1John 3 - Outline of 1John (Book Notes menu page)
The last verse of the previous chapter (included below) introduces the next section.
II. God is Love (4:8,16), 2:3- 4:21
Therefore, God's children...
D. Love Righteousness (The purifying hope of God's sons), 2:29- 3:10
2:29 If ye know that he is righteous,
ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.
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.
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.
3 And every man that hath this hope in him
purifieth himself, even as he is pure.
Behold {ie., look, see}, what manner of love...
...that we should be called the sons {GK=teknon, children by birth} of God...-
"God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son..." (Joh 3:16). The costliness of the love which He showed to perishing sinners is beyond our comprehension (Rom 5:8-10).
     Yet, for those who have believed, the greatness of that love extends still further. For, He not only saved us from wrath, but also placed the life of His Son within us, through the new birth (cp. Eph 3:17-19; 2Pet 1:1-4).
therefore the world knoweth us not because it knew Him not.
Here is another test by which to see whether your new birth is real. The world hated Jesus, because they hate the Father. If you bear the family resemblance, they will treat you the same way. If not, they will love you as one of their own. Joh 15:18,19; 16:3
Beloved {ie., 'dearly loved ones'}, now are we the sons {GK=teknon, children by birth} of God...
At the moment that we placed our faith in Christ, our new birth, into a new nature in fellowship with the Father, became a reality (Joh 3:36). But this was only the beginning of our 'sonship.'
...it doeth not yet appear what we shall be...
...when He shall appear, we shall be like Him...
From our present perspective, we read and believe God's promises, but we cannot clearly see what God has in store for His children (Rom 8:28-30; 1Cor 2:9,10).
     But when Christ appears {is manifest, shines forth} at His second coming, we will appear {be manifest, shine} in His presence (Col 3:4; Heb 9:28).
...for we shall see Him as He is.- ('see' is GK=optanomai, 'see with the eyes', cp. Job 19:25-27)
We will see Him in His glory (Joh 17:24), and His glory will be fully seen in us (Joh 17:22).
Much more than what meets the eyes, His glory will permeate our beings, for we will be transformed into His likeness, free from all corruption, and every impurity and imperfection (Psa 17:15; Php 3:20,21; 1Cor 13:12; 15:45-57).
...and every man that hath this hope in {ie., 'set upon'} him
purifieth {ie., cleanses from all defilement} himself, even as he is pure.-
The desire and expectation, of the true child of God, is to be with Christ and to be like Him (v.5).
Therefore, in this present life, the believer's heart is to be focused upon the Lord Jesus Christ, and the things that please Him. 2Cor 7:1; 2Pet 1:4, 3:14
Our former love, for the world and its ways, is displaced by the love of sons for their Father. 1Joh 2:15
4. Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law:
for sin is the transgression of the law.
5 And ye know that he was manifested
to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.
6 Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not:
whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.
7 Little children, let no man deceive you:
he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.
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.
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.
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.
Whosoever committeth {GK=poieo, does, practices} sin
transgresseth {GK=poieo} also the law {GK=anomia, lawlessness}:
for sin is the 'transgression of the law' {GK=anomia}. (v.4) - Alternate translation:
"Every one that practices sin practices also lawlessness;
indeed, sin is lawlessness." [NET]
...ye know that He {Christ} was manifested to take away our sins... (v.5)
Sin is the manifestation of lawlessness. Sin is not merely the breaking of some specific command. Rather, it is the pervading attitude of insubordination to God. It is the rejection of God's way, for my way.
     Jesus came to "save His people from their sins," not only to cover our guilt, but to rid us of our lawlessness. Isa 53:6; Mat 1:21; Rom 6:1-10
...and in Him is no sin. Whosoever abideth {GK=meno, remains} in Him sinneth not... (v.6)
Having been identified with Him, in His death and resurrection, we have been raised to life with Him, who lives to serve God. Whoever abides in Him, lives in His life.
Little children {GK=teknion, cherished born ones}, let no man deceive you... (v.7-9)
  • he that doeth {practices} righteousness is righteous, even as {just as} he is righteous.
  • he that committeth {ie., practices} sin is of the devil...
    (ie., because Satan hates God and His will; Joh 8:44; Eph 2:2).
    But Jesus Christ came to "destroy {GK=luo, loose, dissolve} the works of the devil" (v.8b).
    That is, He came to loose us from bondage to Satan. (cp. this GK word, translated 'loosed,' in Luk 13:11-12,16)
  • whosoever is born of God does not commit sin {lit., does not sin},
    for His seed remains {GK=meno, abides, dwells} in him, and he cannot sin.
    That statement seems very strong. But it is the essence of this passage.
    Through the new birth, the child of God has His seed {nature, life} within him. Therefore, the characteristics of the Father and His Son will be seen in each of His children. As in v.7, "he that does righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous."
       How righteous is Christ? Completely, for "in Him is no sin" (v.5). Once we were in bondage to sin. But now, by the new nature which we have received from Him... His sinless nature... we, like Him, delight in doing the Father's will. His seed will only produce His fruit (Joh 15:5).
       However, as long as we are in the flesh, there is a tension between our old fleshly nature and the new spiritual nature (Gal 5:17). John previously addressed the believer's recourse, for cleansing from incidental sin (eg., 1Joh 1:9; 2:1). Throughout his letter, he points to our great resource for victorious living in a fallen world (eg., 5:4,5). His emphasis, here, is that God's children, are no longer in bondage to Satan and the fleshly nature, and, therefore, are expected to live according to their new nature (Rom 8:12-15). The practice of habitual sin is incompatible with the new nature received from God.
In this the children {GK=teknon, born ones} of God are manifest {ie., made apparent},
and the children {GK=teknon, born ones} of the devil...
This verse destroys the false doctrine of "the universal brotherhood of man" by declaring the division and identifying some distinguishing marks of those who are not born of God...
  • a lack of righteousness (v.10b)
    ie., not being committed to that which is right and just. (Contrast 1Joh 2:29.)
  • a lack of love for God's children (v.10c).
    This last clause introduces the next section.
II. God is Love (4:8,16), 2:3-4:21
Therefore, God's children...
E. Love One Another (Not in word only, but in deed and in truth), 3:11-18
11. For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning,
that we should love one another.
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.
13 Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.
...the message that ye heard from the beginning... love {GK=agapao} one another.-
John returns to this message frequently. It is the old command, given by Jesus as He established the Gospel (Joh 13:34,35). But it is also the new command, because through the new birth into the nature of our Lord, we have been enabled to love with His love (1Joh 2:7,8).
The Greek language has words for three different types of love...
  • eros - This word is never used in the Bible.
    It describes the erotic love of sexual sensuality. God created us male and female, and designed marriage for the expression of this type of love (Heb 13:4). However, the world has grossly perverted this gift, which God intended for good.
  • phileo - This is the love of friendship and affection.
    eg., 'Philadelphia' means 'love of brothers' or 'brotherly affection.'
  • agapao - This is the selfless love of God, which Jesus demonstrated,
    when he died for our sins, while we were His enemies. Joh 13:34; Rom 5:8
    This love is committed to what is best for the one that is loved, even when the action required is very difficult and costly.
Although John is speaking about love between the children in God's family, whom he calls 'brothers' (v.14), he never uses the word 'philadelphia' or 'phileo.' Rather, he always uses 'agapao.' This tells us that love for the brethren is not easy, and does not come naturally.
Not as Cain... who slew his brother...- (The account is recorded in Gen 4:3-15.)
Cain and Abel must have shared 'brotherly love' for one another. But that type of love was not sufficient to overcome bitter envy. Cain's love for his brother was distorted by his love for himself. He could not bear to see his brother's offering accepted, while his was rejected. Rather than examining the cause of his rejection, he vented his anger against his brother.
     Sadly, similar dynamics occur much too frequently between Christians in the church. Petty jealousies often foment discord and character assassination, dividing Christian brothers and destroying churches. 'Brotherly love,' the natural affection between family members is not enough, when yielding (for the good of the body) requires costly sacrifice.
Cain was of that wicked one... marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.- v.1; Joh 15:18,19
Satan hates God's children. He wants nothing more than to divide and destroy them.
Cain was a worldly man, who acted according to his fleshly nature. Hatred is characteristic of the godless world. One who is filled with hate gives evidence of being in bondage to Satan's dominion... or, if a believer, of yielding unnecessarily to Satan's influence. Mat 5:22-24
     John warns us to 'love... not as Cain' because our old fleshly nature is still with us. If we follow our old fleshly ways, we will find ourselves treating our brothers as Cain treated his. My old ways are not compatible with God's ways (v.7-10; Gal 5:15-18).
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.
15 Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer:
and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.
16 Hereby perceive we the love [of God],
because he laid down his life for us:
and we ought to lay down [our] lives for the brethren.
17 But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need,
and shutteth up his bowels [of compassion] from him,
how dwelleth the love of God in him?
18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue;
but in deed and in truth.
we know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren...
Once, we were like Cain: "dead in our trespasses and sins." We did not love God, His ways, or His children. But now that we have been born again, with a godly new nature, we have entered into the fellowship of God's family. Our communion is in our common relationship to Christ. He is the source of life and love. Since His love for His children dwells within us, it should flow out from us. 1John 4:7,8; 1Pet 1:22
whosoever hates his brother is a murderer... no murderer has eternal life abiding in him...-
Murderous thoughts do not spring from the Life and love of God. Mat 5:21,22; Gal 5:19-23
"...charity {GK=agapao, love}... thinketh no evil {ie., does not harbor malicious thoughts}" (1Cor 13:4,5).
     Note that John is not saying that someone who has committed murder cannot be saved. The Lord is able to save any sinner who turns to Him. But those, whom He saves, He also sanctifies, cleansing and changing them to live for Him (1Cor 6:9-11; 1Tim 1:12-16).
hereby perceive we the love... we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
While v.15 gives us an idea of what love is not... v.16-18 show us what 'agape' love looks like.
Our Lord modeled this kind of love, on the cross, when He gave His life for our sakes. Joh 15:12,13
     We may not be asked to make that sacrifice, but as God's children, we are expected to love and forgive one another (Eph 4:31,32), which may involve graciously suffering wrong rather than demanding my rights (1Cor 6:7), or willingly giving to lift the burdens of our brothers (eg., 2Cor 8:9,13,14, regarding monetary donations to assist impoverished believers).
...let us not love in word... but in deed and in truth.- eg., Jam 2:15,16
True Love is expressed in selfless action, as we labor to meet the needs of others.
     Illustration: A husband and wife may say 'I love you' in the bedroom. But they demonstrate their love for each other and for their children, as mother labors in the kitchen and laundry, and father labors at his job. Together, even while working separately, they do what is necessary to support the ones they love.
II. God is Love (4:8,16), 2:3-4:21
Therefore, God's children...
F. Love (and thereby possess Confidence before God and Assurance in Prayer), 3:19-24
19 And hereby we know that we are of the truth,
and shall assure our hearts before him.
20. For if our heart condemn us,
God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.
21 Beloved, if our heart condemn us not,
[then] have we confidence toward God.
22 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him,
because we keep his commandments,
and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.
23. And this is his commandment,
That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ,
and love one another, as he gave us commandment.
24 And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him.
And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.
v.19-21 - If my heart condemns me {lit., knows something against me}...-
For example, when I know that I have neglected to bear a brother's burden, though I was aware and able to meet his need (v.17)... Then it is time to make things right, with confession (1Joh 1:9) and corrective action (v.18).
     My heart is an imperfect barometer of my condition, for God sees me more clearly than I do, and nothing is hidden from Him. However, when, to the best of my knowledge, my life is characterized by God's kind of love for righteousness (v.7) and for His children (v.11), this evidence strengthens my assurance that I am truly born of Him.
v.21,22- If our heart condemns us not...
...we have confidence toward God... whatsoever we ask, we receive of him...
The inner assurance that we are right with God and that our lives are aligned with His, also provides confidence {GK=parrhesia, frankness, boldness} in prayer. The child of God, who is in right relationship with his Father, is unashamed in His presence, and free to express his heart's desire. cp. Joh 15:7; 1Joh 5:14,15
v.23,24 - The child of God is set apart from the world, because he has been born of God's Spirit.
This new birth occurred when we placed our faith in Jesus Christ. The life of God's indwelling Spirit is demonstrated as we live in obedience to the Father's expressed will, which includes that we should love one another, as He loves us. Joh 15:8-10

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