What does it mean that we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren?


I am teaching the adult class in the morning. There is one particular verse that I need to be prepared to explain exactly what it is teaching and am not entirely sure.  What is your understanding of I John 3:16?  Are we expected to be willing to die for another when their life is in danger and we might lose ours in protecting that person?  (e.g. Rom 16:4)  Or, is it referring to the interest and devotion we should manifest to our brethren even to the extent of making great and trying sacrifices?  Or, both?


"By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (I John 3:16).

It is both and more. It is the concept of devoted love and the idea of meekness wrapped up into one obligation. It is more than just substituting one life for the life of another. It is the willingness to expend oneself to any extent for the betterment of others.

Isn't this the example that Jesus left for us? "For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: "who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth"; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness--by whose stripes you were healed" (I Peter 2:21-24).

It is the same command husbands are given to obey. "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:25-27).

It is the same concept that drives soldiers to put themselves in danger in order that others in their country might live better lives.