Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, December 5th, 2023
the First Week of Advent
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Bible Commentaries
1 John 3

Godbey's Commentary on the New TestamentGodbey's NT Commentary

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Verses 1-6



29. “If you know that He is righteous you know that every one who doeth righteousness has been born of Him.” This verse sweeps Antichristianity, i. e., salvation by human works, forever from the field. True religion is the work of God; and false, that of men. You see from this verse that is utterly impossible for an unregenerated person to do righteousness. You must receive righteousness from the Holy Ghost before you can possibly do it.

1. “Behold what wondrous divine love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we may be called the children of God, and we are.” This world is wiser than we think. They generally call things what they are. It is a significant fact that the people who believe and profess entire sanctification by a second work of grace after regeneration, are alone in all the world this day called “holy” by the people of the world. Others claim to be holy, and to have received it in conversion. But the world does not so recognize them, nor call them holy.

2. John had witnessed our Savior’s transfiguration and beheld His glory on the mount. He here assures us that when our Lord shall appear His saints who fill the above description, i. e., emptied of sin and endued with the holy unction, so they will not “shrink with embarrassment in His presence,” shall all be transfigured like our Lord when he saw Him on the mount and when He ascended up to heaven.

3. “Every one having this hope on Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.” Certainly all the truly regenerate entertain the hope of seeing Jesus in His glory. John makes no compromise with a bogus Christianity, but assures us that all true Christians do press forward into entire sanctification, i. e., “purify themselves, even as Christ is pure.” This is certainly a high standard of Christian purity. Holiness is original in God and imparted to us, so that we actually have the holiness of our Savior. Hence we see that the popular churchism which fights the doctrine of purity can not be God’s regeneration, but it is Satan’s counterfeit. Every time Christian takes the purity of Christ as his standard, and presses unto it at every conceivable sacrifice. “Let God be true and every man a liar.”

4. John gives two clear definitions of sin, i. e., a “transgression of the law,” which is actual sin, and must be removed by pardon, and “unrighteousness,” which is inbred sin, and must be expurgated by the cleansing blood.

5. The great mission for which Christ came into the world was to take away sin.

6. “Every one abiding in Him sinneth not; every one sinning doth not see Him nor know Him.” This verse forever refutes the nonsensical heresy of Satan’s preachers, who stand in the pulpit and preach a sinning religion to the people. If you are not in Christ, you are in Satan. No one can possibly abide in Christ and commit a known and willing sin. Criminals find dark places in which to perpetrate their crimes. Here it says positively that no one who sees or knows God commits any sin. All sin belongs to Satan’s darkness. It is never committed in the light of the Divine Presence.

Verses 7-18



7. “Little children, let no one deceive you.” John solemnly warns young converts and all other Christians against these Antichrists who teach a sinning religion, lest they deceive them to their eternal ruin. Oh, how pertinent this warning today, when the world is flooded with sinning religion.

8. “He that committeth sin is of the devil; because the devil sinneth from the beginning.” This needs no comment; a simpleton can understand it. Your preacher, standing in the pulpit, says, “ I sin every day.” Dare to believe God. Your preacher belongs to the devil, preaches his gospel, and will lead you to hell if you follow him. “For this the Son of God was made manifest, that He may destroy the works of the devil.” You see how these Antichrists do their utmost to defeat the work of Christ, i. e., the destruction of sin. Oh, how grossly they falsify Christ by telling the people they can not get rid of sin, when Christ came into the world for this very achievement, i. e., the extermination of our sins.

9. “Every one who has been born of God doth not sin because His seed remaineth in him; and he is not able to sin because he has been born of God.” The advocates of sinning religion wage an exterminating war against sanctification on the hypothesis that none can live without committing sin. See how blindly they utterly unchristianize themselves, because it does not take sanctification to stop all sinning, but you see from this verse that regeneration settles the question of committing sin. So long as you have the divine seed, i. e., the life of God, the holy agapee, in your heart, you can not sin. The seed is planted in regeneration, the ground purified from all indigenous filth in sanctification, and the golden harvest reaped by the angels in glorification.

10. “In this the children of God are manifest and the children of the devil,” i. e., the latter commit sin and the former do not. Oh, how easy to draw the line between God’s people, who live a holy life and commit no sin, and Satan’s people, who commit sin, whether church members or worldlings!

11. John constantly pours his burning emphasis on this divine love, the heavenly exotic from the heart of God, poured into our hearts by the Holy Ghost in regeneration and delivered from all carnal antagonisms in sanctification; meanwhile it not only extends up to God whence it came, but reaches forth its Briarean arms, encircling the world in its loving embrace, regardless of race, sect or color.

12. Cain was the great antediluvian patriarch of a bloodless, sinning religion. Cain’s religion was so popular that it finally crowded out Abel’s bloody experience, perpetuated by Seth and his followers, and filled the world, thus provoking the indignation of Heaven and bringing on the flood.

13, 14. “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren with divine love: he that loveth not with divine love abideth in death.” What a deplorable pity the English Scripture does not bring out the difference between the divine agapee, the nature of God, and philia, the carnal love, peculiar to fallen humanity. For ages churches have been filled up with people joining on a profession of love to God and the brethren, which in millions of cases has proved by their lives to be nothing but their own natural carnal love, which never did have anything to do with salvation, only to be purified by it. How can I discriminate between the human and divine love? This heavenly agapee, i. e., divine love, is identical in the heart of God, angels and human beings, reaching out indiscriminately to all created intelligences, pouring floods of sympathy on the entire animate creation. So when you have it, you love the black Hottentot, the tawny Mongolian and the beautiful Caucasian all alike, no longer discriminating between your enemies and your friends, but like God, who loves his enemies enough to die for them, you speed to make reconciliation with every foe and girdle the world in your arms. This is regeneration.

Sanctification has plenty still left to do in the complete expurgation of the spiritual organism from all hereditary ailment.

15. This verse is confirmatory of the preceding, affirming the dismal turpitude of unregenerated nature, pronouncing every misanthropist a guilty murderer in the sight of God. “Man looks at the outside, but God looks on the heart.” Hatred is the spirit of murder, involving actual guilt. This divine agapee, the essence of regeneration, supersedes all hatred in the heart of the recipient, inundating him with love for his vilest enemy.

16. This divine love brought Jesus from the glorified throne to die on Calvary for a world who hated Him. The effect of it in our hearts is to make us love not only our friends but even our enemies, sufficient to die for them.

17. While human love, which is natural in the fallen heart, goes out and belts the globe with its philanthropic enterprises, of course divine love, its tremendous superior, can not be delinquent in needed benefactions. While the unregenerated will discriminate in this philanthropy, actuated only by human love, the regenerated recipient of this heavenly agapee will overflow with philanthropy in behalf of the suffering, whether friends or foes.

18. We are here warned that profession and possession are different words.

Verses 19-24



Heart is the word here used, the generic for the specific, the heart, spirit or soul consisting of the conscience, which is the voice of God in the soul; the will, which is the king of humanity, and the affections, the quintessence of all loves and hates.

19. .. “And we will reconcile our hearts in His presence,” i. e., our conscience, which is God’s own voice in the soul, will seal us with its perfect approval.

20. “Because, if our heart [conscience] condemn us, God is greater than our heart [conscience] and knows all things.” The tribunal of our own conscience, when enlightened by the Word and Spirit, is an infallible miniature of the great white throne before which we soon must stand.

21. “Beloved, if our heart [conscience] condemn us not we have holiness with God.”

22. “And we receive whatever we ask of Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things pleasing in His sight.” This Scripture brings to light a momentous reality, i. e., that a pure conscience, perfectly responsive to God’s Word and Spirit, is the grand secret of prevailing prayer. God wants to make us miracles of His grace and flood us with the wonders of His love. If you do not prevail with God in prayer, receiving into your own heart the unutterable transformations of His Spirit and enduements of His grace, it is simply because your heart is not perfectly responsive to the divine will. Of course, these wonderful promises receive their primary fulfillment in our own heart and life. We must remember that in case of others, their will must co-operate. You want your prodigal son saved. Take hold of God for his conviction. If your heart is pure and perfectly responsive to the divine will, in answer to your prayer God will send the Holy Ghost to convict him. He can yield to this conviction or resist it, grieving away the Holy Spirit. Never pray for his conversion, but constantly for his conviction, till you have reason to believe that he is convicted. Then lay hold on God for his conversion. In answer to your prayers, the Holy Spirit will convert his soul if he does not resist. We must learn “rightly to divide the Word of truth,” lest we waste much time and opportunity in haphazard prayer and labor.

23. The two hemispheres in salvation, the human and the divine, are represented by faith and love. We exercise the faith in God’s promises, and He gives us the love. These two graces absorb all others, constituting the complete globe of human salvation.

24. This mutual abiding, we in God and He in us, evolving the glorious reality of experimental salvation, is attended by the Holy Spirit. Hence no one need be in doubt.

Bibliographical Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on 1 John 3". "Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ges/1-john-3.html.
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