These small group studies of 1 John contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

1 John 3:11-24 Inductive Bible Study

Outline

I. We are commanded to love one another (11-12)
II. Loving others is evidence that we have eternal life (13-15)
III. Love in action gives us confidence before God (16-22)
IV. Believe God. Obey God. Love the brethren (23-24)

I. We are commanded to love one another (11-12)

Discussion Questions

  • Was John teaching them something new (to love one another)?
  • In what other Scriptures prior to this had it been taught to love one another?
  • Based on Scripture, what would you see are the central mark or marks of a believer?
  • Why is Cain given as an example here?
  • Does this just mean that love is not killing?
  • Then what is the point of this verse?
  • What motivated Cain to kill Able?
  • What motivates us to not love the people around us?
  • Can you give some examples in the Bible of someone who did show Christlike love to others?

Cross-References

Genesis 4:1-8 – Cain kills Abel.

Romans 5:5 – And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

1 Thessalonians 4:9 – Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.

John 15:12 – My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

1 Peter 1:22-23 – Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

Teaching Points

1. John is very consistent that believers need to love one another.

In the gospel of John, he records many of Jesus’ discords on love to His disciples. Love is also a major theme in 1, 2, and 3 John and is also touched on in Revelation. But it is not only John teaching this. Loving others is continuously taught throughout the Bible, including the Old Testament (Leviticus 19:17-18). You could go as far as to say that love is THE distinguishing mark of a believer. Why?

God’s characteristics can fall into two very broad categories. One is justice, which includes His hatred of sin and holiness. The other is love, which includes His grace and mercy. Both are very important for believers, but since we are not the judge of others we can’t exercise justice in the same way that God does. But we can follow God’s examples of love. As believers we must try to emulate God and be like Him. Loving others is one of the best ways to do this.

God showed us His love by sending Christ. Jesus showed His love by giving His life for us.

John often uses the phrase “from the beginning.” This is because the true gospel does not change. Neither do God’s principles. God’s standard and His principles did not change in the first century AD before 1 John was written. Neither have they changed in the two millennium since then. The application of how to love might be different (in the Old Testament it might require taking care of your neighbor’s ox), but the principle is the same.

2. Cain outwardly believed in God. He even offered a sacrifice to God. But his actions show us clearly that he did not really belong to God. He grew jealous of Abel’s success, leading him to hate his brother and finally kill him. Abel’s righteousness made him angry. Why? Most likely when he saw Abel he felt even more guilty and was convicted of his own sin because he knew he didn’t love god like Abel did.

This verse doesn’t mean that as long as we don’t murder others, we are OK! But it shows that the actions show the heart. If you don’t love the people around you and do unkind things on a large scale like Cain or a small scale, then you are unloving and your heart doesn’t belong to God.

II. Loving others is evidence that we have eternal life (13-15)

Discussion Questions

  • Who can give a brief summary of the reasons why the world hates believers?
  • From this passage, how can we know that we have been saved (14)?
  • Then by implication, what does it mean if we do not love?
  • Who is our brother? Why does John say the person who hates his brother is a murderer considering that no court of law in this world would convict somebody for hating his brother?
  • Does this verse indicate that murderers cannot be saved?

Cross-References

Hebrews 11:36-48 – Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

Matthew 5:20-22 – For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Galatians 5:19-21 – The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Revelation 22:15 – Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

Teaching Points

1. Verse 13 is another reminder that the world will hate us if we follow Christ. Cain and Abel are a classic example. Abel followed God and Cain, feeling guilty and jealous, murdered him.

I know a brother who had a home group Bible study raided by the police in one restricted country. This was the result of a lady’s complaint. Her daughter was pregnant with a down syndrome baby and she has been pressuring her daughter to have an abortion. But her daughter asked the believers at this home fellowship for advice. They counseled her to keep the baby. The mother was angry and went to the police to report the “illegal” Bible study group. The police were therefore forced to deal with it and ended up warning them not to hold it anymore. This lady hated the Christians because of what they stood for.

When these kinds of things happen to you, do not be surprised about it. It is likely to happen sooner or later.

It might be surprising to some because Christians may think “I didn’t do anything to her. I’ve only showed love and kindness to the people around me. Why do they hate me?” Well, our love for others doesn’t guarantee they love us in return.

2. In verse 14 we see a review of one of the spiritual self-exam tests we can perform on ourselves. That is, do we love the brethren? If we truly love others from our heart, this is evidence that we are saved. If we don’t love others, then we are still abiding in death. So you see that loving others is not a choice. It is not optional. It is not just there as a choice if or when we feel like it. It is THE CORE mark of a believer. It is THE CORE action of a believer. After trusting in Christ, our lives are to be different. A key aspect of that is that we are to love one another.

A real Christian loves others.

3. Here we see that God equates hatred with murder. To God they are one and the same. Why? The attitude is equal to the action. According to the world’s standards, you can think whatever you want. You can lust, covet, envy, or hate, but if you don’t do it (perhaps out of fear of being caught and punished), then it is OK. The court of law would not convict you. Most of the time they wouldn’t even know because these are unseen things going in our mind.

But God knows. He sees everything. He will judge our thoughts (Hebrews 4:12) and our motivations. What is more, if we have hate and greed in our hearts, eventually these attitudes are bound to show themselves in our behavior. So what application can we make from this? Resolve any unconfessed ill will Confess your sin to God (and yes, not forgiving someone is also sin). Then go to the brother or sister and resolve the conflict. Whatever they did to you, forgive them.

1 Peter 3:9 – Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

III. Love in action gives us confidence before God (16-22)

Discussion Questions

  • What is true love?
  • If we don’t have the opportunity to really give our lives for others, how can we demonstrate this love?
  • What is the connection, if any, between loving the people around us and loving God?
  • Which of love’s qualities does verse 17 highlight?
  • What does this verse tell us about God’s view of our possessions?
  • Does verse 18 teach us that we shouldn’t say “I love you” to others?
  • If not, what does it mean?
  • Have you ever felt upset that someone told you he/she loves you, but doesn’t show it?
  • What are some examples of how we can love in deed?
  • What are some examples of how to love in truth?
  • What are the positive benefits for the person who loves others?
  • Compare and contrast the phrase “assure our heart before Him” (19) and “if our heart does not condemn us” (21).
  • Is verse 22 a guarantee to give us everything we ask for in prayer? What conditions are there for God answering our prayer?

Cross-References

Galatians 5:13 – You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.

Romans 13:8 – Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.

Romans 12:9 – Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 – If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

James 2:14-16 – What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?

Teaching Points

1. Love can be a very nebulous word. In English it has a very broad meaning. I love to eat pizza. I love playing basketball. I love music. I love my cat. I love my friend. I love my child/parent/wife, etc. A guy who wants to sleep with a girl, also says “I love you. Don’t you love me?” So the word “love” has a lot of different possible meanings, some of which are not even close to the love we see in Scripture. So what is love?

Jesus showed us the prime example. He gave His life for us. That is love. It was something that wasn’t deserved. It was freely given with no strings attached. It was unconditional. It was an act. It was a choice. It was costly. It required a sacrifice. These are some of the aspects of true love.

What is the connection, if any, between loving the people around us and loving God?

Once again, none of this is new to us. We all should know by now that love in the Bible is not the same as in the world. We know that it is an unselfish action choice. I’m pretty sure we all understand the doctrine of love. But how to do it?

2. How do we love? This is the question. Verse 16 says we should lay down our life for the brethren. I don’t think this means only give your physical life and die for someone. Most of us will not have this opportunity or need. But we need to die to self everyday. We need to give ourselves as a living sacrifice. We need to treat others better than we treat ourselves. We need to put others first.

3. Verse 17 gives a practical way to love others. We can use our material possessions to help them. If we see people in need and refuse to help, then it is unloving.

4. Verse 18 expands on this. We are not to love in word or tongue. It is not just words. Words are easy to say. But telling someone you love them doesn’t make it true. In many cases, when someone says, “I love you” they are lying. If they said, “I love your money,” “I love your sportscar,” or “I love your good looks,” it would be more accurate. John’s point is not that it is wrong to say “I love you.” Jesus told others He loved them. His point is that that in itself is not enough.

True love is expressed through actions. Jesus gave His life for us.

Application: What do you do to show your love to others?

Stop and consider for a moment if your closest relatives and friends feel your love. Can they feel your care? Or are your kind words just empty ones? Let’s go around the table one by one and each give a specific way of how you can love someone close to you in deed. Think of something practical and doable in the short term.

How do you love in truth? If you are in a group, one by one describe a way you can love someone in truth. What is the difference? Will you commit to doing one of these two things this week? Remember that it is meaningless to just talk about our love or theorize it. We must put it into practice.

5. Loving others has a lot of benefits. First among them is it lets them see and experience the love of God. It can help your relationship grow stronger. It can also help you. How? It can give you assurance of your own relationship to God. Loving others is one evidence of your salvation so if you routinely love others it helps you grow more confident in your own relationship with Christ. That is what the phrase in verse 19 “it can assure our heart before Him” means.

The opposite side of that our hearts will condemn us if we don’t love others. I’m sure Cain’s heart condemned him when he killed This is basically another way of saying that our conscience’s warning bells will go off. So loving others can give you peace and make you feel happy. Right? Of course we know this is true. We feel happier after helping someone than hurting someone.

6. Another benefit is that if we have a good relationship with God and are following Him, He will answer our prayers when we pray to Him. Remember that God doesn’t promise to answer everyone’s prayers. He may or may not answer the stranger’s prayers. But He does promise to answer His children’s prayers.

But notice that God will give you the things you ask for IF you are obeying Him and doing the things that please Him. So for example, you ask God to let this beautiful girl (who is not a believer) agree to marry you. She doesn’t agree. You blame God for it and say He didn’t keep His promise. Wrong! You are not obeying Him by trying to marry an unbeliever, therefore He doesn’t agree to answer your prayer.

IV. Believe God. Obey God. Love the brethren (23-24)

Discussion Questions

  • What is the foundation of salvation?
  • What is the result of this salvation?
  • How can we abide in Him?
  • Based on these verses, is the Christian life complicated?
  • But is it difficult? Why?
  • Why is it sometimes difficult to obey? To love? To believe?

Teaching Points

1. Here we see three core elements of the gospel. Believe in Christ. Obey Christ.Love others.

This is not rocket science. It is Christianity 101. We all know these things. Being a Christian is simple. But it is not easy. We have to believe God when things are not going how we would like and we cannot understand or see His plan. We have to obey even when we would rather do it our own way. We have to love others even when they are unlovable and don’t deserve it. Doing the right things won’t happen naturally. Pray to God for strength and grace. Resolve yourself to do what is right even when it is difficult. And then, just do it.

Application: Is there someone in your life that you are finding it hard to love? Why is it hard for you? What can you do to show love to them this week?

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