jn_5:1.
I. The happiness, dignity, and safety of the Christian's state. Subject of life spiritual; heir to life eternal.
II. The holy amiableness of Christian piety; love to the brethren.
III. The importance of having this evidence of our saintship. No other will stand in its place: for "he that hateth his brother is in darkness, even until now;"