PROBLEM PASSAGE—1 John 3:15
To hate a brother corresponds to the experience of murdering someone. He would be no different than Cain in attitude (v.12) even though he does not commit the physical act of killing his brother. It is the spirit of a murderer.
The NIV incorrectly translates this verse by omitting the word “abiding.” Therefore, the point is not “No murderer has eternal life in him.” The better translation would be “No murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” The focus is on “abiding.” John’s use of abiding is always a reciprocal relationship (Jn 15:4; 1 Jn 2:27). To claim that someone does not have eternal life abiding in him is equivalent to the idea that he does not have Christ abiding in him. The argument here is that of stigmatizing hatred for a brother, an attitude that is inconsistent with true spiritual life. To hate is to lose vital experience with the life of God.
The parallel to “everyone who hates his brother is a murderer” is someone who “does not love.” The idea is a person who actively hates or loves a brother. Love and hate are mutually exclusive dimensions; there is no neutrality between them. Hatred and murder belong to the same category. Someone who hates has committed the same category as murder. The fundamental motive in hate is the same as the overt act of murder. An attitude creates an outcome (hatred).
The Greek word “you know” (οἴδατε) denotes knowledge that is axiomatic. It is common knowledge that the spirit of hatred or murder is inconsistent with the nature of a born-again person— “that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”
“Everyone” allows for no exception; the idea would be every person whose governing spirit is hatred is a murderer. To make this claim is inconsistent with what is real and is also conflicts with Scripture as a whole. We cannot take this verse to mean that it is impossible for a genuine Christian to hate a fellow Christian. The assertion is “anyone” who hates his brother is at issue here. The argument is not that only non-believers can hate here but that another Christian can hate “his brother” (see https://versebyversecommentary.com/1-john/1-john-29/).
To claim that a true believer cannot hate or even murder is an extrapolation that goes beyond the context. John’s argument is one of radical contrasts. David committed both adultery and murder as a believer (2 Sa 12:9). He wrote Scripture (Pss 32 and 51) after committing these sins. Jesus said that hatred of another believer is tantamount to murder (Mt 5:21-22) and lust to adultery (Mt 5:28). A Christian can suffer “as a murderer” (1 Pe 4:15).
The argument is not that “no murderer has eternal life” but that “no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” John did not say that the believer would not possess eternal life but that it would not “abide” in him. It is the experience of “abiding” rather than the possession of eternal life in view here. The believer experiences the same kind of life that a non-believer would experience if he lives with hate. He cannot claim to be in fellowship with the Lord in this state. Hatred is incompatible with spiritual life. God does not dominate this kind of life. The person who is controlled by the life of God in him cannot hate another believer. A person can be a believer and hate but he cannot hate while living the kind of life God affords. The aorist active participle μένουσαν places emphasis on the abiding of eternal life. “Abiding” in fellowship is the argument of the entire epistle of First John.