Bible Question:

What is the meaning of brother in 1 John 2:10?

Bible Answer:

What is the meaning of 1 John 2:10? That is our primary question. But in order to answer that question, we answer several. One of them is “What is the meaning of brother in 1 John 2:10?” Another question is “What is the meaning of the word stumbling?” These will help us to understand the meaning of 1 John 2:10.

The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 1 John 2:10 (NASB)


Meaning of 1 John 2:10

Meaning of the Greek Word For Brother

The Greek word that is translated as “brother” in 1 John 2:10 is adelphos. The word literally refers to someone who is nearby. Sometimes the word refers to a family member such as a male sibling. For an example, in Matthew 1:2 the genealogy mentions Judah and his brothers.

Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.  Matthew 1:2 (NASB)

The Greek word adelphos can also refer to a group of people. One example is found in John 21:23,

Therefore this saying went out among the brethren that that disciple would not die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but only, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?” John 21:23 (NASB)

So, adelphos can refer to a brother or to a group of people. The meaning of adelphos depends upon the context of the passage.

Meaning of 1 John 2:10

Therefore, when 1 John 2:10 says, “The one who loves his brother,” we need to look at the context to determine its meaning. The context reveals that the apostle is not discussing siblings. In fact, 1 John 2:12-14 reveals that John is using terms such as brother, children, young men and fathers as figures of speech to teach us spiritual truth. Therefore, the context strongly suggests the broader meaning of adelphos. That is, the verse refers to everyone with whom we associate, including our brothers and sisters and other relatives. With that understood, the rest of the verse is easier to understand.

The Holy Spirit is teaching us that if we do not love those around us, we are not abiding in the Light. 1 John 1:5-7 helps us understand the term “Light.” The passage says,

 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 2:9 (NASB)

The term Light is a reference to God. He is Light. The passage teaches that Christians are those who “walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light” and are those who are cleaned from all sin by the blood of Jesus His Son. Therefore, 1 John 2:10 tells us that those who are in God—believers—will love others.

The Greek word for “stumbling” is skandalon. The word simply refers to an offense. That is, if a person thinks they are a believer and, yet, hates others or a brother or sister, then they will stumble. They will doubt that they are a Christian. Why will they doubt? Because Christians should not be hating other people.

Now why is love a characteristic of a Christian? The answer is that Romans 5:5 teaches us that the love of God has been poured into our hearts.

. . . and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:5 (NASB)

This means that only sin prevents Christians from loving like God. Now, in this life we will never love as God does because our practice or obedience is not perfect; however our love should be increasing. Why should love for others increase? Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that love is part of the fruit of the Spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 (NASB)

Therefore, if we are a Christian, love will be growing since the Holy Spirit is working in true Christians.


1 John 2:10 reveals that if you hate others, you should be concerned that you may not be a Christian because love is a very important characteristic of a Christian. Is there someone you hate? Is there someone you do not want to be near?  Is there someone you would like to avoid? If so, then confess that as a sin and ask God to forgive you and have the Holy Spirit help you love that person.

Suggested Links:

Measuring Your Love Life — audio