1 John 3
Children of God (3:1-10)
1 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us! This is the central message of the Gospel of Christ: God loves mankind, and He desires to save men and women and make them His children (see John 3:16). In no other religion do we find this message. This is why the only hope for the world is found in the Gospel of Christ. No other religion, no other god, can offer man the sure hope of eternal life. Only the Gospel can lead man to heaven. Only the Gospel is the true word of the one true living God.
God’s love is manifested in this, that we should be called children of God. But we are not only called His children—we are His children! (see John 1:12; Galatians 3:26; 4:7).
Let us not doubt that we are His children. Satan tries hard to make us doubt it. Satan says to us: “You are such a bad sinner that you can’t possibly be a child of God.” But this is a lie. We have been purified from all sin by the blood of Christ (1 John 1:7). We must not listen to Satan.
The world does not know how it’s possible for low and humble believers like us to become God’s own children and have an eternal inheritance in heaven. The world cannot accept it. The world—that is, unbelieving mankind—does not accept Christ; therefore, the world does not accept us (see John 1:10; 15:18-21).
2 But we know that when he appears—that is, when Jesus comes again at the end of the world—we shall be like him. Even though we are now children of God, we have not yet fully become like Christ. But when we see the glorified Christ, when we are with Him, then we shall be transformed. His glory will become manifest in us (John 17:24; 2 Corinthians 3:18).
3 What is this hope in him that John mentions here? This hope is hope in Jesus. It is the hope of meeting Jesus, of being like Jesus, of sharing in His glory. When we long and hope to be like Jesus, then we shall indeed become like Him. Our hope will be fulfilled; and just as he is pure, so shall we become pure also.
4 Everyone who sins breaks the law, God’s law. Everyone includes kings, prime ministers, presidents—everyone. Anyone who sins breaks God’s law.
Most people don’t like the word “sin.” Whenever they sin, they say, “I made a mistake.” But in saying this, they deceive themselves. God sees their sin; He is not deceived.
5 Christ appeared—that is, came to earth—so that he might take away our sins (John 1:29). How did He take away our sins? He did it by taking the punishment for our sins upon Himself. He received the death penalty in our place. In this way He made atonement for our sins (see Romans 5:6,8; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 1 John 2:2). But Christ Himself did not deserve to die; He was without sin (Hebrews 4:15).
6 No one who lives in him keeps on sinning.10 That is, the person who lives in Christ does not live in sin (see verse 9). He may sin from time to time, but he does not deliberately continue to sin (see 1 John 1:8 and comment). And if he does sin, he quickly repents of it and is cleansed (1 John 1:9).
If we continue to knowingly commit some sin, we are not in Christ. We do not know Him, and He does not know us. Let each one ask himself: “Is there any sin in my life which I am not willing to give up?” If there is, we must at once confess it and give it up. If we don’t, we do not belong to Christ. Only those who obey Christ and are pure in heart will see Him and know Him (Matthew 5:8; 1 John 2:3-4).
7 Many false teachers will try to deceive us. But we can recognize them by their work. If a man does (keeps doing) what is right, then we know that he is righteous. On the other hand, if a man keeps doing what is wrong, then we know that he is a false teacher, a false Christian. Jesus said, “By their fruit you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:16).
8 He who does11 what is sinful is of the devil (Satan). Satan’s work is to deceive men and lead them into sin. Satan makes men slaves to sin. But Jesus came to earth to destroy the devil’s work by freeing men from bondage to sin and delivering them out of the kingdom of darkness.
9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin12 (see 1 John 1:8; 5:18 and comments).
We are born of God. His seed—His nature—is in us. His power, love, and other qualities are in us. Having received His nature, we cannot continue doing what is against His nature; we must now live according to His nature. To be a Christian is not to follow a religion or obey some law. To be a Christian is to be born anew by God’s Spirit and to have a new spiritual nature (see John 3:5; Romans 8:11).
For example, oranges come from an orange tree. An orange tree does not produce sour lemons. Neither does God give birth to sinners.
But let us remember, oranges can become diseased or sucked dry by insects. But even though an orange may be diseased, it is still an orange. It is the same with us. We are children of God, but from time to time we become “diseased” or are attacked by “insects”—that is, we fall into sin. But even though we fall into sin, we still remain God’s children. However, having fallen into sin, we must then confess our sin to our Father and ask forgiveness for it.
Because we are God’s children, we do not want to sin. Instead, we want to do God’s will; we want to please God, because He is our Father. Therefore, when we do sin, it is not our real self that is sinning; rather, it is sin living within us—our old sinful self—that is sinning (see Romans 7:18-20).
10 We can recognize the children of God and the children of the devil (Satan) by their works. Anyone who does13 what is right is a child of God (1 John 2:29). Anyone who does not do14what is right is a child of the devil.
To not love our brother is a sin (1 John 2:9). Here John reminds us that to “do what is right” in our daily lives means above all to love others15—especially our brother16 (John 13:34; Galatians 6:10). The entire law—all of God’s commands—are summed up in the command to love others, to love our neighbor (see Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14 and comments).
Love One Another (3:11-24)
11-12 Cain was the oldest son of Adam, the first man God created. Cain killed his brother Abel, because Cain was evil and his brother was righteous (Genesis 4:1-8). Evil always opposes righteousness; there can never be peace between them. John says: Do not be like Cain.
13 Why does the world17 hate and oppose those who believe in Christ? Because believers are not of this world. They are of heaven; they have been born of God (John 1:12-13; 15:18-19). If the world hated Christ, it will also hate His followers.
14 In 1 John 2:29, John says: … everyone who does what is right has been born of him (God). That is, the one who does what is right has been born anew spiritually; he has received new spiritual life. To do “what is right” means to believe and obey. To obey means to love (see verse 10 and comment). Therefore, to love means to have spiritual life. Thus, if we love our brother, we can know that we have passed from death to life (see John 5:24). The fruit of hatred is death. The fruit of love is life—eternal life.
15 To hate one’s brother is to murder him. We murder him not with our hands; we murder him with our thoughts. Jesus taught that if we are angry at our brother we will face judgment as murderers (Matthew 5:21-22). Hatred and murder lead to spiritual death; there can be no eternal life for those who do such things.
16 By His own example, Jesus showed us what love is. We should follow His example. If He loved our brothers so much that He gave up His life for them, surely we should be willing to love them too. More than that, we should be willing to love them as Jesus loved them; we, too, should be willing to give up our lives for them. We must not love our own life; rather, we must be ready to lay it down for the sake of others (John 15:12-13; Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:9-11).
It is not usually necessary to die for others. What is always necessary, however, is to live for others. In fact, living for others is more difficult than dying for them!
17-18 True love arises from our hearts; it comes from within us. But true love is always manifested outwardly; it is manifested by works of love. If it is not, then it isn’t true love (see James 1:22; 2:14-17).
19 This then is how we know that we belong to the truth. It is because of the outward manifestation of our love that we know we belong to the truth. This is similar to verse 14, where John says that because of our love, we know we have life. To “belong to the truth” and to “have life” are essentially the same thing. Jesus Himself was both the truth and the life (John 14:6). When we continue in love, the truth is in us, life is in us, Christ and God are in us. This being so, what can we fear? Those who love have nothing to fear (1 John 4:18). Therefore, we can set our hearts at rest; that is, we can reassure ourselves that we are indeed children of God and that we can come into His presence without fear. Therefore, if we want to put our hearts at rest and be able to stand before God with confidence, then we need to love our brothers.
20 Sometimes our own hearts condemn us. Our hearts say to us: “You are a sinner; you are not worthy to be a child of God.” But God knows more than our hearts do. Even though our hearts condemn us in this way, God declares us innocent. God is greater than our hearts; and He will not condemn us (Romans 8:1).
21 According to verse 20, even if our hearts condemn us, God does not. Therefore, according to verse 21, if our hearts do not condemn us, we can have even more confidence that God won’t condemn us either.
If our conscience is clear—that is, if our hearts have nothing to accuse us of—we will have confidence before God and our hearts will be at rest (see Romans 5:1; Hebrews 4:16).
22 Because we obey God’s commands, we can ask Him for anything and we will receive it. If God does not give us exactly what we ask for, it is because we have not asked correctly (James 4:3). But God will always give us some answer to our prayers; He will always give us what is needed for our spiritual welfare.
Here we must look more closely at this subject of prayer. John says in this verse that we receive from [God] anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. If we do not obey His commands and do not live according to His will, then our prayers will be in vain.
Therefore, in order to receive from God the things we ask for, the first requirement or condition is that we must be obedient. The second requirement is that we must pray in faith (Matthew 21:22; Mark 11:24). The third requirement is that we must pray in Jesus’ name, that is, for His sake, for His glory; we must not pray for our own sake, or for our own glory (John 14:14). The fourth requirement is that we must pray according to God’s will (1 John 5:14-15). These four requirements or conditions for prayer are summed up in this one statement of Jesus: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (John 15:7).
23 What must we do to please God? Here in this important verse, John again gives us the answer to this question: To please God we must believe in Christ and obey (love) Him. True faith never exists by itself; it is always expressed through obedience, and obedience is always expressed through love (see Galatians 5:6; James 2:17 and comments). Faith is the tree; obedience (love) is the fruit.
To believe in the name of Christ is the same as to believe in Christ. Jesus’ name tells us who He is. He is the Christ, the Savior, the Son of God. He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 19:16). All these are names of Jesus.
24 Jesus said: “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love” (John 15:10). Here John says: Those who obey his commands live in him. To live in Christ and to remain in Christ’s love is the same thing. To live (or remain) in Christ is the most important thing in our lives (1 John 2:28). But in order to live in Him, we must obey his commands.
How do we know that Christ lives in us? We know it by the (Holy) Spirit (Romans 8:16; 1 John 4:13). The Holy Spirit is Christ’s Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is in us, Christ also is in us.