What Does 1 John 3:17 Mean?

But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?

1 John 3:17(NASB)

Verse Thoughts

God is love and the qualities of a Christian who is walking in spirit and truth and abiding in Christ is a fervent love for God and a compassionate love for others. A profound love for the Lord and benevolence towards brothers and sisters in Christ is not a warm, fuzzy feeling or some romantic, emotional sensation but an unselfish action that is quietly carried out in sprit, in truth, in reality and in action. 

God is also holy and righteous and His children should display these same characteristics, which are only possible when one is abiding in Christ and being led by the Holy Spirit. Those that are begotten of God do what is righteous because the Lord our God is righteous and we are born of His Spirit; washed in His blood; filled with His goodness and identified with His Son. By grace through faith we are one with Him, and in the power of the Spirit have been imputed with the righteousness of God and have the sinless life of Christ dwelling within.

This section in first John chapter 3 gives some stark comparisons of the righteous with the sinner; those who belong to God with those who are children of the devil. It contrasts good with evil; right with wrong; love with hate and even draws a comparison between righteous Abel, whose sacrifice to God was acceptable to Him and wicked Cain, who secretly slew his brother out of jealous hatred and pride. 

This section makes it very clear that when we are children of God our actions and attitudes should reflect those of our Saviour. We are to be salt to a diseased world and light to a generation in sorrow and darkness. We are to bless those who insult and persecute us; pray for those who do evil against us; help the afflicted and minister to the brokenhearted. We are to give to those in need and if we are endowed with this world's goods we should cheerfully meet their need. If we see a fellow believer in any kind of want, we should take steps to supply what is needed and not turn away from his problem or shut our heart to his pain.

John does not simply instruct us on how to live godly lives but challenges us with a direct question upon which we need to reflect and carefully consider. He does not simply say "whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need should not close his heart against him," but poses the question, "how does the love of God abide in a believer who has sufficient of this world's goods yet shuts off his heart towards their need? How is it possible for the love of God to be in someone who claims to be a Christian when they refuse to help their fellow man?

How does the love of God abide in him? How does the love of God abide in a man who has plenty and sees his brother in need, but closes his heart against him? The answer to this question is clear and unmistakable - He cannot! This selfish and uncaring attitude in a Christian does not invalidate their salvation as some like to teach, but it does show they are carnal and out of fellowship with the Father - for the love of God is not being reflected in their life.

Godly living inevitably comes back to abiding in Christ; walking in spirit and truth; dying to self and allowing Christ to live in us and through us. This can never be carried out in our own strength, and a fleshly believer will expose his sinful carnality through a lack of love and concern for their fellow believers.

May we examine our own actions, attitudes, moods and motives, lest we fall into Christian carnality and unloving responses to others. May the word of Christ dwell in us richly so that we only say and do those things that are honouring in His sight, so that others will be blessed, we will mature in the faith and God will be glorified.

My Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your word of truth and the many things I can learn from questioning my own actions, attitudes, moods and motives. Thank You for this passage in first John that has caused me to reflect on the way that I treat my brothers and sisters in Christ, and may I grow more like Jesus day by day. Thank You for all Your goodness in providing all I need for life and godliness, but keep me from holding on too tightly to my possessions. Help me to be wise and prudent in the way I use my resources and generous towards others when I see a need. Search my inner thoughts I pray and if there is anything in me that causes you pain, I pray that You would bring it to my attention and help me grow in wisdom and love  - this I ask in Jesus' name AMEN.

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