10 In this are the children of God manifest and the children of the devil: whoever does not righteousness is not of God, neither he that does not love his brother. 11 For this is the message you have heard from the beginning that we ought to love one another. 12 Not like Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother: and wherefore slew he him? Because his works were evil, but his brother’s righteous.1 John 3:10-12
John continues this theme of generation. Who are you born of is the prevailing question of this section. He makes it even more explicit by drawing a chasm in the sand so that the contrast between children of God and the children of the devil is too obvious to miss. God’s people are occupied with works of righteousness because they are born of God (vv7-9); but the devil’s children do not do righteously, and this is evident primarily in their lack of love for their brother.
The message, from the beginning (a favorite turn of phrase for John), is that God’s children should have a love for each other. John testified of what Jesus declared in John 13:35: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” This is the chord progression for song of the true Christian community: they love one another.
But the unrighteous are not so. They are like Cain. John gives us some NT insight into that story of the first murder. Cain was of the Wicked One, and thus we see that the devil was indeed murderous from the beginning. The serpent had blood-thirst for man, he wanted only to steal, kill, and destroy. Satan was behind that first murder, and behind all murders ever since.
The word for “slay” here is one of the most violent words John could have used. It literally means slaughter or butcher, often used to described the slitting of a beast’s jugular. Clearly, John isn’t giving any blurred lines between the righteous and wicked. There isn’t gradation between the righteous and the wicked. Cain’s works were evil, while Abel’s were righteous. There is no Venn diagram overlap between the children of God and the children of the devil. As one theologian insightfully noted “In a rage, Cain slew Abel. In his heart of hearts he thought, ‘If God demands a sacrifice, I’ll give Him one!’ Like any sacrifice, the shed blood called to God, but not for mercy. Abel’s blood cried out for vengeance.”1 Cain sacrificed his brother to cover his failure to bring God an acceptable offering.
While God’s children love one another, the children of the devil murder each other. Human sacrifice is inevitable amongst the children of the devil. Apart from Life which was manifest in Jesus, we all would join in the endless cycle of eye for eye, tooth for tooth, life for life. Christ puts an end to the rivalry, so that those in Christ might fellowship with each other, though they come from every nation, tribe, and tongue.
- 1 Jordan, James. Primeval Saints: Studies in the Patriarchs of Genesis . Canon Press. Kindle Edition.
- 1 John 3:13-18 | The World Hates You
- 1 John 3:10-12 | Children of God, Children of the Devil
- 1 John 3:7-9 | To Destroy the Works of the Devil
- 1 John 3:4-6 | Sin is Lawlessness
- 1 John 3:1-3 | What Unearthly Love
- 1 John 2:28-29 | A Trumpet Blast for Feeble Saints
- 1 John 2:24-27 | The Pastoral Prerogative for Run-on Sentences
- 1 John 2:20-23 | Knowing All Things
- 1 John 2:18-19 | Rival Christs
- 1 John 2:15-17 | The Imperative to Not Love