|1 John Chapter 3|
MY PERSONAL COMMENTARY
THE BOOK OF FIRST JOHN
By David L. Hannah
1 John 3:1
Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.
* Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, *
Concerning “manner,” Vincent says,
“Originally it means from what country or race; then, of what sort or quality. It is used of the quality of both persons and things.”
Wycliffe offers this thought,
“The word does imply astonishment and admiration (cf. Matt 8:27; Mark 13:1; Luke 1:29; 2 Peter 3:11 for the only other uses in the NT).”
Translators render it,
“What marvelous love the Father has extended to us!” [the Message].
“See what great love the Father has given us” [BBE].
“SEE WHAT [an incredible] quality of love the Father has given (shown,
bestowed on) us,” [AMP].
“See how very much our heavenly Father loves us,” [TLB].
Wycliffe speaks of “astonishment and admiration.” Look at the other five times this word was used. It’s used in the sense of what an amazing man Jesus is (Matt 8:27); of what incredible stones were used in the temple (Mark 13:1; of what an unimaginable thing for an angel to say to Mary (Luke 1:29; of the quality of the woman who touched Jesus (Luke 7:39); and of the passionate effort we should put forth to live right when we understand how temporary everything in this world is (2 Peter 3:10-11). It’s obvious this word is used to express amazement.
John is telling his readers, which include you and I, to “behold” the quality of the Love that God Loves us with. It’s unlike any other love! There’s no other love that we can compare this Love to. It’s marvelous [the Message]! It’s great [BBE]! Its’ quality is incredible [Amp]! How very much He Loves us [TLB]!
Regarding “bestowed upon us,” UBS says,
“The verb is in the perfect tense, to show that God’s gracious gift determines the present situation.”
The marvelous, great, incredible Love that God has for us is eternal in its’ scope. This Love had no beginning! He didn’t begin Loving us as a result of some action of ours. He Loved us, and determined to save us, before He laid the foundations of this world, and this universe, and before there was time (Eph 1:4-5). This Love has no end! He won’t quit Loving us as a result of some action of ours. His Love for us will continue throughout eternity, where we will be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom 8:29; 1 John 3:2), and live forever in His Love (2 Cor 5:8; Phil 1:23; 1 Thess 4:17; Rev 7:13-17). He has Loved us always! He will Love us always! He can’t help Himself; He is Love (1 John 4:8)!
* that we should be called the sons of God: *
He concluded the last Chapter by reminding us that we are “born of him” (1 John 2:29). The thought of our being born into the very family of God seems to have caused him to reflect on the amazing Love with which God Loves us. We’re born into His family! That means we are His children! We are “the sons of God”
John is fascinated with the Truth that He Who is God Loves us. In our current verse he’s amazed that mortal men can be called “the sons of God.” Later, he’s amazed that “we shall be like him” (1 John 3:2), that God would lay down His life for us (1 John 3:16), that He would send His Son so we could find Life (1 John 4:9), that because of His Love for us we are free from fear of judgment (1 John 4:17-18), and that He Loved us first, an eternity before we Loved Him (1 John 4:19).
[many translators add] * (and such we are,) *
“Lit., and we are. Added by Rev., according to the best texts. A parenthetical, reflective comment, characteristic of John.”
John Gill points out,
“The Alexandrian copy, and some others, and the Vulgate Latin version, add, “and we are”, or “be”; and the Ethiopic version, “and have been”; for it is not a mere name that is bestowed, but the thing itself in reality; and in the Hebrew language, “to be called”, and “to be”, are terms synonymous.”
* therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. *
“Because believers are children of God, John warns them that the world is unable to recognize them or relate to them. That should not surprise them because neither did the world recognize God. The failure of the world to know God is one of the basic themes of the gospel of John (John 5:37; 7:28; 16:3). Those who belong to the world live in darkness.”
The Message renders it this way,
“But that’s also why the world doesn’t recognize us or take us seriously, because it has no idea who he is or what he’s up to.”
The world, all of unregenerate mankind, doesn’t know God because it failed to recognize that when they saw Jesus they had “seen the Father” (John 14:9). He was, and is, “the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person” (Heb 1:3). Jesus was God “manifest in the flesh” (1 Tim 3:16). He only did those things He had seen the Father do (John 5:19). In every way He was a chip off the old block! What God always was, is, and always will be, Jesus, in His humanity, was.
The world didn’t know that Jesus was sent by God, and was like God, and was God. Therefore, they didn’t recognize Who was among them. John tells us, for that very reason they will not recognize who we are as His children. When our conduct is truly Christian, when we walk in the Love that we are Loved with, the world will never understand us.
(Verse One of Chapter Three in my own words.)
Wow! (Did you get that?) What an incredibly amazing Love our Father has lavishly given us! Think of it! We are called the children of God! And, (the amazing thing is) that’s who we are! Because the world never knew Him (never understood why He did what He did) they will never know us (never understand why we do what we do).
1 John 3:2
Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
* Beloved, now are we the sons of God, *
He’s telling his readers: 1) that they who are doing, as a course of life, what’s right are “born of” God (1 John 2:29); 2) that because we’re “born of him” we have been blessed with the privilege of being called the “sons of God” (1 John 3:1); and 3) that we are called the “sons of God because that’s exactly what we are at this very moment (current verse).
He expressed in the previous verse (1 John 3:1) that being called “the sons of God” is an expression of the radical Love of God for us. If being called His sons reflects how much God Loves us, what about our actually being “the sons of God”? Here’s an amazing Truth: without a doubt our God radically, fanatically, relentlessly, continuously Loves us!
* and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: *
Concerning “does not yet appear,” Vincent says,
“Rev., more correctly, it is not yet made manifest. See on John 21:1. The force of the aorist tense is, was never manifested on any occasion.”
We are already something unbelievably great, the very sons of God. Our position as His children is an amazing expression of His Love for us. However, “We ain’t seen nothing yet, Baby!” We are His children, but our fallen nature and the frailty of our human bodies limit us from a full realization of all that is entailed by that fact. However, there’s a day coming when that will no longer be the case. The eternal purpose of God for us (Rom 8:29) has not yet been fully revealed. But it will be! God, Who loves us without limit, has demonstrated that Love by bringing us into His family as His children. Amazing as that is, He has far more glorious things in store for us.
* but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; *
UBS, regarding “when he shall appear,” makes this statement,
“There are, therefore, several other versions (such as NEB, Zürich, Jérusalem, Luther 1956) which follow another interpretation, taking the second verb form also as an impersonal third person, referring to the future situation of we. Thus v. 2 b may be rendered, ‘when it appears, we shall be like him,’ or, more explicitly, ‘when it actually does appear (or when we actually do see that), we shall be like him.’”
“The subject may be Christ as in 1 John 3:9, or the future manifestation just mentioned. Either makes sense, probably ‘it’ here better than ‘he.’”
Vincent also agrees,
“The English Revised Version (1885) correctly has: ‘if He’ (or ‘it’) ‘shall be manifested.’ We may render either ‘if it shall be manifested,’ that is ‘what we shall be;’ or, ‘if He,’ etc. The preceding efaneroothee (NT:5319) ‘it is’ (not yet) ‘made manifest,’ must, I think, decide us in favor of the rendering ‘it.’”
Many other Commentators disagree, believing “he” to be the correct translation (Clarke, Gill, Henry, Alford, the People’s New Testament, and Wesley for example).
Here’s the possibilities: though it hasn’t yet been revealed, or manifested, what we shall be, we know intuitively (see my notes on 1 John 2:2) that 1) when it is revealed, or manifested, we will be like Jesus; or, we know intuitively that 2) when Jesus is revealed, or manifested, we will be like Him. Whichever John had in mind one thing is certain, “we shall be like him” because “we shall see him as he is.”
John’s either looking towards the manifestation of what’s not yet manifested, “what we shall be,” or towards the manifestation of the Lord Jesus, when He comes again. In either case the result is the same because the manifestation of “what we shall be” occurs when “we shall see him as he is,” or when He is manifested.
Concerning “we shall be like him,” Robertson comments,
“This is our destiny and glory (Rom 8:29), to be like Jesus who is like God (2 Cor 4:6).”
Matthew Henry sees it this way,
“like him in honour, and power, and glory. Their vile bodies shall be made like his glorious body; they shall be filled with life, light, and bliss from him.”
John Gill weighs in with these thoughts,
“in body, fashioned like to his glorious body, in immortality and incorruption, in power, in glory, and spirituality, in a freedom from all imperfections, sorrows, afflictions, and death; and in soul, which likeness will lie in perfect knowledge of divine things, and in complete holiness.”
We are not going to become God, like Jesus is, but we are going to become like Jesus in the above-mentioned ways. Certainly, we will become like Him is character, and in form. We will step out of the temporary, and into the eternal (2 Cor 4:18), whatever that implies. Time will have no more effect to us. There will be no corruption in us, no dishonor, no physical or spiritual weakness, and no natural body; but rather we’ll have a spiritual body, whatever that implies (1 Cor 15:42-44). It is unimaginable to us at this time because there’s absolutely no way for us three dimensional creatures, bound by time, to conceive what it’ll be like to be free from the constraints of time and dimensions. But we know, intuitively, that it’ll be beyond our wildest dreams.
Whatever is entailed in our being “like him,” it is God’s eternal purpose for us (Rom 8:29). We were created in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27; 5:1-2), but sin marred that image, and consequently, we’ve “come short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23).
Concerning “glory” in Romans 3:23, the 1828 Webster’s dictionary says,
“The divine perfections or excellence.”
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia mentions,
“glory is the possesion and characteristic of Yahweh.”
John Wesley adds,
“The supreme end of man; short of his image on earth, and the enjoyment of him in heaven” (emphasis mine).
Vincent tells us,
“Interpretations vary greatly. The glory of personal righteousness; that righteousness which God judges to be glory; the image of God in man; the glorying or boasting of righteousness before God; the approbation of God; the state of future glory” (emphasis mine).
The People’s New Testament suggests,
“I believe this suggests the idea. Man was made originally in the image of God. He was then sinless. No sinner is in the Divine image. All have sinned, and to have the divine likeness restored, need to have their sins blotted out. Until this is done they come short of the glory of God.”
UBS shares this idea,
“‘Glory’ in this passage may refer not to God’s saving presence, but to the likeness of God that each man is intended to bear but which has been forfeited because of sin. Most translations simply render this literally. Of the three modern translations that attempt to give meaning to this phrase, Phillips seems to have missed the meaning completely (‘everyone falls short of the beauty of God’s plan’), while the JB (see note in the JB) seems to go in the same direction as the TEV; the NEB (‘are deprived of the divine splendor’) seems to support the alternative interpretation explained here.”
I agree with People’s and UBS. Here’s why, the “glory of God” is the essence of Who He is, or the “characteristic of Yahweh” [ISBE], or His “divine perfections” [Webster]. Here’s an example: the glory of John Elway as a football player is the essence of his play on the field. The glory of God is the essence of Who He is in relation to His creation. God’s glory is the Who He is! We were created in His image, the Who He is! We’ve come short of His image, the Who He is! God is in the process of restoring us to the image of His Son, the Who He is, which is in accordance with His eternal purpose for our lives!
Here, then, is the message of Scripture: 1) God created us in His image (Gen 1:27); 2) we sinned and fell short of that image (Rom 3:23); 3) God’s eternal purpose for us is to restore us to that image (Rom 8:29); and 4) it will be fully realized when we see Jesus as He is (current verse).
* for we shall see him as he is. *
“The transforming power of this vision of Christ (1 Cor 13:12) is the consummation of the glorious process begun at the new birth (2 Cor 3:18).”
“It is clearly implied here that there will be an influence in beholding the Saviour as he is, which will tend to make us like him, or to transform us into his likeness. See the nature of this influence explained in the notes at 2 Cor 3:18.”
I quoted these two gentlemen because they’re stating exactly what I believe. We will be like Him, which is the eternal, pre-determined will of God for us, when we see Him as He is. We are currently being changed into the very image of God that we now see, or understand (2 Cor 3:18). The problem is that we currently “see through a glass, darkly” (1 Cor 13:12). Consequently, the transformation is ongoing, “from glory to glory,” and will continue to be so until we see Him “face to face” (also 1 Cor 13:12), or until we “see him as he is” (current verse).
When we spend time in the Word, in the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ, and meditate on the Who Jesus is, and what He accomplished, we will come to understand more Truth (John 8:31-32) regarding His glory. That Truth will bring us greater freedom as the Holy Spirit changes us into the very image of Christ that God enables us, through Divine revelation, to comprehend (2 Cor 3:18). The challenge, then, is to continue to ask the Father to show us more of Jesus, because it’s in seeing Jesus that we discover God’s transforming power in our lives.
(Verse Two of Chapter Three in my own words.)
My beloved children, we are the children of God right now, yet it hasn’t been fully revealed what we shall be (when we become like Him). However, we intuitively know this, when it is revealed (or, when He is revealed) we will be like He is (restored to His image), because (we will no longer see through a glass darkly, but) we will see Him clearly, just as He truly is in all His glory.
1 John 3:3
And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.
* And every man that hath this hope *
Every man who has what hope?
Concerning this “hope,” People’s New Testament says,
“To have a hope of being like Christ leads us to try to be like Christ; hence, to be pure as he is pure.”
Thayer points out,
“in the Christian sense, joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation.”
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia comments,
“Indeed, hope is simply faith directed toward the future, and no sharp distinction between faith and hope is attainable.”
Biblical “hope” isn’t simply a hoping that something will work out. As ISBE says, it’s “simply faith directed toward the future.” As Paul taught, “hope” is simply waiting patiently for something you know is coming, but you don’t have it yet.
The hope being referred to here is the desire to “be like him” that’s mentioned in the previous verse (1 John 3:2). The inner hope of the believer isn’t the hope of Heaven, but rather, it’s the “hope of glory” (Col 1:27). Again, God’s glory is the essence of Who He is. We were created in His image, but sin marred that image, and we fell short of the glory, the Who He is, of God (see my notes on the previous verse). The “hope” referred to here is our restoration to that image, that glory of God, the Who He is; it’s our being restored to being “like Him.”
Paul wrote that the things we suffer “are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom 8:18), the “hope of glory” he told the Colossian believers about in the above-mentioned verse. This “glory which shall be revealed in us” is the “manifestation of the sons of God” (Rom 8:19), or, our coming into the fullness of what God has intended for us, which is our being “conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom 8:29). Let’s follow this carefully. God has purposed that you and I become like His Son, restored to His image, the glory we’ve fallen short of as a result of sin. Heaven will be fantastic! Our becoming like Jesus will be far greater! There is nothing that this world can offer that’s “worthy to be compared” with it. It is our heritage as children of God.
All creation groans for this event to take place, this “manifestation of the sons of God” (Rom 8:19-22), because creation itself will be restored to its’ original state of glory, or “into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom 8:21) at that time. Not only is creation groaning for the arrival of this event, this moment of our becoming like Jesus, but we also groan for that day when we’ll lay aside the limitations of this flesh, and step into the glorious freedom of being like Him (Rom 8:23). It isn’t something that we’ve already experienced, but it’s something we “hope” for (Rom 8:24; current verse), and patiently wait for (Rom 8:25).
We “groan” to be like Jesus! It’s an inner desire created in us at the time when we were born into the family of God and became new creatures (2 Cor 5:17). At that moment of our new birth we were created to do “good works” (Eph 2:10), which is being like Jesus Who “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38). When we do those “good works” we are doing the very thing that God has pre-determined we do (Eph 2:10).
Here’s the logic: God created us to do “good works,” which is to “walk, even as he walked” (1 John 2:6), or to be like Jesus. We were born to this end, and we inwardly yearn, or “groan” (Rom 8:23), to be “like Him” (1 John 3:2). Nothing else can satisfy, because this is what we crave for. We struggle in the walking out of this craving, so we ask God for help. Unfortunately, when it comes to asking God to help us in this area, we’re hampered by our “infirmities,” or the weakness of our understanding. We have no idea how to pray, or exactly what to ask for, so the Holy Spirit Who lives inside of us begins interceding “for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Rom 8:26). He prays for us, that Father would continue to work in us “both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil 2:13), or give us the desire and the ability to do what’s right. Father then searches our hearts, where the Holy Spirit lives, and understands the “mind of the Spirit”, His intercession for us with “groanings which cannot be uttered,” which intercession is “according to the will of God” (Rom 8:26-27). Since the Holy Spirit is praying for us in accordance with Father’s will God will move on our behalf; and consequently, all things, rather good or bad, will ultimately work together for our good (Rom 8:28). Why? God has pre-determined to take whatever comes our way and use it as a tool to fashion us into the “image of his Son” (Rom 8:29), because He already sees us “glorified” (Rom 8:30), or restored to the image of God, or the glory of God, or the Who He is, we were created in, but was marred by sin, and we fell short of.
This is the “hope of glory” (Col 1:27)! This is the “hope” our current verse is referring to! This is the “hope” that burns in the child of God, the hope to “be like him” (1 John 3:1-2)!
* in him *
“The prepositional phrase indicates the person upon whom the hope is based, in other words, the person on whom those who hope are relying for the fulfillment of their hope.”
“Set on him (ep’ autōi). Resting upon (epi) with locative rather than eis, looking to, Act_24:15. That is upon Christ (Brooke), upon God (D. Smith), upon God in Christ (Westcott).”
This “in him” isn’t stating that we have this “hope” inside of us, though we certainly do. Rather, it’s stating that we are looking to God (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit), to fulfill this “hope” we have of becoming like Jesus.
* purifieth himself, even as he is pure. *
“‘causes himself to be pure,’ ‘takes care to be pure.’ The present tense expresses a continuous activity; hence, ‘makes and keeps himself pure.’”
We are Christians (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16)!
Concerning the word “Christians,” Strong’s Concordance says,
“Christianos; khris-tee-an-os’; Christian, that is, follower of Christ.”
John tells us we’re to “walk in the light, as he is in the light” (1 John 1:7), “walk, even as he walked” (1 John 2:6), be righteous because “he is righteous” (1 John 2:29), and purify ourselves because “he is pure” (current verse).
As Christians we are to follow the example of the One that we follow, the Lord Jesus. He’s in the light. We’re to walk in the light. He’s righteous. We’re to be righteous. He’s pure. We’re to purify ourselves. However, this is far more than a command. John’s saying that the one who has given himself to Jesus has a desire to be like Jesus, knows that he will be like Jesus when he sees Him as He is, and works on being as much like Jesus as he can be in this life. This isn’t simply following a command. It’s pursuing a craving!
We want to be like Jesus! We crave to be like Jesus! We “groan” to be like Jesus! Consequently, we do our best to be like Jesus. Thank God Almighty, one day we will be like Jesus!
(Verse Three of Chapter Three in my own words.)
And every one of God’s children who have this hope (of becoming fully restored to the image of Christ), and who look to God to fulfill this hope, (follow the craving of their heart and) begin to do their best to purify themselves (live right), because the One they follow is pure (lived right).
1 John 3:4
Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
* Whosoever committeth sin *
Concerning “committeth,” Vincent remarks,
“Rev., better, every one that doeth sin.”
Again, the Greek word translated “committeth” here is the identical Greek word translated “doeth” in an earlier verse (1 John 2:29), and according to the Online Bible, in both cases the tense is present, the voice is active, and the mood is participle. In other words, the action taken when we commit sin is identical to the action taken when we do righteousness. The sin and righteousness is different, but the action taken (how we do them, how often we do them, etc.) is identical.
As Vincent remarks it would be better to translate it, in our current verse, “doeth” sin. Or, I would add, translate it in the previous verse “committeth” righteousness. Either way, the reader would understand that it’s talking about the same action. We either do what’s right or do what’s wrong; or, we commit what’s right or commit what’s wrong. It should be understood as identical with both the subject of sin, and the subject or righteousness.
The reason I’m stressing this point is because I want us to see that whatever we decide is meant by “committeth” sin is also meant by “doeth” righteousness. If we decide 1.) that it’s referring to a single act of sin in our current verse, and a later verse (1 John 3:8), then we must also decide 2.) that it’s referring to a single act of righteousness in three other verses (1 John 2:29; 3:7, 10). 1.) If one single act of sin makes us lawless (see my notes on the next section of this verse) and “of the devil,” then 2.) one single act of doing something right makes us “born of him,” and “righteous.” On the other hand, if 1.) it requires absolute perfection in doing what’s right, in the sense of never doing anything wrong, to be “born of him” and “righteousness,” then 2.) it requires absolute perfection in sinning, in the sense of never doing anything right, to be lawless and “of the devil.” We can’t make “doeth” mean one thing and “committeth” mean something else, because when John wrote this Epistle in Greek he used the same word, the same present tense of that word, the same active voice of that word, and the same participle mood of that word. Consequently, what we decide he meant in one case we must also decide he meant in the other. Neither example (1.) that it implies a single act of sin or righteousness, or 2.) it implies a righteousness absolutely free of sin or a sinfulness absolutely free of any act of doing what’s right) would stand the scrutiny of Scripture. We must decide that it’s referring to a lifestyle of righteousness verses a lifestyle of sin. In other words, 1.) the one who, as a course of his life, habitually does what’s right is “born of him” and “righteous,” but 2.) the one who as a course of his life, habitually sins is lawless and “of the devil.”
I’m convinced we could place the previous three verses (1 John 3:1-3) in parenthesis. John concludes the previous Chapter by writing that the one who “doeth righteousness is born of him” (1 John 2:29), and then picks up the subject in our current verse by writing that the one who “committeth,” or “doeth” sin is lawless. It seems to me that the three verses in between were birthed by the Apostle’s amazement of what he had just written, that we are born of God. So he quickly injects his feelings by saying, “Wow! What amazing Love He has for us that we are called His children (1 John 3:1). And that’s just the beginning of His Love; we’re going to be like Him (1 John 3:2). And it’s that understanding that creates in us a burning desire to be as much like Him as we possibly can be in this life (1 John 3:3). “Now,” he must be thinking, “let’s get back to our discussion” (current verse).
John is consistent throughout this Epistle. He told believers not to sin, but if they did sin they had an Advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1). That’s the message of the Gospel to believers, “Don’t sin! However, in those times when you fail to live up to that goal you have the Lord Jesus Christ pleading your cause before our Father, a God Who radically, fanatically, relentlessly, continuously Loves you. He then, for Christ’s sake (Eph 4:32), forgives and cleanses us (1 John 1:9).” There’s the Gospel message: don’t sin, but if you do there’s forgiveness through Christ.
Here’s what I want you to see: sin doesn’t remove us from fellowship with God. He’ll never leave us or forsake us (Heb 13:5-6). However, the faith that caused you to believe the Gospel message (Rom 10:9) and to confess “unto salvation” (Rom 10:10) is the very same faith that overcomes the world (1 John 5:4), and causes you to believe the promises He’s given us that allow us to partake “of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:4). Conduct is the evidence of faith (James 2:18), just as it’s the evidence of Love (1 John 3:17-18). What we believe affects our conduct, and how we Love affects our conduct. You can’t believe His “exceeding great and precious promises” (2 Peter 1:4) that tell us we’re new creatures in Christ, and that the old things have “passed away” (2 Cor 5:17), and then live just as though nothing has happened. Faith in Christ, and His Gospel message, will always produce His fruit in us (Gal 5:22-23), “some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold” (Matt 13:8). We can’t truly be saved and live as though we aren’t.
Robertson puts it this way,
“Doing sin is the converse of doing righteousness (1John 2:29). The present active participle (poion) means the habit of doing sin.”
* (sin) transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. *
Regarding this phrase Wycliffe tells us,
“The terms are interchangeable (because of the use of the article with both words). Sin is lawlessness and lawlessness is sin.”
Concerning “transgresseth” and “transgression,” Thayer shows us the Greek word is,
“4160 poiew poieo poy-eh’ –o.”
In other words, “transgresseth” is the same Greek word translated “doeth” (1 John 2:29) and “committeth” (current verse).
So Vincent comments,
“Rev., more accurately, doeth also lawlessness.”
Concerning “the law,” Wycliffe says,
“Law is used in its broadest concept here and includes natural law (Rom 2:14), the Mosaic law, the law of Christ (Rom 8:2; 1 Cor 9:21).”
Thayer gives this definition,
“1) the condition of without law; 1a) because ignorant of it; 1b) because of violating it; 2) contempt and violation of law, iniquity, wickedness.”
Of the 15 times this word is used in the New Testament it’s translated “iniquity” twelve times and “unrighteousness” once. This verse contains the other two times it’s used and it’s translated here as “the law.” It’s the Greek word “anomia,” not “nomos.” “Nomos” is used 197 times and is always translated “law.” “Nomos” is the word of choice when referring to the Law of Moses, the Torah. “Anomia” is only translated “law” in this verse and is never used to refer exclusively to Moses’ Law.
The translation called God’s Word renders it,
“Those who live sinful lives are disobeying God. Sin is disobedience.”
The Message has it,
“All who indulge in a sinful life are dangerously lawless, for sin is a major disruption of God’s order.”
The Amplified Bible reads this way,
“Everyone who commits (practices) sin is guilty of lawlessness; for [that is what] sin is, lawlessness (the breaking, violating of God’s law by transgression or neglect — being unrestrained and unregulated by His commands and His will).”
The Living Bible,
“But those who keep on sinning are against God, for every sin is done against the will of God.”
Certainly the standard for righteousness is God’s Law. His Law is what determines an act to be an act of iniquity (lawlessness). Basically this verse is telling us that the doing of sin, or living a life of habitual sin, is practicing iniquity, or lawlessness; and the Law of God judges it to be sin. Those false teachers who were advocating a life of sin, teaching sin is inconsequential because the body isn’t saved, were being identified as living outside of Law, rather it be Moses’ Law, or any other human standard of conduct.
(Verse Four of Chapter Three in my own words.)
Whoever does sin, as a pattern of his life, is living in the state of lawless conduct: because sin, in its’ very nature, is the doing of what’s lawless in nature.
1 John 3:5
And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.
* And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; *
John referred to Jesus as “the Word of life” (1 John 1:1), and then said that “life was manifested, and we have seen it” (1 John 1:2). Jesus, “the express image of” God, and “the brightness of his glory” (Heb 1:3), is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), and that Life was manifested. The “brightness of his glory,” the shining forth of the essence of Who God is, is Life! Death reigned, but Life came! John saw it!
Death came through sin (Rom 5:12), but now Life appears and righteousness reigns (Rom 5:17)! Life was manifested in the person of Jesus, and as a result sin’s authority to rule in the life of the believer was condemned, or broken (Rom 8:3) [Amp], (See Vincent’s notes on that verse, as well as the notes of JFB).
NOTE: Jesus never came to condemn the sinner, but to save him (John 3:17). He came to “take away our sins” (current verse), in other words, to break the power of sin in our lives. Sin’s dominance over fallen man was condemned, it’s rule destroyed.
The message of God’s grace is a message of freedom from sin, not freedom to sin. Any message that teaches believers that sin is acceptable is a heresy taught by “ungodly men” who teach that grace gives us permission to sin (Jude 4). Sin is bondage (John 8:33-34; Rom 6:16) and logic tells us that Jesus hasn’t set us free to be bound, but rather from bondage.
* and in him is no sin. *
He Who is Life was manifested (1 John 1:2). He was with the Father (1 John 1:3; John 1:1), and He is God (John 1:1)! Consequently, Life is Light (1 John 1:5: John 1:4), and in Him, in this Light, is absolutely “no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5)! In our current verse John shows us that the absence of darkness includes the absence of sin. There is no sin “in him.”
The Teacher’s Commentary says,
“Reading these verses we become aware that John was talking about the pattern of a person’s life. He was not talking about isolated acts of sin, but about the direction of one’s journey. The question is not, ‘Does he sin?’ but, ‘Does he make sin a habit?’”
Jesus came to destroy the power of sin in our lives. When we are “born of him” (1 John 2:29) the direction of our lives is towards righteousness, not sin. We crave to be like Jesus (see my notes on 1 John 3:3), in Who there “is no sin.”
Life was manifested and John saw it (1 John 1:2; current verse), but he didn’t see the full manifestation of all that Life is (of all that God is). The full manifestation won’t be seen until we “see him as he is” (1 John 3:2), and “behold” His “glory” (John 17:24).
Allow me to quote that last verse, which is from the prayer Jesus prayed on the night He was betrayed,
“Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.”
Notice this: Jesus’ desire is for us to be with Him where He is so that we can “behold” His “glory;” or, so that we can “see him as he is;” or, so that we can see the Who He is. Why does He desire this? Because He knows when we “behold” His “glory” we will “be like him” (1 John 3:2), and He can “be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom 8:29). He desires this because it’s the eternal predestined purpose of the Father, and therefore it’s His purpose, His desire, because He and the Father are One (John 17:22).
Let me quote that last verse,
“And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one”
The “glory,” the Who He is, that He’s received from the Father He’s going to give to us; or, “we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). This is the eternal purpose of God. This is the desire, the prayer, of Jesus. This is our hope, the very thing we crave for. God’s purpose, Jesus’ desire, and our hope all work together to cause a current, ongoing process of our purifying ourselves, “even as he is pure: (1 John 3:3).
These things, God’s purpose for our lives, the prayer and desire of our Lord Jesus for our lives, and the burning hope inside of us, make it impossible for us who have been “born of him to embrace a lifestyle of sin.
(Verse Five of Chapter Three in my own words.)
And you know intuitively that the manifestation of He Who is Life was for the very purpose of taking away our sins (and their power over us). You know that there is absolutely no sin in Him!
1 John 3:6
Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.
* Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: *
Concerning “abideth,” Vincent says,
“To abide in Christ is more than to be in Him, since it represents a condition maintained by communion with God and by the habitual doing of His will.”
There’s disagreement over what’s meant by the phrase “sinneth not.” Most Commentators that I study believe it to refer to habitual sin (Wycliffe, Zondervan, Barnes, Gill, Henry, Peoples’ New Testament Notes, Family New Testament Notes, Vincent, and Robertson). However, some believe it to refer to the idea that we, as Christians, aren’t abiding in Him at the moment of our sin (JFB, Wesley, and Clarke).
Regarding this last possibility JFB comments,
“In so far as he abides in Christ, so far is he free from all sin. The ideal of the Christian. The life of sin and the life of God mutually exclude one another, just as darkness and light. In matter of fact, believers do fall into sins (1 John 1:8-10; 1 John 2:1-2); but all such sins are alien from the life of God, and need Christ’s cleansing blood, without application to which the life of God could not be maintained. He sinneth not so long as he abideth in Christ.”
* whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. *
JFB goes on to say,
“All sin as such is at variance with the notion of one regenerated. Not that ‘whosoever is betrayed into sins has never seen nor known God’; but in so far as sin exists, in that degree the spiritual intuition and knowledge of God do not exist in him.”
Practicing sin is certainly the subject at hand. “Doeth” (1 John 2:29; 3:7) and “committeth” (1 John 3:4, 8) are from the same Greek word, and have the same tense, voice, and mood (according to the Online Bible). Consequently, whatever we decide is meant by “committeth,” we must conclude is also meant by “doeth.” If one sin makes me lawless and of the devil then one act of righteousness makes be born of him and righteous. Logic tells us that no one is righteous as a result of doing a single thing right, and so, no one is lawless as a result of committing a single sin. On the other hand, if “doeth” righteousness means I never do anything wrong, then “committeth” sin means I never, at any time, do anything that could be considered an act of righteousness. Every believer occasionally sins, and every unbeliever occasionally does what’s right. Both extremes are therefore invalid, and that leaves us with the fact that the discussion is about lifestyles. John’s referring to those who, as a practice, do what’s righteous (which is the walking out of the teachings of Scripture), and to those, who as a practice, commit sin (which is to live the way one wants to, with no regard for the teachings of Scripture).
If practicing sin is the subject at hand throughout these verses (1 John 2:29-3:10) then should we agree with the Commentators who believe that John means habitual sin in our current verse? Not necessarily. We’re being told that “whosoever sinneth hath not seen him,” and JFB makes a valid point. Consider this: Paul teaches that the entire Law of Moses is fulfilled when we are serving one another in Love (Gal 5:13-14). The phrase, “the law is fulfilled,” according to Wuest, could be translated, “The whole law stands fully obeyed.” In other words, to the degree that I’m walking in God’s Love the Law of Moses is being fulfilled in me. If, for a moment, I’m walking perfectly in His Love, then, for that moment, Moses’ Law can find no fault in me, because Love fulfills the Law (see my notes on Gal 5:14).
If that’s true, and I believe it to be, then the Holy Spirit might very well be saying in our current passage that to the degree that I’m abiding in Him (current verse) Who is the Vine (John 15:1-8), seeing Him (current verse) “as he is” (1 John 3:2), and knowing Him (current verse) Who is Truth (John 14:6) I will not sin. Why? Because I will bear the fruit of His Vine (John 15:5; Gal 5:22-23), be like Him when I see Him as He is (2 Cor 3:18; 1 John 3:2), and know the Truth that will set me free from sin (John 8:32, 34, 36). Sin can only occur when I cease to abide, when I fail to see, and when I forget what I know (James 1:22-25).
Let’s get back to the subject of practicing sin. We believers can’t make a practice of sin because we’re in the Vine [though we sometimes forget to abide there], we have seen Him [though, unfortunately, as “through a glass, darkly” (1 Cor 13:12)], and we have come to know Him [though we don’t yet know as we are known (1 Cor 13:12), but we only “know in part” (1 Cor 13:9)]. We haven’t arrived at sinless perfection because we don’t always abide, we haven’t clearly seen Him as He is, and we don’t yet understand all Truth. However, we thank God that we will one day absolutely abide in Him to the degree of becoming “one” in Him (John 17:21-23), we will one day be absolutely like Him (1 John 3:2), and we will one day absolutely know Him in fullness (1 Cor 13:12). In that day sin will cease to exist, in any degree, in our lives.
(Verse Six of Chapter Three in my own words.)
Consequently, anyone who abides in Him (who lives in the sphere of clearly seeing Him and perfectly knowing Him) doesn’t sin. If anyone does sin it’s because they’re not seeing Him clearly, or knowing Him perfectly. (Consequently, you can’t have Divine revelation of Him, the way the Gnostics claim they do, and live in sin, because the more clearly you see Him, and the more perfectly you know Him the more fully you will walk in the fullness of Who He is.)
1 John 3:7
Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.
* Little children, let no man deceive you: *
Of “little children,” Vincent says,
“Used as a term of affection, or possibly with reference to the writer’s advanced age.”
This is the “little children” of 1 John 2:12, not of 1 John 2:13 (see my notes on those verses. He’s addressing all of his readers here, not just a certain group of them.
Concerning “let no man deceive you,” Robertson comments,
“Present active imperative of planao, “let no one keep on leading you astray.”
The Gnostics were peddlers of heresy. John continues to warn his readers to beware of their teaching. John had already insinuated that these teachers lie (1 John 1:6), they deceive themselves (1 John 1:8), God’s Word isn’t in them (1 John 1:10), they don’t keep the commandments of the Lord Jesus (1 John 2:4), they don’t walk the way Jesus walked (1 John 2:6), they hate others and are still in spiritual darkness (1 John 2:9, 11), their teachings lead one to love the world (1 John 2:15), they’re driven by “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16), they are antichrists (1 John 2:18), they never had apostolic authority (1 John 2:19), they taught the lying doctrine that Jesus wasn’t the Christ (1 John 2:22), they were seducing John’s readers (1 John 2:26), and they openly lived a life of sin (1 John 3:4). Now he tells his readers that these teachers were attempting to deceive them, and, according to Robertson, having some success (current verse).
Regarding the deceptive ideology of the Gnostics Gill says,
“suggesting, as the Gnostics did, that knowledge without practice was enough, and that it was no matter how a man lived, provided his notions of the Gospel were right:”
“Either by asserting that ‘you cannot be saved from sin in this life,’ or ‘that sin will do you no harm and cannot alter your state, if you are adopted into the family of God; for sin cannot annul this adoption.’”
* he that doeth righteousness is righteous, *
Robertson gives us this insight,
“He that keeps on doing (present active participle of poieō) righteousness.”
“Not his doing makes him righteous, but his being righteous (justified by the righteousness of God in Christ, Rom 10:3-10) makes him to do righteousness.”
John makes it perfectly clear that those who are in Christ, those who’s faith has been counted for righteousness (Rom 4:3, 20-24), are recognized by their persistence in doing what’s right. Our conduct reflects who we are. If we have become new creatures “in Christ” then “the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17) [NIV]. Simply put, we’re not a reformed version of our old selves; we are brand new creatures “created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:10).
JFB puts it this way,
“The tree that bears good fruit is a good tree, and has a living root; not that the fruit makes the tree and its root to be good, but it shows that they are so.”
* Even as he is righteous. *
Adam Clarke says,
“Allowing for the disparity that must necessarily exist between that which is bounded, and that which is without limits. As God, in the infinitude of his nature, is righteous; so they, being filled with him, are in their limited nature righteous.”
God defines righteousness. Righteousness is what He is. Jesus is the “the express image of his person,” a chip off the old block; and He’s “the brightness of his glory,” the manifestation of Who God is (Heb 1:3).
As believers, when we think of doing what’s right we think in terms of what the Scriptures teach to be the revealed will of God. We who follow Christ follow, as best we can with our human limitations, His teachings. John is emphasizing again what he said earlier in this Epistle, “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked” (1 John 2:6).
Though we don’t walk in absolute righteousness, we are absolutely righteous! God, Who sees everything (Heb 4:12-13), sees us as “holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight” (Col 1:22), so thoroughly cleansing is the blood of Christ. Jesus is the “propitiation” for all our sins (1 John 2:2), and having fully satisfied the justice of God He completely “purged our sins” (Heb 1:3) and cleansed us “from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). God, the only One Who matters, sees us as perfectly righteous as a result of our trusting His Son for our salvation.
(Verse Seven of Chapter Three in my own words.)
My spiritual children, don’t allow yourselves to continue to be deceived by any one. (Here’s how you tell who’s genuinely a child of God,) the individual who, as a pattern of his life, does those things that are righteous in nature does so as a result of his being righteous. Even as (the Lord Jesus always did those things that are righteous in nature because) He is righteous.
1 John 3:8
He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.
* He that committeth sin is of the devil; *
Concerning “of the devil,” Robertson says,
“In spiritual parentage as Jesus said of the Pharisees in John 8:44. When one acts like the devil he shows that he is not a true child of God.”
“John does not, however, say, ‘born of the devil.’ as he does ‘born of God,’ for ‘the devil begets none, nor does he create any; but whoever imitates the devil becomes a child of the devil by imitating him, not by proper birth’ [AUGUSTINE, Ten Homilies on the First Epistle of John, Homily 4.10]. From the devil there is not generation, but corruption [BENGEL].”
Again, “doeth” (1 John 2:29; 3:7) and “committeth” (1 John 3:4, current verse) are the King James Translation of the identical Greek word, with the same tense, voice, and mood of that word (see my notes on 1 John 2:29; 3:4). John didn’t use two different words when he wrote this Epistle; he used the same word each time.
Keeping that in mind, when we compare this verse with the earlier verse (1 John 2:29) we see that the one who does righteousness is “born of him,” the Him being God, but the one who does sin is “of the devil.” We walk like the one whose ideology we follow, rather God or the devil. We can’t walk like Jesus and be “of the devil,” and we can’t walk like the devil and be born of God.
If we believe the devil’s ideology, which is the same as if we “love the world” (1 John 2:15), which is the same as if we walk “according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Eph 2:2), then John’s telling us that we’re “of the devil.” I’m not talking about an occasional lusting after the world, desiring some thing it has to offer, but I’m referring to the course of one’s life. If we have no practical interest in the teachings of Christ, no desire to implement them into our daily walk, then we’re not “born of him.” Of course, when we walk in the Light, when we follow His teachings, we sometimes fail. We sin! But thank God, in the Light there’s continual cleansing for our sins (1 John 1:7). If we argue that we have no need for this cleansing we’re deceiving ourselves, making out God to be a liar, and the Truth of His Word isn’t in us (1 John 1:8, 10), but when we confess, acknowledging the Truth that on our best days we stand in continual need of His cleansing, then God faithfully and justly forgives and cleanses “us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
* for the devil sinneth from the beginning. *
Robertson tells us,
“Linear progressive present active indicative, “he has been sinning from the beginning” of his career as the devil. This is his normal life and those who imitate him become his spiritual children.”
Barnes shares this thought,
“It does not mean that he sinned from the beginning of his existence, for he was made holy like the other angels. Notes, Jude 1:6. The meaning is, that he introduced sin into the universe, and that he has continued to practice it ever since.”
John Wesley says,
“That is, was the first sinner in the universe, and has continued to sin ever since.”
Perhaps when he speaks of “the beginning,” John has in mind the creation of time as we know it, or as it impacts our existence. It appears Satan’s rebellion preceded the creation of our universe. John’s point is that the first sin in all of God’s creation was the rebellion of Lucifer. He introduced sin into creation, deceiving one third of the angels to join him in his rebellion (Rev 12:3-4 compare to Rev 1:20), and later deceiving mankind to sin (Gen 3:1-5). He is the author of all sin.
* For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. *
God created man is Him image (Gen 1:27). Satan enticed man to sin (Gen 3:1-7). Sin marred that image of God in us, resulting in our coming “short of the glory of God” [the Who He is] (Rom 3:23). The eternal purpose of God is to restore us to that image (Rom 8:29), which is, “the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom 8:18). Life was manifested (1 John 1:2) to restore what the devil has destroyed. As a consequential result of His first appearing we have received in Christ “the hope of glory” (Col 1:27), the hope of our once again being like Him. When He’s manifested the second time in the fullness of His glory, the Who He is, “we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). The “work of the devil” destroyed the image of God in us. Jesus was manifested to “destroy” what the devil had destroyed (mathematically speaking, two negatives making a positive), restoring us to the image of God.
God’s Divine purpose has not yet been fully realized by you and I, but He has seen it as finished from eternity past (Rom 8:29-30; Eph 1:4-5, 9-12). Think of this: Paul was anxiously waiting to have God’s glory fully revealed in him (Rom 8:18), but in the eye of God it’s already happened (Rom 8:30). God sees us, right now, as glorified! He sees the image of His Son in us! He’s not predicting it; He sees it! In Him it is done! We now walk in the hope of it (Rom 8:23-25; Col 1:27), but He Who dwells outside of time already sees it! THE DEVIL HAS LOST! HIS WORKS HAVE BEEN DESTROYED! GOD SEES IT AS ALREADY DONE!
NOTE: John is telling the Church that sin was the weapon of choice of the devil. He used that weapon to destroy the image of God in man. Jesus came to destroy that weapon, to destroy sin. Why would any true believer willfully embrace the very thing that Satan uses to bring separation between God and man. Sin is the enemy. Christians are to hate sin. Any doctrine that minimizes the Truth that sin is rebellion against God is error, and it’s to be rejected by believers, and its origin is the devil. When we minimize the awfulness of sin, we minimize how amazing grace is. If sin isn’t so bad, then grace isn’t so amazing.
(Verse Eight of Chapter Three in my own words.)
The one who does sin, as the pattern of his life, is of the devil (is living as though he’s a child of the devil), because sin originated, in the beginning, when the devil rebelled against God. The very reason the Son of God appeared on the scene was to undo what the devil had done (to destroy the consequences of sin in our lives).
1 John 3:9
Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
* Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; *
Regarding “born of God,” Vincent comments,
“The perfect participle indicates a condition remaining from the first: he who hath been begotten and remains God’s child.”
The Apostle began this current discussion (1 John 2:29-3:10) by telling his readers what the one who’s “born of him” does (1 John 2:29). Now he tells his readers what the one who’s “born of God” doesn’t do (current verse). He who’s born of God does, as a pattern of his life, those things that are in their very nature righteous, and doesn’t do, as a pattern of his life, those things that are in their very nature lawless. That’s the message of this Apostle, and it refutes the message of the false teachers trying to deceive his readers.
The Greek word for “commit” is poieo, and is the identical Greek word that was translated “doeth” (1 John 2:29; 3:7) and “committeth” (1 John 3:4, 8) earlier. In each case the tense is present and the voice is active. However, in our current verse the mood of this word is indicative, while in the other four passages the mood is participle.
According to the Online Bible the participle mood means,
“The Greek participle corresponds for the most part to the English participle, reflecting “- ing” or “- ed” being suffixed to the basic verb form. The participle can be used either like a verb or a noun, as in English, and thus is often termed a ‘verbal noun.’”
And according to the same source the indicative mood means,
“The indicative mood is a simple statement of fact. If an action really occurs or has occurred or will occur, it will be rendered in the indicative mood.”
Basically, the only difference is that the suffix “eth” hasn’t been added in this case. So, John’s already told us that the one who “committeth,” sin is lawless (1 John 3:4) and of the devil (1 John 3:8), and that the one who “doeth” [same word] righteousness is born of him (1 John 2:29) and is righteous (1 John 3:7). Now he tells us that the one who is born of God does not do sin. Doing those things, as a pattern of one’s life, which are contrary to sound doctrine (1 Tim 1:9-10) is contradictory of the Christian life. John sees the idea of a genuine believer choosing to live a life of sin as an impossibility.
* for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. *
“God’s seed. The picture is of human reproduction, in which the sperm (the Greek for ‘seed’ is sperma) bears the life principle and transfers the paternal characteristics. cannot go on sinning. Not a complete cessation of sin, but a life that is not characterized by sin.”
[Vincent] “The divine principle of life.”
[JFB] “the living word of God.”
[Gill] “the grace of the Spirit, the internal principle of grace in the soul, the new nature, or new man formed in the soul, is meant.”
[Barnes] “The idea is clearly that the germ or principle of piety so permanently abides in the soul, that he who is renewed never can become again characteristically a sinner.”
[Wesley] “the divine seed of loving faith.”
[Geneva] “The Holy Spirit is so called by the effect he works, because by his power and mighty working, as it were by seed, we are made new men.”
What does John mean by “his seed”? Is it “life,” the “word of God,” “grace,” “piety (new nature),” “faith,” or “the Holy Spirit”? Or, is it all of the above?
Everything, in the Spiritual realm, that happened at the moment of our salvation is currently happening in us. We were born into “life” (John 1:4; Rom 6:23), and still have “life” (1 John 5:11-12). We were born of God as a result of the creative “word of God” (1 Peter 1:23), and that “word of God” is still at work in us (1 Thess 2:13; 1 John 2:14). We were save by “grace” (Eph 2:8), and His “grace” remains at work in us (1 Cor 15:10). We were born again with a “new nature” (2 Cor 5:17), and the results of that new nature are still ongoing in our lives (Eph 2:10; 2 Peter 1:4). We were saved by “faith” (Eph 2:8), and we continue to live by “faith” (Rom 1:17). Our salvation is a work of the “Holy Spirit” (John 3:6, 8; Gal 3:3), and the “Holy Spirit” continues to work in us (Gal 5:17).
Instead of arguing over exactly what John meant, since we’ll never know for certain in this life, let’s rejoice over the indisputable Truth that God is ever at work in those who trust Him. He began this “good work” of salvation in us, and is currently in the process of performing “it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6). He authored our salvation, and is currently in the process of finishing it (Heb 12:2). God Loves you, and is currently at work in your lives.
Concerning “cannot sin,” UBS comments,
“When this is taken as the main clause of the second sentence (as advocated in the first note on this verse), it forms a climax; hence, ‘what is more, he cannot sin,’ ‘it is even impossible that he would sin.’”
“The regenerate life is incompatible with sin, and gives the believer a hatred for sin in every shape, and an unceasing desire to resist it. ‘The child of God in this conflict receives indeed wounds daily, but never throws away his arms or makes peace with his deadly foe’ [LUTHER]. The exceptional sins into which the regenerate are surprised, are owing to the new life principle being for a time suffered to lie dormant, and to the sword of the Spirit not being drawn instantly. Sin is ever active, but no longer reigns.”
The prevailing idea of this verse is rather, or not, the one who is born of God can, as a pattern of his life, sin. With that in mind I’m convinced that the thing that’s impossible for the one “born of God” is to live a life dominated by sin. John wrote to us, “sin not,” but then said that if we do, “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). He did not teach that Christians are sinless, but that the blood of Christ cleanses us when we do sin (1 John 1:7, 9).
This isn’t some week, moment-by-moment, salvation! It’s a great salvation (Heb 2:3)! Our salvation, and we’ve been save “to the uttermost,” isn’t dependent on our ability to never again sin, but its dependence rests on the fact that “he ever liveth to make intercession for” us (Heb 7:25).
Regarding “uttermost,” Thayer says,
“completely, perfectly, utterly.”
In our human condition God knew that we couldn’t do what needed to be done, so He did it for us (Rom 8:3). Our salvation is a result of what He’s done for us, not what we’ve done for Him. We didn’t get saved because we quit sinning, but because He never sinned.
We don’t become overcomers because we fear our Heavenly Father will disown us if we sin, but we overcome when we have confident faith in His Love for us. The Father Who has lavished His Love on us (1 John 3:1) [NIV] and called us His children has every intention on conforming you to the image of His Son (Rom 8:29). He foreknew you, He predestined you, He called you, He justified you, and He already sees you glorified (Rom 8:29-30). He already sees the finality of His eternal purpose for you.
However, though it’s true that we, as believers, sometimes sin, it’s also true that we who have been born into the family of God cannot live a life of sin. Why? Paul said, “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein” (Rom 6:1-2)? He saw what John saw! It’s impossible for the one who has become a “new creation” (2 Cor 5:17), “created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (Eph 2:10), to have no desire to live righteously. His seed that remains in us won’t allow us to live carelessly in sin. This “life” resists the death that is sin (Rom 5:12; Eph 2:5), this creative “word of God” creates a passion in us “to walk, even as he walked” (1 John 2:6), this “grace” empowers us to live right (1 Cor 15:10), this “piety (new nature)” that we partake of has resulted in our escape from the corruption that is in this world as a result of human desire (2 Peter 1:4), this “faith” overcomes the world (1 John 5:4), and the power of the “Holy Spirit” is at work in us always (Eph 3:20).
Again, God created in you at the instant of your spiritual birth a desire to be like His Son Jesus. His eternal purpose for your lives is that you be like Jesus, (Rom 8:29), which is His glory being revealed in you (Rom 8:18), which is the full “manifestation of the sons of God” (Rom 8:19), which is the very thing you inwardly “groan” for (Rom 8:22-23), which is the very reason the Holy Spirit intercedes for you (Rom 8:26), and God will see it fulfilled in you (Rom 8:30; 1 John 3:2). It’s the driving “hope” that causes believers to reject sin and choose righteousness (1 John 3:3). A true child of God can’t choose a life of sin when his inner psyche cries out to be like Jesus. It’s impossible!
(Verse Nine of Chapter Three in my own words.)
Whoever is genuinely born of God does not, as a pattern of his life, sin. Here’s why, the seed of God (all that God utilized in bringing about this great salvation: life, His Word, grace, a new nature, faith, and the Holy Spirit) remains (at work) in him. Consequently, it’s impossible for him, as a pattern of his life, to sin because of what took place when he was born into the family of God.
1 John 3:10
In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.
* In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil:*
Concerning “manifest,” Thayer gives this definition,
“1) apparent, manifest, evident, known; 2) manifest i.e to be plainly recognised or known.”
Zondervan sees this phrase as answering this question,
“How are the children (community) of God to be recognized and how are the children (community) of the devil to be discerned?”
JFB remind us,
“There is no middle class between the children of God and the children of the devil.”
John gives us a clear test of genuine Christianity. Whoever flunks this test is not a true Christian, but rather is a child of the devil. This test makes it absolutely apparent who is who.
* whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, *
Concerning the idea of doing righteousness see my earlier notes on this subject (1 John 2:29; 3:7). In this verse John tells us that if an individual isn’t doing, as a pattern of his life, those things that are in their very nature righteous, then that individual is “not of God.”
Jesus said that everyone who receives “seed into the good ground” bears fruit, “some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matt 13:23). In other words, Christian fruit will be seen in all genuine Christians. Some will bear more fruit than others, but all genuine believers will bear fruit.
Unbelievers, on the other hand, will not bear the fruit that results from receiving the Word, simply because they haven’t received it. It doesn’t mean that Christians have a monopoly on doing good things. Unbelievers, like believers, often do things that would be considered “righteous,” such as helping someone in need. The difference lies in the origin of their act. With a believer the origin would be the Holy Spirit Who is actively at work in them (Gal 5:22-23). With an unbeliever it’s simply a result of the fact that, though the image of God in them has been marred by sin, some of that image remains. In both cases God is the source of the “righteous” act because every “good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). The difference is that God is actively at work in the believer, while a faint image of Who He is simply remains in the unbeliever. So John teaches us that the test is the doing of “righteousness” as a pattern of one’s life. The good things that believers do should result from their understanding of the Scriptures, and should therefore increase in regularity with the maturity level of the believer. The acts of “righteousness” of believers should abundantly out number those of unbelievers because we should be experiencing an ever-increasing change “into the same image”, the image of God as seen in the Lord Jesus, “from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor 3:18). To put it simply, we should be more like Jesus than those who are not following Him.
* neither he that loveth not his brother. *
“Although the preceding clause would seem to have brought the argument to a close, John adds, nor he who does not love his brother. This clause serves as a further description of the man who ‘does not do right,’ and at the same time forms a transition to the next section.”
Zondervan teaches this,
“And what is the ‘right’ he does not do? He ‘does not love his brother.’ ‘Love for one’s brother’ is the true test of righteous behavior. This requirement of love helps explain the absolute requirement that those who are born of God ‘cannot go on sinning’ (vv. 6, 9). For if God is love, and if he lives in us and we in him, then love for fellow believers will occur as an expression of righteousness without exception.”
Robertson tells us,
“The addition here of this one item about not loving (meagapon) one’s brother is like Paul’s summary in Rom 13:9, a striking illustration of the general principle just laid down and in accord with 1 John 2:9-11.”
JFB gives us this thought,
“a particular instance of that love which is the sum and fulfilment of all righteousness, and the token (not loud professions, or even seemingly good works) that distinguishes God’s children from the devil’s.”
“The general sense is, that brotherly love is essential to the Christian character, and that he who does not possess it cannot be a Christian.”
John told us earlier that we needed to walk in the Light (1 John 1:7) because God is Light (1 John 1:5). It’s in the Light that we find fellowship with the Father and the Son (1 John 1:3), and with one another (1 John 1:7). We walk in the Light when we Love others (1 John 2:10), and we walk outside of the Light when we don’t (1 John 2:9, 11). The evidence that we’re walking in the Light is that we’re walking in Love. Then he tells us that we’re to do those things that are “righteous” (1 John 2:29; 3:7), and we’re not to do those things that are “sin” (1 John 3:4, 8). He now tells us that the “righteous” thing we’re to do is to love our brother (current verse). In other words, when we Love others we are walking in the Light and we are walking righteously.
The commandments that we are to keep (1 John 2:3) are the commandments Jesus taught us (1 John 2:5), not the commandments Moses taught the Israelites. John later identified those commandments, those teachings of the Lord Jesus, as being faith and Love (1 John 3:23). When we, as Christians, have faith in God and Love for people we are walking in “righteousness.”
In the following verses John will have much to say about this message of Love, and I’ll have much to say in my comments on those verses.
(Verse Ten of Chapter Three in my own words.)
It’s quite apparent who the children of God are, and the children of the devil. Everyone who doesn’t do, as a pattern of his life, those things that are in their very nature righteous, is not a genuine child of God. The righteousness I’m referring to is the doing of those things that result from loving one’s brother.
1 John 3:11
For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
* For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, *
Regarding “ye heard,” UBS says,
“The Greek verb is not in the perfect tense, but in the aorist, which is to show that the reference is to action, regarded as a completed whole irrespective of its duration.”
John’s reminding his readers that there’s a message they’ve heard ever since the beginning. He’ll identify that message next. However, before we look at what this message is let’s look at the phrase “from the beginning.”
He had already told his readers that “the life” that “was manifested” (1 John 1:2), which he had “seen and heard” (1 John 1:3), “was from the beginning” (1 John 1:1), and that there was a message they “heard of him,” and that message was “that God is light” (1 John 1:5).
Again, the One Who is “from the beginning” spoke a message to those who heard Him, and the message was that God is Light. We were then encouraged to walk in that Light (1 John 1:7) and instructed that the way to avoid falling into the error of the false teaching of Gnosticism, which included the teaching that sin didn’t matter, was to let “that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning” (1 John 2:24).
When we walk in this Light, in the Truth of this beginning message, we enjoy fellowship “with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). We also enjoy fellowship with one another (1 John 1:7). Why? Let’s look at the next section of this verse.
* that we should love one another. *
Zondervan tells us,
“The admonition that ‘we should love one another’ is highlighted by the return to the critical formula, ‘This is the message you heard from the beginning,’ an almost identical reminiscence of 1:1, 5 (see comments). The command to ‘love one another’ has its origin in the nature of God. The entire goal and aim of the Gospel is to create and strengthen love.”
“We should love one another!” This is the message that the Church of Jesus Christ has taught from the very beginning of the Church Age. This is the message that they received from the very One Who is from the beginning, the Lord Jesus (1 John 1:1, 5). This is the message of walking “in the light, as he is in the light” (1 John 1:7; 2:10). This is the message of walking like Jesus walked (1 John 2:6). This is the message that was old to the believers that John was writing to, in the sense that they had heard it before, but new in the sense that this is the commandment that replaces Moses’ Law as the way that we are to measure ourselves before God in this age of the New Covenant (1 John 2:7-8). This is the message that we are to make certain remains in us (1 John 2:24). This is the message of the Church that we, the Church, have heard from the beginning of our walk with the Lord (current verse).
When we walk in Love fellowship occurs! Knowing that God Loves us, and Loving Him back, as a result of that knowledge (1 John 4:19), causes us to fellowship “with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). Loving fellow believers who Love us causes fellowship among believers.
How is it possible for us to walk in the Love of God? How do we discipline ourselves to Love everyone, especially our brothers and sisters in the Lord? First: This discipline comes from the understanding that we are Loved (John 13:34-35)! When we clearly understand the radical, fanatical, relentless, continuous Love that Jesus has for us we can Love the way that we are Loved (John 13:34-35). When we have an unhealthy view of His Love for us then we will have a limited love for others, because we will love the way we see ourselves as being loved. Second: This Love of God that we are Loved with is in us by virtue of the Holy Spirit shedding it “abroad in our hearts” (Rom 5:5)! When the Holy Spirit, Who is God, Who is Love, inhabits us at the new birth, then Love inhabits us. We have the perfect Love of God inside of us in the person of the Holy Spirit. The potential to Love as we are Loved is inside of every believer. God has equipped us to Love like He Loves. May God grant us the grace to allow His Love to flow out of us to others.
(Verse Eleven of Chapter Three in my own words.)
Here’s why: this is the very message (of the true Church) that you have heard from the very beginning of your Christian walk, that we should love one another (the way that we are loved by the Lord Jesus, and because that the God in us is love).
1 John 3:12
Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.
* Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. *
“Who is not in the Greek. The construction is irregular. Lit., as Rev., not as Cain was of the evil one.”
The message that we, who are “children of God” (1 John 3:10), have heard from the very beginning is that we should Love one another (1 John 3:11). We shouldn’t be like Cain, the one who’s a child of the devil (1 John 3:8, 10, current verse), who murdered his brother.
Cain is identified as a child of the “wicked one” because his conduct reflected who he was. Conduct always reflects the genuineness of who we are. It wouldn’t have mattered if Cain had said that he loved Abel because his conduct proved otherwise. John’s message is that our love must be more than verbal because genuine Love always is.
Zondervan points out,
“It is not that Cain by murdering his brother became the child of the devil; but, being a child of the devil, his actions were evil and culminated in the murder of his brother.”
We aren’t a child of God or a child of the devil as a result of our conduct. Rather, our conduct is a result of rather we’re a child of God or a child of the devil. Who we are at the core is what’s important, and it’s what determines the choices we make.
* And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous. *
UBS first gives us this translation and then these comments,
“‘all he did was evil and all his brother did was righteous,’ which is in accordance with the fact that the persons concerned were ‘of the evil one’ and ‘of God,’ respectively. Thus Cain is the typical example of the children of the devil who act according to the will of the devil, just as Abel is the typical example of the children of God who act according to the will of God (compare Matt 23:35; Heb 11:4).”
“Righteousness draws hatred from the devil and hatred from the children of the devil. Darkness cannot tolerate light; immorality, morality; hatred, love; or greed, sacrifice.”
Why did Cain murder his brother? Cain was angry when God accepted Abel’s offering, the sacrificing of one of his flock (Gen 4:4), and rejected his offering, “the fruit of the ground” (Gen 4:3). God asked Cain, “Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen” (Gen 4:6)? God then said, “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door” (Gen 4:7). What was Cain’s response to the instruction of God? “Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him” (Gen 4:8).
Cain simply needed to learn from the example of his brother. God wanted to be worshiped by faith, and faith understands that sin must be paid for by death. Abel somehow understood this and offered an animal sacrifice, which God saw as a pointing towards Calvary where the Lamb of God “taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Cain was blessed! He knew what God wanted! All he had to do was to walk in it. Instead he murdered his brother, hating him for doing what God wanted. He must have determined that God might have been satisfied with his offering if it hadn’t been for his brother.
The “pleasures of sin” (Heb 11:25) can so blind us that we see the one who does what’s right as the villain. If that individual would simply go along with the crowd surely God would lower the bar. Satan’s crowd, consequently, hates God’s crowd.
(Verse Twelve of Chapter Three in my own words.)
We shouldn’t be anything like Cain. He was of the wicked one, and murdered his brother. Why did he do it? He did it because the righteousness of his brother exposed how evil his works were.
1 John 3:13
Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.
* Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you. *
Concerning “Marvel not,” Robertson comments,
“Present imperative here with me means ‘cease wondering.’”
Regarding “my brethren,” Vincent tells us,
“The only occurrence of this mode of address in the Epistle.”
And concerning “hate you,” Vincent says,
“Indicative mood, pointing to the fact as existing: if the world hate you, as it does.”
The message we’ve heard since the beginning is that we should Love one another (1 John 3:11). We shouldn’t be like Cain who hated his brother enough to murder him because his evil deeds were exposed by Abel’s righteous deeds (1 John 3:12). We should cease being amazed when “the world” hates us (current verse).
Why does “the world” hate us? It’s because those being referred to as “the world” are of the same “wicked one” that Cain was of. Those who are evil by nature will always hate those who believe in a morality that “the world” doesn’t embrace.
If we embrace a morality taught in the Scriptures; for example, no sex outside of marriage, marriage is only between a man and a woman, abortion is murder, drunkenness and wild parties are sin, etc.; many who want to embrace a system of morality different than this will hate us. Why? Because the conduct that results from believing the Scriptures will be judged “righteous” by God while the conduct that results from ignoring the Scriptures will be judged as “evil” by God (1 John 3:12).
(Verse Thirteen of Chapter Three in my own words.)
Quit being amazed, my brothers in Christ, if those who are of this world (which is synonymous to being of the wicked one) hate you (the same way Cain hated Abel, and for the same reason).
1 John 3:14
We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.
Walk of Grace Chapel, Council Bluffs Church