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Cain: A Profile in Brotherly Hatred - 1 John 3:11-15

Which is more difficult to comprehend: the hatred of Cain for his righteous brother Abel, or the love of God for unrighteous sinners?

1 John 3:1-2, 10-15; Genesis 4:8-9; Luke 12:32

Aug 17, 2014 12:00 AM

MP3 audio icon Cain-A-Profile-in-Brotherly-Hatred_08-17-2014.mp3 — MP3 audio, 12768 kB (13074975 bytes)

[10] By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:10 ESV)

This is a truly powerful statement!  John, in this one verse, separates the entire race into its two distinct camps: those who are the children of God, and those who are the children of the devil.  There is no third camp.  There is no group of “Undecideds”.  No one gets a special exemption from these groups.  Everyone who has ever lived belongs to one or the other of these “families”.  

Then John says it is relatively easy to know if a person belongs to one group or the other.  He says there are two things in a person’s life that make it evident, clear, unmistakable whether a person is a genuine Christian or not: his relationship to God and to his fellow man.  

This is precisely why we see on several occasions that the greatest commands are to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves.  The Ten Commandments address those two things: how we think of God and how we treat others.  The manner in which a person addresses those two issues (God and neighbor, or God and my brother) makes it clear whether a person has been born again or not.

Jesus said we would be able to tell the condition of a tree by the fruit it produces.  Paul said the Christian has no business having fellowship with unbelievers.  And here, John says we should be careful to discern believers from unbelievers so they may not deceive us into thinking we can have fellowship and a right relationship with God while living a persistently sinful lifestyle.

If you recall, I mentioned to you a term which I believe is original with me: spiritual profiling.  That is exactly what John is instructing these believers to do.  We must be careful to recognize the sheep that don’t quite act like sheep because they really aren’t sheep.  They are wolves among the sheep that outwardly resemble the sheep, but their intention is to devour the sheep.  Thus the need for “spiritual profiling”.  

Once again, I am well aware of how that sounds, which is the main reason why you won’t forget it.  That’s why I use the phrase “spiritual profiling”: So you will remember it and realize that according to John, and Paul, and Jesus, and the rest of the New Testament, it is not a sin for believers to be discerning.

Now, while you’re dealing with my terminology, let me introduce you to a new term I heard yesterday which applies directly to this situation we’re speaking of here.  And what we are speaking of comes straight off the pages of Scripture.  Spiritual profiling may be a new term, but the concept is as old as the world itself and I will prove it to you shortly.  However, if you exercise this kind of discernment which the New Testament teaches us to do, you may be called what I was called: a fruit inspector.

That is both ridiculous and biblical at the same time.  It is ridiculous because the person who labeled me as such considered it to be shameful.  They were saying I have no right and no business passing judgment on someone else’s life.  It is true that I cannot pass judgment and drop the gavel that sentences a person to Hell.  But that is not what the NT is teaching us to do.  Discernment regarding the spiritual health of someone who says he is a disciple of the Lord Jesus, but who lives consistently contrary to what the Bible describes as a holy and godly life, is not the equivalent of condemning a person to Hell.  

That kind of “fruit inspection” is for the sake of spiritual self-preservation!  How many times do we read of false teachers in the Bible?  John has said here in this text that the antichrists have already arrived!  And they would have us believe they are sheep just like us!  But look at them!  Look at how they live.  The person who does not practice righteousness, and who does not love other believers, is, in John’s words, a child of the devil and not a child of God.

But there is a new term I just learned that is being used to describe those of us who actually want to know what kind of people we’re dealing with inside the church.  If we follow John’s instructions here and we attempt to draw a line between the children of God and the children of the devil, and even if we are doing that within the context of a local body of believers for the sake of protecting ourselves from false teachers and false doctrine, we are now in danger of being labeled . . . “spiritual racists”.  I am not making this up.1

Apparently, to insist on obedience to Paul’s command to Timothy to “teach sound doctrine” and to confront error with truth, is to engage in spiritual racism.  If we don’t accept anyone and everyone who claims to be Christian regardless of their doctrinal convictions, we will be accused of living contrary to the prayer of the Lord Jesus when He asked the Father to make us all one so that the world will believe God sent Him.  This renewed emphasis on ecumenicalism is becoming so prevalent that anyone who has anything contrary to say about this “new work of God” is accused of resisting the Holy Spirit.  The movement is mostly aimed at Catholics, Charismatics, and the Word of Faith movement.  

So, exercise your spiritual discernment.  Look at Scripture and see if what a person believes is in keeping with what the Bible says.  But beyond that, look at their lives and see if their lifestyle is in keeping with what God commands.  It’s OK to be a fruit inspector.  It’s ok to be a “spiritual profiler”.  In fact, we have a biblical obligation to do so.

Last week, in verses 4 - 10, our emphasis was on being able to discern unbelievers from believers.  In verse 10 John says the person who does not live a life of habitual godliness is a child of the devil.  But he also gives us one more tool in our spiritual discernment tool box when he says, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

We would say this is a tell-tale sign of unbelief.  Stated positively, we can say all true believers genuinely love their fellow believers.  They love the brethren.  We cannot help ourselves.  Our hearts have been changed, and we love those brothers and sisters who also love Jesus Christ and live godly lives.  There is that “kindred spirit”, that like-mindedness that draws us toward one another.

So the person who does not love Christ will not love Christians either.  And John uses none other than Cain and Abel as a biblical illustration of the worst example of brotherly hatred.  But he connects, and even equates Cain’s hatred for his brother with the hatred of unbelievers towards Christians.  Look with me at the text, beginning in 1 John 3:10.

[10] By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

[11] For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. [12] We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother's righteous. [13] Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. [14] We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. [15] Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
(1 John 3:10-15 ESV)

John sees everything in black and white:  Light vs darkness.  Righteousness vs sinfulness.  Christ vs antichrist.  Love vs hate.  Believer vs unbeliever.  And in this most extreme illustration, Cain vs Abel.  These are hard things John speaks of here.  He says unbelievers do not love believers in at least a similar fashion as Cain did not love his brother Abel.  In fact, he murdered his brother.

It is informative to us to think about Cain’s motives for killing his brother.  These two men are literally members of the first family.  We assume that at this early date in human history, there were not millions, or even thousands, and it appears there probably weren’t even hundreds of people in the world.  There were no battles being fought, there were no international conflicts, there were no tribal rivalries.  But Cain was so moved by his hatred for his own brother that, the text says he murdered him.  

Then the text conveniently asks and answers the question for us: And why did he murder him?  Because his own deeds were evil and his brother's righteous.  He was provoked to murder because of the differing nature of their deeds, or in other words, because of how they lived their lives.  Cain was evil.  Abel was righteous.  And Abel’s righteousness provoked Cain to murder him.  But he didn’t just murder him:

According to Kistemaker: "Translators avoid a literal translation when they provide the reader with the word murdered . . . .  But the Greek actually says, "Cain . . . cut his brother's throat".  The first act of slaughtering a human being . . . is inseparably connected with the name Cain.2

This Greek word is used elsewhere in the New Testament to refer to the slaughter of sacrificial animals.  That is how animals were killed.  And it appears John is saying that is how Cain killed his brother.  Like a sacrificial lamb.  And why would he do such a thing?  Because Abel was righteous, and Cain was of the devil.

In Genesis 3 we read these words:
Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. [9] Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?” (Genesis 4:8-9 ESV)

In those two verses, Abel is referred to as Cain’s brother four times.  The text is emphasizing the fact that an evil man, someone who is of the devil, will even slaughter his own brother.  And the issue that pushed Cain over the edge was Abel’s righteousness.  Abel was acceptable to God, but Cain was not.  So he hated Abel and slit his throat.

After this rather graphic explanation by John, he then says in the next verse:
Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.
This is the way it has been since the fourth chapter of Genesis.  It is a simple fact of nature that the ungodly hate the godly, and they hate God.  Unregenerate men hate God and they hate God’s people.  But why?  Specifically because God’s people are righteous like God is.  We have just seen that the sons of God and the sons of the devil are recognized by the nature of their deeds.  One is habitually evil, the other habitually righteous.  Those who are evil hate those who are righteous.  That is just the way it is.

[14] We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.

When a person loves Christians, it is because he IS a Christian.  We know this to be true!  It is a spiritual law, a spiritual principle.  Ungodly people, unsaved people, unregenerate people do not love godly, saved, regenerate people.  If you don’t love Christians, if you do not love the children of God, you are still under the curse.  You still need to repent of your sin, you are still in spiritual darkness, you are still dead in your trespasses and sins, you abide in death.  Which is a strange saying, but true: “You live in death.”

Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

Everyone who hates believers is in the company of Cain.  Hatred is the mental seed that produces murder.  And everyone who does not love God’s people hates them.  Jesus said we should not be surprised by this.  They hated Him.  And if we live like Him, and walk in His ways, and have fellowship with Him, and abide in Him--they will hate us too.  And no murderer has eternal life.  

It is rather frightening to think that the person I met on Youtube genuinely hates you and me and God.  He said so.  Not in those exact words.  But the vitriol, the disgust, the demeaning conversation, the ridicule, the utter scorn which I and many others, and even some of you have experienced--to think that those people who hate us are--according to John--children of the devil.  It is frightening.  That is hard to comprehend.

But I’ll tell you something that is even harder to comprehend -- verses 1 and 2.  
[1] See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. [2] Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:1-2 ESV)

Why are we children of God when we are surrounded perpetually by children of the devil?  How did we get here?  Why DON’T we hate the brethren?  Why aren’t we counted with Cain and the murderers?  How is it possible that God would ever even consider the possibility of having the likes of us to become His children?

I do not know.  All I can say is what my good friend the Apostle Paul said: God has saved us according to His own good pleasure.  And Jesus said this:

[32] “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32 ESV)

If the world hates you because you are a true follower of the Lord Jesus, that is to be expected.  They hated Him also.  So do not fear, little flock.  Your good Shepherd says, “Do not be afraid.  My Father has chosen you to inherit the universe!”

If God is for us, even though all men are against us, we are safe.  We are God’s CHILDREN!  What kind of love is that?  That we should be called the children of God--and we are!

----
1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=82X3nORuYBY
2. Kistemaker, Simon J.  New Testament Commentary: Exposition of James, Epistles of John, Peter, and Jude.  2002. p. 306.


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