In “brother love and conditionalism” Jefferson Vann shows that John’s message of brother love in 1 John 3:11-16 is intertwined with conditionalism.
1 John 3:11-16 ESV
11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.
13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.
14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.
15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
brother love and conditionalism
John’s message of brother love is intertwined with conditionalism.
Notice, for example, that there is no assumption of natural immortality in this text. Believers are encouraged to love their brothers, even if that should mean laying down their lives for them.
Oh, but the traditionalist will counter that John was only referring to the life of the body, not the immortal existence of the soul. But wait a minute, what John actually refers to is laying down tas psuchas (the souls)! So, it is a reference to the soul’s mortality as well as that of the body.
But our traditionalist friend will not give up so easily. He counters that the passage states that believers have eternal life dwelling in them already. Certainly that can mean nothing if not a reference to a continued existence after departure from the body.
But such is not the case. The statement is conditionalist. If only one group has eternal life then the contrasting group does not. Traditionalist teaching requires that all people have eternal life within them.
John compares believers today with Abel, and unbelievers with Cain. It would do us all well to remember that in Genesis, both Cain and Abel are represented as mortals. Cain struck Able, and Abel died as a result. Cain buried his brother in the ground, and the Lord saw it. The Lord approached Cain and told him that his brother’s blood cried out to him from the ground. That is not a reference to Abel’s survival at death, but the opposite.
We can all agree that loving our brothers and sisters is a way of showing our new relationship with God through Christ. The eternal life within us is not a natural immortality. It is a supernatural adoption into God’s family, and it will result in our inheriting immortality at our resurrection. Showing mutual love demonstrates that inheritance.
For more on conditional immortality, see: