Category Archives: 1 JOHN 3

The apostle John expands on what he wrote to the little children in the family of God.

1 JOHN 3

The apostle had returned in 2:28 to addressing the whole of the family of God.  The rest of the epistle is taken up with the development of various themes that have been introduced during his word to the infants in the family.  If they are going to grow, and if young men are going to become fathers, and if fathers are going to continue to be a help to those less mature in the faith, then there are other things the apostle must write. 
The leading themes of the address to the infants in 2:18-27 are enlarged on in the rest of the epistle.  The apostle is concerned about the progress of the children of God, and he develops matters he has mentioned to the babes in the family, in order that they may progress to being young men, that the young men may progress to being fathers, and that the fathers might be confirmed in their faith.  The themes he develops are as follows:

First theme:  “antichrist shall come”, 2:18.  This is developed in 2:28-3:7, as the apostle shows that the Lord Jesus shall be manifested, and as a result, Antichrist shall be defeated. The subject of the manifestation of Christ, by which He will destroy the antichrist, is brought in by the apostle to emphasise three features that were found in Christ, and which need to be found in us, in view of the fact that we shall be manifested with Him. 

Second theme: “even now are there are many antichrists”, 2:18.  This is developed in  3:8-24.  The apostle is concerned lest the false teachers, (whom he labels antichrists, for they do what Antichrist shall do, deny the Father and the Son), will influence the children of God, and hinder their progress in Divine things.

Third theme:  “ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things”, 2:20.  This is developed in 4:1-6.  By the knowledge the Holy Spirit gives, the believer is able to distinguish between truth and error.

Fourth theme:  “he is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son”, 2:22.  This is developed in 4:7-12.  The believer, far from denying the Father and the Son, acknowledges that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that He is the propitiation for our sins, and that He is the Saviour of the world.  As a result they know God, love God, and display God in their attitude to their fellow-believers.

Fifth theme:  “ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father”, 2:24.  This is developed in 4:13-21, where the apostle shows how we may know that we dwell in Him.

Sixth theme:  “this is the promise that He hath promised us, even eternal life”, 2:25.  This is developed in 5:1-11, where the apostle shows that the witness that God gives to His Son, when believed, results in eternal life.

Seventh theme:  “the same anointing teacheth you of all things”, 2:27.  This is developed in 5:12-21, where five vital things the believer knows are dealt with, as the apostle closes his epistle.

FIRST THEME DEVELOPED, 2:28-3:10:  “antichrist shall come”.

The apostle shows that the Lord Jesus shall be manifested, and as a result, Antichrist shall be defeated. The subject of the manifestation of Christ, by which He will destroy the antichrist, is brought in by the apostle to emphasise three features that were found in Christ, and which need to be found in us, in view of the fact that we shall be manifested with Him.

Three features of Christ to imitate in view of our coming with Him:

First feature:  2:28-29 He is righteous. We should practice righteousness.
Second feature:  3:1-3 He is pure. We should purify ourselves.
Third feature:  3:4-6 He is sinless. We should not sin.

First feature:  2:28-29
He is righteous.      We should practice righteousness.

This has already been commented on in the notes on 1 John 2.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN CHAPTER 3, VERSES 1 TO 6:

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
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.
3:3  And every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.
3:4  Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
3:5  And ye know that He was manifested to take away our sins; and in Him is no sin.
3:6  Whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen Him, neither known Him.

Second feature 3:1-3
He is pure.  We should purify ourselves.

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- John, even in old age, is amazed and overwhelmed by the sort of love that the Father has shown towards us.  “What manner of” is literally, “of what country”.  The disciples exclaimed, after Christ had stilled the storm on the lake, “What manner of man is this?”  What they had witnessed was something totally “out of this world”.  So with the love of the Father; it is totally outside the realm of human emotion, for it is the expression of what God is in Himself, for “God is love”, 4:8.  God loves and gives life, whereas in the first family there was hatred and the taking of life, as John will remind us in verse 12. 
The Father hath bestowed upon us- John is sure we will know who he means by “the Father”, even though he has spoken of fathers in the previous chapter.  Just as the Lord Jesus spoke about Himself as “the Son” when He was going to present abstract truth, so here, it is “the Father”.  John uses the word “Father” to emphasise that the sort of love we have been loved with is Father-love.
That we should be called the sons of God- the word translated “son” here is the Greek word teknon, which is derived from the verb meaning “to produce as a mother, bring forth, bear, travail, be delivered”.  Clearly the emphasis is on the fact of a birth, in this case new birth.  But there is, in the context, the idea of likeness to the Son of God, as expressed in the next verse, so it is perfectly fitting to translate as son, rather than as child, since the one to whose likeness we shall be conformed is the Son of God.  By the same token, John avoids using the word which he uses for the Son of God Himself, which is huios.  The words huios and teknon both mean child or son, but teknon is never used of the Lord Jesus.  (In Acts 4:27, the believers say “For of a truth against Thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel were gathered together”.  The word for child they used is pais, which can be translated boy, girl, child, or servant.  Perhaps the translators wished to highlight the vulnerability of the Lord Jesus as the kings of the earth set themselves against Him to crucify Him, so they translated as “child”.  Perhaps they also took the opportunity to distinguish between Christ and David, who is also called a “pais”, (translated as “servant”) in verse 5).

Divine love has ensured that we have a relationship with God that is of the highest and noblest sort.  We are called the sons of God by God Himself, for He has given us the right to be called this.  In his gospel, John wrote “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God”, John 1:12,13.  So believers have the power or authority to take their place as the sons of God.

Such have not been born of blood, (as Abraham was of the blood-line of Terah); nor are they born of the flesh, (as Ishmael was born of Abraham in the normal way); nor are they born of the will of man, (for to take a servant-maid to produce a son was a heathen custom which Abraham unwisely adopted), but are born of God, (as Isaac was miraculously born of Sarah, an old woman who had been barren all her life).

The fact that Divine love has made us sons of God shows that God wanted it to happen; it was not simply a righteous thing to do, but part of the expression of the will of Him who is essentially love.  To be called the sons of God means that we are known by God under that name; He does not disown His children.  He gives to those who believe the authority to be called (to take their place rightfully as) the sons of God.  There is no doubt to their title or their entitlement; all is regular and in order.
Therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not- because this world is a world of men after the likeness of Adam, who forfeited his relationship with God through sin, it has not the ability to recognise and appreciate Divine things. Satan promised Eve and Adam opened eyes, but in fact through sin their minds were darkened, and then blinded, Ephesians 4:18.  They saw their own shame, but became blind to God’s glory.

As John wrote in His gospel, “He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not”.  That is, despite the fact that He was the creator and sustainer of all things, men were so sunk in sin that they were unable to recognise their Creator when His work was manifest in Old Testament times.  He had been in the world, providentially and governmentally overseeing the world behind the scenes, and He had done so as Creator.  Man, however, turned from the knowledge of God and worshipped idols, so it is no surprise to find that they were not able to recognise their Creator’s hand in what was happening in the world. 

Those who are not born of God have no capacity to appreciate Divine things, even when they are expressed in the fullest possible way by the Son of God when He lived down here.  But believers have the life of God by new birth, and this is the reason they are not understood either.  Of course, we should express our faith in good works, and the world may see these and glorify God because of them, but the principles that underlay and motivate those good works they do not understand. 

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- it is true that God has foreordained that His people should ultimately be “conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren”, Romans 8:39, but this is for the future.  But here John asserts that we are now, in the present, sons of God.
John calls us beloved because he has a deep love for his readers.  As he will say in the next chapter “he that loveth Him that begot loveth also them that are begotten of Him”, 5:1.  Because God is love, to be born of Him is to have the capacity to show true love to all those who share the life of God.  John knew what it was to be “the disciple whom Jesus loved”, but he had also heard the command of the Lord Jesus to love one another as He had loved them, John 15:12.  This he was seeking to do, and one way he expressed it was to call his readers beloved in a sincere way. 
And it doth not yet appear what we shall be- so two things are true, one, about the present, that we are the sons of God; two, about the future, that what we shall be is not yet manifest.  John is not saying “it does not yet appear” in the sense that it is not clear to us what we shall be, for he goes on to explain what we shall be, (like Him), so it is apparent to us now as we read his words.  What he means is that what we shall be has not been manifest to the world, (as it will be when the Lord comes to the earth), even though it is manifest to the apostle, and through him to us. 
But we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him- we know this, but the world does not.  We also know what we shall be, for we shall be like Him.  This is proof for the distinction between the coming of the Lord into the air to take His people home to heaven, (often called “The Rapture”), and His coming to the earth, the Revelation.  Those who say we shall be caught up as the Lord descends to earth, must explain when the judgement seat of Christ and the marriage of the Lamb take place. 

1 Corinthians 15:48,49 assures us that as to the body, we shall be changed, so that we shall bear the image of the heavenly, as we now bear the image of the earthly, Adam.  Here, however, the emphasis is on moral likeness.  When it is a question of the body being changed, His voice is the means of effecting it.  Here, it is sight that transforms.

We must remember that John uses the word for know which is based on the word to see.  We see Him by faith now, and in the measure in which the eyes of our understanding are enlightened, (as a light-sensitive film used to be exposed to the light to produce an image), we shall see Him increasingly better.  When the rapture takes place, all hindrances to that process which are represented by the body will be gone, and we shall see as well with the eyes of our understanding as we do with our physical eyes now.  So it is not physical sight that shall transform, but spiritual, as the hindrances are removed. 

The apostle Paul wrote “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord”, 2 Corinthians 3:18.  The contrast is between the nation of Israel, who have a vail over them as they read the Old Testament, and therefore cannot see the glories of the Lord Jesus expressed there, and Christians, who with an open or unveiled face can see Him there.  And as they do this, they are changed into the same image, for what they see is what they become.  The word for change is the same as is used of the Lord Jesus when He was transfigured before the disciples on the mount.  Just as a butterfly changes by metamorphosis, so that the hidden and inherent beauties are brought out, so with Christ.  The glory that will be seen in a coming day as He reigns upon the earth shone out briefly, to the encouragement of His disciples.  (Incidentally, the final glorious stage of the butterfly is called by biologists the imago.  The final glorious stage of the believer’s transfiguration will be the image of Christ).  So with us, there is a process of change and transformation that goes on as we view Christ in the Scriptures.  And if that form of beholding, which is like looking into a mirror, is able to change us, how much more when we see the Lord Himself with unhindered spiritual vision?  For when He comes our bodies will be rid of the sin-principle that dwells in us now, and which prevents the full appreciation of His beauties.

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 in Him- the hope of being changed into His likeness is vested in Himself alone.  It is not hope in the believer, but hope in Christ that is in view.  There is no prospect of us being able to effect the transformation, either now or at His coming; it is entirely His work.
Purifieth himself, even as He is pure- confronted by the realisation that there is much to be changed about us, we are to see to it that all that is contrary to Christ is eradicated from our lives.  In particular, in the context, we should purify ourselves from all wrong thoughts about his person, for such wrong thoughts are impurities.  The standard we have before us as we do this is nothing less than the purity that marks Him.  He is free from anything that could spoil His glory.

Third feature     Verses 3:4-6       
He is sinless.  We should not sin.

3:4  Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.

Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law- the word for sin in the Old Testament means to miss the mark.  The New Testament commentary on that is, “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”, Romans 3:23.  The glory of God is expressed to us in Christ.  We have come short of the standard He set, and therefore have missed the mark.  But John is telling us here that sin is also transgression of God’s law.  The law of God given to Israel was an expression of His will, and made it clear that He hated sin. 
For sin is the transgression of the law- this is not so much a definition of sin, but rather, one of the consequences of it.  The apostle is emphasizing that if we sin we are committing an act of rebellion against God; that is how serious it is.  The next verse will declare to us another way in which He showed His hatred of sin. 

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- this is a foundational truth of the gospel, that they well knew, for the Spirit had taught them it.  As Paul puts it in Romans 8:3, “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh”.  So His coming, His life, and His sin-bearing all condemned sin.  But He not only came to condemn sin, but to deal with it.  As soon as He came into public view, the Lord Jesus was hailed by John the Baptist as the “Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world”, John 1:29.  It was not that He was bearing the sin then, but that He was the one appointed to do it at the time of His Father’s choosing.

On the Day of Atonement, the iniquities, transgressions and sins of the nation of Israel were figuratively placed upon the head of the scapegoat, and it was led into a place from which it could not return.  Thus God illustrated what His Son would do, when He bare sins in His own body on the tree, and went into the darkness of forsakenness and desolation on the cross.  But the scapegoat was led by a fit man, who also illustrates Christ, and that fit man came back from the place of desolation, and so has Christ, in resurrection.  He died unto sin once, Romans 6:10; that is, He died to deliberately address the matter of sin.  Now He lives to God, for He has not to deal with the matter of sin in that way ever again. 
And in Him is no sin- this is the second thing that we know.  We do so because the Scriptures make it clear.  The word came from heaven on more than one occasion, “This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”, Matthew 3:17; 17:5.  Would the Father have said that if there was any trace of sin in His Son?  He lived in disreputable Nazareth for thirty years, yet no defilement spoiled Him.  He moved in public ministry amongst men for three and a half years, exposed to relentless pressure from both the Devil and men, yet in no instance was He found wanting; always He was “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners”, Hebrews 7:26.  Not only is this the second thing we know, but it is also the second thing that condemns sin.  John could write, “this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world”, John 3:19.  The presence of the undiluted holiness of Christ in this world was outright condemnation of its sin, and clearly showed God’s attitude to it.

Notice that John does not write “in Him was no sin”, although that is true, but “in Him is no sin”.  He is not referring simply to the past.  Rather, he is saying that at whatever moment we look at Him, past, present, or future, the only conclusion we can come to is that in Him is no sin.  John is probing His nature and character, and telling us that there is no sin of any sort there.

Notice how John links the Person, “in Him is no sin”, with the work, “to take away our sins”.  Peter does the same when he writes, “Who did no sin”, “who His own self bare our sins in his body on the tree”, 1 Peter 2:22,24.  And also Paul, who wrote, “He hath made Him to be sin for us”, “who knew no sin”, 2 Corinthians 5:21.  We could compare the three sacrifices that are linked together as being most holy, (that is, they meet the approval of a thrice holy God), Leviticus 6:17.  They are, the meal offering, telling of His nature, (John’s view); the sin offering, telling of His being made sin, (Paul’s view), and the trespass offering, speaking of the way He took account of the faults of others, (Peter’s view).  No wonder God specifically mentions in that verse that leaven is to excluded from those offerings, for no suggestion of sin must spoil our thoughts of Christ and His work. 

3:6  Whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen Him, neither known Him.

Whosoever abideth in Him- a person who abides in Christ is comfortable with the truth as to His sinlessness, and rests his soul in that truth. The Spirit of God indwells believers, thus uniting them to the Son of God.  He Himself said, “At that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you”, John 14:20.  So He is saying that after the Spirit of God had come at Pentecost, (an event which gives character to the whole of this age, and is what the Lord calls “that day”), the believer will know three things, as follows:
First, that the Son is in the Father, which is a claim to Deity, for it means that everything and anything that the Father is and does, is what the Son is and does too.  They will be sure as to His Deity.
Second, that the believers are in the Son, which means that they have been united together by the agency of the Spirit of God, who comes within them when they first believe.  They will be sure as to their security.
Third, that He is within, which means that the Spirit of Christ indwells them, making good to them all that the Son is.  They will be sure as to their link with Divine Persons.
So it is that believers are united to the Son of God in such a profound way that they can be said to be in Him, absorbed in who and what He is to such a degree that their own identity, in this context, is lost sight of. 
To abide in Him is an extension of this, and involves an appreciation, however small, of who He is.  This grasp of who He is does not cause them to be discomfited, but rather the reverse, for they delight in it.
Sinneth not- the construction John uses here is, according to those expert in such things, “the present participle with the article in the nominative”.  This serves to make “sinneth not” like a title, “a non-sinning one”.  So John is not thinking of individual acts of sin, but is presenting us with God’s view of those who are in the Son.  It cannot be that those who are vitally linked to the Son of God by the Spirit of God can be thought of as sinners.  That they do sin is evident from John’s appeal in 2:1 that we sin not, but here the emphasis is on their standing before God.  John is thinking in absolute terms, as he often does, and presents us with the perfect view of things as God has it.  He will return to this subject in verse 9.
Whosoever sinneth hath not seen Him- if one who “sinneth not” is “a non-sinning one”, then this is the reverse, for the construction is the same.  He is “a sinning one”, or in other words, an unbeliever.  He does not appreciate that the Son of God has been manifest, and that His life is sinless and therefore condemning.  He has not repented, and carries on sinning.
Neither known Him- there has been established no personal relationship with Christ through faith, nor personal appreciation of Him. 

SECOND THEME DEVELOPED, 3:7-24: “already there are many antichrists”, 2:18. 

Second theme: “even now are there are many antichrists”, verse 18.  This is developed in  3:8-24.  The apostle is concerned lest the false teachers, (whom he labels antichrists, for they do what Antichrist shall do, deny the Father and the Son), will influence the children of God, and hinder their progress in Divine things.
The apostle is encouraging the believers to resist the teachings of the antichrists.  The key phrase in this passage is “let no man deceive you”, verse 7.  This reminds us of the apostle’s warnings in 2:26 about those who were trying to seduce the little children; that is, to lead them astray by their deceptive teachings.  He first of all presents, in verses 7-10,  three features which highlight the contrast between believers and antichrists in connection with righteousness.  Then in verses 11-24 he presents three features of the love that true Christians have to one another because they, unlike the antichrists, are “of the truth”, verse 19.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN CHAPTER 3, VERSES 7 TO 10:

3:7  Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as hH is righteous.
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.
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.
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.

3:7-10  Three contrasts between God’s children and antichrists

First contrast, verse 7 The believer is like Christ, antichrists are like the devil.
Second contrast, verses 8-9 The believer does not sin, antichrists do.
Third contrast, verse 10  The believer is a child of God, antichrists are of the devil.

First contrast, verse 7       
The believer is like Christ, antichrists are like the devil.

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- in 2:18-27 the warning about deceivers was to the infants in the family of God.  Now John warns all who believe to be on our guard.  Even those who have matured in the things of God need to be careful, for the enemy is very crafty.  The word for deceive is the one which gives us the word planet.  Disaster awaited the ancient shipmaster who plotted his course using the planets, for their very name means they are wanderers.  Unlike the “fixed” stars, whose position does not vary from night to night, the planets wander across the heavens.  To allow them to guide us is to be in danger of shipwreck.  So to allow deceivers to direct us is to be heading for spiritual disaster.  This is especially a warning for those who are “shipmasters”, or assembly leaders.  They need to be alert at all times.
Notice that John writes “let no man”, for deceivers can come in various guises.  They do not all peddle their errors in the same way.  However attractive the personality of the deceiver, or however plausible his deceptions seem to be, he must be resisted and turned from.
He that doeth righteousness is righteous- that is, only one who has a righteous nature can do righteous acts.  It is not that a man does righteous things and God calls him righteous in return, for that would deny the gospel.  “There is none righteous, no, not one” is the clear word of God, Romans 3:10.  “By the works of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin”, Romans 3:20.

A tree is known by its fruit.  The Lord Jesus warned of false prophets with the words, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.  Ye shall know them by their fruits.  Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?  Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.  A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.  Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire.  Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them”, Matthew 7:15-20.  Paul took up the word “wolves” when he warned the Ephesian elders of “grievous wolves”, that would not spare the flock, Acts 20:29.  And John is using the concept “a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit” in both verse 6 and verse 9, when he writes of believers not sinning. 
Even as He is righteous- this is His character, and we shall come with Him and be like Him, verse 2.  Is this not an incentive to be like Him now?  The righteousness of the believer is of the same sort as the righteousness of Christ, (for we are righteous “even as” He is righteous).  This is because righteousness is a characteristic of the nature of God, and He is equal with God.  By new birth we share His nature, and therefore share His righteousness.  It is not His righteous acts during His life that are imputed to us, but rather His righteous nature.

Second contrast, verses 8-9   
The believer does not sin, antichrists do.

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- this implies that those who do righteousness are of God.  But the reverse is true, that those who sin as a matter of habit, are clearly in the grip of the enemy, and take character from him.  Men started sinning only after the devil had brought in his temptation. 
For the devil sinneth from the beginning- note the stark contrast between the beginning of this sinful world-system, lying in the Wicked One as it does, and that which was brought into display from the other “beginning”, the manifestation of the Son of God to the world at His baptism.  That beginning was marked by total resistance to sin, unlike with Adam at his beginning. 
For this purpose the Son of God was manifested- John now tells us how God acted in the light of the sinfulness of the world of men.  He sent His Son, and He was manifested in real manhood.  It was not that God spoke from heaven, but that He sent a person from heaven, who lived a life perfectly in harmony with His character and will.  This is what the possession of eternal life enables a believer to do.  Note that He comes as Son, so that He may reveal the Father.
That He might destroy the works of the devil- the works of the devil may be thought of in two ways, generally, and specifically.  Thought of generally, they are the sins he provokes men to commit.  Christ destroyed such works by condemning them by His life and His doctrine, and also by dying for sins on the cross so that men might be freed from their power and lead a righteous life.  He demonstrated visibly His ability to do this, by releasing men and women from the bondage and corruption that had been brought in by the fall of man.  Every healing act was a rebuff to the Devil, and showed the Son of God had superior power than he.  For instance, He healed the palsied man, and thus showed He had power on earth to forgive sins, Matthew 9:1-8. 
More specifically, the sins are those committed by the deceiving antichrists as they spread lies about Christ.  That is what John is warning us about particularly.  The devil is hard at work deceiving men, for “he deceiveth the whole world”, Revelation 12:9.  It is these deceits that John is warning about as he cautions us to not be taken in by antichrists.  John will show in the next verse that true believers cannot sin like that, either by teaching error or believing it.

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- again John is using a form of speech which means “whosoever is born of God is a not-able-to-sin person”.  He has that character.  John is not suggesting there are believers who never sin.  What he is saying is that believers, because they are born of God and therefore have the life of God within them, do not sin as the expression of their nature.  When they sin they act contrary to their position before God as His children.  He is also saying that true believers do not and, indeed, cannot, sin in the sense that they deny Christ and renounce faith in Him.
For His seed remaineth in him- by “His seed” John means the life-principle that God has implanted into those who believe, which can never be taken away, for it remaineth in them.  James tells us that it is by the word of truth that God begets His children, James 1:18, therefore it is a nature that responds to the truth, and cannot deny it. 
There is a close connection between this truth, and the other truth that the Holy Spirit of God indwells the believer, and abides there for ever, John 14:16.
And he cannot sin, because he is born of God- John is telling us that since God’s seed remains in us, and never leaves, there is no time when our character reverts to a sinful one, and therefore we commit sin as matter of course.  Not only does the Spirit of Truth dwell within us, encouraging in the truth, but the new nature we have from God is resistant to error.  We are doubly safe-guarded from the errors of the wicked, but we still need to be alert.

Third contrast, verse 10   
The believer is of God, antichrists are of the devil.

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- in verse 8 the Son of God was manifested; in 2:19 antichrists were manifested, and now the children of God and the children of the devil are said to be manifested.  A child expresses his father.  The children of God express God, the children of the devil, (that is, everyone else), display their father the devil.  The Lord Jesus told the unbelieving Jews, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do”, John 8:44.  They claimed to have Abraham as their father, but since they did not act like Abraham, they were not his children morally, even though they were descended from him physically, see John 8:33-40.
Whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God- John gives two signs that a person is not a child of God.  This is the first sign, the absence of practical righteousness.  We could think of this phrase as summing up the epistle so far, just as the rest of the verse sums up the rest of the epistle. 
Neither he that loveth not his brother- it is at this point that the epistle divides.  Before, John has emphasised light and righteousness, now he is going to emphasise love, both to God and to fellow-believers.  So he that does not love his brother is not of God.  That is, is not born again.  God, as to His nature, is love, 4:8, and by new birth we become partakers of the Divine nature, 2 Peter 1:4, and are thus enabled to love.  But it is also true of God that He cannot but express Himself; so if we partake of a nature like that, then Divine love will inevitably express itself in us too.

3:11-24  Three things Christian love shows:

First thing Verses 11-12 The one who loves is righteous in practice.
Second thing Verses 13-14 The one who loves has passed from death to life.
Third thing Verses 15-24 The one who loves dwells in God, and He in him, verse 24.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN CHAPTER 3, VERSES 7 TO 10:

3:11  For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
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.
3:13  Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.
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.
3:15  Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.
3:16  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.
3:17  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?
3:18  My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.
3:19  And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.
3:20  For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.
3:21  Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.
3:22  And whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.
3:23  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.
3:24  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. 

First thing that Christian love shows
Verses 11-12    The one who loves is righteous in practice.

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- just as the main body of the first half of the epistle began with “This then is the message we have heard of Him”, 1;5, so this second half begins similarly.  We have already noticed that the second half of verse 10 introduces the theme of Christian love.  In the first half of the epistle the main message was that God is light; here it is that God is love.  There the message was from the Son of God, so here, for as the Son of the Father He expresses Divine features perfectly.  The impression that believing hearts gained from viewing Him in His life down here was that God is light, and God is love.  The mention of the beginning reminds us that this impression was gained from the outset of His life until His return to the Father; He was consistent all the way through. 
That we should love one another- not only did an impression come over from the life of the Son of God down here, but He gave a specific command to His own as He spoke to them in the Upper Room.  “A new commandment I give unto you, ‘That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.  By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another'”, John 13:34,35.  There is contained within this command a reference to His life as the disciples knew it, for He says, “As I have loved you”.  They were to translate His love for them into love for one another.

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- having referred to the positive example of Christ, John now gives us a negative example.  We are now being taken back to another “beginning”, the start of the outworking of the nature of Adam in his first son Cain. 
Who was of that wicked one- the real reason why Cain acted as he did was that, as an unbeliever, he had the devil as his role-model.  He was a murderer from the beginning, as the Lord Himself said in John 8:44, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.  He was a murderer from the beginning”.
And slew his brother- the devil became the murderer of men’s souls when he incited Adam and Eve to sin, even though they knew that in the day they ate they would die.  But he is also responsible for physical murder also, which comes as a direct result of man being dead in trespasses and sins. 
And wherefore slew he him?  How can such a drastic act take place so soon after God pronounced everything to be very good?  What was it that provoked Cain to despatch his brother into eternity?  Was it that he was guilty of some wicked sin that deserved such a punishment?  John gives us the answer to these questions.
Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous- Cain’s act of murdering his brother was an expression of the conflict between righteousness and unrighteousness.  Cain was exposed as a sinner by Abel’s righteous life, and expressed that sinner-ship by doing to his brother physically what his father the Devil had done to his parents spiritually.  John is warning his readers that antichrists, being like Cain, will likewise be hostile and aggressive.  An example of this is the way the Judaising teachers pursued Paul in his travels, as recorded in the Book of Acts.

Second thing that Christian love shows
Verses 13-14    The one who loves has passed from death to life.

3:13  Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.

Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you- at the beginning of the chapter the apostle marvelled at God’s love.  Now he warns his readers not to be surprised at the world’s hate.  It is as brethren they are hated, fellow-members of the family of God.  John had heard the Lord warn about this the night before He died.  He had said, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you.  If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you”, John 15:18,19.  And He went on to say in verse 20, “If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you”, so this is one of the ways the hatred will be expressed.  Notice the “ye know that it hated Me”, so they had witnessed the hatred that men expressed towards Him, and knew what to expect.  There does not seem to be any persecution for the disciples all the while the Lord was with them.  Once He was gone, then the Book of Acts records much persecution against them, for the world was no longer able to persecute Him.  This is implied in the words, “it hated Me before it hated you”.

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.

We know that we have passed from death unto life- the words of Christ in the first public discourse John records were as follows, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life'”, John 5:24.  God’s reaction when persons believe the truth about His Son is to move them from a position of spiritual death, (that is, death in trespasses and sins, Ephesians 2:1), to a position of spiritual life.  Adam and his wife were plunged into spiritual death by disbelief in the word of God; those who believe are brought into life by belief in the word of God about His Son.
Because we love the brethren- this is one of the hallmarks of a true believer, that he loves fellow-members in the family of God.  No doubt John writes “brethren”, rather than “children of God”, (as he does in 5:2), because he has been referring to Cain’s hatred of his brother.  Believers are like Abel, hated; unbelievers are like Cain, hating. 
He that loveth not his brother abideth in death- instead of moving from death unto life through faith, he remains where he ever was, in spiritual death.  So hatred of believers is a sure sign of spiritual death; love of believers is a sure sign of spiritual life.  John uses the word brother for the one who is not loved, because the one who does not love him claims to be a believer, and John takes him up on that claim. 

Third thing that Christian love shows
Verses 15-24    The one who loves dwells in God, and He in him, verse 24.

3:15  Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.

Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer- the Lord Jesus taught as follows, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, ‘Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgement’:  but I say unto you, that whosoever shall be angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgement'”, Matthew 5:21,22.  The Lord is bringing out the full meaning of the law, (which is part of what He meant when He said He had come to fulfil the law, Matthew 5:17), and is showing that anger with one’s brother is the root cause of murder.  And so it is with hatred of one’s brother.  Given a motive, the means, and opportunity, hatred and anger lead to murder.
And ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him- because they were believers, John’s readers knew and believed that murder was a direct challenge to the Living God, who had made man in His own image at the beginning.  This is why murder should be met with capital punishment, for God said to Noah, “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made He man”, Genesis 9:6.  So man is to acknowledge that it is God’s will that those who murder should themselves be executed, for the murderer has erased the image of man. 
No-one who has eternal life, and therefore knows God, and possesses the Holy Spirit within, can sink so low as to murder another.  We should, of course, distinguish murder from accidental killing. 

3:16  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.

Hereby perceive we the love of God- John is about to encourage us in practical love, so he gives to us the greatest example of all, Divine love, as expressed by the Son of God, no less.  Having told us in verse 15 of one who takes life, we are now presented with one who laid down His life, and this is the incentive for us to lay down our lives for fellow-believers.  If murder is the ultimate expression of hatred, then laying down one’s life for others is the ultimate expression of love.
Because He laid down His life for us- the reason we have been able to perceive the love of God is because it has been  clearly demonstrated in the past.  The Son of God, equal with the Father, (which is why John can happily follow “God” with “He”, without explanation), has surrendered His life on our behalf. 
And we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren- the conjunction “and” reminds us that this is the expected response of the believer to the laying down of Christ’s life.  It should follow as a logical consequence- He laid down His life, and we lay down our lives.  This laying down of one’s life may not take the ultimate form of martyrdom; it may have less severe ways of showing itself.  Paul wrote, “Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus, who have for my life laid down their own necks”, Romans 16:3,4.  We are not told the details of this incident, but that does not matter.  The point is that there were those who were prepared to go that far, and we should be prepared to do so also.  One way in which we may do this is told us in 3:17, where the apostle gives us a negative example.

3:17  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?

But whoso hath this world’s good- the word “but” alerts us to the fact that we are going to be given a example of what not to do; of that which is the very reverse of “laying down our lives for the brethren”.  The word “good” as used here, is a reference to the means whereby life is maintained.  It is not luxury goods that are in view, but the necessities of life.  So there is presented to us the sight of a believer who has the things which the world furnishes in order to sustain his life.  Luxury goods will have no attraction for a spiritual believer.  He will be moderate in all things, and not waste the resources God has given Him on the trifles of this life.  He will want to invest them for eternity.  See Luke 12:13-24.
And seeth his brother have need- but there is another brother in the scenario John is describing.  He does not have the means to sustain his life; why this is the case we are not told.  The brother has need, and the first brother sees it; it is not that he is ignorant of the situation.
And shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him- “bowels of compassion” is an expressive phrase.  There are certain organs in our body which function without us prompting them to do so.  John is here assuming that our compassion will not need to be prompted.  We should be alert to need around us, and instantly seek ways to relieve it.  Considerations of our own personal well-being should recede, and the need of others come to the fore.  Sadly, the professed believer whom John has in mind is not like this, but holds back from doing good to others.  The true believer will welcome opportunities to “lay down our lives for the brethren” in this, and other ways.
How dwelleth the love of God in him?  We may think of this question in two ways.  First, we may ask, “With what justification can it be said that this person has the love of God in his heart?”  Divine love is ever ready to give, as John has reminded us in verse 16, yet here is one who is not prepared to give, and the question has to be asked whether he is a true believer, since a giving attitude is characteristic of Divine love.  Second, we may ask, if he is, after all, a true believer, “Is the love of God at home in this person’s heart, comfortable with the attitudes that it finds there?”  Whatever way we look at John’s question, there is a strong challenge for us. 

3:18  My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

My little children- verses 13-17 were addressed to believers as brethren, because the negative example of Cain had been mentioned for our warning.  So it is that in that section we have, “love the brethren”, “loveth not his brother”, “hateth his brother”, “lay down our lives for the brethren”, “seeth his brother”.  Now, however, the apostle is reverting to the idea that we are the children of God, because he is going to write further about our relationship with the Father and the Son.
Let us not love in word- of course John is not discouraging us from speaking words of love to our fellow-believers.  The expression is to be taken in context.  He is exhorting us not to love merely in word.  That is, to simply assent to the word of Scripture which says we should love others.  We may do that, but not let the word have any impact upon us.
Neither in tongue- just saying that we love someone is not enough.  Even voicing our intentions is not enough either.
But in deed- actions speak louder than words.  The Lord Jesus did not go around saying He loved people; He demonstrated it in action.
And in truth- let the action be governed by the truth of Scripture, as expressed by the life of the one who declared “I am…the truth”, and who gave expression to the truth in everything He did.  Perhaps if we wish to narrow down what “in truth” means, we could say it is the word “we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren”.  It is as we immerse ourselves in the implications of that exhortation that we can love as we ought.

3:19  And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.

And hereby we know that we are of the truth- giving to others has its compensations, even in this life, let alone the life to come.  The believer who loves in deed and in truth is restful in mind about his relationship to the truth, for he has allowed it to have a profound impact upon him, resulting in practical expressions of love. 
And shall assure our hearts before Him- the second present benefit from showing love is that the heart is thereby confident about a relationship with God.  In the previous verse John envisages one who merely talks in the presence of men about loving.  Here he writes of one who can go into the presence of God and be assured of a vital relationship with Him. 
This is one of several ways in which the believer may have assurance of salvation.  For other passages see Romans 8:14, (the desire to address God as Father, as a result of which the Spirit testifies to our spirit that we are the children of God); Hebrews 10:15-19, (holy boldness in the presence of God as a result of the Spirit’s testimony about the forgiveness of sins); 1 John 2:3-6, (the keeping of His commandments); 1 John 5:9,10, (the belief that Jesus is the Son of God, something that the natural man does not do). 

3:20  For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.

For if our heart condemn us- the apostle is very realistic, and knows that often, especially is we have a very sensitive conscience, even when we have put loving our brother into practice, our heart still condemns us; perhaps with the thought that our love is not great enough.
God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things- God has the perfect grasp of the true situation.  He is, as God, greater in knowledge than we can ever be, and knows all about us; our fears, our motives; our misgivings, our doubts.  He also knows perfectly that we have sought to love our brothers.  He is also greater in love, and is on our side in this matter.

3:21  Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.

Beloved, if our heart condemn us not- this will be the case when we have realised the truth of the previous verse, and have seen that our lack of confidence is because of our failure to grasp the true situation, which is the situation as God sees it.
Then have we confidence toward God- having seen things as God sees them, and have stopped tormenting ourselves for our supposed failures, (as long as they are supposed, and not real), then that assurance of heart the apostle wrote of in verse 19 can be restored to us.

3:22  And whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.

And whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him- this is not a licence to ask for everything and anything, but is to be taken strictly in context.  (There are three words to bear in mind when seeking to understand Scripture.  They are: Context, Context, and Context).  The confidence that our hearts have in the presence of God with regard to the reality of our love, (as expressed by love to others), encourages us to ask for further opportunities to show love, and also to be given the resources whereby we may do this.  The apostle is sure that if we ask with this motive, then our request will be granted.  He had heard the Lord Jesus say, “If ye abide in me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.  Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be My disciples”, John 15:7,8.  So those in whose hearts the words of the Lord Jesus have found a congenial home, can safely be given the promise that anything they ask will be given, for they will not ask for anything contrary to His will as expressed in His words.  And when this happens, the Father is glorified, for they have asked for help to bear much fruit, and this glorifies Him.  So in John 15 the asking is so as to be fruitful.  In 1 John 3 the asking is so as to be useful.
Because we keep His commandments- this is the first reason the apostle is confident that we will receive, and is similar to the words just quoted, “My words abide in you”.  Those who keep God’s commandments can be entrusted with resources, for they will be faithful in their stewardship of those resources.
And do those things that are pleasing in His sight- this is the second reason the apostle is confident, and it is a consequence of the first reason.  Those who have a heart for the commandments of God are, by definition, those who have a heart for doing that which pleases Him, for His commandments enlighten us as to what pleases Him.  So these are two strong reasons for God to grant us what we ask.

3:23  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.

And this is His commandment- this is the commandment that embraces and gives point to all the other commandments.  Needless to say, the apostle is not referring specifically to the ten commandments written on tables of stone, for these are not the code of conduct for the believer, although Christian conduct will never go against the righteous requirement of the law.  Our standard is Christ, for He has left us “an example, that ye should follow His steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth”, 1 Peter 2:21,22.  The word “example” the apostle uses was a technical word, meaning all the letters of the alphabet, carefully written on the blackboard by the teacher for his students to copy accurately.  In Christ life there is the “full alphabet” of right conduct, and we are to take note of His life, and make His example our guide, so that we reproduce it accurately.
That we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ- this is the foundation of everything.  For faith in Him will result in works of faith and love.  Notice that it is not simply belief in Him.  That is initial faith.  The apostle is speaking here of ongoing faith in relation to the name of His Son, not just faith in His person.  The name of His Son reminds us of all that He was when down here; every aspect of His character; every feature of His person.  All is bound up in His name, and provides the basis for our imitation of Him.  The fact that it is the name of His Son might over-awe us, and we might think that to copy Him is impossible.  But He is Jesus Christ too, so He is real man, and may be followed by those who also are men, and who believe in Him.
And love one another, as He gave us commandment- again, John had first-hand knowledge of this, for he had heard the Saviour say, “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in My love”, John 15:9.  And if we were to ask how we are to tell whether we are continuing in His love, He goes on to say, “If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love; even as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love”, verse 10.  So it is not just that we love because He has commanded it; we are to love as He loved us.  In other words, we love one another in the same way He has loved us, namely as a reflection of the love of His Father.  In this way we love in line with His commandment.

3:24  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.

And he that keepeth His commandments dwelleth in Him- one of the sure signs that a person dwells in Christ is his careful keeping of His commandments.  This is a very practical way we may assess our lives, and our relationship with God.  Those who act in harmony with the mind of Christ as expressed in His commandments, are clearly comfortable with who He is.  To be in Him is to have a share in His Divine nature.  To abide in Him is to be settled in that position. 
And He in him- the Son of God is at home in the heart of one who keeps His commandments. 
And hereby we know that He abideth in us- it is such a tremendous thought, that the very Son of God indwells our hearts, that we may wonder sometimes how such a great thing can be so.  The apostle anticipates that feeling, and gives to us the way in which we may be really sure that it is the case that Christ is within.
By the Spirit which He hath given us- this is the plain statement of the basis of assurance in this matter.  We shall have to read the next few verses to find out how the Spirit shows us this.  John is no doubt reminded of the words of the Lord jesus when he said, “At that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you”, John 14:20.  The indwelling Spirit of God makes the presence of Christ real to us.