1 John 3:11-21

Not like Cain. The one who does not love remains in death. Conscience condemned vs. confident.

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11For this is the gospel message that you have heard from the beginning: that we should love one another, 12not like Cain who was of the evil one and brutally murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his deeds were evil, but his brother’s were righteous. 13Therefore do not be surprised, brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. (1 John 3:11-13)

There is a fundamental flaw in John’s assertion that we are “not like Cain, who was of the evil one.” The issue is that we are fundamentally similar to Cain. We are both Adam’s descendants, and thus both sinners.

Another fundamental flaw exists in John’s subsequent statement that “his deeds were evil, but his brother’s were righteous.” Abel may not have committed a murderous act, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have murder in his heart. In Romans 3:23, it says, “For all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.”

Finally, the only difference between us and the rest of the world is that we have been forgiven. We do, in fact, share their fallen nature. We admit that we are sinners saved by grace. We acknowledge that no good deed, not even loving our brothers and sisters in Christ, will save us. We rely solely on the blood of God’s Lamb.

So, I’m sorry, John, but we’re just like Cain.


14We know that we have crossed over from death to life because we love our fellow Christians. The one who does not love remains in death. 15Everyone who hates his fellow Christian is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.” (1 John 3:14-15)

Can you really judge your salvation by the standard of “love our fellow Christians”? It’s risky to use such a subjective method of determining whether or not you’re saved.

And if “no murderer has eternal life”, then no one does, because all descendants of Adam has murder in their hearts.

21“You have heard that it was said to an older generation, ‘Do not murder,’ and ‘whoever murders will be subjected to judgment.’ 22But I say to you that anyone who is angry with a brother will be subjected to judgment. And whoever insults a brother will be brought before the council, and whoever says ‘Fool’ will be sent to fiery hell (Matthew 5:21-22).

Furthermore, the only unforgivable sin is blaspheming the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12, Mark 3, and Luke 1)—it is the sin of acting as the Holy Spirit to others.

We can apply the same logic to verses 16 through 18.


19And by this we will know that we are of the truth and will convince our conscience in his presence20that if our conscience condemns us, that God is greater than our conscience and knows all things. 21Dear friends, if our conscience does not condemn us, we have confidence in the presence of God. (1 John 3:19-21)

How trustworthy is your conscience? Adam and Eve were the first to be judged by their conscience after learning the difference between good and evil. An overzealous conscience may condemn an innocent person, while a truly guilty offender may be convinced that they have done nothing wrong.

The human mind is more deceitful than anything else. It is incurably bad. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

However, according to John, if your conscience tells you that you’re fine, you’re fine with God. According to this logic, our conscience has the same judging power as God. But how can you trust a “deceitful” mind to determine your relationship with God? There is no fundamental truth that supports this salvation doctrine. The only doctrine I accept is that faith in Christ who died on the cross for my sin is the criterion for reconciliation with God. That is the only way God has provided, and the only way he will accept.

Nghi Nguyen

- Scripture quoted by permission. All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: This is my own opinion on the topic, which does not necessarily reflect the church's theology, or beliefs of the individuals in it — Nghi Nguyen

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