Copr. 1997, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.  All Scripture references are to the NIV unless otherwise noted. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard. 

INTRODUCTION: Last week we learned that we are on the path of light if we do what is right and we love one another. (1 John 3:10) This week John delves more deeply into the question of what it means to love one another. So let's delve with him!


     A. Read 1 John 3:11-12. John says we have "heard from the beginning" the message that we should love one another.
          1. What beginning is he talking about? 
          2. The beginning of the apostolic church?  
          3. The beginning of our life?  
          4. The beginning of the world? (The reference point for "beginning" is clear: from the beginning of the history of man -- the story of Cain and Abel.)

     B. Do you consider the story of Cain and Abel to be a lesson on how we should love one another? 

          1. Is this the definition of love: avoid being like someone who murdered his brother?

          2. So as long as we do not kill anyone, we are all right? 

          3. Kind of an extreme (and low) standard, isn't it?

     C. I think we need to read on. Read vv. 13-16. How do we know what it means to love one another? (Verse 16 gives us the positive side of this: Jesus' example of laying down His life for us.)

          1. So why did John start out talking about Cain?  What point was he trying to make by starting out with Cain instead of Jesus?

          2. Will someone read Hebrews 12:22-24. Does this show that the story of Cain and Abel shows us love after all? (Yes! The story is supposed to teach us something for it says that Jesus' blood "speaks a better word."  Both Abel's blood and Jesus' blood have a message for us. John started out talking about Abel's blood first because he gave it up first.) 

               a. What is the "word" of Abel's blood? (That Abele was in a sense a  prototype of Jesus. We do not know the precise circumstances under which he gave up his life. We do not know if it was willingly or not. But he did give up his life because of his obedience. Therefore, we see that from the very beginning man has been faced with the two paths that John has been consistently talking about: the path of light and the path of darkness. Those on the path of light are learning the lesson of self-sacrifice. The end is life. Those on the path of darkness are learning the lesson of self- gratification and envy. The end is death.)


     A. In vv. 12-16 John seems to contradict himself. He says three things:

          1. We are like Abel and Jesus if we love;

          2. Do not be surprised if the world hates you (it hated Abel and Jesus); and, 

          3. If you have this love you have passed from death to life.

     B. Wait a minute! Considering these examples, wouldn't it be more accurate to say that if we love we pass from life to death?  These "guys" got whacked for their love! 

     C. Do you remember in driver's training they teach you to keep you eye on the road a half-mile ahead?  Don't just stare at the back bumper of the person in front of you. Why do they teach that? 

          1. Is John teaching like a "driver's ed. teacher?"
     (John is talking about the "long view," just like in driver's education. The "long view" better informs what we should be doing in the immediate future.  In Biblical terms, what happens "on the path" here is not as important as the end of the path.  That is why we must be on the right path. The end of the right path is this: "the man who does the will of God lives forever." 1 John 2:17  In that way we pass from death to life.)


     A.  Again John clearly lays out two paths for us. (Draw the path of light and the path of darkness.)

     B. What have we learned so far (in these verses we have studied this morning) are the attributes of the individuals on each of these paths?

             Light                                                                 Darkness
            Love                                                                   Murder
            Possibly being hated                                      Hate (Why hate? Matt.
                                                                                        5:22: "anyone who is
                                                                                        angry with his
                                                                                        bother will be
                                                                                        subject to
            Lay down our lives for brothers.

     C. Let's read on to fill in our paradigm chart even further.Read 1 John 3:17-20. What else should we add?

            Light                                                      Darkness
            Pity on brothers in need                  No pity, but ability
                                                                          to help.
            Active love                                          Empty love
            Conscience at rest                            Troubled conscience

     D. Let's explore these further. Verse 17 has a qualifier, it says "if anyone has material possessions" he should have pity.

          1. Does this mean that we are "off the hook" if we do not have much ourselves?

          2. Just what do you think constitutes "material possessions?" (The greek here is interesting. The word translated "possessions" is  "bios."  It means "life" or the means to sustain life. (For the computer literate, this is not "basic input and output system.) The word translated "material" is "kosmos" meaning an ordered universe.  So if you have the means from the universe to sustain life, then you have "material possessions.")

               a. Anybody here not meet that standard? (We are then all "on the hook.") 

     E. How far does John say our obligation extends? (John refers to "brothers," which he distinguishes from "the world." 1 John 3:13)


     A. Let's re-read vv. 19-20 and add vv. 21-22. We have repeatedly seen that John gives us "reality checks" so that we can check ourselves. What is John's "reality check" that involves our heart (v. 19-20)? (It seems John is talking about our conscience.)

          1. If John is speaking of our conscience, what does he mean in v. 20 when he says "God is greater than our hearts?" (I think John is speaking of an informed conscience. If a person were raised from youth to refrain from eating broccoli because it is sin, that person would have a troubled heart for no reason. We need to pay attention to our conscience, but God is greater than our conscience and we need to pay more attention to His word. When God's word and our conscience are working together as a team, we have a reliable guide.)

     B. Read 1 John 3:23-24. This is very similar to the way in which we ended our last lesson (1 John 3:10) Last week it was obey and love.  This week believe and love.

          1. How do we know we are obeying? (v.24 "by the Spirit he gave us.")

          2. Is this reference to the "Spirit," another reference to our conscience? (The "Spirit" is obviously the Holy Spirit.  A right-formed conscience will be driven by the Holy Spirit.)

V. NEXT WEEK: "TESTING THE SPIRITS." 1 John 4:1-6.  John follows up on this idea of having the right "spirit." Study!