1 John 3:16 says, “By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”
Some translations say something along the lines of, “Hereby perceive we the love of God”. The words “of God” are not in the original language, and it shouldn’t have been added in the English translation. The meaning of the right phrase is that we know what true love is. We see a most wonderful and striking illustration of its nature. Love itself was seen in its highest form when the Son of God gave Himself to die on the cross for us. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”.
This is how we know love: “that He laid down His life for us“. Jesus’s name isn’t mentioned here, but He is undoubtedly the subject. There are several instances in the New Testament in which Jesus, without immediately preceding mention, is referred to as “He”. He is, after all, the main subject of the gospels and the epistles, and so He often needs no introduction.
Verse 16 then says: “and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” we should be willing to lay down our lives for our Christian brothers and sisters if the necessity arose. There may be circumstances under which it would be appropriate, and we should be ready to do it. The sacrifice that Christ willfully made for the church should be reflected by our willingness to do the same for our siblings, were it necessary. We know that this is a right principle, because Christ did it, and we are bound to follow His example. We also know that the prophets, the Apostles, and the martyrs also did it, laying down their lives for the cause of truth and for the good of the church and the world. We also know that it has always been considered good for a person to, in certain circumstances, lay down his life for the good of others.
We consider it good when a patriot sacrifices his life for his country, or when a captain of ship sacrifices his life to save his passengers and crew, or a doctor working in the midst of disease to save others. Even those whose hearts haven’t been regenerated know that this kind of selfless sacrifice is noble.
This is exactly what the Savior did in laying down His life for the good of mankind. This is, by extension, what the Apostles did in putting their own lives in danger in order to preach the gospel. This is what other martyrs of Christianity did in standing for Christ. In the same way, we should consider our own lives expendable, if it means sharing the hope of salvation to a spiritually dead world or serving our brothers and sisters in Christ.
One second century author wrote of the early Christians, “Behold, how they love one another; they are ready to die for one another.” Another wrote, “in a time of plague they visited one another, and not only hazarded their lives, but actually lost them in their zeal to preserve the lives of others.”
This doesn’t mean that we should be reckless or rash. But if, in our Christian duty, our lives are exposed to danger, we ought not shrink back or run away. We should have such a love for our family in Christ that we would be willing to die for it, as a patriot is willing to die for his country. We should also have such a love for truth that we would be willing to be killed rather than deny it. We should have such a love for our Master’s cause that we would be willing to place ourselves at risk to follow Him.
Today’s reading: 1 John 2:18-3:24 and an article on Antinomianism