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Bible Commentaries

Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books

1 John 3

Verses 4-6

The Relationship of the Child of God to Sin

Those who are constantly involved in sin, so that it is a way of life, "commit lawlessness." Those involved in lawlessness, which Thayer says is "the condition of one without law, - either because ignorant of it, or because violating it", or "contempt and violation of law, iniquity, wickedness," and are sinners. Thus, one is a sinner when he disregards God's law out of ignorance or knowingly ( 1Jn_3:4 ).

Jesus came to earth and took the form of man to rid man of the blight of sin ( Mat_1:21 ; Luk_19:10 ). While on earth, the Savior did not sin ( 1Pe_2:21-23 ; 2Co_5:21 ; Heb_4:15 ; Heb_7:26 ; Heb_9:14 ). There was no sin in Him, thus those in Him should not be involved in the regular practice of sin ( 1Jn_3:5 ). Actually, there is no sin counted against the credit of those in Christ, as we observed in 1:7.

John's mention of those abiding in Christ is reminiscent of the Lord's great parable of the vine and branches in Joh_15:1-10 . One must abide in Christ to abide in His love, but such cannot be done by one who is continually sinning. Those who are abiding in Christ are not in the sinning business. Woods tells us, "The present tense, in Greek, indicates action in progress at the present time. It is thus distinguished from the aorist tense which is a single act indefinitely conceived of, without regard to time." Basically, the aorist indicates one time action while the present indicates continuing action. In this verse, the abiding and sinning are in the present tense. John knew Christians would commit individual acts of sin (1:8), but was saying here that it would not be his habit. At the point in the past when the Christian started to habitually sin, he ceased to have inner perception (see) of God and the intimate spiritual relationship (know) was broken off ( 1Jn_3:6 ).

Verses 7-9

Christians Are Out of the Sinning Business

Evidently, false teachers were asserting one could live a life of sin and still be acceptable to God. John did not want Christians to be led astray, but assured them that people who were saved, thus righteous, would live a righteous life, just as their Lord is righteous. The righteous are children of God and the wicked are children of the devil ( 1Jn_3:7-8 ; compare Joh_8:44 ; Act_13:10 ). Again, the reference is to those who live in sin, or constantly practice it. The devil was both the first sinner and the first to lead man into sin. Jesus was made known on earth to remove the stain of sin and the penalty of death it brought ( Heb_2:14-15 ).

God's children do not go on sinning as a regular practice. Yet, they do commit individual acts of sin (1:8, 10). In explaining the parable of the sower, Jesus said the seed is God's word ( Luk_8:11 ). That word is given a home in the heart of the Christian ( Col_3:16 ). Woods points out that the word for sin, when John says "he cannot sin", is harmartarein , "the force of which is, 'he cannot continue to live a life of sin' (as before)." It is God's word in the Christian's heart that warns him and directs him away from the regular practice of sin ( Psa_119:9-16 ; Mat_4:1-10 , esp. 4, 7, and 10). In his obedience to the word of God, the Christian died to sin ( 1Jn_3:9 ; Rom_6:1-6 ; Col_3:1-10 ).

Verses 10-12

Whose Child Are You?

We reveal who we are by how we live. The children of the devil habitually sin, while the children of God constantly strive to do God's will. Particularly, God's children will love each other, and when they fail to do so they will be excluded from the family of God. Children of the Father will show the love He has for the brethren. The early church had a great love that was shown in their actions ( Act_2:45 ; Act_4:32 ; Act_4:34-37 ; Heb_13:1-3 ). The importance of brotherly love was stressed by Jesus and is a foundation principle taught from the very first day of the church's existence ( 1Jn_3:10-11 ; Joh_13:34-35 ; Rom_12:10 ).

Cain is an example of one who was spiritually a child of the devil because he killed his brother ( Gen_4:1-16 ). Since Abel's offering was by faith and faith comes by hearing God's word ( Heb_11:4 ; Rom_10:17 ), we deduce that Cain was willfully disobedient ( Gen_4:5-7 ), which showed his spiritual parentage. The word "murdered" is literally our word butcher, as in cutting the throat, and may indicate how Cain killed Abel. He killed his brother because Abel's works were good and his evil, thus, he was envious ( 1Jn_3:12 ).

Verses 13-16

The Danger of Hatred

So, it should come as no surprise when the world hates us when we do things pleasing to God ( Joh_15:18-20 ). Good works expose evil works and their reward stirs envy in the hearts of evil workers. We should not encourage the hatred of the world but live lives of example that may win them to the Lord's way ( 1Jn_3:13 ; 1Pe_2:12 ; 1Pe_3:16-17 ).

God's children have migrated from spiritual death to life ( Eph_2:1 ; Joh_5:24-25 ; Col_2:13 ). We can have certain knowledge that we have so migrated if we love the brethren. A failure to love the brethren is a clear sign we are still spiritually dead ( 1Jn_3:14 ).

The end result of hatred is murder ( Mat_5:21-22 ). Murder will certainly lead to the exclusion from eternal life with the Father, so we must avoid its beginnings. Jesus taught His followers to love instead of hate when He laid down His life for those who were enemies of His Father, or sinners ( Joh_15:13 ; Rom_5:6-8 ). Jesus voluntarily died that we might have life ( Joh_10:11 ; Joh_10:17-18 ; 2Co_5:21 ). His great sacrifice compels Christians to have the same attitude of sacrificial love toward their brethren ( 1Jn_3:15-16 ; 1Co_8:8-13 ; Gal_6:1-2 ; Gal_6:10 ).

Verses 17-23

The Importance of Loving the Brethren

It may be easy for one to say he would die for the brethren when such has never been required of him. However, the true test of one's willingness to lovingly sacrifice comes when he possess the things necessary to sustain life and sees a brother in need. To refuse to sacrifice for him in such a little way is to show one does not have a love like God had. It is not wrong to use loving words, but it is wrong to substitute them for loving actions ( 1Jn_3:17-18 ; Jam_2:15-16 )

Those who are of the truth will obey Jesus' words ( Joh_18:37 ). One of His commands was that Christians love one another and, as already noted, the keeping of such verifies one is of God. Doubts may arise, but comfort and reassurance can belong to the one who exhibits the love of God in his life. One's conscience may not let him rest though he has such assurance, but God is greater than man's conscience and will truly blot out forgiven sins and remember them no more ( 1Jn_3:19-20 ; Heb_10:16-17 )

The Christian's conscience should only be hushed by God's forgiveness. When one has forgiveness through the blood of Christ, he can boldly enter heaven because of its cleansing power ( Heb_10:18-20 ). Specifically, he can boldly approach God in prayer and know He will attend to his needs ( Heb_4:16 ; Joh_16:23-24 ). Of course, John is not talking about self-centered, but obedient prayers ( Jam_4:2-3 ). God is ever listening for the prayers of the righteous to attend to their needs ( 1Jn_3:21-22 ; 1Pe_3:10-12 ). If John had not told his readers something different, they might have said there are two commands in verse 23. Each must believe in Jesus, both his humanity and divinity, as well as obeying Him by loving the brethren. Loving obedience is clearly connected with faith in one great necessary commandment.

Verse 24

Christians Have Christ Abiding In Them

When one, through obedient faith, keeps the commandments of the Lord, he becomes a part of Christ, or is placed in the Lord's body ( Gal_3:26-27 ). Also, John says Christ will dwell in Him ( Joh_14:23 ; Joh_15:1-10 ). The Holy Spirit is given to Christians as the assurance that they are in Christ ( Act_2:38 ; Eph_1:13 ). It is not clear how the Holy Spirit indwells the Christian any more than one can know how his own spirit dwells in his body. Of course, Christians do know Christ is theirs because of the obedient faith already discussed ( 1Jn_3:24 ).

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Bibliographical Information
Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on 1 John 3". "Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books". 2014.