I have come to the point where I desire, above all else, to take biblical passages seriously. This does not necessarily mean we take all passages to be literal in every word they use, but that they do convey a truth that we are expected to obey (or at least understand if there is no commandment). Many, if not most, Christians would say they take the Bible seriously, but sometimes if we do not understand a particular phrase or passage of the Bible, we tend to explain it away as something lesser than what its context indicates.
For example, take 1 John 3:13-15: “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you. We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” (italics mine)
I have heard these verses explained as follows: “This means if you don’t have a general love and concern for the welfare of your Christian brothers and sisters, then you have reason to question your salvation.” With that, it is assumed we have proclaimed God’s Word on the matter. In reality, no such ambiguity takes place in the Scripture here. But notice that is not what is said. Most of the entire book of 1 John is concerned with how we can tell the truth of the matter, not how we can question some matters or others. John plainly states those who have no love for the brethren do not have eternal life.
Now there are two extremes to be avoided here. The first extreme is for the ever-nervous believer. He or she thinks, “I was rude a few times to a few believers recently. Does this mean I am unsaved?” The answer is obviously not. In this chapter, John is speaking of a general attitude; the usual actions of a person (cf. 1 John . Do believers really always do righteous and never sin? Or is it that this sin is not counted against them because they are in Christ, as evidenced by their righteous works that they do in fact perform?) are in view.
The second extreme is the “comforted believer.” He or she thinks because they have acted nicely toward a believer before, then this is evidence of his love for the brethren, and thus he has nothing to worry about. This is not so either; even lost people can perform some good actions. The point is that we ought not comfort people who are not really believers at all. It would be doing them an eternal disservice to do so. If they don’t have love for the Christian brothers and sisters, they don’t just have a reason to question their salvation. Rather, they are not saved at all.----------------------------------
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