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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

1 John 3:11-15 - Brotherly love is necessary in times of church conflict

We know that the problem John was dealing with in this letter had been caused by an attack on the church by false teachers who had infiltrated those congregations and led some people away from the faith. It is not too difficult to deduce that if those temporary disciples had been marked by brotherly love they would not have listened to the false teachers. I suspect this is the reason why John refers to the story of Cain and Abel.

Often we so focus on that family tragedy that we forget that the central issue in their disagreement was the worship of God. Abel offered to God an animal from the flock and Cain offered to God some produce that he had grown in his fields. From one perspective, both were giving to God from their assets. Yet it is clear from the account that Abel's offering pleased God whereas the offering of Cain did not, which presupposes that God already had revealed how he should be worshipped. Abel chose to obey God's requirements, but Cain chose to disobey and worship according to his own tastes. The outcome was that instead of having an increase of brotherly love, there was an increase of hostility on Cain's part, which climaxed in murder.

John was writing to those who were endeavouring to live according to God's requirements and to implement his rules. They had come through a situation in which hostility had been shown against them by those who had left. Those who had followed the false teachers actually revealed that instead of belonging to Christ they clearly belonged to the world. Although they had been worshipping God in public in the past, their worship was actually an expression of worldliness, just like Cain. John tells the Christians that they should not be surprised that the consequence of false worship is hostility.

There is a very important lesson here for us to note. Our personal method of worshipping God leads either to increased brotherly love or to increased hostility and disagreements. If our worship is according to his Word, as far as both our minds and hearts are concerned, we will come out of a worship service with an increased sense of brotherly love. If we do not have this increase, it means that whatever else we may have been doing during the worship service we were not worshipping God.

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