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b) 1 John 3:13–15: Following John’s exposition concerning Cain’s murder of his brother (1 John 3:10–12), he inserted an aside. The apostle proclaimed the importance of loving others even though the world will hate us. In fact, we can expect persecution.[1]

First, he wrote, “Do not be astonished.” His next phrase can be translated as “if the world hates you” or “that the word hates you.”

Since “be astonished” occurs in the imperative (thaumazete), rather than the subjunctive mood, (thaumazēte),[2] he likely meant “that the world hates you.”[3]

The same situation exists today as in the era of Cain and Abel (Gen 4:1–8).[4] Those who remain in spiritual death despise those who “crossed over from death into life” (John 15:18–21; 1 Pet 4:12–19).[5]

Sadly, this attitude of hatred can appear even within our congregations (1 John 2:7–11).[6] People without love for other believers expose their true origin:[7] the realm of evil and death.[8]



John provided a compelling description of the transition from one kingdom to another, an event which occurred in the past but whose effects endure.[9]

He emphatically pronounced, “We know that we have crossed over from death into life because we love the brothers [and sisters].”[10]

Since “we love” appears in the present tense, continual devotion to other Christians characterizes God’s people.[11]

The proof of eternal life consists of the love we have for those in whom the Holy Spirit also resides.[12]

Loving others does not lead to salvation but exhibits that we have already received redemption. It provides tangible evidence of Christ’s work within us (1 John 3:16–18, 23–24; John 5:24).[13]



On the other hand, “Anyone who does not continually love remains in death.” In addition, “Everyone who hates his brother [or sister] is a murderer.”

Hatred fails to recognize the image of God in other people, wishing that they no longer existed (Gen 1:26–27; Matt 5:21–24).[14]

From the Lord’s viewpoint, our attitudes and motives are equivalent to actions (Matt 5:27–28).[15]

The term which John used here for “murderer” (anthrōpoktonos) appears in only two verses in the New Testament, here and in John 8:44. John associated both usages with the devil.



In extra-biblical literature, authors reserved the word for especially revolting murders.[16]

After the Cyclops devoured one of his men, Odysseus said to him, “You were destined, it seems, to pay the penalty for your ungodly feast. For my burning Troy to the ground would have been a sorry deed if I had not punished you for the murder (anthrōpoktonos) of my companions.”[17]

Hatred indicates that a person possesses the same nature as the devil. Such a person cannot belong to the kingdom of God (1 Cor 5:9–13; Gal 5:19–21).[18] An absence of love is not compatible with eternal life.[19]

Image via Wikimedia Commons


Read 1 John 3:13-15. Why shouldn’t we be surprised when those outside of the church hate us? What makes hatred for Christians incompatible with eternal life? How does John’s admonition mesh with the account of Cain and Abel?





Go to Chapter 2: The Descent of Humanity (Genesis 4:17–24)

[Related posts include Children of the Devil (1 John 3:10‒12); Made in the Image of God (Gen 1:26 cont.); Male and Female He Created Them (Gen 1:27); Serpents in the Ancient Near East (Gen 3:1); A World-Altering Conversation (Gen 3:2–5); Succumbing to Temptation (Gen 3:6); Their Eyes Are Opened (Gen 3:7); A Return to the Ground (Gen 3:19); Eve Acquires a Man (Gen 4:1); A Servant of the Ground and a Shepherd of a Flock (Gen 4:2‒5); Sin Lies Stretched Out (Gen 4:6‒7); Cain Arose against His Brother (Gen 4:8); Misappropriated Blood (Gen 4:9‒10); Cursed from the Ground (Gen 4:11‒14); Banished from God’s Presence (Gen 4:15‒16); Transcending the Law (Matt 5:21‒22); Be Reconciled to Your Brother (Matt 5:23‒24); A Murderer from the Beginning (John 8:42–44); Falling for Deception (2 Cor 11:3–4); An Angel of Light (2 Cor 11:13–15); and Ancient Literature]

[Click here to go to Chapter 1: A Tale of Two Brothers (Genesis 4:1‒16)]


[1] Marshall, The Epistles of John, 190.

[2]William D. Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek, 3rd Ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009), 290.

[3] Smalley, 1, 2, 3 John, 187.

[4] Marshall, The Epistles of John, 190.

[5] Smalley, 1, 2, 3 John, 186.

[6] Burge, Letters of John, 161.

[7] Marshall, The Epistles of John, 190.

[8] Marshall, The Epistles of John, 190–1.

[9] Wallace, Greek Grammar beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, 573. The perfect tense describes an event which occurred in the past with results which remain in the present.

[10] Smalley, 1, 2, 3 John, 188. Greek verbs already incorporate a pronoun. Adding another pronoun to the verb makes the pronoun emphatic. “Brothers” can refer to only men or to a group of mixed genders.

[11] Smalley, 1, 2, 3 John, 189. The present tense refers to a continual or repetitive action.

[12] Marshall, The Epistles of John, 191.

[13] Burge, Letters of John, 161.

[14] Marshall, The Epistles of John, 191.

[15] Burge, Letters of John, 161.

[16]John Byron, “Slaughter, Fratricide and Sacrilege: Cain and Abel Traditions in 1 John 3,” Biblica 88, no. 4 (1 January 2007): 526–35, 527–8,

[17]Euripides, Cyclops, Alcestis, Medea (translator David Kovacs; Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994), 694–5,

[18] Marshall, The Epistles of John, 191–2.

[19] Smalley, 1, 2, 3 John, 190.