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Bible Commentaries
1 John 3

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

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Verses 1-3

2. The glory of the Sonship

1 John 3:1-3

1Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed63 upon us64, that we should be called the sons65 of God66; therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. 2Beloved, now are we the sons of God67, and it doth not yet appear68 what we shall be: but69 we know that when he shall appear70, we shall be like him; for71 we shall see him as he Isaiah 3:0 And every man that hath this hope in him72 purifieth himself, even as he is pure73.


Origin of the adoption.74 v. la.

1 John 3:1 a. Behold!—John desires to call the attention of his readers to their filial state, (Mark 13:1; John 1:29), not without his own amazement at its glory, whereof, he himself, as a child of God, had made experience and therefore he uses in the sequel ἡμῖν not ὑμῖν. The former (noted only by Augustine, Sander and Huther) should be combined with the latter (to which Lyra and Grotius call attention), so that the right view lies not midway between these two. thoughts (Düsterdieck), but in their combination.

What manner of love the Father hath given to us.—Ποτατός, of frequent occurrence in the New Testament, and (according to Buttmann, Lexicog. 125, 302) probably derived from ποῦ, πόθεν, and ἀπὸ(πο-απός) with an inserted ὁ (pro-d-ire, pro-d-esse), and properly ought to be written ποδαπός, as it used to be written formerly, denotes literally wherefrom? whence? cujas? The question relates to extraction and race. Descent and quality are inquired after. So Luke 1:29 : ποταπὸς εἴη ὁ�; Matthew 8:27 : ποταπός ἐστιν οὖτος. Descent and extraction are wholly lost sight of and there remains nothing but kind and quality. Luk 7:39; 2 Peter 3:11; Mark 13:1. In the last passage the word slightly touches the sense of quantus. Hence it is wrong to translate “qualem et quantum amorem” (Socinus, Episcopius, Estius), what or “how great love” (Lücke, de Wette, Sander, Ewald) although we may admit that the signification of “qualis” plays into that of “quantus” (S. Schmidt, Düsterdieck, Huther).—Luther renders very well: “what glorious, sublime love!” The quality has, at any rate, to be retained. The fact, however, of its being undeserved is not implied in ποταπήν (Calvin), but rather in ἡμῖν, indignis, inimicis, peccatoribus (a Lapide), just as the ἀγάπη and its nature involves the idea of its greatness, even as the strength and greatness, the intensiveness and extensiveness of love are concentrated in John 3:16 : οὕτως ἠγάπησεν ὁ θεός. Luther pertinently observes in his Scholia: “Usus est Johannes singulari verborum pondere: non dicit, dedisse nobis deum donum aliquod, sed ipsam caritatem et fontem omnium bonorum, cor ipsum, idque non pro operibus aut studiis nostris, sed gratuito.” Ἀγάπη does not mean caritatis munus (Beza), effectus, documentum, beneficium, token or proof of love (Socinus, Episcopius, Grotius, Spener, Neander, al.); this is occasioned by δέδωκεν. Bengel: “non modo destinavit et contulit, sed etiam exhibuit” God has not only given in love, but He has given love itself, made it our own, absolutely given it to us so that His love is now ours. [a Lapide explains ἀγάπην in the R. C. interest, thus: “i.e. charitatem tum activam (actum amoris Dei quo nos mire amat), tum passivam no bisque a Deo communicatam et infusam. Videte quantam charitatem—nobis—præstitit et exhibuit Deus, cum—charitatem creatam nobis dedit et infudit, quia filii Dei nominamur et sumus.” Calvin’s turn lies hardly in the Apostle’s expression: “Quod dicit datam esse caritatem, significat: hoc meræ esse liberalitatis, quod nos Deus pro fitiis habet.”—M.]. The Apostle, writing from a sense and consciousness of the adoption, says ὁ πατὴρ and thus points to the sequel.

That we should be called children of God.—As we have not ὄτι as in Matthew 8:27, the reference is not merely to the substance, the standing fact that we are called God’s children (in opposition to S. Schmidt, Episcopius, al.); as we have not ὅπως, as in John 11:57, the reference is not purely telic, as maintained by Lange, Lücke, de Wette, Brückner, Neander, al., who are compelled to specify as the gift of love something which is not contained in the text, e.g. that of God sending the Son in order to indicate the purpose of our sonship. But being God’s children is not a gift shortly to be communicated, not simply a present fact, but a task and problem, a fact only in process of becoming, only gradually accomplishing, not a creation of instantaneous occurrence or an immediately finished act of creation, but a work of God passing through different stages of development, and a history of man, a life wrought by God in man from a beginning to a high end, like the forgiveness of sins. Hence here, as in 1 John 1:9, ἵνα signifies=that we should be called. Our adoption by the Father is the substance and aim of His love.—Καλεῖσθαι (John 2:23 : φίλος θεοῦ ἐκλήθη does not denote a predicate without substance, a name without a meaning or an empty title, for He that calls us children is God, and the blessed and glorious spirits in heaven. Then we are called so by men, by the brethren in earnest, by the world in mockery. “Where God gives names, He always gives also the being [the thing signified by the name M.].” Besser.—We have not the name of children without the sonship, even as we do not only call God Father; He is also our Father. But the acknowledgment of this sonship given by God and exhibited in the life, is here brought out. Although Augustine is wrong (“hic non est discrimen inter dici et esse”), yet is Calvin right (“inanis titulus esse non potest”). Hence the Greek commentators explain: εἴδετε γὰρ ὄτι ἔδωκεν ἡμῖν τέκνα αὐτοῦ γενέσθαι τε καὶ κληθῆναι (Oecumenius), or καὶ λογισθῆναι (Theophyl.).—Baumgarten-Crusius and Neander after him, explains καλεῖσθαι with reference to John 1:12, by ἐξουσίαν ἔχειν γενέσθαι, but this is only the presupposition of καλεῖσθαι and it is not said that we should have the right to call ourselves children.—The position τέκνα θεοῦ indicates the notion of the sonship, the choice of the word τέκνα instead of υἱοί the beginning, the birth, the dependence, and the Genitive θεοῦ instead of αὐτοῦ the glory and highness of this sonship. Bengel: “Quid majus, quam Deus? quæ proprior necessitudo, quam filius?

And we are!—This adjunction, externally testified and internally required, is neither a gloss nor governed by ἵνα (Vulgate “et simus”) but an independent sentence designed to give special prominence and testimony to the reality of the sonship and the essence of the name; it is the gladsome expression of the certainty and of the consciousness founded on experience respecting this gift, although not exactly a triumphant exclamation over a hostile world. The assumption of Ebrard that κληθῶμεν indicates the relation of God to us and ἐσμὲν our relation to God, the former the fact of His being reconciled, the latter that of our changed nature and renovation, is unfounded. Both, indeed, are implied but not thus separated and distributed.

Antithesis of the Sonship 1 John 3:1 b.

Therefore the world knoweth us not.—Διὰ τοῦτο refers back to what goes before: Because we are the children of God, the world knoweth us not. The Apostle mentions a necessary consequence of our being children of God, viz.: the world knoweth us not. He desires neither to meet an objection of believers (S. Schmidt), nor to express a ground of consolation [with respect to the persecutions to which they are exposed on the part of the world M.] (Luther, Grotius, de Wette, Lücke al.), but to adjoin an ever-recurring truth of our experience [I should prefer to say with Huther that the Apostle here describes the contrast between believers, τέκνα θεοῦ, and the world and the greatness of the love of the Father who gave them that endearing name. M.]. Ἡμᾶς denotes the relation and attitude, the nature and walk of the children of God, not external personality or. relation.—On ὁ κόσμος compare notes on 1 John 3:15, and on γινώσκειν notes on 1 John 3:3.—“The essence of the notion ὁ κόσμος according to John’s manner of thinking is antagonism to God; this,—and not the consideration of the numerical strength and influence of those who were opposed to the few and obscure Christians, and without being properly godless were wont to judge every thing by the standard of worldly wisdom (Episcopius),—is the basis of the Apostle’s argument.” (Düsterdieck). γινώσκειν signifies a knowing which moves the whole man, rests on personal experience, voluntary agreement and lively interest, and agrees with the frame of mind, and the bias of life. The world does not understand Christians, seeks no intercourse with them, takes no part with them, or stands by them, and has no liking for them: all this is involved in οὐ γινώσκειν and signifies: does not know them [thoroughly or experimentally; the world has no conception of the spiritual nature of Christians.—M.]. Cf. 1 John 5:13; John 16:33; John 15:20-21. Hence the explanations of Grotius “non agnoscit pro suis,” Semler “rejicit, reprobat,” Baumgarten-Crusius and others=μισεῖ are wrong. This relation subsisting between an ungodly world and the children of God the Apostle further explains in the following proposition:

Because it knew Him not.—Ὅτι does not depend on διὰ τοῦτο; John’s purpose is to explain how it happens that the world does not understand the Christians, because they are children of God, and he observes accordingly that the fault lies not with the children of God, but it is the fault of the world itself, because it has not known God. Γινώσκειν of course must be taken here in the same sense as in the former clause and, neither=credere in Deum (S. Schmidt), nor=nôsse doctrinam, curare divinam legem, jussa Dei observare (Episcopius), but “the whole contrast in mind and bias, also hatred and persecution” (de Wette) are embraced in the world’s not knowing God, both with reference to the children of God and to God Himself. The conclusion is valid: οὐκ ἔγνω τὸν υἱοθετήσαντα (Oecumenius), therefore οὐ γινώσκει τὰ τέκνα αὐτοῦ. Hence αὐτόν must designate God and not Christ. Because we are born of God, and have been made partakers of the Divine nature, the world knoweth not us, which did not know God.—The change of tense in γινώσκει and ἔγνω must not be overlooked. The fact of the world not knowing the children of God is conditioned by the fact of its not knowing God. This is the first, on which depends the second. The knowledge of God is the ground of the knowledge of man and the knowledge of the world, which are not wanting in the children of God; self-knowledge also depends on it. All these are wanting where the knowledge of God is wanting; there is wanting the knowledge and understanding of believers and personal knowledge with respect to the whole and he general to which people belong, and with respect to the particular, even down to their own heart and nature. They know nothing, not even, what they do (Luke 23:34).

The hope of the Sonship. 1 John 3:2.

1 John 3:2. Beloved.—This address, ἀγαπητοί, denotes a relation in which love is experienced, and in the present case experience of the love of God, whose children they are, and of the love of those with whom they are connected, and accordingly constitutes an antithesis to the preceding clause: We are children of God and therefore the world knoweth us not.

Now are we children of God.—The former ἐσμέν culminates in τέκνα θεοῦ and the preceding particle νῦν and is repeated after the parenthetical antithesis pointing first to the fact that the world does not know the children of God now, and secondly to the future. The context and position of νῦν require it to be taken as a particle of time (in opposition to de Wette: now, pursuant to that purpose of love). Thus it is emphatically asserted, that, notwithstanding the opposition of the world, we are already the children of God, although the glory of our sonship is still concealed and imperfect. So Lücke and Düsterdieck against Huther [who denies a reference to the preceding verse and considers νῦν used with respect to the future (οὔπω) to indicate the present glory of the children of God; adding that the Apostle before mentioning the future glory, notices the fact that it is as yet concealed.—M.].

And it hath not yet been manifested what we shall be.—Antitheses to the preceding are νῦν and οὔπω, ἐσμέν, and ἐσόμεθα, τέκνα θεοῦ, and τί, which is further answered by ὅμοιοι αὐτῷ, just as οὔπω ἐφανερώθη is carried further in ἐὰν φανερωθῇ and οἴδαμεν continued in ὀψόμεθα. These antitheses, however, are not contraria, but developments of the present τέκνα θεοῦ ἐσμέν, the development of the adoption into the inheritance. The argument therefore is properly carried on by καὶ (in opposition to Beza, Grotius, Spener and others, who construe καὶ as a Hebraism in the sense of ἀλλά), and δὲ after οἴδαμεν is rightly wanting (contrary to S. Schmidt, Lücke, Sander and others).—Οὔπω ἐφανερώθη points to something actually existing but as yet concealed. For φανεροῦν means to make manifest, to bring to light, so as to be open to sight and to be known; not from the word itself, but from the context it has to be determined whether this manifestation is to take place factually, by means of historical development and events, or logically by means of instruction and teaching; here the former course is very distinctly marked (so Huther in opposition to Ebrard) so also 1 John 2:19; John 2:11; John 7:4; John 17:6; John 21:1. The context in like manner implies to whom this manifestation is to be made, if it is not explicitly stated. The primary reference is here probably to the world, the secondary to believers (Düsterdieck). The interrogative (τί ἐσόμεθα) presents no difficulty, and contains nothing to favour Ebrard’s opinion, since not only after verbs of knowing, inquiring etc., and in direct questions, but also in cases where classical writers would certainly have used ὅ, τι the N. T. writers use the interrogative pronoun; cf. Winer p. 181; Buttmann p. 216. On the thought itself compare Colossians 3:3 (ἡ ζωὴ ὑμῶν κέκρυπται σὺν τῷ Χριστῷ ἐν τῷ θεῷ) Romans 8:17 (εἰ δὲ τέκνα, καὶ κληρονόμοι—θεοῦ, συγκληρονόμοι δὲ Χριστοῦ), and 1 John 2:18 (οὐκ ἄξια τὰ παθήματα τοῦ νῦν καιροῦ πρὸς τὴν μέλλουσαν δόξαν�), also Galatians 4:1 (ἐφ’ ὅσον χρόνον ὁ κληρονόμος νήπιός ἐστι, οὐδὲν διαφέρει δούλου κύριος πάντων ὤν.) It is important to remember that what is said is: “it has not yet appeared what we shall be” and not, that “we shall be something which as yet we are not”: οὔπω negatives not the being, but the having appeared, the being manifested. There is only one Divine sonship (child-ship); non dantur gradus υἱότητος(Calov). But it has its status or stages, its unfolding and development, the development of the inner being of a child of God and the unfolding of their manifold privileges and possessions. “The future already exists in the germ and is latent in the present” (Düsterdieck). Augustine: “Quid est ergo, quod jam expectamus, si jam filii Dei sumus? quid autem erimus aliud, quam filii Dei?” However different the future state may be from the present and although we must distinguish the one from the other, the former is not absolutely new [Huther—M.]. This is the force of οὔπω ἐφανερώθη, which only brings out and opens to sight that which is concealed, and this is the ἐσμέν become ἐσόμεθα. [Oecumenius: τὸ γὰρ νῦν ἄδηλον φανερὸν γενήσεται, ἐκείνου�. ὅμοιοι γὰρ αὐτῷ�. οἰ γὰρ υἱοὶ πάντες ὅμοιοι τῷ πατρί.—M.]. But what does that consist in?

We know that when it shall be manifested, we shall be like (similar to)Him.—Οἵδαμεν signifies certainty of knowing, not only guess-knowledge (Jachmann), and knowing participated in not only by the Apostles (Episcopius), but by all Christians (Calvin), by all of whom it is said: τέκνα θεοῦ ἐσμέν. The object of that knowing is: ὅτι ὅμοιοι αὐτῷ ἐσόμεθα. The occurrence of this future condition is indicated by ἐὰν φανερωθῇ. As we have ἐὰν and not ὅταν the reference is not only to the time when (Socinus and al.), but to the reality of the matter, cf. notes on 1 John 2:28. Also John 12:32; John 14:3; John 16:7. The Vulgate gives the precise shade of thought: cum apparuerit, bringing out the force of the Fut. exact. applied in the Subj. Aorist. The subject of φανερωθῇ is τί ἐσόμεθα, which is clear from the unmistakable reference to ἐφανερώθη τί ἐσόμεθα. No expositor has seriously thought of God, but several supply Christ (Augustine, Bede, Calvin, Calov and others.).—Φανεροῦσθαι τί ἐσόμεθα coincides with the coming of Christ and quoad rem, it is very possible to think here of Christ. But φανεροῦν would then have to be explained here of His appearing in glory, whereas it is used in 1 John 2:5 of His appearing in the flesh and expressly referred to Him by the demonstrative pronoun ἐκεῖνος, and the same verb had different subjects in the two sentences immediately succeeding each other. We may admit here “the possibility of that reference, the reality of which” is stated in 1 John 2:5, but have to maintain with the greater number of expositors that the concinnity of the diction requires us to supply to φανερωθῇ the same subject which belongs to ἐφανερώθη, namely τί ἐσόμεθα, especially since the latter is explained by ὅμοιοι αὐτῷ ἐσόμεθα; the latter two as well as the two forms of φανεροῦσθαι are correlatives. Oecumenius excellently remarks: τὸ γὰρ νῦν ἄδηλον φανερὸν γενήσεται, ἐκεῖνου�: ὅμοιοι γὰρ αὐτῷ�. οἱ γὰρ υἱοὶ πάντως ὅμοιοι τῷ πάτρι.—Ὅμοιος is resembling, similar to and not=equal to (Sander); it is not=ἴσος [the English “like” is ambiguous signifying both “similar” and “equal.” I have retained “like” in the text, but given “similar” in brackets.—M.]. Of Christ Paul says: τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ Philippians 2:6; and His enemies: ἴσον τῷ θεῷ, John 5:18. Luke calls υἱοὶ τοῦ θεοῦ—ἰσάγγελοι but not ἴσοι θεῷ—Recollect the controversy of ὁμοούσιον and ὁμοιούσιον.—Ὅμοιος signifies similarity in external form and appearance (ὁράσει, Revelation 4:3; cf. Revelation 1:13; cf. Revelation 1:15; Revelation 9:7; Revelation 9:10; Revelation 9:19), and then in kind and authority (John 8:55; Revelation 13:4; Revelation 18:18). It is certain that “the creature will never become Creator” (Luther I), and “Non erimus idem, quod Deus, sed similes erimus Dei” (Luther, Schol.). That the connection requires us to to apply αὐτῷ to God and not to Christ, is clear and almost universally acknowledged; hence Bengel says very pointedly: “Deo, cujus sumus filii.” Now although the notion of resemblance to God is somewhat vague, the question arises whether the context does not shed light on the subject. Huther indeed rightly observes that commentators are not warranted in arbitrarily restricting it, but the attempt of deriving more light from the context must not be absolutely repudiated. Much will depend on the right understanding of the adjoined sentence.

Because we shall see Him as He is.—The annexation by ὅτι points to a casual relation of resemblance to God and seeing God. This is almost universally acknowledged. Hence it is wrong to take ὅτι=ἀλλὰ καὶ (Oecumenius), or=ὅτε καὶ (Scholiast. II.), or=et (Luther, Schol.), for this disturbs and negatives the internal relation of the two. Nor does ὅτι describe the “Modus hujus transformations” (Lyra). It is most natural to take the internal relation of resemblance to God and seeing God, so that the cause of resemblance to God lies in seeing God: we shall be similar to God, because we shall see Him face to face. For grammatically and dialectically this course is pointed out to us. We shall be similar to Him, because we shall see Him, says the Apostle, and not: ὀψόμεθα αὐτὸν, ὅτι ὅμοιοι αὐτῷ ἐσόμεθα (Düsterdieck). The resemblance to God is the end of the love of God, and not the seeing God which is simply the instrument of the former. Cf. John 17:24. As γινώσκειν conduces to having (ἔχειν), so seeing God effects the being, and more particularly the being similar to Him. Hence the internal relation of the two is reversed if ὅτι is supposed to add only a “testimonium aut signum similitudinis” (Carpzov), not the cause of it, or if the seeing God is taken as the effect, from which is inferred the cause, resemblance of God (Calvin, Socinus, Episcopius, Rickli). Nor may we infer with Huther that because we shall see Him, therefore we know now (οἴδαμεν) that we shall be similar to Him; particularly as that knowledge rests on the sonship, which is a fact, and the word of promise given to the children of God. But this seeing must be taken in the full acceptation of the word, a real perfect seeing in the resurrection-body, and not only a real knowing The believer is in the σῶμα πνευματικόν (1 Corinthians 15:44) and sees face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12); it is “maxime practica visio, summi boni αἴσθησις plenissima” (J. Lange).—The object of this seeing is God, καθώς ἐστι: “As He is not only in His Image etc., but in Himself and in His Being, His perfect majesty and glory (Spener). Such a seeing of God is a real ground of resembling God according to Revelation 22:4 : καὶ ὄψονται τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτο͂υ καὶ τὸ ὄνομα αύτοῦ ἐπὶ τῶν μετώπων αὐτῶν. 2 Corinthians 3:18 : ἡμεῖς—ἀνακεκαλυμμένῳ προσώπῳ τὴν δόξαν κυρίου κατοπτριζόμενοι τὴν αὐτὴν εἰκόνα μετα ορφούμεθα�, καθάπερ�. Hence Bengel: “ex aspectu similitudo.” Spener: “The seeing is the cause of the likeness.” So likewise de Wette, Neander, Düsterdieck, Ebrard. The seeing God must react on him who sees by glorifying him into that which is the object of his seeing, making him similar to Him whom he sees. Thus is fulfilled the promise that we shall be θείας κοινωνοὶ φύσεως (2 Peter 1:4). Hence we must not think with Ebrard of “the light-nature of God,” or with de Wette of “the δόξα of God,” and still less with S. Schmidt and Düsterdieck only of 1 John 2:29 : δικαιός ἐστιν, but rather with the Greek expositors (συμβασιλεύσομεν καὶ συνδοξασθήσομεν αὐτῷ) also of our joint inheritance with Christ, since 1 John 2:28 (cf. Romans 8:17; 2 Timothy 2:12) suggests as much, and we may say with Luther that we have become lords of sin, of death and the devil. But although Calov clearly passes the bounds of exegesis in his dogmatical thought (“ratione mentis sapientia, ratione voluntatis sanctitate et justitia, ratione corporis immortalitate, ratione utriusque gloria et felicitate æterna deo similes erimus”), those who are held fast in the enlightenment of the understanding by no means do justice to the text; and of these men Oertel caps the climax in his philosophical exposition: “I believe that the reference here is simply to the higher perfection of the knowledge of the Christian religion and the sense to be as follows: Some day, after several generations and centuries, mankind, which as yet clings overmuch to the spirit of coarseness, will be more enlightened, ennobled and happy and thus by means of the more perfect light that is to rise, attain to a perfect knowledge of the plan of God and the purpose of Jesus.—Ah, John, if thou hadst had a presentiment of the bloody Nicæades, Costnitziades, Dragoonades, edicts, etc. and the times when thousands were slaughtered in honour of religion!—But—thy presentiment of the education of mankind in religion, virtue and philanthropy will yet be perfected by the Providence of the Almighty Father.” [Augustine (Tract. in Ep. John 4:5) who however understands αὐτῷ and αὐτόν of Christ, exclaims: “Ergo visuri sumus quandam visionem, fratres, quam nec oculus vidit, nec auris audivit, nec in cor hominis ascendit: visionem quandam, visionem præcellentem omnes pulchritudines terrenas, auri, argenti, nemorum atque camporum, pulchritudinem maris et aëris, pulchritudinem solis et lunæ, pulchritudinem angelorum, omnia superantem, quia ex ipsa pulchra sunt omnia.”—M.].

The power of this hope. 1 John 2:3.

1 John 3:3. And every one that hath this hope on Him, halloweth himself.—With καὶ which is not=οὖν, John annexes the sentence expressing “the moral effect of Christian hope” (Huther), which although it contains an exhortation in point of sense, yet formally expresses it as a fact and that more emphatically, since it intimates in decided terms that he who does not hallow himself, surrenders that hope in ingratitude. For πᾶς ὁ ἔχων is omnis et solus; “Every one—and only such an one; for as this hope (1 John 2:2) peculiarly and exclusively belongs to the children of God, they and they only enjoy the power of such a hope whether it is to exhibit itself in sanctification, as here, or to afford patienee and joyfulness (Romans 8:14 sqq.; Romans 8:23 sqq.)” (Düsterdieck), and ἐπ̓ αὐτῷ i.e. θεῷ denotes “the fulcrum” (Huther), or still better “the real foundation of this hope” (J. Lange), the ground and soil out of which it grows up, so that S. Schmidt rightly observes: “Deus gignit spem.” Grotius weakens the thought: “Sicut Deus eam spem vult concipi.” Besides ἐλείζειν ἐπ̓ αὐτῷ (God) occurs Romans 15:12 and ἐπὶ πλούτου�, ἀλλ̓ ἐν τῷ θεῷ 2 Tim. 6:17, although ἔχειν ἐλπίδα ἐπὶ cum dat., occurs only here and with εἰς θεὸν Acts 24:15.—̔Ο ἔχων τὴν ἐλπίδα is not the same as ὁ ἐλπίζων, the latter denoting only the act of hope, but the former describing hope as a permanent property, as a fixed possession, so that the act of hoping is uninterrupted and lasting. Hence it is neither necessary nor correct to explain ἔχειν, as holding fast or preserving (Benson, Spener), or to take here ἐλπίδα as the object of hope, that which one is objectively entitled to hope (Ebrard). Τὴν ἐλπίδα ταύτην naturally leads us to think of ὅμοιοι αὐτῷ ἐσόμεθα. This was 1 John 2:2 the object and substance of οἴδαμεν. Now it is designated by ἔχειν τὴν ἐλπίδα ταύτην ἐπ̓ αὐτῷ as the object of a yearning desire in the power of God, in order to bring out the purifying reaction in our earthly life. The mere ἐλπίζειν would be incongruous with the ἁγνίζειν ἑαυτὸν, which is affected and to be effected. Primarily, however, this hope and self-sanctification only are here connected (Hofmann), but the state of having hope and participation in this hope are presupposed in the case of the acts of such sanctifying of oneself. “Qui habet hanc spem et credit, se esse filium Dei, et expectat donec fides sua reveletur, is sine dubio ita accendetur spe illa, ut se purificet, nec involvat se sordibus carnis, sed carnem mortificabit” (Luther). Self-sanctification necessarily combined with Christian hope (de Wette) is its effectus (Hunnius). Hope is the mother of sanctification, not the reverse, as Grotius maintains. Nor is sanctification the condition of the fulfilment of this hope (Lücke and several Roman Catholic commentators), nor must we find here the combination of both views (Schlichting, Episcopius). ̔Αγνίζειν from ἁγνός=καθαρός (Suidas), טָהוֹר (Numbers 8:21; Numbers 6:2-3; Psalms 11:7) clean, pure; applied; in the New Testament to wisdom (Jas. 3:47), to one fulfilling a vow (Acts 21:24; Acts 21:26; Acts 24:18), to the Christian walk (1 Peter 1:22; James 4:8; 2 Corinthians 6:6; 1 Timothy 5:22), and to the chaste (Titus 2:5; 2 Timothy 4:12; 5:2; 2 Corinthians 11:2). It signifies accordingly ἐλευθερία παντὸς μολυσμοῦ σαρκὸς καὶ πνεύματος (Phavorinus), ἡ τῶν ἁμαοτημάτων� (Clement. Alex.). Hence it is the opposite of impure, and ἅγιος the opposite of profane, although the latter denotes inward impurity and the former outward profanity [pollution] as a consequence and in a secondary sense. The reference to God, who is δίκαιος and whom we are to resemble, necessitates us not to restrict the meaning of ἁγνίζειν to castificare (Augustine), but to take it in a wider sense like καθαρίζειν (1 John 1:7; 1 John 1:9.). “Hoc non tantum de illa turpitudine carnis intelligendum est, sed de omnibus passionibus animi vitiosis, ira, avaritia, invidia, odio, superbia, gloriæ cupididate etc.” (Luther). The object of this hallowing is ἑαυτὸν, that is to say our own self, and not only particular details of our life or our outward life. The exhortations of Peter (2 Peter 3:13-14) and Paul (2 Corinthians 7:1) are analogous in point of matter. The Present denotes uninterrupted self-purification (Beza, Spener, Grotius, al.), because the Divine life in us constantly encounters impurity and unrighteousness and because these must be done away (Düsterdieck). But this self-purification does not proceed from our own self in the same manner as it bears upon it; hence there is no αὐτὸς by the side of ἑαυτόν. Augustine pointedly says in this respect: “Quis non castificat nisi Deus? Sed Deus te nolentem non castificat. Ergo quod adjungis voluntatem tuam Deo, castificas te ipsum. Castificas te, non de te, sed de illo, qui venit, ut habitet in te. Tamen quia agis ibi aliquid voluntate, ideo et tibi aliquid tributum est.” The power, the impulse and initiative of self-purification do not reside in the liberum arbitrium of man, but in that on which rests the hope which impels self-purification. [See Huther.—M.].

Even as He is holy.—̓Εκεῖνος is Christ, according to the constant use of that word in juxtaposition with αὐτὸς, in the writings of John. Cf. 1 John 2:6. While the context required us to apply αὐτὸς to God, ἐκεῖνος may and must be applied to Christ, as the more remote subject. We cannot refer both to Christ (Aretius, Estius, Calvin), or both to God (Lyra, Socinus, al.). Christ is the pattern, and expressly shows us how we may become similar to God. If the Apostle had said only: καθὼς ἐκεῖνος, we should then have been obliged to supply ἁγνίζειν. This is impossible, and the Apostle therefore adjoins ἁγνός ἐστι; purity belongs to Him essentially, He is absolutely and originally holy and righteous, “in most perfect harmony with the original righteousness as well as the original purity of the Father” (Düsterdieck) see 1Jn 2:5; 1 John 2:7, 1 John 2:1. “The ἁγνότης is an attribute inhering in Christ” (Lücke), and ἐστι, not: ἦν, indicates an uninterrupted and permanent condition (John 1:18). There is no reason why καθὼς should be explained by quando-quidem and the purity of Christ should be construed into a second motive of self-purification (as Ebrard does). Even the externally direct relation to Christ is sufficiently manifest to the specifically Christian way of thinking, in virtue of the position of Christ as our only and eternal Mediator, and indispensable to John’s manner of contemplation; the immutable state of Christ is the perfect standard of Christians, and not only an outward example set before us, but a vital power. Cf. 1 John 1:1; 1Jn 2:1; 1 John 2:6; 1Jn 3:5; 1 John 3:7; 1Jn 3:16; 1 John 4:17; [that is: the purity of Christ is the immutable and perfect standard and pattern according to which Christians should shape and mould their whole life, not only outwardly in acts, but inwardly in the disposition of the heart and the determination of the will.—M.].


1. The state of our being the children of God is a gift of the preëminent love of God; this is a point to be insisted upon in opposition to Pelagius and all Pelagian errors. A chaste exegesis requires us not to go beyond this general character of this passage and neither to beat (with Calvin) with it “the sophists” who postulate the foreseen future dignity of those whom God adopts, nor to find here the Lutheran principle “regeneratio præcedit fidemsanctificatio,” while the (German) Reformed hold: “fides præcedit regenerationem.” Here is simply the assertion of the prevenient love of the Father as the cause of our adoption, as in 1 John 4:10.

2. But not only from God, but from God only, from God exclusively proceedeth all the divine life, which passes before him. Our life of faith takes us back to Him, the Father, whose Nature is love.
3. Christianity brings not new information but a new life, not a new doctrine but a new nature, which like the natural, bodily birth has however its growth and development from the hidden, germ-like beginning to the most glorious perfection.

4. The world with all its glory does neither understand the kingdom of God nor the people and history of this kingdom; here is the ground and beginning of all enmity against the Church of Jesus and Christian Church-ordinances (Luke 23:34). Our Lord’s prayer: ἵνα ὁ κόσμος πιστεύσῃ—John 17:21, does not contradict the language of John. Christ adverts to the means designed to break through the mind and hardness of the world, while John here bears testimony to the mind and hardness of the world without intending to exclude that they may and should be counter acted and that not in vain.

5. But the first thing the world ought to be helped to get is that it may know God and the Divine. The knowledge of God, which however is only excited under the influence and manifestations of His love, conditions the knowledge of His people and kingdom.
6. The adoption of God has a history from its first beginning to its perfected glorification in the likeness of God, which takes place in consequence of the perfect vision of God, the seeing God effecting the transformation into the Image of God.
7. That which one day will become perfect in seeing God must begin here on earth in faith, and the glorification into the Image of God has its beginning in the sanctification wrought on earth. But this does by no means put the sanctificatiojustificatio in the power of man. For first it does not go before the justificatio (as is assumed by Roman Catholics) and secondly it has respect only to those who are born of God and takes place only by means of the power conveyed and appropriated in regeneration; consequently although it takes place with our own power, yet is this power not originally our own but only bestowed by the grace of God and made our own in faith, so that Wolf is perfectly right in saying: “aliud est δικαιοῦν, aliud ἁγνίζειν, prius illud in hominem non cadit,—ut vero posterius.” Compare the quotation from Augustine in Exegetical and Critical on 1 John 2:3.


Two wonderful things: 1. The love of God which desires to adopt us as children; 2. The perverseness of the world which does not know such a Lord.—Art thou more astonished at God’s loving attitude to the world, or at the world’s hateful attitude to God and His children? Dost thou think it more strange that God treats thee as a child than that the world does not and will not understand thee? Dost thou not see that it is more natural and reasonable that the world is against thee than that God is for thee?—See that thou find thy way through all the proofs of the love of God even to that of His adoption of thee and through all the enmity of the world even to the knowledge of its ignorance and want of understanding! He only that does the former is able to do the latter.—Think of thy own and thy children’s adoption by God and inquire even in the case of one who is distasteful to thee, whether he is not as well as thou a child of God, and perhaps better entitled to be one than thou art thyself. This is very important and profitable for one’s own discipline, the education of one’s children and one’s intercourse with and among men.—Hope for the future, but do not expect to reap hereafter without sowing now; wouldst thou hereafter see God and become like Him it is necessary for thee to begin here to purify thyself by strenuous application.—Thy adoption rests on the foundation of God’s eternal love, reaches even into God’s eternal felicity, but in this temporal present and the present transitoriness it may be lost and therefore must be preserved all the infirmity of thy own flesh and all the enmity of the world notwithstanding.—Happy is the man whose joy flows from the grateful love of God and whose troubles proceed from a hostile world, but woe to him, whose joy is from beneath and whose troubles come from above, who is the friend of the world and the enemy of God, because he will not be His child.—At peace with God and at war with the world is a wholesome foundation for the alternatives of joy and trouble in thy life.—The import of our adoption by God: 1. Its Origin—the love of God. 2. Its Opposite—an ignorant world without understanding. 3. Its hope—blessed likeness to God. 4. Its power—the zeal of self-purification.—Vital questions and answers for the guidance of life. 1. Who is for thee? God in His eternal love. 2. Who is against thee? The world in its short-sightedness. 3. Whence? From God. 4. Whither? To God’s glory. 5. How? In the work of sanctification.

Clemens Romanus:—How blessed and how wonderful are the gifts of God! Life in immortality, splendour in righteousness, truth in joy, faith in confidence, chastity in holiness—all these are goods present to our mind.

Chrysostom:—Those who depise and deride us, know not who we are, citizens of heaven, belonging to an eternal fatherland, associates of the Cherubim; but they will know it in the day of judgment when they will exclaim with sighs and amazement, these are they whom we used to despise and deride.

[Cassiodorus:—Let us therefore so live, that when He shall come again, we may be able to behold Him, as He is, in all the fulness of His grace and glory.—M.]

Augustine:—The whole life of a Christian is a holy longing. What we long for, we do not yet see; but by longing thou art enlarging thyself so that when it is visible, thou mayest be filled therewith.—It is God alone who purifies us; but He does not purify thee, thyself unwilling; thou purifiest thyself, but not of thyself, but of Him [de Illo] who comes to dwell in thee.

Luther:—If God were strictly to reckon with us, He would owe us nothing but hell; but if He gives us heaven, it is of grace.

Starke:—Dost thou bear here the image of the devil and thinkest to become like Christ there? O, folly! O, deceit! Without the renovation of the divine Image none can attain to the glory of God.—Without purification hope of the future glory is impossible. The hope of the impure is daring, impudence and insolence.—Our Christianity is not so much a being pure as a continuous purifying oneself.—Believers purify not only one thing or another, but themselves, wholly, body and soul. The main work lies within and in the soul.—O, the shameful abuse of the Gospel! to be ever appealing to Christ and His merits, and yet never to follow His example!

Daniel:—Christian, whose is the best nobility? His, who is born of God. Who is the most honoured man? He whom God regards in grace.—A missionary in India (Ziegenbalg) is translating the New Testament with the assistance of a native. Coming to this verse the Hindoo youth translates: that we may be allowed to kiss his feet. The missionary asks: Why do you render thus? The Indian replies: A child! that is too much! too high!—That had never entered into a heathen’s heart.

Steinhofer:—A child of God is always an enigma to the world.

Heubner:—The children of God bear the image, the glory of the Father, enjoy his whole fatherly love and are destined to own what He owns. All this God bestows upon us, apostates and former enemies. Every one is asked to become such a child.—The Christians should have called themselves the children of God? ’Twere pitiable indeed, if they did assume this title and as it were raise themselves to the divine nobility, and worse than if a fool would presume to call himself baron or count. We should be called thus by God and the heavenly children of God; in the Bible the name and the thing are one; the Bible does not know empty trifles.—The sonship is nothing that dazzles the eye, fascinates and attracts in a worldly point of view; it is rather something that is hidden. The world has no eye for it; why? because it knows not God, whereas we see in God the highest and most glorious good, and deem that only glorious which comes from God.—The Christian is quiet, calm, courageous under all the want of appreciation he experiences at the hands of the world; it neither surprises nor disturbs him; being misunderstood by the world cannot injure him.—Christians are the children of a prince, who are obliged to travel in lowly garb, incognito, and as it were in order to be tried, through a foreign country before they take possession of their kingdom. A secret, inward sense of his sonship accompanies the Christian on his journey through the world, through its busy noise; in his heart he walks with God—virtue is not to become a display and an ostentation, therefore the children of God have neither coat of arms nor the badge of an order. The future dignity of Christians cannot be guessed from his appearance any more than it could be determined from the appearance of Christ in His manger-cradle.—They are not condemned to eternal obscurity.—O day beyond compare when God will call His children, saying; Come forth from your obscurity, rise from your lowliness!—The promises of Christianity are transcendently glorious; Christians are not to be like the blessed, the perfected saints or the angels, but like God; what man could have laid hold of this daring hope without revelation?—The Christian should, as it were, keep himself up in a state of excitement. He is terrified at the thought: What? Shouldst thou exchange thy heavenly birthright for the world’s mess of pottage? denounce thy faith and lose thy Christian rank for the lust of the flesh, mammon or worldly honour?—Sanctification, though it does not acquire salvation (for it is the gift of grace), yet preserves it. Purification continues day by day; we are often polluted.

Ebrard:—Our future glory is not an object of curiosity, not an object for inquisitiveness to be exercised about.—Not to purify oneself is tantamount to saying to God: “I do not want the jewel which thou holdest up before my eyes as the most precious jewel and promisest one day to give me: to be freed from sin I do not esteem a jewel.”

Besser:—Says David as a Christian before Christ: “I am as a wonder unto many,” Psalms 71:7; much more are Christians after Christ the real children of wonder. The world, indeed, which will remain in the Wicked One, sees in the name of our sonship nothing but an empty, imaginary title.—Even though rejuvenated to the state of apostolical power and consecration the Church would yet have the world—although against her, yet not only outside of her (for bad fish also are found in the net), and woe to her, if she were ever to forget in the time of her militant state that her holiness is not perfected in those who are sanctified but only in Him who sanctifies them, and that in the administration of discipline over her members with which she is solemnly charged, she must use the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God for the condemnation of sin and the salvation of sinners, and not the winnowing shovel for cleaning the threshing-floor.—John, in particular, cherishes the most profound conviction that there is only one life for the children of God in time and in eternity, and he knows of no future happiness but that which, like the rose in the bud, is already contained germ-like in faith.—As the eye cannot endure the presence of the smallest particle of dust but sheds tears until it is clear again, so also the Christian’s eye of hope eagerly looking forward to the coming glory will not tolerate the presence of a particle of the world’s dust, and if any fly into it, it contracts with the keenest sensibility and the Lord gives tears of penitence which wash away the dust.—

Tholuck:—How blessed is the lot of a believing disciple of the Saviour.

1. How blessed such a disciple is even now. Who recognizes in mankind, as we see it, who recognizes in it a family of God? The heathen, when they saw how Christians were so intimately united in the bonds of so novel a life, exclaimed; “See, how they love one another!—Blissful joy and astonishment at one and the same time. A child like mind cannot understand how and why it was thought worthy of so much grace and favour.

2. How blessed he will be hereafter. If you like, you may call it a defiance, but it is a divine defiance, as Luther says: “That faith gives man a defiant heart toward God and toward all creatures.” But what is the centre of all the hope of these poor and miserable people? is it honour, glory, enjoyment? Certainly. Romans 2:7-10.

3. Whereto that faith and this hope impel him. It cannot be the centre of Christian longing and hope in the hour of death that we shall see again our loved ones, but its centre is rather that we shall see Him again. Does it well forth from a weakly sense, or from that manly-strong sense, that seeing Him and to be like Him, freedom from sin and error, are one and the same thing? Purify your faith, steel your hope in the faith and hope of the disciple whom you regard only too often as the preacher of a weakly, morbid love.—That resemblance will not fall to thy share without thy own will. Thou must feel within thee the thirst for it and ask and examine thyself with holy love, what is still unclean in me?—Compare the notes on 1 John 2:4-10.

Biarowsky:—The Holy Communion a glorification of the Triune God: 1. in that the Triune God glorifies Himself in it; 2. in that we glorify thereby the Triune God.

Genzken (Baptismal address):—What a gift! what a task! what a blessed end even for this child.

[Burkitt:—We shall be like him: in holiness as well as in happiness; as well in purity as immortality.—M.]

[Secker:—To be “like God” implies in few words everything desirable, that ever so many words can express.—M.]

[Bp. Conybeare:—The state of good men in the other world will carry with it a resemblance not in degree, but in kind, to the absolutely perfect Being, in those perfections of which man is capable: and that these will be produced in us by “seeing God as He is;” that is, by a vastly more distinct and more full sight of Him, than the present condition of human nature will admit of.—M.]

[Macknight:—And every man that hath this hope of seeing Christ, and of being like Him “purifieth himself.” The felicity, which the Gospel teacheth us to expect in the world to come, is not that of a Mohammedan paradise, in which animal pleasures are the chief enjoyments. The happiness of the children of God in the kingdom of their Father will consist in being like Christ, not only in respect of His immortality, but in respect of his transcendent virtues, especially His boundless benevolence. And the joy, which will flow from the possession and exercise of virtues similar to Christ’s is so great, that no one, who hopes to become like Christ in virtue and happiness, will indulge himself in the unrestrained enjoyment of sensual pleasures; but will purify himself from the immoderate desire of those pleasures, in imitation of the purity of Christ.—Purifieth himself, namely, from the lusts of the flesh and from every sin. The Apostle, as Beza has observed, does not say, “hath purified himself,” but “purifieth himself,” to show that it is a good man’s constant study to purify himself, because in this life no one can attain unto perfect purity. By this text therefore, as well as by 1 John 1:8, those fanatics are condemned, who imagine they are able to live without sin.—M.]

[Horsley:—Would God a better conformity to the example of his purity, than actually obtains, were to be found in the lives of nominal Christians! the numbers would be greater, which might entertain a reasonable hope that they shall be made like to Him when He appeareth. But thanks be to God, repentance, in this as in other cases, genuine, sincere repentance, shall stand the sinner in the stead of innocence: the sinner is allowed to wash the stains, even of these pollutions, in the Redeemer’s blood.—M.]

[Compare also the thoughtful lecture of John Foster on 1 John 3:2 : “Our Ignorance of our Future Mode of Existence.”—M.]

[Ez. Hopkins:—We shall see Him as He is: we must not understand it as if we could ever arrive to such a capacity as to see and know God as He is in His Infinite Essence: for God’s Essence being altogether indivisible, to know God essentially, were to know Him comprehensively; to know Him, as much as He is to be known in Himself; that is, to know Him as much as He knows Himself; which is impossible, for no finite understanding can comprehend an infinite object. And, yet, our sight and knowledge of God shall so far surmount those dim and glimmering discoveries which here He makes of Himself to us, that, comparatively, the Apostle might well call it, a seeing Him as He is, and a knowing Him as we are known by Him.—M.]

[On Chapter III. Manton, T., Thirty-two Sermons. Works, 5, 577.

1 John 3:1. Hieronymus, S., The spiritual sonship. 2 Serm. Works, 349.

1 John 3:1-3. Stoughton, John. The dignitie of God’s children: or an exposition of 1 John 3:1-3, plentifully shewing the comfortable, happie and most blessed state of all God’s children, and also, on the contrarie, the base, fearfull, and most woful condition of all other that are not the children of God. 4to. London. 1610.

1 John 3:2. Tillotson, Abp. Of the happiness of good men in a future state. 2 Sermons. Serm. 10, 56.

Saurin, J. Heaven. Sermons 3, 321.

Venn, John. The effect of seeing God as He is. Serm. 1, 210.

Dwight, T. Adoption. Theol. 3, 167

Hamilton, R. W. The heavenly state. Congregat. Lecture, 235.

1 John 3:3. South, R. The hope of future glory, an excitement to purity of life. Sermons 6, 441 (Epiph. 6). Hope of resembling Christ. Pitman, 2d course, L. 206.

Alford, H. The pure in heart. Hulsean Lecture, 1842. 41. M.]


[63] 1 John 3:1 δέδωκεν B. C. Sin; others, A. G. ἔδωκεν. [German: “hath given.”—M.]

[64] ἡμῖν A. C. Sin; others read ὑμῖν; so B. K. [The latter reading probably originated in the reference to the 2 pers. Plural; ἴδετε.—M.]

[65] [Greek: τέκνα θεοῦ; German: “children of God;” the Article is superfluous and unauthorized and “children” is decidedly preferable to “sons”—M.]

[66] καὶ ἐσμέν after κληθῶμεν is inserted by A. B. C. Sin; many cursives and versions. Vulg.: et simus; others: et simus. Erasmus took it to be an addition; the Recept. omitted it. The false translation of the Vulgate was a stumbling-block to many, also Luther, and they omitted the words accordingly [The German retains καὶ ἐσμέν and renders in an independent clause: “and we are (it i.e. God’s children).” Oecumenius explains: ἔδωκεν ἡμῖν τέκνα αὐτοῦ γενέσθαι τε καὶ κληθῆναι and Theophylact: γενέσθαι τε καὶ λογισθῆναι. The authorities are decidedly in favour o the genuineness of the addition.—M.]

[67] [1 John 3:2 τέκνα θεοῦ; German; “children of God.”—M.]

[68] [German “and it hath not yet become manifest.” Lillie: “A Passive verb with or without an adjective is employed by Syr.; Dutch, Italian verss.; Aug. Beza, Hammond, Pearson, Berleb. Bible, Bengel,” and many others. He himself renders: “and it hath not yet been manifested;” the German seeks to retain the Aorist in preference to the Perfect, but it is difficult to do so in idiomatic English.—M.]

[69] G. K. insert δὲ after οἴδαμεν. [A. B. C. Sin. al. omit it; the insertion may be readily accounted for by the apparent contrast with the preceding. The German omits δὲ and begins a new sentence thus: “We know etc.”—M.]

[70] [φανερωθῇ, German: “when it shall be manifest;” Lillie: “when it shall be manifested” and in paraphrase: “when the mystery of our future being is unveiled, this is what shall be disclosed: ‘we shall be like Him,’ whatever of glory and blessedness that involves.—M.]

[71] [1 John 3:3 German “because.”—M.]

[72] [German “on Him” in lieu of the ambiguous and deceptive “in him” of E. V.—M.]

[73] [German: “halloweth himself even as He is holy.”—M.]

[74] Would it not be well to coin the word child-ship after the analogy of son-ship, fellow-ship, friend-ship, etc.? The word rendered “adoption” denotes “childship,” and for the want of such a word in English the terms “sonship”—“adoption” have been used for the German “Kindschaft.” M.]

Verses 4-10

3. The Way of God’s Children Passes Through God’s Law

1 John 3:4-10 a

4Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law1: for sin2 is the transgression of the law3 5And ye know that he was manifested to take away our4 sins; and in him is no6sin5. Whosoever6 abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever7 sinneth hath not seen him, 7neither known him. Little children8 let no man deceive you9:he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. 8He that committeth10 sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose11 the Son of God was manifested,9that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever12 is born of God doth not commit sin; for13 his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil.


Connection. The Apostle having traced the glory of the sonship up to the power (which it derives from hope in God) of working out self-purification, annexes 1 John 3:4 with a more general antithesis which, as usual, contains a progression of the argument. The positive: “Every one that hath this hope purifieth himself;” is contrasted with the negative: “Every one that doeth sin, doeth lawlessness.” He does not negatively resume the notion of the subject (“every one that hath this hope”), but that of the predicate (“purifieth himself”). However, by this annexation of the notion of the predicate he denies also, by implication, that such an one is the child and heir of God, and adds a new point, viz. such an one not only injures himself and his portion but he violates also the law and ordinance of God, at the same time, referring back to the leading thought in 1 John 2:29, since all doing of sin is repugnant to the righteousness of God revealed in the law (1 John 3:4) and in Christ (1 John 3:5-7), and delineates rather the children of the devil (1 John 3:8-10), than the children of God, who, abiding in Christ, do righteousness and not sin (1 John 3:6; 1 John 3:9-10).

The nature of sin. 1 John 3:4.

1 John 3:4. Every one that committeth sin, committeth also lawlessness.—“The Apostle is anxious to show that the truth of the thought is unexceptionable.” (Huther.)—The first point to be determined here is the notion ἁμαρτία. Suidas derives ἁμαρτία from μάρπτω to grasp, to seize, consequently=missing the mark (Rom. 21:8, 302, 311, 23, 62); then moral omission. Oecumenius: ἀποτυχεῖν σκοποῦ, ἡ τοῦ�, on the other hand ἀνομία=ἡ περὶ τὸν θετὸν νόμον πλημμέλεια πλὴν–μέλος contrary to the melody, a false note, an error). ̔Αμαρτία, of course, is as much an opposition to the Divine righteousness (ἀδικία), as a departure from the Divine law, a violation of the same (ἀνομία), and this ἡ� is here not only a not having the law (as ἄνομος 1 Corinthians 9:21 denotes one who has not law), but signifies the refractoriness opposed to the law. Neither ἁμαρτία nor ἀνομία are qualified by anything which would narrow this their meaning, nor may such a qualification be added from the context. Although the Article distinctly takes sin in the sense of an offence [old English: missing. M.] towards God, and ἀνομία as an opposition to the law of God, and removes all indefinite generality, yet no qualification within this ethico-religious sphere is admissible. But we must not attach too much importance to this, since the Article is wanting in 1 John 3:9 : ἁμαρτίαν οὐ ποιεῖν and ποιεῖν τὴν ἁμαρτίαν and ἁμαρτάνειν (1 John 3:4; 1 John 3:6; 1 John 3:8-9) are used promiscue, so that we must not attach too much importance to ποιεῖν. To this must be added that καὶ before τὴν ανομίαν conveys the idea that the doing of the ἁμαρτία is as such also as the doing of the ἀνομία.” (Düsterdieck.) “Quishquis committit peccatum, idem committit iniquitatem.” (Erasmus.) Καὶ must neither be taken in a causal sense, nor changed into “yea” (Brückner); but we have to hold with Ebrard that the fuller idea, ποιεῖν τὴν ἁμαρτίαν, in the beginning helps to qualify the other terms, ποιεῖν ἁμαρτίαν, and ἁμαρτάνειν, and that the antithesis ἁγνίζειν ἑαυτὸν is also coëfficient, and that the reference, so far from being to sins of haste or infirmity, is rather to sin, though only a single act, yet a voluntary act. Hence the following explanations cannot be received: that ἁμαρτία denotes peccatum mortale (Estius and the Roman Catholics), or “grave, unrepented sins” (Luther, al.), or that ποιεῖν τὴν ἁμαρτίαν is=peccare contumaciter (Aretius), contra conscientiam el impœnitenter (Rosenmüller), or peccato operam dare (Beza), peccare scientem et volentem (Spener), or the actual moral bias of life (Brückner). It is equally inadmissible to assume an intensification of the notion ἁμαρτία into ἀνομία (Baumgarten-Crusius, Bengel), or that ἀνομία includes crimes and vices proper, as if ἁμαρτία were the principle and source of the ἀνομία (de Wette). Paraphrases of ποιεῖν�, such as Deum offendere (Grotius) and religioni adversari (Carpzov), do incorrectly weaken the idea. The two ideas, although distinguished from each other, are not convertible. We have here the general proposition: “whoever doeth sin, of whatever kind it be, doeth also lawlessness, violates the Divine rule and order,” which is not directed against Antinomians, but against all those who are loose on the subject of sin; the idea of ἀνομία imparts a peculiar severity to that of sin.

And sin is lawlessness.—We must of course take ἁμαρτία here in the same sense, as in the clause immediately preceding, and in the same generality. Hence the first ἁμαρτία is not sinful doings, and the second an offence against God (Köstlin). The Article also forbids our taking ἁμαρτία as the predicate of the subject ἀνομία, as in John 1:1. ̔Ο θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος (Köstlin). Ἁνομία also is as general here as in the preceding clause. Νόμος denotes not only the Mosaic law of the O. T. but also the law of the N. T. in Christ, and by Him explained in the word and exhibited in the life (1 John 2:16; 1 John 2:7; 1 John 4:21; 1 John 5:3. cf Matthew 5:17-19), as the law written in man’s heart for his special direction; it embraces the whole complex of the divine ἐντολαί. Hence this proposition contains not so much a definition (Sander), as the nature of sin viewed from that side on which its absolute opposition to every Divine fellowship shows itself in the most decided form (Brückner); “the Apostle could not have more sharply drawn the contrast of the nature of a believer who is a τέκνον θεοῦ and will be ὅμοιος θεῷ than by declaring ἁμαρτία to be ἀνομία.” (Huther); or he that leads an ungodly life, abrogates the Divine rule of life to which he is subject as a Christian (Hofmann). Hence Hilgenfeld’s exposition disfigures the thought: “not every one who deviates from the ceremonial laws, but the sinner only falls under the category of ἀνομία.” Calvin also goes far beyond the contents of the verse in affirming the sum and substance of the thought to be that the life of those who yield themselves to sin is hateful and unendurable to God.—The Apostle annexes the sentence with καὶ and not with ὅτι, because he thereby gives the thought a more independent form. We cannot agree with Bengel in explaining καὶ by imo, as if before there had been only conjuncta notio peccati et iniquitatis, but now eadem; the identity is already expressed in the first sentence.—[The following definitions will shed additional light on this passage. Ambrose: “Quid est peccatum nisi prævaricatio legis divinæ, et cœlestium inobedientia præceptorum.”—Augustine: “Peccatum est factum vel dictum vel concupiltum aliquid contra æternem legem.”—“Quid verum est, nisi et Dominum dare præcepta, et animas liberiæ esse voluntatis, et malum naturam non esse, sed esse aversionem a Dei præceptis?”—“Neque negandum est hoc Deum jubere, ita nos in facienda justitia esse debere perfectos, ut nullum habeamus omnino peccatum; nam neque peccatum erit, si quid erit, si non divinitus jubeatur, ut non sit.”—M.]

Aid against sin. 1 John 3:5-6.

1 John 3:5. And ye know that He was manifested in order that He might take away our sin.—Appealing to their own consciousness, as at 1Jn 2:12-14; 1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27, the Apostle now refers to the Lord and affirms of Him two things: First: the purpose of His manifestation is the redemption from sin. Ἐκεῖνος denotes Christ, as in 1 John 3:3. It is wholly untenable to understand here the Gospel (Socinus, Episcopius, Grotius), concerning which it surely cannot be said that it τὰς ἁμαρτίας αἴρει, or that this is its end and aim.—̓Εφανερώθη the context requires us to apply to Christ’s manifestation in the flesh. Cf. 1, 2. It points to Christ’s previously hidden existence in heaven (Huther). The purpose of this manifestation is, ἵνα τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν ἄρῃ. The reading ἡμῶν is well authenticated and intensifies the appeal to personal experience, without restricting the forgiveness of sins to those only who “suffer the beneficial purpose of the incarnation of the Son of God to be carried out on them in faith” (Düsterdieck), and to set back the universality of the Divine purpose of salvation (1 John 2:2.); we would rather say that paracletic element, which after all is the main point here (1 John 3:3), comes out more strongly; the οἴδατε, at least, does not contain sufficient ground for finding here a specific indication of the doctrinal. Nor is there any necessity for extending ἡμῶν to all men (Spener). “The Plural, τὰς ἁμαρτίας, affords a far more lucid and forcible view than if we had here, as in 1 John 3:4, τὴν ἁμαρτίαν; John does not take sin in its general character, but he adverts to all the forms of it.” (Düsterdieck). It is wrong to explain it by peccati reatum, dominium, pœnam (J. Lange and others); but it signifies: the sins themselves. The αἴρειν connected here as at John 1:29, with ἁμαρτία signifies in John’s writings (John 11:48; John 15:2; John 17:15; John 19:31; John 19:38) auferre, to carry away, to take away. The ἀμνός, John 1:29, the idea of the sacrificial lamb, implies what is expressed at 1 Peter 2:24, with reference to Isaiah 53:4 sqq., by the verb ἀνάφερειν: to take upon oneself by way of atonement, substitution, death and reconciliation, while αἴρειν indicated a taking away by sanctification; John 1:29 we have a blending of both meanings, while Peter adverts to one, the first, and John to the other, the second work of Christ, the former to His atonement, the latter to His work of redemption. John, who discusses the former at 1 John 2:2, dwells here upon the latter, and hence denies neither; nor does he separate the one from the other, as if the first were without this consequence, and the latter without that cause (1Jn 1:7; 1 John 4:9; 1 John 4:11; 1 John 5:6). But the context with its ethical import, that sin must be avoided and shunned, suggests the reference to the fact that Christ came for the purpose of removing sin, of taking it away from us; what Christian would then oppose or frustrate the design of Christ! Hence Oecumenius correctly observes that Christ came ἐπ̓ ἀναιρέσει τῆς ἁμαρτίας (so also Luther, Calvin, Neander, Ebrard, Düsterdieck, Huther, and al.)—Bede’s remark, “Tollit peccata et dimittendo, quæ facta sunt, et adjuvando, ne fiant, et perducendo ad vitam, ubi fieri omnino non possunt,” is perfectly true, but considerably transcends the measure of what is contained in this passage. The same applies to those who combine here said two references, e.g. Spener, Bengel (explains indeed “tolleret,” but refers to his exposition of John 1:29 : “primum a mundo in se recepit, deinde a se ipso devolvit peccati sarcinam”), Lücke (in his 1st ed.), Sander, Besser.—Lücke (in the later edition), de Wette and others take αἴρειν=carry; false!

Secondly: He is sinless.

And sin is not in Him.—Καὶ coördinates this clause with the former. Oecumenius errs in his καὶ� as well as in the paraphrase: καθ̓ ὅτι�. So also Augustine: “In quo non est peccatum, ipse venit auferre peccatum; nam si esset et in illo peccatum, auferendum esset illi, non ipse auferret,” and a Lapide: “Ideο Christus potens fuit tollere peccatum, quia carebat omni peccato, imo potestate peccandi.” So also Sander, Neander and al. Ἐστι also must be retained and is not to be taken in the sense of ἦν Oecumenius, Grotius: “peccatum in eo non erat, nempe, cum vitam mortalem ageret,” and al.); the reference here, as in 1 John 3:3, is “to the nature of Christ in its eternal consistence” [Huther]. Hence we may not say with Winer (p. 283) that “the sinlessness of Christ is considered as still present in faith.” Ἐν αὐτῷ, the reference of which has always to be determined by the context, denotes Christ understood in ἐκεῖνος, it denotes Christ Himself as to His Person and not (as Calov supposes) totum corpus, the Church, or as if we ought to explain ἐν αὐτῷ by ἐν κοινωνίᾳ μετ̓ αὐτοῦ. Thus the clause “and sin is not in Him” coördinated with that preceding it, is the foundation of the sequel, since the Sinless, Pure and Righteous One is held up not as an example or pattern, but as the vital power and element of life in which the Christian must be and abide.

The immediate consequence.

1 John 3:6. Every one that abideth in Him sinneth not.—By all means retain the full force of μένειν ἐν αὐτῷ to be and abide in Him, to derive nourishment from Him and His life (1 John 1:3; 1 John 1:6; 1 John 2:5-6; (1 John 2:23 sq.; 1 John 2:27 sq.), and do not exchange it for credere in Christum, of weaken it into Christi discipulum esse (Semler and al.); nor is ἁμαρτάνειν to be taken as = persistere in peccato (Luther), sinere regnare peccatum (Hunnius), sceleratum esse (Capellus), peccata mortalia committere (Roman Catholics), and to be thus enforced. The Apostle sets forth “abiding in Christ and sinning as irreconcilable opposites; but he does not mean to say that believing Christians entirely cease to sin or that those, who are yet sinning, are not yet in Christ (1Jn 1:8-10; 1 John 2:1-2; 1 John 3:3)” (Huther). “John is here dealing with realities and about to give us the signs whereby we may know whether we love the Lord or not, whether we are the children of God or of the wicked one” (Sander). Hence it is rather hazardous to refer here with de Wette and Düsterdieck to the Apostle’s ideal mode of representation, and a misapprehension of the fact that the Christian, though he sins, is yet free from sin, has actually-parted company with it, and it is his properly Christian and inmost being in decided opposition to it, so that not sin, but his opposition to it (as something alien to his being), determines the conduct of his life, exactly as St. Paul puts it (Romans 7:17): “νυνὶ δὲ οὐκέτι ἐγὼ κατεργάζομαι αὐτὸ, ἀλλ̓ ἡ οἰκοῦσα ἐν ἐμοὶ ἁμαρτία.” Augustine: “Etsi infirmitate labitur, peccato tamen non consentit, quia potius gemendo luctatur.”—“In quantum in ipso manet, in tantum non peccat.” Besser excellently says: “A Christian does not sin, but suffers it.”

Every one that sinneth hath not seen Him, neither known Him.—As usual John turns the thought and develops it by an antithesis. The verb ἁμαρτάνειν has the same sense as in the preceding clause; actual sinning in word, or work or in the thought of the heart. Of such an one he says quite generally οὐ χ ἑώρακεν αὐτὸν οὐδὲ ἔγνωκεν αὐτὸν. First of all we have to take οὐδὲ disjunctively (Winer, p. 509 sqq.); and although this does not decide the question which of the two verbs ὁρᾷν and γινώσκειν is the stronger and more important, yet it does indicate that they are different from each other. The pronoun αὐτὸν requires us to think in both verbs of the Person of Christ. Hence the sentence: ἁμαρτία ἐν αὐτῷ οὐκ ἔστιν is not the object of ὁρᾷν, nor is the sentence: ἐφανερώθη ἵνα τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἅρῃ the object of γινώσκειν, in order to indicate the purpose of the whole redemptive work of Christ (Rickli, Neander).̔Ορᾷν, to see, physically (1 John 1:1; 1Jn 1:3; 1 John 4:20; John 1:18; John 6:36; John 6:46; John 8:57; John 9:37; John 15:24), spiritually (3 John 1:11; John 3:11; John 3:32; John 6:46; John 8:38; John 14:7; John 14:9), and that directly and immediately if used of Christ in heaven, or indirectly and mediately if applied to believers in consequence of their illumination,—denotes consequently in this passage “seeing Christ,” “when we become absolutely conscious of the glory of Christ so that our spiritual eye beholds Him as He is in the totality of His Essence” (Huther); γινώσκειν means to know as the result of searching contemplation of His word, His life, the history of His kingdom, or of one’s own experience in the life around us, or within ourselves, and indicates here “the right understanding of Him,” brought about by said instrumentality, “so that we have become fully conscious both of His Nature and of His relation to us” (Huther). This intimates already that in the case of the former, viz. spiritual intuition and contemplation, the efficient agency belongs more to the object which represents itself before the eye of the spirit, and that in the case of the latter, viz. knowledge acquired by reflection in the way of reasoning and inquiry, the efficient agency belongs more to the subject, which makes it the object of contemplation (Sander, Huther). Hence it follows that ἑώρακεν is not something less, and οὐδὲ=“much less” (Sander, Lücke 1st ed. al.), nor something more than ἔγνωκεν and οὐδὲ=“and not even” (Socinus, Neander and al.); there is no reference whatever to a difference in degree. Although despite all their difference the two have something in common, we cannot, because of this latter circumstance, overlook or underrate the former [the difference] and say with Düsterdieck that the two notions are essentially equal and that ἔγνωκεν is simply added in order to indicate the spiritual import of ἑώρακεν. Of course it is impossible to interpret (with Lücke) ὁρᾷν of outward knowledge in spite of which one may sin, and γινώσκειν of real, spiritual knowledge. This connection is analogous to that of πιστεύειν and γινώσκειν (1 John 4:16; John 6:69), so that ὁρᾷν and πιστεύειν might be combined yet so as to keep up the difference of πιστεύειν=ὁρᾷν from γινώσκειν. The force of these notions is very shallow in the explanation of Grotius: “Neque de Christo sic cogitat, ut oportet, neque facto ostendit, se scire, quanti sit habenda Christi voluntas.”—The Perfects, ἑώρακεν, ἔγυωκεν are to be preserved; they point to the past when the beginning of seeing and knowing took place, yet so that that which had its beginning in the past still acts and continues in the present, which is especially noticed by Erasmus (cognitum habet), Lücke, Brückner, Düsterdieck and Huther. It is wholly unwarranted to take the Perfect in the sense of the Present (Didymus: “non videt eum;” Augustine: “non credit;” Bede, Grotius, Estius, who construes the Perfect as a Hebraism for the Present). John’s idea therefore is this: Every one that sinneth, and that while he is sinning, is one in whom seeing and knowing Christ is a fact of the past, but without continuing to act and to last to the present. Hence Bengel says not amiss: “In ipso peccati momento talis fit, ac si eum nullo viderit modo.”—Instructive is the reference to 1 John 2:19 (J. Lange, Sander) and the comparison with Matthew 7:23 : οὐδέποτε ἔγυων ὑμᾶς (i.e. as mine). The reference is, as the ancients rightly observe, to an efficax scientia (Dydimus), an affectiva et dilectiva (Estius), although Lyra goes as much beyond the mark with his fides formata caritate, as Ebrard with his loving knowledge, or S. G. Lange with his γινώσκειν=amare. [Ignatius, the disciple of John, says: “No one who professeth faith, sinneth; and no one who hath love, hateth. They, who profess themselves Christians, will be manifested by what they do.” (Ignatius, ad Eph.; also Jerome in Jovin. 1 John 2:1, and contra Pelagianos I. 3).—M.]

The issue 1 John 3:7-9.

1 John 3:7. Little children, let no one seduce you.—This impressive address, (unchanged whether we read παιδία or τεκνία) introduces an admonition in respect of the clearly-perceived and ruin-fraught danger, unless they avail themselves of the aid provided in their glorious Lord and Saviour. The Apostle speaks of ἑαυτοὺς πλανῶμεν, 1 John 1:8. Here, however, he adverts not to self-deception, but refers “in matters affecting the energizing and outwardly operative exhibition of the Divine life” (Düsterdieck), to deception and seductions coming from without, not springing from relations and events, but from men (μηδεὶς), who are more dangerous by far than relations or events. But there is no reason why we should think here of distinct forms of error, say e.g. those of the antinomian Gnostics (Düsterdieck, Huther). [On the other hand Ebrard and Wordsworth see here an unmistakable reference to the Gnostics. The latter observes: “that these verses cannot he understood without reference to their tenets and practices,” and then mentions the followers of Simon Magus, who said that they could please God without righteousness, and that whatever might be the case with others, who had not their spiritual gnosis, they themselves had no need to work righteousness, but that they would be saved by grace, whatever their works might be. “Liberos agere quæ velint; secundum enim ipsius (Simonis) gratiam salvari homines, sed non secundum operas jusias.” Irenæus I. 20 ed. Grabe. Hippolytus, Philosoph. p. 175; Theodoret, Haer fab. i. 1, who testifies that on the presumption of the indefectibility of special grace within themselves, they fell into all kinds of lasciviousness.”—M.].—This admonition is in point of form like 1 Timothy 4:12; Titus 2:15, in point of sense like μὴ πλανᾶσθε, 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Corinthians 6:15-20; Luke 21:8. But that form at the same time exhibits a more lively sense of danger.

He that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous.—On δικαιοσύνην ποιεῖν and δίκαιος, see notes on 1 John 2:29. The Apostle does not say here πᾶς ὁ ποιῶν, but only ὁ ποιῶν; the idea of unexceptional universality makes room for the importance of the fact. Instead of the predicate ἑώρακε αὐτὸν καὶ ἔγνωκεν αὐτὸν (1 John 3:6), or μένει ἐν αὐτῷ (1 John 3:5), or ἐξ αὐτοῦ γεγέννηται (1 John 2:29), there follows, as usual with the addition of a new particular, the consequence thereof, viz.: δίκαιός ἐστιν, either with reference to ὅμοιοι αὐτῷ ἐσόμεθα (1 John 3:2) or in order to denote the corresponding attitude towards the law. It is evident that the predicate is not acquired after that which is affirmed in the subject-sentence has taken place; the predicate is immanent in the subject, the nature of the righteous appears from his doing righteousness, it is already in its existence and does not only become so, as held by the Roman Catholics (Lyra, Emser, Estius, al.), and the Socinians, Arminians and Rationalists (Socinus, Grotius, al.) against the Protestants (Luther, Calvin). “He that doeth not righteousness, proves thereby that he is not righteous” (Huther). [Compare the words of Ignatius in the last note on 1 John 3:6. M.] The additional clause refers to the righteousness of Christ, as manifesting the righteousness of God and standing out as a bright pattern. The Apostle once more uses ἐκεῖνος, although the previous αὐτὸς designated Christ, so that he might have put αὐτὸς without giving rise to misunderstanding, and thus have absolutely removed any and every want of clearness, that αὐτὸς in 1 John 2:29 had reference to Christ. By Him the Christian should ever measure and adjust himself. Baumgarten-Crusius’s explanation is altogether irrelevant; viz.: “he that is good, follows the example of Christ,” or “he only that hath been righteous through Christ, doeth righteousness.” [Huther justly observes, that as there is no reference whatever to justification in this passage, a Lapide’s assertion, that the thought of this verse contradicts the Protestant Dogma of justification by faith, is altogether futile. The explanation of Lorinus also, that “ὁ ποιῶν τὴν δικαιοσύνην is =qui habet in se justitiam, i.e. opus gratiæ, videlicet virtutem infusam,” is manifestly false.—M.].

1 John 3:8. He that committeth sin, is of the devil.—This is the progressive antithesis. On ὁ ποιῶν τὴν ἁμαρτίαν compare note on 1 John 3:4. It is “the more significant and precise” expression for ἁμαρτάνειν 1 John 3:6 (Düsterdieck). Of such an one John does not say: ἄδικός ἐστι but ἐκ τοῦ διαβόλου ἐστίν and thus states the final cause of the thought. The phrase ἐκ τοῦ διαβόλου εἶναι must be interpreted after the analogy of ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ εἶναι (cf. on 1 John 2:16), and this is the more incumbent upon us because 1 John 3:10 specifies τὰ τέκνα τοῦ θεοῦ and τά τέκνα τοῦ διαβόλου, and the paternal name is actually given to Satan at John 8:44. Still there is wanting an analogy to γεγεννῆσθαι ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ (cf. on 1 John 2:29) both for the adherents of the devil and the κόσμος, although we have ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου εἶναι at 1 John 2:16 and οἱ υἱοὶ τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου at Luke 16:8. Hence, although ἐκ τοῦ διαβόλου εἶναι contains no reference to a regeneration from beneath,—as if the devil had created the sinner, into whom he has only infused evil (Russmeyer), so that the Apostle adverts simply to corruptio and not to generatio (Bengel), and that consequently the phrase must be construed ethically and not physically (so that we cannot say τέκνον τοῦ διαβόλου in the same sense and with the same right as we say τέκνον θέου, see note on 1 John 3:10 a),—yet are we obliged to think of an origin from the devil and of a sameness in kind and an intimate union with the devil as well as of an inheritance of woe in hell to be meted out to the devil and his adherents, and to reject the volatilization of the idea by perversion into a mere belonging to (de Wette), following (Semler), resembling and spiritual affinity with the devil (Grotius, Socinus, al.). Nor does the analogy warrant the assertion that it is not at all necessary to assume John to believe the existence of the devil, that this is only a mode of representation current among heretical Jewish Christians (Semler), or a Jewish formula of teaching without all dogmatical importance, or used only for the purpose of intensifying the idea of sin as hostility to God (Baumgarten-Crusius). See no. 4 below in “Doctrinal and Ethical.”

Because the devil sinneth from the beginning.—The connection by ὅτι specifies the reason of the sentence, “He that doeth sin is of the devil;” hence the reference is to man’s sinning and his relation to the devil. For this reason ἀπ̓ ἀρχῆς emphatically put first, is to be interpreted of the beginning of man’s sinning, like John 8:44, and the Apostle declares that from that beginning the devil has been showing himself as the sinner [the sinning one], he is not only a sinner in himself, but he did also bring about the first sin of man as a seducer, and not the first sin only, but he does bring about every sin even until now (the Present ἁμαρτάνει); sinning is his work from the beginning. Bengel: “Omnium peccatorum causa est; nunquam satiatur.” Hence there is no reference here to the beginning of the devil’s existence from the creation of the world (Bede; for that would contradict John 8:44, οὐκ ἔστηκεν), or to the beginning of the creation of the earth and the solar system (Estius), or to the beginning of the res humanæ (Semler), or to the beginning of the devil’s fall (Calvin, Calov, Bengel: “Ex quo diabolus est diabolus; minime diu tenuisse videtur tatum primitivum,” Neander, Sander and others.). Nor may we interpret ἁμαρτάνει like Bengel: “Peccat et ad peccandum inducit,” but rather compare Romans 7:17. The influxus, suggestio, inspiratio, directio, coöperatio of the devil (Calov) lie not in the verb ἁμαρτάνει, but in the whole context: because the devil has sinned from the beginning and goes on sinning, every one that is sinning is of the devil; for the real connection of the person sinning with the devil or of the devil with the person sinning, is here evidently presumed, yet so that the first proposition describes the state of the sinner as essentially belonging to the sphere of the devil’s life and kingdom, while the second proposition, connected with the former by ὅτι, marks the continuing activity of the devil, so that the latter is the cause of the former.

For this was the Son of God manifested that He might destroy the works of the devil.—Bengel: “Diabolus peccandi finem non facit; peccatum solvere filii dei opus est.” Without using a conjunction the Apostle rapidly and in terse language specifies with sharpness and distinctness of outline the antithesis: διάβολος—υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ; ἐκεῖνος would have been too weak and inadequate here, and contrasts the hidden seduction of Satan with the manifestation (ἐφανερώθη) of the Son of God for the destruction of the works of the devil (John 12:31; John 16:11; Matthew 12:29; Luke 10:18). He is not only δίκαιος (1 John 3:7) but He also destroys sins (λύσῃ). This is the end of His coming, as in 1 John 3:5 : αἵρειν τὰς ἁμαρτίας is parallel to λυειν τὰ ἔργα τοῦ διαβόλου. The last expression consequently denotes sins and, with reference to διάβολος ἁμαρτάνει, as the works of the devil who committeth them. Hence the reference is here to the ἔργα τοῦ διαβόλου, sins, not to the wages of sin—affliction, death, condemnation (Calov, Spener). For these are rather the works of God who is righteous and decrees the penalty, and only by way of consequence the object of the redemptive work of Christ, but not the object of λύειν. This verb signifies the destruction of a building (John 2:19; 2 Peter 3:10-12), or of a ship (Acts 27:41) and also the loosing of chains (Acts 22:30). Bengel: (“Opera confortissima quæ solvere res digna erat filio Dei”), Spener, Besser and others retain the sense of “loosening, untying’ as if sins were the cords or bands of Satan; but this is manifestly a departure from the plain sense of the words and although useful for practical purposes, a rather artificial interpretation. Since nothing is said here of the three offices of Christ concurring in this work, or how that concurrence is to take place, the text neither authorizes us to assume that the officium sacerdotale and the officium regium without the officium propheticum will be engaged in the destruction of the works of the devil and to think only of the passion of our Lord, nor to infer anything for or against that sentence from “Etiamsi Adam non peccasset, Christus incarnatus esset.” Besides, John adverts only, as he had written (ἐφανερώθη—λύσῃ.) “to what Christ did purpose and achieve by His manifestation in the flesh” (Düsterdieck), without intending to describe or even to deny the continuous victory of Christ; he refers to that 1 John 1:7; 1Jn 2:1-2; 1 John 2:13-14; 1 John 4:4; 1 John 4:14; 1 John 5:5, but not primarily here. [Ignatius, the disciple of John, uses λύειν in the sense of the text, viz., the destruction of evil, ad Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 1:19, λύεται ὄλεθρος, ἐλύετο πᾶσα μάγεια.—M.].

1 John 3:9. Every one that is born of God, doth not commit sin, because his seed abideth in him.—This is the antithesis of 1 John 3:8 a, and ὅτι here like there denotes the reason why; the structure of the sentences too is alike, with the sole difference that by the usual inversion the subjects and predicates have changed places. Ὀ γεγεννημένος ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ opp.: ἐκ διαβόλου ἐστιν,—ἁμαρτίαν οὐ ποιεῖ opp.: ὁ ποιῶν τὴν ἁμαρτίαν,—ὅτι�̓ ἀρχῆς ὁ διάβολος ἁμαρτάνει opp.: ὅτι σπέρμα αὐτοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ μένει. Thus John contrasts sinning in its extreme and inmost nature with the children of God in the possession of their highest and most glorious gift and an attitude conformable thereto. Πᾶς denotes the general character of the sense. We know from 1 John 2:29; 1 John 3:6, that being born of God, doing righteousness or not sinning belong together and that the former is incompatible with the commission of sin. Cf. 1 John 1:5. Hence ἁμαρτίαν stands emphatically in ante position; the Apostle regards sin as devilish, and righteousness as divine; and hence righteousness and sin are as absolutely and diametrically opposed to each other as are God and the devil. The clause annexed by ὅτι specifies the reason why one born of God does not commit sin, and being parallel to the similar clause in 1 John 3:8, sheds a light on the latter in confirmation of the interpretation given here. The reference of σπέρμα αὐτον͂ to θεοῦ is obvious. The seed of God necessarily denotes something that proceeds from God, is instinct with vital power and full of life, develops itself, blossoms and bears fruit, and begets the Divine. We cannot see here a reference to the word of God (with Clement of Alex., Augustine, Bede, Luther, Calov, Spener, Bengel, Besser, Socinus, Grotius and others), notwithstanding Matthew 13:3 sqq.; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23; cf. 1 Corinthians 4:15; Galatians 4:19, because that simile from the vegetable kingdom does not answer to the reference to begetting and birth, and because the Word of God or the Gospel in other passages is mentioned only as the instrument of begetting, as a carrier and conductor of the Divine σπέρμα, but not the σπέρμα itself. [Alford, who takes the view impugned here, says: “But whether we regard the generation of plants, or animal procreation, which latter is more in question here, what words can more accurately describe the office of the seed, than these? And what is the word of God but the continually abiding and working seed of the new life in the child of God? Nay, it seems to be that exactly of which we are in search: not the Holy Spirit, the personal agent; not the power of the new life, the thing begotten; but just that which intervenes between the two, the word, the utterance of God,—dropt into the soul of man, taking it up by Divine power into itself, and developing the new life continually. This is in the most precise and satisfactory sense the σπέρμα τοῦ θεοῦ; and in this all Scripture symbolism is agreed: cf. 1 Peter 1:23; James 1:18. In fact, the very passage which is the key to this, is John 5:38, τὸν λόγον αὐτοῦ οὐκ ἔχετε μένοντα ἐν ὑμῖν. Nor should any exception have been taken by Huther and Düsterdieck to the comparison with the parable of the sower (“wie viele ältere Ausleger mit ungeschickter Vergleichung von Matthew 13:3 sqq.” Düsterdieck), for though the attendant circumstances of generation are different, the analogy is the same.”—M.] It follows from this that the reference is to the Spirit of God, even the Holy Spirit, who communicates Himself in and of His own. Hence σπέρμα must not be applied to His whole Person but as the πνεῦμα radiating from Him which is at once He Himself and His gift, a gift from Him and of His Nature. This construction is rendered imperative by ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ in the final and substantiating clause of this verse which runs parallel to σπέρμα. Just as one who is born of God is not on that account God and has not like Christ the fulness of God bodily indwelling, so σπέρμα is not the full Person of the Spirit of God, of the Holy Spirit, but something that comes forth from His Being, which, while it cannot be separated from Him, must be distinguished from Him. Therefore we have to say with the Greek expositors that σπέρμα is πνεῦμα υἱοθέσιας, τὸ πνευματικὸν χάρισμα, the Spiritus Sanctus et ejus virtus (Calvin, Beza, Düsterdieck), nativitas spiritualis (Estius), vires regenerations (S. Schmidt), Divine life-powers (de Wette, Neander), the πνεῦμα begotten of the Holy Spirit (Sander), the germ of the new life, of the new man, Christ implanted in us (Ebrard, Lücke, Huther). But it is not σπέρμα as analogous to זֶרַע =τέκνον (Bengel: “semen dei i.e. qui natus est ex deo”), or “semen quasi divinum” (Semler), the formative principle of the good (Paulus), or religion (Fritzsche).—It is important to recollect that while μένει is used of σπέρμα, μένει is also said of the believer (1 John 3:6), and that he is bidden notwithstanding: μένετε=(1 John 2:28). On this account, and because the reference is not to a full ear of grain gathered in the barn, but to σπέρμα cast into the earth destined to grow under the influence of all kinds of weather, we need not suppose, that therefore it must abide and could neither be lost again nor perish. Nothing is said on this point, it is neither affirmed nor denied, and therefore we are not warranted to introduce or assume it here; the subject in question is simply and solely that in the σπέρμα and its abiding in conformity with its nature, the child of God receives the power of not committing sin. Although we cannot explain ὅτι by ἐφ̓ ὅσον as if it wepe=quantum, quamdiu, quatenus, it is involved in the thought (The Greek, R. Catholic and Evangelical commentators).

And he cannot sin, because he is born of God.—Now the Apostle adds the most important particular, viz., his inability of sinning on the ground of his having been born of God, with which St. John began, as he now concludes this section. With reference to the seed of God abiding in the child of God, he now asserts the absolute contrariety of a child of God and sinning in the words: οὐ δύναται ἁμαρτάνειν. Non potest peccare is at all events much stronger and more than potest non peccare; it declares not the possibility of not sinning, but the impossibility of sinning. A servant of sin has become a servant of righteousness (Romans 6:16-23); in virtue of the seed of God abiding in him he only wills and only can do the Divine, righteousness (Düsterdieck and most expositors); hence ἁμαρτάνειν must neither be intensified into “committing mortal sins” (the Romanists), to sin diabolically (Besser), to sin deliberately and intentionally (Ebrard), nor be limited to hating the brethren (Augustine, Bede), nor must οὐ δύναται be weakened into ægre, difficulter est (Grotius, “res aliena est ab ejus ingenio;” Paulus, “his whole spiritual nature and Habit resist it”). Nor must it be changed into οὐ βούλεται (the Greek commentators) or non debet. Nor is this declaration of the Apostle only a goal and standard far above the reality of the Christian life on earth, only of relative importance and without reality. Bengel: “Res se habet, ut in abstemio, qui non potest vinum bibere, et in variis antipathiæ generibus.” On the substantiating clause Bengel strikingly observes: “priora verba ex deo majorem habent in pronunciando accentum; quod ubi observatur, patet, non idem per idem probari, collato initio versus.” Because he is born of God, he that is born of God cannot sin; the child of God cannot sin, because it is the child of God. Very pertinent also is the note of Luther: “In summa nos Christiani nascimur, nec fuco quodam aut specie, sed ipsa natura sumus Christiani, quare non est possibile ut peccemus.” [Wordsworth: “He that hath been born of God, and liveth as a son of God cannot be a sinner. It is inconsistent with the essential condition of his spiritual birth, by which he is dead to sin. It is contrary to the nature which he has as a child of God. This is well expressed by Didymus here, who says, “St. John does not assert that the man who has been born of God will never commit sin; but he asserts that he does not work sin.—Non scriptum est non peccabit, sed non peccatum facit, non idem est peccare et peccatum facere; a child of two days old, by reason of his natural childhood, cannot sin, but a child of God cannot be a sinner.” This distinction he draws from the difference between the Present Infinite and the Aorist Infinitive; see Winer § 44, p. 346, 348, 349, who quotes from Stallbaum, Plat. Euthyd., p. 1John 140: “Aoristus (Infin.) quia nullam facit significationem perpetuitatis et continuationis, prouti vel initium vel progressus vel finis actionis verbo expressæ spectatur, ita solet usurpari, ut dicatur vel de eo, quod statim et e vestigio fit ideoque etiam certo futurum est, vel de re semel tantum eveniente, quæ diurnitatis et perpeluitatis cogitationem aut non fert aut certe non requirit, vel denique de re brevi et uno veluti temporis ictu peracta.” Thus e.g. πιστεῦσαι is to make a profession of faith, or an act of faith, at a particular time; but πιστεύειν is to believe, to be a believer; δουλεῦσαι is to do an act of service, δουλεύειν, to be a slave; οὐδεὶς οἰκέτης δύναται δυσὶ κυρίοις δούλεύειν, no servant can be a slave to two masters; so ἁμαρτεῖν is to commit a sin, but ἁμαρτάνειν is much more than this, it is to be a sinner.”

Ignatius, ad. Eph. 8 says: “Let no one deceive you. They who are carnal cannot do the things which are spiritual; nor can they who are spiritual do the things which are carnal. Faith cannot do the works of unbelief, nor can unbelief do the works of faith. The works which ye do in the flesh are spiritual, because ye work all your works in Jesus Christ.”—M.].

Conclusion. 1 John 3:10 a.

1 John 3:10 a. In this are manifest the children of God and the children of the devil. —Ἐν τούτῳ refers back to the preceding. Cf. on 1 John 2:3. The point under notice is ἐκ τοῦ δεοῦ and ἐκ τοῦ διαβόλου εἶναι. This is apparent in the doing of righteousness or in the working of sin, the sinner entangling himself in sin, as a child of the devil, while the believer, as being born of God, resists it. Being a child of God or a child of the devil is hidden and manifest in doing. Hence this clause must not be referred to the sequel (Grotius, Spener, Ebrard and others) as there is not the least occasion for it; de Wette, Sander, and others leave this point undetermined. It is not said here to whom τὰ τέκνα τοῦ θεοῦ and, τὰ τέκνα τοῦ διαβόλου φανερά ἐστιν but 1 John 3:1 (κόσμος οὐ γινώσκει ἡμᾶς) renders it certain that it is not manifest to the world but only to the Christian. That difference is only manifest in the light of the divine κρίσις, the uncritical world blends together and confounds good and evil, God and the devil (Lücke, Sander). “To the children of the devil their own moral nature remains a mystery until they accept the judgment of the Holy Spirit and through the divine seed are born of God and become the children of God.” Cf. Matthew 7:16-21; Luke 6:43-46.—The phrase τὰ τέκνα τοῦ διαβόλου occurs only here in the New Testament although we encounter the following variations: υἱὸς διαβόλου said of Elymas Bar-Jesus, Acts 13:10; ὁ υἱὸς τῆς� said of Judas, John 17:12; and υἱοὶ τῆς� and τέκνα φύσει ὀργῆς, Ephesians 2:3, instead of which τέκνον τοῦ διαβόλου might have been used, if that expression had not been studiously avoided in order to prevent the misunderstanding that we might as well speak of a birth (out) of the devil as of a birth (out) of God (see notes on 1 John 3:8) and in order not to give nourishment to the dualistic notion that their conversion or regeneration is impossible, to intimate, on the contrary, that it is more probable to see a child of the devil become a child of God than a child of God become a child of the devil. But it cannot be inferred from these different expressions that the terms τὰ τέκνα τοῦ θεοῦ and τὰ τέκνα τοῦ διαβόλου denote the two extremes between which other men are found. This antithesis embraces rather the totality of mankind just as ἁμαρτάνειν and οὐχ ἁμαρτάνειν comprise the whole attitude of men. Socinus is surely right: “Ex apostoli verbis satis aperte colligi potest, quod inter filios dei et filios diaboli nulli sint homines medii.”


1. The nature of sin. The word ἁμαρτία while indicating aberration from the right way, the right goal, the straight direction and order does not tell us wherefrom said aberration takes place. On this account the word ἀνομία is added. It is evident that sin is in direct antagonism to the νόμος, the divine ordinance. Hofmann pertinently compares 2 Thessalonians 2:7 (Schriftbeweis I., 487). The first thing is that sin contradicts the divine ordinance. The extent of ἀνομία is also that of ἁμαρτία; whatever does not accord with the divine ordinance of life, be it little or small or as it please, is ἁμαρτῖα, which is always to be regarded primarily as an injury done to God who has appointed the νόμος. Hence the notion of guilt adheres at all events to the notion of sin, although the sinner be not conscious of it at the time or soon after the act; the sense of guilt is sure to come sooner or later, but invariably with the knowledge of sin, even as David expresses it: “Against thee only, have I sinned” (Psalms 51:4) and St. Paul ὑπόδικος τῷ θεῷ (Romans 3:19). The injury done to one’s own soul which lies at the bottom of ἁγνίζειν ἑαυτὸν, and is declared in τηρεῖ αὐτὸν as contrasted (ἀλλὰ) with ἁμαρτάνειν is likewise the reason why the sinner is outside of fellowship with Christ who is life, gives life and takes away sin.

[Pearson (p. 539) says: “The law of God is the rule of the actions of men, and any aberration from that rule is sin: the law of God is pure and whatsoever is contrary to the law is impure. Whatsoever therefore is done by man, or is in man, having any contrariety or opposition to the law of God, is sin. Every action, every word, every thought, against the law, is a sin of omission, as it is terminated to an object dissonant from, and contrary to, the prohibition of the law, as a negative precept. Every omission of a duty required of us is a sin, as being contrary to the commanding part of the law, or an affirmative precept. Every evil habit contracted in the soul of man by the actions committed against the law of God, is a sin constituting a man truly a sinner, even then, when he actually sinneth not. Any corruption and inclination in the soul, to do that which God forbiddeth, and to omit that which God commandeth, howsoever such corruption and evil inclination came into the soul, whether by an act of his own will, or by the act of the will of another, is a sin, as being something dissonant from, and repugnant to the law of God. And this I conceive sufficient to declare the nature of sin.”—M.].
2. The nature of righteousness, as the opposite of sin, is therefore a conduct consonant with the νόμος, a doing regulated by the divine ordinances of life, from the work of our hands to the act of thinking and the power of the will.

3. The corruption of sin is manifest in that it entangles men in a relation to Satan which at once defines his attitude and shows itself in it. It comes from Satan and is the act of Satan, so that living in sin and the working of sin are evidences of the sinner’s dependence on the devil, his appurtenance and similarity of nature to the devil. Although man’s sin is the sin of the seduced, in virtue of such seduction he is yet as much doomed to the power of the kingdom of the Evil One as he is guilty before God; and he that ought and might have become a child of God, has become a child of the devil. As surely as fellowship with God and righteousness are gained in Christ, so surely does sin evidence fellowship with the devil.

4. Satan is a person, opposed to God, the opposite of God and not only of Christ, who came to take away sin and to destroy the works of the devil. Strauss (Dogmatik II. 15) justly observes: “The whole idea of Messiah and His kingdom is as impossible without its counterpart of a kingdom of demons with a personal head, as the north pole of a magnet without the south pole. If Christ came to destroy the works of the devil, there was no necessity for His coming if there was no devil; if there is a devil, but only as the personification of the principle of evil—well, then we ought also to be satisfied with a Christ as an impersonal idea.” Besides to deny the existence and personality of the devil is to give up the personality of God Himself. God would be the Absolute and not the absolute Personality, if in this Johannean complex of ideas we are permitted to understand Satan to be only a principle, though it be the cosmical.—But there are here no data whatsoever for a dualistic conception. Two things are certain; First: the devil’s opposition to God cannot be so construed as to give the devil the character of the contestant counter-god from all eternity and to divest him of the attributes of the creature; the text contains no warranty for either; the purpose of Christ’s manifestation and the circumstance that this purpose must be supposed to be fully accomplished and accomplishing in all essential points, warrant us rather to conclude that said true assumptions, as a perfectly dualistic opposition of the devil and God, are incompatible with the fundamental views of the Apostle. Secondly: it cannot be inferred from this passage that men are naturally and essentially devilish. For John plainly declares that not the devil’s nature (to which he does not make the faintest allusion), but the devil’s work shows itself in the sins of men and that Christ came not to destroy the nature of the devil but to destroy the works of the devil. Nor must it be overlooked that, as contrasted with the terms γεγεννημένος ἐν τοῦ θεοῦ, σπέρμα θεοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ, ἐκ θεοῦ εἶναι, ἐκ αὐτῷ μένων, τέκνον θεοῦ, the Apostle is very sparing in his reference to the devil and does not go beyond saying ἐκ τοῦ διαβόλου εἶναι and τέκνον τοῦ διαβόλου, opposing the latter term, as it were by constraint, to the phrase “child of God,” so that Augustine justly refers to an imitari diabolum, observing: “Omnes peccatores ex diabolo nati sunt, in quantum peccatores. Adam a deo factus est. sed quando consensit diabolo, ex diabolo natus est, et tales omnes genuit qualis erat.” There is not the faintest intimation for the supposition that man does not sin of his own will, not voluntaria but naturaliter, and that the sin which he commits is not his fault, but solely the devil’s fault; the contrary is evident from the exhortation in 1 John 3:7 and the paracletical tendency which lies at the bottom of the whole. Neither dualism nor determinism can be deduced from this passage. But concerning subjection and personal transactions reference is made to cosmical powers in God the Father with the Son and in the devil, as the ultimate and chief factors of all personal development.

5. The work of Satan is sin, and sin from the beginning, i.e. from the beginning of sin on the part of mankind, which is the only subject under notice here. Hence he is most truly the sinner, the original sinner. As he was actively engaged in the first sin, so he still is actively engaged in every sin. But beyond this fact nothing is said as to the nature of his activity, as to its concurrence with that of man which is not excluded, and as to the manner how sin comes to pass. But it is intimated that contrary to Christ who was manifested and did appear in order to destroy the works of the devil, the devil was not manifested but remained and continued to walk in concealment, and that the children of God and the children of the devil cannot be identified at once, even as the world (which knows neither God nor the children of God (1 John 3:1), nor itself) does not discover the devil’s work in its own sin; for the reference is to πνευματικὰ τῆς πονηρίας (Ephesians 6:12). It is just the man, who, as St. James says (James 1:14 sq.), is incited and enticed by his own lust (ὑπὸ τῆς ἰδίας ἐπιθυμίας ἐξελκόμενος καὶ δελεαζόμενος) and commits sin without an inward struggle, without offering any resistance, in a calm course of development (ἡ ἐπιθυμία συλλαβοῦσα τίκτει τὴν ἁμαρτίαν), has the devil as the father of sin and is himself a child of the devil. In sins it becomes manifest that the anti-divine on earth is intimately and vitally connected with the kingdom and influence of the devil and that ultimately the whole matter resolves itself into a world-combat between God and the devil, and a world-victory of God in Christ over the devil (compare Harless, Ethics § 28. ***: Nitzsch, System. p. 244. sqq.)

6. Redemption from sin is the work of the Sinless One, the purpose of the manifestation of the Sinless One, whose aim it is not to bring a new doctrine but to produce a new life. According to this the most important thing is, of course, not the exposition of the law marked by the utmost profoundness of apprehension and lucidity of statement, but the exhibition of the law to its full extent in a pure life, which not only evinces its strength in suffering and the assumption of human sin, but also satisfies and reconciles the Father, so that for the Son’s sake He now once more turns to mankind as hallowed and mankind overcome and attracted by the Sinless One, parts company with sin and turns away from it. It is inconceivable to have known and understood the Sinless One and yet to continue in sin all the same; to abide in Christ and to abide in sin are incompatible opposites; the one excludes the other. John, to be sure, has respect only to the principle or the result, as the issue is a life that terminates not in a moment but has its historical course and internal development. This is predicated of the life in Christ (1 John 3:2-3,) and by analogy we are constrained to assume it of the life in sin.

7. Being determines the doing, the doing does not determine the being, but we know the being from the doing. The being is the cause, the doing the effect. Hence he that does not commit sin but worketh righteousness (1 John 3:6-9) must be born of God (1 John 2:29; 1 John 3:9-10) and have seen and known Christ (1 John 3:6), but he that is of the devil, commits sin and worketh no righteousness (1 John 3:8). So Luther (Erlangen ed. 27, 191): “Good, pious works nevermore make a good, pious man, but a good pious man will do good, pious works. Evil works nevermore make an evil man, but an evil man will do evil works. Consequently the person must everyways be good and pious prior to all good works, and good works must follow and proceed from the good, pious person (Matthew 7:18).” Hence a man must have become righteous by justification, before he can act righteously in sanctification. This is the truth and the right of the Lutheran and Reformed confessions in opposition to Rome; but on the subject of becoming righteous John confines himself to saying that it takes place (out) of God in Christ by regeneration and propitiation; hence it simply indicates the objective ground and not the subjective accomplishment. On this point no other particulars can be inferred from our passage.

8. While the not-sinning and the impossibility of sinning on the part of a Christian born of God, must be held fast as a fact, we must be on our guard against hasty inferences therefrom, for which John gives us no warrant. In the first place this passage (1 John 3:9) must be susceptible of a construction that does not contradict 1 John 1:8 sqq., for John could not have made both statements, if they were incompatible with one another. Hence the Roman Catholics are as much in the wrong for holding, as de Lyra says, that it is the prerogative of the saints, i.e. only individuals in virtue of special grace in regeneration, not to sin and not being able to sin, as are the Lutherans for contending that all truly regenerated persons live without sin; for such an assertion is as arrogant as that contained in the sentence of Seneca, the Stoic (see Düsterdieck II. 148 from Wetstein): “Vir bonus non potest non facere, quod facit; in omni actu par sibi, jam non consilio bonus, sed more eo perductus; ut non tantum recte facere possit, sed nisi recte facere non possit.” 1 John 1:8 sqq. forbids such a construction of 1 John 3:9. The Gichtelites, who in virtue of Matthew 22:30 used to call themselves the brethren of the angels and refusing to be considered a sect laid claim to being the invisible Church, and the Molinists who were Quietists, claimed with some Pietists such a state of perfection, and being called Perfectists by their adversaries, called them in turn Conatists; the Methodists who maintain that they stand daily and hourly in need of the atoning merits of Christ do not belong to this category although they hold the sinless perfection of the regenerate; but this certainly exposes them like the Roman Catholics to the danger of regarding or treating concupiscence as a matter of indifference. The Synod of Dort, moreover, cannot on the strength of this passage reject the following proposition (see Niemeyer, p. 719 sub III): “Vere credentes et regenitos non tantum posse a fide justificante, item gratia et salute totaliter et finaliter excidere, sed eitam reipsa non raro ex iis excidere atque in æternum perire,” nor is Calvin warranted to say: “Johannes non solum docet, quam efficaciter agat semel deus in homine, sed clare affirmat, spiritum suam gratiam in nobis ad extremum usque persequi, ut ad vitæ novitatem inflexibilis perseverantia accedat,” because the Apostle teaches here not a word on that subject. He neither says 1 John 1:8 sqq. that the regenerate in reality does not seldom fall from grace and perish eternally (!), but only, that his sinning notwithstanding, his sins would be forgiven him, nor here at 1 John 3:9, that the gift of sonship and regeneration can never be lost again or impaired, or that the σπέρμα is and must be brought to perfection in every child of God, or that the donum perseverantiæ is added by God to the gift of His grace, so that the two are intimately united and inseparable. A view hitting the truth may be found already in Jovinian (at the end of the fourth century) as stated in the controversial writing of his opponent (Hieronymus adv. Jovinianum libri II), if we remember that he said besides what here follows, viz: “eos, qui plena fide in baptismate renati sunt, a diabolo non posse subverti,” or “a diabolo non posse tentari; quicunque autem tentati fuerint, ostendi eos aqua tantum et non spiritu baptizatos”—that the Christian is not called upon to fight and to labour “ut majora præmia accipiat” but only “ne perdat quod accepit,” and that he did add “qui suum baptisma servaverint.” For John neither affirms nor excludes by an intimation that the work and act of God to man must be accepted and received by man, that man with the divinely-given strength must become self-acting so that he not only do not resist and thus not resisting, obicem non ponens, become sanctified after having been justified, but also that entering into the work and act of God he exercise himself by his own personal efforts and thus appropriate more and more and receive into his own nature that which is God’s, by giving up and sacrificing his self without doing injury to his seity. All these things John does not touch upon because he is not concerned with subjective execution but solely with the objective ground and foundation. Hence he says: he that is born of God, as such (as God’s child), without any reference to his former condition and its reaction, does not really sin in the literal acceptation of the term; sin may still take place in him, but he himself, as the child of God, in the power of regeneration, does not and cannot commit it (cf. Harless Ethics § 26. **).—Hence we cannot see at all why the regenerate, if he neglects, in conflicts and collisions which may arise, to be on his guard and to hold fast all that God has given to him, done for him and is offering to him, may not by degrees fall entirely from grace, and such an issue necessitates or justifies the assumption that God did not seriously intend, energetically will and efficiently accomplish his regeneration and that lastly the lapsed was right and God in the wrong, that it is God’s fault that he, though already redeemed from the power of the devil, had again fallen a prey to the devil. Hebrews 6:4 sqq. which only declares that it is impossible to recover those who have fallen away from such true regeneration has no connection with this passage (in opposition to Ebrard), but we ought rather to take note of μένων in 1 John 3:6., which points to that unexpressed train of thought. Cf. Romans 7:15 sqq. where mention is made of the ἔσω ἄνθρωπος as the σπέρμα θεοῦ and the ἐγὼ of the regenerate warring against the old ego.—[Düsterdieck: “The difference between the older and more modern expositors14 lies in this, that the former are more anxious to moderate the details of the Apostle’s sentiment, and to tone down his assertion to the actual life of Christians, while the moderns recognize the full precision of the text as it stands, but then remind us that the ideal truth of the principle announced by St. John continually, so to speak, floats above the actual life of believers as their rule and aim and that, in so far, the Apostle’s saying finds in such actual life only a, relative fulfilment. None however of all the expositors, who in any way has recognized the ideal character of St. John’s view, has overlooked the fact, that even in the actual life of all that are born of God there is something which in full verity answers to the ideal words “they cannot sin.” The children of God, in whom the Divine seed of their eternal life abides, have, in reality, a holy privilege, as Steinhofer says,—they sin not and they cannot sin, just in proportion as the new Divine life, unconditionally opposed to all sin, and manifesting itself in godlike righteousness, is present and abides in them. Expositors of all these logical tendencies, in all times, e.g. Didymus, Oecum., Estius, Schlichting, Luther, Hunnius, Seb. Schmidt, Calov, Bengel, Joachim Lange, Rosenmüller, Lücke, Neander, etc. point to this, that the new life of believers, veritably begotten by regeneration from God, is simply incompatible with sin15; the life which essentially alienates the spirit from all sin,16 fills it with an irreconcilable hate against every sin, and urges it to an increasing conflict against all unrighteousness. Luther excellently says, that a child of God in this conflict receives indeed wounds daily, but never throws away his arms or makes peace with his deadly foe. Sin is ever active, but no longer dominant; the normal direction of life’s energies in the believer is against sin, is an absence of sin, a no-will-to-sin and a no-power-to-sin. He that is born of God has become, from being a servant of sin, a servant of righteousness; according to the Divine seed remaining in him, or, as St. Paul says, according to the inner man17, he will and he can work only that which is like God,—righteousness, though the flesh not yet fully mortified, rebels and sins: so that even in and by the power of the new life sin must be ever confessed, forgiveness received18, the temptation of the evil one avoided and overcome19, and self-purification and sanctification carried on.”—M.].

9. John speaks of being born in order to live, Paul of dying in order to live.

[Ezek. Hopkins: This place may, perhaps, be among the number of those, that had been more clear, if they had been less expounded. I shall only give you the genuine native sense of the words and then proceed to manage them to my present purpose. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin. Some from hence have concluded a possibility, at least, of a sinless state in this life: others, the infallible certainty of it; not only that a child of God might attain to such a perfection as is exclusive of all sin, but that whoever is a child of God cannot upon that very account be guilty of any sin: so like are errors to precipices, that, if a man lose his firm footing, usually he falls headlong; nor does he stop, till he dash himself against the bottom and foundation of all religion and piety: had these men but seriously pondered what the same Apostle saith in his first chapter, 1Jn 3:8; 1 John 3:10 : “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us;” and “If we say that we have not sinned, we make God a liar,” they would not have entertained such an over-weening conceit of a spotless perfection of life here; whereof the greatest part is no better than sin and the best of it, but too, too much defiled with it. Others interpret thus: So long as we are the children of God, we cannot sin; and so the Papists go; but these go upon an erroneous supposition, that every mortal sin, as they call them, makes an intercision of justifying grace; and doth, as it were, annihilate the new creature. Others interpret it thus: in quantum sumus filii Dei: we cannot sin under that respect and notion, as we are the children of God; but even so far as we are, the best of us in the most part, unrenewed; though this is a certain truth, yet it is but a dilute and waterish exposition of this place; and it amounts to no more than this, that a regenerate man sins not as he is regenerate, that the principle of grace in him is not that principle from whence sinful actions proceed; and certainly, no man, that considers the weight of this Scripture expression, will think that the Apostle, by such an instance and ingemination, would press so thin a meaning as this is. The interpretation, therefore, that I judge to be the most natural and unforced is this: He, that is born of God, doth not commit sin; that is, he doth not sin in that malignant manner, in which the children of the devil do: he doth not make a trade of sin, nor live in the constant and allowed practice of it. Neither can he thus sin, because his seed remaineth in him; that is either the energy of the word of God whereby he is begotten again to a spiritual life, or the complexion of the graces of the spirit that are as it were the seminary and the seed-plot of glory. Nor he cannot sin, because his seed remaineth in him: this seed remains, and keeps him, that he cannot sin; either as apostates do who totally forsake the ways of God, or as profane persons do, who never embraced them. There is a great difference betwixt regenerate and unregenerate persons, in the very sins that they commit: all, indeed, sin; but a child of God cannot sin; that is, though he doth sin, yet he cannot sin after such a manner as wicked and unregenerate men do: there is a vast difference betwixt them, even in that wherein they do most of all agree: see that place in Deuteronomy 32:5. Their spot is not the spot of his children: even deformities themselves are characteristic: and a true Christian may come to know by his sins, that he is not a sinner. And, as they differ in the committing of sin, so much more in the opposing of it.”—M.].


Thou art wont in other respects to attach importance to the right name and the right word. Well, sin is immorality; what thou callest a slip, an error, an infirmity or a foible, is essentially—immorality.—Be not concerned as much about earthly losses or disgrace before men as about outraging the Divine majesty, which marks the nature of sin even more graphically than the outrage done to thy own soul.—What does it avail thee to be praised of men, even in newspapers, if God regards thee as a transgressor? Remember the case of Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople, who was hateful to the Emperor; the courtiers said: “Burn him, confiscate his property, put him in irons, and have him killed.” But others replied, saying: “You will not gain anything by all this; for in exile he would find a home with his God; you deprive the poor, not him, of property; he kisses his chains; death opens heaven to him. There is only one way to render him unhappy; force him to sin; he fears nothing in the world but sin.”—Dost thou honestly abide the law of the land, especially the fundamental law—then maintain also the law of God’s kingdom, His fundamental law.—The sinner does the very thing which Christ desires to remove: he twines for Him a crown of thorns and crucifies Him anew.—Hold fast the sinlessness and death of Christ. Why was it necessary for the Sinless One to die if not for the sin of men? What is he that does not like the Sinless One and does every thing in his power to put Him out of the way? What is the public opinion which crowned that attempt with success? Of what consequence must sin be, if He had to die by and for it?—He did not come for the sake of the doctrine, which did not take away sin, that the prophet might be praised, but He came for the sake of sin, that the Lamb of God and the High priest might be praised together.—He came to acquire for Himself a people that it might live of and by Him; He came not to receive from it what were its possessions, but to take away from it, what is its grievance and to grant to it His glory.—A Christian, as a Christian, never does sin, he only suffers it.—In and with Christ we lose all pleasure in sin and loathe its service.—Sin dazzles men and prevents their seeing and knowing the glory of Christ.—To overlook the glory of Christ denotes not a low degree of immorality.—The illumination of our spirit is not without the purification of our heart, without the deliverance of our will from the chains of sin.—As sin is ever growing so that thin threads of lust become cords of vanity and cart-ropes of unrighteousness (Is. 1 John 3:18), the small rent of doubt grows into a shipwreck concerning faith (1 Timothy 1:19) and a little spark causes a great fire (James 3:5), so in like manner the forgiveness of sins in justification grows to the annihilation of sin in sanctification, and the regenerate grows into manhood, so that while Ahab, though wholly mail-clad, was mortally wounded in one place, Paul though bitten by a venomous viper, shook off the beast into the fire and remained unhurt.—Christ is the point where men must choose the way that leadeth to the kingdom of darkness, or that which conducts to the kingdom of light.—Man’s way ends in the former kingdom with his belonging to Satan, but it begins in the latter with his regeneration.—Just those who are the devil’s know least of him, deny his existence and personality; those who with God resist him, know his nature and power much better than his servants.—Be not deceived, 1. Concerning the nature of sin; 2. Concerning the glory of Christ; 3. Concerning the activity of Satan; 4. Concerning the power of regeneration.—Fear sin! 1. It breaks the ordinance of God; 2. It is the cause of Christ’s sufferings; 3. It leads to the slavery of Satan; 4. It destroys thy adoption of God.—Child of God, rejoice! 1. God’s law is a sure and straight path; 2. The merit of Christ affords thee a mighty help; 3. The gift of the Spirit will yield thee precious fruit.

Augustine:—The doing of righteousness does not precede but succeed justification.

Starke:—Whatever is contrary to the law of God, whether done inwardly or outwardly, in thought, manner, words or works—is sin.—Let every one diligently study the law of God so that he may learn what is right and wrong and not do ignorantly what might have been avoided.—Sin must be a terrible and horrible thing, because for its sake Christ had to come, to suffer and to die. Every thing is in harmony: begone, sin! there is no room for thee with the redeemed! It is apostasy from the law, the opposite of the Image of Christ, the progeny of Satan, a mark of his slaves.—Thou sayest: I am a sinful man and not a sinful angel! True; but if thou art truly a believing Christian, sin must not reign in thee but thou must reign over sin and not serve sin in any particular.—Not certain, believers are exposed to the danger of being seduced.—Appearance, propriety of conduct, and observance of the externals of worship are not paramount in Christianity, but the heart must be changed and that takes place in regeneration.—It is ill-befitting a Christian to appeal to and boast of his illustrious descent, the distinction of his family and connections; the grace of regeneration, which invests him with the prerogatives of the adoption, truly ennobles him before God and men.—The children of Satan are often unknown, but more to themselves and those like them than to the godly.—The godly also are often hidden, but more from the ungodly than from themselves, for they know very well in virtue of the spirit of adoption both what they have received and what is promised to them.—There is a difference between the children of God and the children of the devil; they may and ought to be identified, but the identification requires a spiritual discernment, otherwise it cannot take place.—Honest preachers must not give evangelical consolation to those who are openly ungodly, though they say that preachers cannot condemn. True; they cannot condemn but they can denounce the damnable condition.

Bengel:—“Iniquitas horribilius quiddam, apud eos præsertim, qui legem et dei voluntatem magni faciunt, sonat, quam peccatum. Ex lege agnitio peccati. Linea curva cernitur per se; sed magis, ad regulam collata.

Steinhofer:—The children of God in whom the divine seed of their eternal life is truly abiding, have really the holy privilege of not being able to sin.

Heubner:—Not the hurtfulness of sin is its nature, for that is accidental, but its opposition to God.—The chief purpose of the manifestation of Christ was the cancelling of sin, the atonement for our sin, and sanctification by means of reconciliation. Hence continuing in sin frustrates the purpose of Christ and contradicts His holiness.—Christianity is not gnosis, but an honest mind and conversation.—Recollect that as long as sinning is thy element, thou art in the devil’s sphere and exposed to his influence.—Take note: 1. That the destruction of the works of the devil is not something that has been done, finished and perfected once for all but is progressive in its nature, advancing to perfection to the end of time. 2. That Christ has laid the foundation by His suffering and death as well as by the establishment of His Church, that incessant warfare may be waged against the kingdom of the devil and that at the last it shall be entirely destroyed. 3. That Christ has enabled all who believe in Him and receive His power to overcome Satan. The power of Satan is broken in believers. The works of the devil are being destroyed in proportion as the Gospel spreads intensively and extensively. 4. That the absolute and total destruction of the kingdom of the devil will take place at the second coming of Christ. Then it will be fully consummated. At present believers are only called upon to make war against Satan.—As the seed does only push forth the fruit it contains, and cannot produce a fruit different in kind, and as it is peculiar to the nature, even to the germinating principle in the seed to produce the right fruit, so it is also with those in whom is laid the seed of God, the Spirit of God; its germinating principle prompts godliness of living. But this does not warrant the assertion of absolute sinlessness.—It is not a physically absolute impossibility, but a moral impossibility; it is impossible to the sanctified will.—The indwelling spirit effects so essential a difference among men, that it seems as if they were wholly different races. But because it is invisible, God causes it to become manifest in its persevering fruit.—How sharply does Holy Scripture distinguish between men; they are either the children of God or the children of the devil; it knows nothing of half-Christians, of an amphibious race; man can only be one or the other.—Be not deceived by this sharp dichotomy, as if it were unkind and uncharitable thus to judge, for it is not taught here that we should thus judge and classify others (for that is the prerogative of God), but that we should judge and range ourselves.

Reinhard:—Christ takes away

1. The deception and fraud of sin—by His doctrine.

2. The punishment of sin—by His death.

3. The dominion of sin—by His Spirit and example.

Besser:—With God every transgression is a crime; the Judge above does not treat sin as a trifle, a peccadillo (peccatilio, a little sin). Every sin and all sin has the character of treason.—True Christians know that the Saviour was manifested as the enemy and atoner of sin, and they agree with Him in heart and mind in pronouncing the same sentence on sin which was passed upon it in His bitter sufferings and painful death. Every one that abides in Christ, to whom he belongs once for all, does not commit sin, but says no to sin, which belongs to the old man, and resists its foreign power. The Christian’s will, his ego resting in and governed by Christ is not one with sin but one with Christ in whom there is no sin. Hatred of sin is the feeling which the children of God have in common, the love of sin the universal dowry of the children of the devil. Just as only those truly love good who know the Good One, so they only hate evil with perfect hatred who hate the Evil One as actively engaged in every evil and abhor sin as the work of the beginner of sin.—The will which worketh sin, is of the devil and not of God. Out of the new, divine life-ground laid in the children of God grows up the pure delight in the good and perfect will of God, and whatever is displeasing to the Father (and sin is unrighteousness and wrong) is equally displeasing to the child.

Tholuck:—Do not trifle with sin. 1. Because our hope is so glorious. Here the blessed rights of children, there the splendour and joys of children; should not he shun sin that hath such a hope? Ingratitude is one of the meanest vices; he that does not experience the necessity of gratitude for benefits received is one of the poorest and most hopeless of men. Christ who burst the chains and shunned no indignity in order to help us, should we not be grateful to Him—by fighting against sin? 2. Because sin is so culpable. Sin, did it only hurt us, we might get over it, but as it hurts God, it becomes a more fearful thing. The true child of God ceases to commit sin and greatly grieves at the presence of any and every sin. [A stanza of a German hymn.—M.] Every, even the smallest sin always hits the nerve of the law, unlike the eye, where the skin only and not the ophthalmic nerve needs to be injured; and the sinful lust is followed by the culpable word and the culpable word by the culpable deed. Misfortune is seldom alone and sin even more seldom. To become free from sin is the life-task of the Christian. He knows of no care greater than that of getting rid of a diseased conscience. Repentance cuts the nerve away from the lust of sin.

Gerok:—(on 1 John 2:28 to 1 John 3:8). Of the paradise of the divine sonship. 1. of the noble state of being a child; 2. of the holy duty of a child; 3. of the blessed children’s right of the children of God.

[1 John 3:7. Burkitt:—The Scriptures speak of doing righteousness in two senses: 1. in a legal sense, which consists in an exact obedience and fulfilling of the law; and thus there is “none righteous, no not one;” 2. in an evangelical sense, which means walking uprightly according to the rules of the Gospel, conscientiously avoiding all known sin, and performing every commanded duty, observing a constant course of holy actions and making it our daily care to please God in all that we do. And it is the duty of every Christian, who would not be deceived as to his spiritual condition, to try himself by this infallible mark: “He that doeth righteousness is righteous;—whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God.”—M.].

[1 John 3:8. Bp. Hall:—He that gives himself over to the commission of sin, and makes it his willing practice, that man is not of God but of the devil: for it is and hath been, the trade of that wicked spirit, even from the beginning, ever since his fall [?], to sin against God, and to draw others into sin and condemnation with him.—M.].

[Secker:—Herein is the plain trial of our condition. If we are destitute of “the fruits of the spirit,” it is bad; if we find them in our hearts and lives, we have proof enough of its being good, and need never disquiet ourselves for want of any other. Being able to tell the very moment when we became pious and virtuous, is not material, provided we are so now; and happiest of all are they, who remember not themselves ever to have been otherwise. All feelings are imaginary and deceitful, unless they be accompanied with that one, which the Apostle experienced and mentioned: “For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity we have had our conversation in the world.” 2 Corinthians 1:12. Our Saviour’s rule of “knowing every tree by its fruits” Luke 6:44, is the only sure way to judge of ourselves as well as of others. And though we may perhaps be sometimes at a loss how to judge, or inclined, and even strongly, to fear the worst; yet if this arise not from presumptuous sins or habitual negligence, but merely from excessive humility or weakness of spirits, a modest diffidence will never hinder our future happiness, nor will a bold positiveness ever forward it. Good men may be cast down and bad men elevated without any reason. The former may see much in themselves to dislike; and yet God may see enough of what He approves to accept them: they may experience little joy in serving Him, and yet “walk” more completely “worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing,” Colossians 1:10, for doing it without the encouragement of a present reward. The latter, on the other hand, may build upon groundless fancies of their own, mistaking them for Divine communications: may be absolutely confident, wonderfully transported, yet find themselves at last fatally deceived. It is not, therefore, by their fears, or their hopes, or their raptures, that men are to judge of their spiritual condition. “Hereby,” saith St. John, “do we know that we know God, if we keep His commandments,”1 John 2:3; 1 John 2:3. “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous; he that committeth sin is of the devil.”—M.]

[Tucker:—As therefore we are well assured, that repentance will re-instate us, and that obedience will continue us, in the Divine favour, according to the gracious terms of the Gospel, so let us likewise remember, that he who wilfully and habitually committeth sin, whatever evidence of his new birth or justification, his adoption or acceptance, he may fancy himself possessed of, is actually no other than the servant of sin and the slave of the devil. In short, virtue and vice, holiness and wickedness, Christ and Belial, can never, never unite together. If therefore we design ourselves to be the candidates for heaven, we must endeavour to acquire such qualifications as will, render us fit for that holy place. Because unless we really acquire them during the present state, the alternative is dreadful indeed: for he who committeth sin is of the devil. How shocking even to repeat; yet much more shocking to feel! to feel not only for a time but forever! Whereas on the contrary, “he who doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous;” righteous he is, because he will have, not only his manifold failings and imperfections all forgiven, through the mercies of the Gospel-covenant, but even his deliberate sins and offences cancelled and blotted out on his sincere repentance: and what is still more than ever could have been thought of, much less petitioned for, he will find himself permitted to appear before God as “holy, unblameable and unreproveable in His sight,” Colossians 1:22.—M.].

[1 John 3:9. Pyle: Whosoever is born of God, etc. As if he had said: In fine, while a man preserves his Christian principle, and answers the character of a true member of God’s Church, he can never be guilty of deliberate and habitual vice. Make it therefore a sure test to whom a man belongs, in whose service he is listed, and from whom he may expect his wages, whether of God or of the devil, by the good or wicked practices of his life, by his behaviour towards God and towards his brethren.—M.].

[Hammond:—The phrase “born of God” is not to be taken here, as to denote the single transient act of regeneration; but rather a continued course, a permanent state, so that a regenerate man and a child of God are of the same meaning, and signify him that lives a pious and godly life and continues to do so. For the phrase “a child” or “a son” of any kind of father, signifies a resemblance or similitude of inclinations and actions; as a child of the devil, Acts 13:10; sons of Belial, Judges 19:22; children of Abraham, Galatians 3:7. And so generally in this Epistle, he that is “born of God,” signifies a man truly pious, an obedient servant of God: and such is the subject of this proposition when of such an one it is said, that “he cannot sin:” not affirming that he cannot cease to be what he is, cannot fall off from the performance of his duty, of the possibility of Which the many warnings and exhortations that are given to pious men are evidences, see 1 John 2:1; 1 Corinthians 10:12; Heb 3:12; 2 Peter 3:17; but that remaining thus, a pious follower, imitator, and so a “child of God,” he cannot yield deliberately to any kind of sin.—M.].

[Whitby:—He cannot sin. Now that doth not import a good man cannot be overtaken with a fault (Galatians 6:1). No, even those “little children” whose “sins are forgiven,” and who have “known the Father,” may and will be obnoxious still to some infirmities and wanderings out of the way. (1 John 2:1). They may “sin not unto death,” and therefore may still have the spiritual life remaining in them (1 John 5:16-18). But the true import of that phrase is this (Ita de Catone Minore Velleius Paterculus: Homo virtuti simillimus, et per omnia ingenio diis quam hominibus proprior, qui nunquam recte fecit ut facere videretur, sed quia aliter, facere non poterat. Hist. R. II. 34. Omnibus humanis vitiis immunis. Ibid.): That he hath such an inward frame of heart, such a disposition of spirit, as renders sin exceeding odious and hateful to him; so that he cannot entertain the thoughts of doing it, or a temptation to commit it, without the utmost detestation and the greatest horror, and so can very rarely, and only through surprise, or want of due deliberation, or through such violent temptations as prevent or hinder his consideration, be obnoxious to sin; and when he comes to consider of such an action, is presently condemning himself for it, bitterly repenting of it, and for the future watching most carefully against it. Cf. Matthew 12:34; Matthew 17:18; John 7:7; John 8:43; John 12:39; John 14:17; Rom 8:7-8; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Revelation 2:2.—M.].

He that committeth sin is of the devil. It is not he who committeth one or more sins of infirmity, for so did Christ’s disciples while they were with Him; nor he who committeth one great sin through the power of a strong temptation, of which he bitterly repents, and from which he returns to his obedience; for thus did David and Peter, who yet were not then the children of the devil; but they who comply with the lusts of Satan and who will do them. John 8:44. The other interpretations which are given of these words seem either vain or impertinent, or false and dangerous, and

1. Vain is that sense which some put on these words: “He that is born of God, non debet peccare, ought not to sin,” or that it is absurd for him to sin; for the Apostle speaks not of what he ought not to do, but of what he doth not. Such is that also of those fathers, who interpret this of him who is perfectly born of God by a παλιγγενεσία, or “a resurrection from the dead,” for the Apostle doth not speak of what he shall do hereafter, but of what he doth not do at present.

2. False seems to be the sense which Origen, Jerome, and Ambrose put upon the words, that “he that is born of God sinneth not, quamdiu renatus est, whilst he is born of God, because he ceaseth to be a child of God when he sins; for this is not only confuted by the examples of David and Peter, whose faith under that great miscarriage failed not (Luke 22:32), but by the words of the Apostle, ‘Little children, if we sin we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous, and He is the Propitiation for our sins’ ” (John 2:1), who yet is only the Advocate for the sons of God. For the same reason I cannot assent to that exposition which saith: “A child of God cannot be guilty of any great or deliberate crime,” as Tertullian, de pudicitiâ c. 19.

3. Dangerous is the exposition of Bernard (In Septuag. Serm. 1), that “they who are born of God sin not, quia etiamsi peccata illis neutiquam imputentur, because their sins will never be imputed to them;” and of those who think it sufficient to say, “He sins not without great reluctancy, or not willingly, the evil that he doeth being that which he would not do;” for the will of that man, who, after some contest in his soul, yields to the commission of sin, is more strongly inclined to sin than to the avoiding of it, and so is not renewed. Nor doth the Apostle say, he that is born of God sins not willingly, or without reluctance; but absolutely, “He doth not commit sin.”

[I conclude with Gataker: “He that is born of God sinneth not,” that is: Vitam a peccato immuneum quantum potest sibi proponit, nec peccato unquam sponte dat operam; si aliquando præter animi propositum deliquerit, non in eodem persistit, sed errore agnito, ad institutum vitæ pristinum quamprimum quantumque potest, festinus revertitur.”—M.].


[1][1 John 3:4 German: “Every one that doeth (the) sin, doeth also (the) lawlessness.”—M.]

[2]ἡ ἁμαρτία A. B. C. G. K. al. Sin. The Article is very strongly supported and syntactically required.

[3][German: “And (the) sin is the lawlessness.”—M.]

1 John 3:5; 1 John 3:5 ἡμῶν, omitted in A. B. Vulg. al., is found in C. G. K. Sin. [Also the reading of Syr. Theophyl. Oecum. Bede, Lachm. Tischend. Buttmann.—M.]

[5][German: “That He (that One) was manifested to take away our sins and sin is not in Him.”

[6][1 John 3:6 German: “Every one that.”—M.]

[7][Same as 6.—M.]

1 John 3:7; 1 John 3:7 παιδία A. C. al. τεκνία B. Sin. [Undecided which is the true reading.—M.]

[9][German: “Let no one seduce you.”—M.]

[10][1 John 3:8 German: “He that doeth sin.”—M.]

[11][German: “For this” (εἰς τοῦτο). No warrant for the additional “purpose” in E. V.—M.]

[12][1 John 3:9 Same as note 6. German: “Every one that is born (out) of God, doeth not sin.”—M.]

[13][German: “Because.”—M.]

[14]Lücke, Rickli, de Wette and Neander.

[15]Didymus: ἀκόλουθον καὶ�.

[16]Oecumenius: ἀνεπίδεκτον ἁμαρτίας τὸν νοῦν ἡμῶν ποιεῖ.

Romans 8:15; Romans 8:15.

1 John 1:8; 1 John 1:8 sqq.

1 John 3:18; 1 John 3:18.

Verses 11-18

4. Brotherly Love is the Sum-Total of the Divine Law

1 John 3:10-18 (10b-18)

10b Whosoever20 doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither21 he that loveth not his 11brother. For22 this is the message23 that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one,24 and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own25 works were evil, and26 his brother’s righteous. 13Marvel not, my brethren,27 if the world hate28 you. We know that we 14have passed from29 death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not 15his brother30 abideth in death. Whosoever31 hateth his brother is a murderer:32 and 16ye know that no murderer13 hath eternal life abiding in him. Hereby perceive33 we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down34 our lives for the brethren. 17But whoso hath this world’s good,35 and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion36 from him,37 how dwelleth the38 18love of God in him? My39 little children, let us not love in word, neither in40 tongue; but in deed and in truth.


The transition. 1 John 3:10 b.

1 John 3:10 b. Every one that doeth not righteousness, is not of God.—Thus the Apostle compresses the one, positive, formally taken and described side of the preceding section and having thus fully, concisely and distinctly recapitulated, he now quickly adds the essential characteristic of that righteousness as the leading theme of what follows, viz.:

And he that loveth not his brother.—Calvin: “Hoc membrum vice expositonis additum est.” It is interesting to compare the progress of thought in this part with that in the first part: this section 1 John 3:10-18 is related to 1 John 2:29; 1 John 3:1-10 like 1 John 2:6-11 to 1 John 1:5 and 1 John 1:6 to 1Jn 2:5; 1 John 2:6-7; 1 John 2:11 : ἡ ἐντολὴ, ὁ λόγος, ἡ� brotherly love, and 1 John 3:11 the ἀγγελία, 1 John 2:7 : ἣν εἴχετε—1 John 3:11 : ἣν ἠκούσατε�̓ ἀρχῆς as in 1 John 3:11; the ὀφείλειν 1 John 2:6; 1 John 3:16; and both times after the example of Christ; respectively disclosing our relation to death and life here (1 John 3:14-15) and to light and darkness there (1 John 2:9-11). But this section draws more on life (Cain and Abel 1 John 3:12, poverty and benevolence 1 John 3:17-18) and reaches more into life.

Πᾶς ὁ ποιῶν δικαιοσύνην refers back to 1Jn 2:29; 1 John 3:7, but the omission of the Article renders the idea more general and indicates the leading thought with the self-evident reference to God and Christ. Thus ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ εἶναι denotes here both to be born of God and to be the child of God. Καὶ before ὁ μὴ� is epexegetical, and explains δικαιοσύνη as ἀγάπη; hence it is neither=proinde (Episcopius) nor adds a new particular, something different (Rickli, Socinus, who defines ἀγάπη as Christian virtue excelling Jewish legality); nor is ἀγάπη a part or moment of δικαιοσύνη (Bengel, Spener, Neander, Gerlach), but its “substance and nature” (Huther,41 also Düsterdieck). Cf. Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:14; Col 3:14; 1 Timothy 1:5; John 13:34 sq.; John 14:15; John 15:12; John 15:17. “Brotherly love is the sum-total of all right-doing” (Besser), love is the fulfilling of the law. Ἀλλήλους, in the Johannean passages like ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ here, denotes brotherly love, the love which Christians have for one another; so also in the corresponding sections 1 John 2:9-11; 1 John 4:20-21. Ἀδελφὸς is consequently not=πλησίον Luke 10:36 (Ebrard, who sees here a contradiction to Matthew 5:44; 1 Corinthians 4:12, but without sufficient reason; Rickli and others).

The commandment of Christ, 1 John 3:11.

1 John 3:11. Because this is the message which ye have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.—He that loves the brother must be (out) of God, and brotherly love is the deed of righteousness, because the commandment is from Him. Ἀγγελία is here=ἐντολὴ 1 John 2:7. Bengel’s remark is only half true: “liberalissima appellatio, nunquam legem appellat;” ἐντολὴ occurs often, but νόμος never. But the message implies the commandment as indicated by ἵνα. The reading ἐπαγγελία, promise, cannot be sustained without a forced interpretation: it is the goodness, power and grace of God that we should love one another. The commandment of brotherly love has been given from the beginning, since the Gospel has been preached, since you have been Christians; it is and remains indissolubly united with the Gospel and Christianity; ἠκούσατε�̓ ἀρχῆς applies to the first and to all Christians. Ἵνα denotes the purpose, the work to be done and not only the substance or contents of the ἀγγελία (Huther), for the reference is not only to the substance of a commandment, but to a commandment specified by means of the message, which lies in the message given as a task, a work to be done.

The opposite in Cain. 1 John 3:12-13.

1 John 3:12. Not, as Cain was of the wicked one and slew his brother.—The sentence is imperfect like John 6:58, and is a breviloquentia, of frequent and diversified occurrence in the classics; cf. Winer, p. 646, who cites in a note a parallel sentence from Demosthenes (Mid. p. 415). The comparison is left incomplete, as in animated conversation when there is no room for misunderstanding; there is nothing to be supplied; the reader or hearer knows from the context what is meant. In the present case: Not, as Cain was of the wicked one and slew his brother, (shall it or may it be so with us). [See note 5 in Apparat. Crit.—M.]. Hence it is neither an independent exclamation (Sander); nor need we supply ὦμεν ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ (Grotius, Lücke), nor ὃς (Beza, Socinus), nor sitis or the like.—Ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ refers back to 1 John 3:8 as contrasted with ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ 1 John 3:10 b. Hence the reference is to the wicked one. The sentence specifies the reason of that action, even as 1 John 3:8. ποιεῖν τὴν ἁμαρτίαν and ὁ διάβολος ἁμαρτάνελ are correlates. [The wild notion of the Rabbis concerning the diabolical nature of Cain may be interesting to the student (Zohar in Genes, Genesis 4:1): “Rabbi Eeazar dixit: Cum projecisset serpens ille immunditiem suam in Evam, eaque illam suscepisset, remque cum Adam habuisset, peperit duos filios, unum ex latere illo immundo et unum ex latere Adami; fuitque Cain similis imagine superiorum h. e. angelorum et Abel imagine inferiorum h. e. hominum, ac propterea diversæ fue-runt viæ istius ab illius viis. Equidem Cain fuit filius spiritus immundi, qui est serpens malus; Abel vero fuit filius Adami; et propterea quod venit de parte angeli mortis, ideo interfecit fratrem suum.”--M.]. The verb σφάζειν denotes cultro jugulum aperire ut sanguis effluat, then to kill, in sacrifice, as the martyrs were slain by the ungodly. Revelation 5:6; Revelation 6:4; Revelation 6:9; Revelation 18:24. Hence the word does not warrant the inference that the knife was the instrument of the murder (Piscator), but rather denotes that the death of Abel was martyrdom inflicted by an ungodly hand, or finely intimates that Cain, in his hatred, offered a sacrifice to his God, the devil. The next clause, at all events gives prominence to the diabolical character of Cain’s deed, the eager question “And wherefore slew he him?” being promptly answered thus: “Because his works were wicked, but his brother’s righteous. Τὰ ἕργα αὐτοῦ πονηρὰ ἧν answers to ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ ἦν, and denotes Cain’s whole manner of life” (Spener), of which the murder of his brother was one form of expression, his whole manner of life as well as this specific exhibition of it being identical as to cause and origin—namely the devil. For if the wicked one had not influenced Cain’s whole manner of life and if that had not been wholly wicked, he would not and could not have committed this specific act of fratricide. The term πονηρὸς, as distinguished from κακός is very significant. πονηρὸς, from πονεῖν or πόνος, denotes toil or hardship (and is opposed to χρηστός, good, honest, useful, friendly, serviceable) and then malignity, malignus; κακός, bad, malus, is the opposite of ἀγαθός, good and valuable. Revelation 16:2; Sir 31:4; Matthew 7:11; Matthew 12:35; Matthew 5:11; Luke 12:35; 3 John 1:10. The inwardly evil nature is κακόν, that which is inimical, hurtful and displeasing to others is πονηρόν. Ὁ πονηρὸς is the most suitable term to describe the nature of Satan, the enemy of God, His kingdom and His people, as well as the works of the devil’s children. The additional clause τὰ δὲ τοῦ� the context requires us to refer to ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ εἶναι, as pointing out that the piety and the walk of the children of God exactly answering to the law of God are loathsome to the anti-divine world. That devilishness continues still John 3:19; John 7:7; John 17:14. Hence the monition:

1 John 3:13. Marvel not, brethren, if the world hateth you.—The same idea is already expressed in 1 John 3:1 (διὰ τοῦτο) Cain is the type of the; κόσμος 1 John 2:15-17). “Magis esset mirabile, si diligerent eos.” (Didymus). The address ἀδελφοὶ in this connection exerts a beneficial influence: John expresses his love of those whom the world hates and this expression contains a ground of their rejoicing and conveys to them the sweet consolation of the fellowship of love. The particle εἰ is and remains=if; if it had been the Apostle’s object to describe the hatred of the world as actually present, he might have used ὅτι; but he signifies by εἰ that the readers collectively or individuals at the time being, will not in the end have to endure hatred; but the Indicative μισεῖ denotes that the case will doubtless arise. So Mark 15:44 (Vulgate falsely: si jam odisset); Acts 26:8; Winer, Grammar p. 307; Kühner, 2:480 sq. Hence Sander, who makes εἰ=ὅτι, S. Schmidt who makes it=etiamsi, and Ebrard who explains=if ever the case occurs, are in the wrong, for the reference is to a necessary condition. [“Εἰ denotes neither a doubt nor only a possibility, for it is not only possible but from the nature of the case necessary, that the world hates the children of God; only the form of the sentence is hypothetical, not the thought it expresses. Cf. John 15:18.” Huther.—M.].

Amplification of the Antitheses: Love and Life, Hatred and Death; 1 John 3:14-15.

1 John 3:14. We Know.—In ἡμεῖς John includes himself among those he had just called ἀδελφοὶ and expresses their confident assurance, the world and its hatred notwithstanding, which is and ought to be a source of strength and consolation. The object affirmed in the sequel shows that the reference is to the experience of believers, of the children of God, and not to the Apostles only, (Lyra) or that it is only the conclusion drawn on the ground of a good conscience, (Estius).

That we have passed over out of Death into Life.—The Prefect μεταβεβήκαμεν signifies an action of the past or the past of an action still continuing in the present, in the condition that has been effected: we are those who have passed over, Winer, Grammar, p. 288, 299. The Perfect must not be taken per enallagen, for the Future (Schlichting) or the Present (Didymus, Oecumenius), or the verb must not be construed =jus or spem habere ad vitam (Grotius, Carpzov). Cf. John 5:24 : ὁ πιστεύων—μετεβέβηκεν ἐκ τοῦ θανάτου εἰς τὴν ζωὴν. Of course ἐκ τοῦ θανάτου εἰς τὴν ζωὴν cannot be taken physically but spiritually, but it must be taken as a real fact; it is=γεγεννῆσθαι ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ, 1 John 2:29 : for ἡ ζωὴ is the real life, divine, eternal life (1 John 1:1-2; 1 John 2:17; 1 John 2:25),=the φῶς and the ἀλήθεια (1 John 1:5; 1 John 2:21-22) of which the children of God are partakers; the θάνατος is the opposite of this life,=the σκοτία and the ψεῦδος, all of which belong to the ἐκ τοῦ διαβόλου. The Apostle, therefore, does not speak of a sentiment (Paulus) or caligo, infelicitas moralis (Semler), but of relations and conditions, of regeneration, of the new life of the reconciled child of God. This implies that those who have, not yet passed over, are still or will be ἐν τῷ θανάτῳ before this transition into life in Christ; hence there is not the faintest colour for the assertion of Hilgenfeld, that the Apostle did share the gnostic view of the original metaphysical difference of men.

Because we love the brethren.—From this conduct we may know that relation, from these acts of brotherly love that state of adoption by God. Hence the former is the first and this the second and it is false to consider brotherly love as the cause of regeneration or even as a part of justification in order to complete it, and as conditio gratiose a Deo requisita, as do the R. Catholics (Estius, Lyra) and the Pelagians (Episcopius). Brotherly love is only the condition of the certainty of the knowledge that we are justified and the children of God, and not the condition of this new life itself. [ζωή and ἀγάπη are really one and the same thing with this difference that ζωή is the state and ἀγάπη the activity of the believer; from this blissful, eternal life groweth love, and love in its turn worketh happiness and eternal life; hence the Apostle adds—(Huther)—M].

He that loveth not, abideth in death.—As usual (1 John 1:8, sqq., 1 John 2:22, sqq.), the negative is added in a concise, pregnant form. [See note 11 in Appar. Critic.—M]. The statement is quite general “he that loveth not,” without specifying the object, viz. the brother. The force of the Present μένει should be retained. To be in death is connected, as something permanent, with not loving. They are one in the other, yet not so that the not loving is the cause of the abiding in death, but, as is manifest from the context, so that we may know the abiding in death from the not loving. [The two are identical. Besser, “Where hatred is there is death, where love is there is life; yes, love is life itself.”—M.].

1 John 3:15. Every one that hateth his brother is a man-killer.—Πᾶς denotes the universal application of this thought. Not loving is described as equal to hating one’s brother. [Not to love=to hate.—M.]; “pure indifference is impossible to the living spirit of man” (Huther). Luther rightly observes: Nova sententia coram mundo, quod non diligere sit occidere.” Bengel: “Omne odium est conatus contra vitam; at vita vitam non insectatur; qui odit fratrem, aut ilium autse ipsum vult occidere.” Lyra (odisse pejus quam non diligere.”), Schlichting (“Qui non amat, nec bene vult nec male; qui vero odit, male vult ”); and others are wrong. Not loving is only the state of quiescence exhibited in acts of hatred. According to our Lord’s exposition of the fifth commandment (Matthew 5:21-26) he is an ἀνθρωποκτόνος that hateth his brother. “Nam quem odimus, vellemus periisse” (Calvin); hatred is not only a beginning or cause of murder, but a murder in heart, be it a wish, a thought or a purpose or only the passion which afflicts the brother’s life without thinking of his death. “Latro es, antequam inquines manum” (Seneca). Here is evidently a reference to Cain, 1 John 5:12; the case of Cain shows plainly how hatred of one’s brother and homicide go together. The word ἀνθρωποκτόνος, only here and John 8:44, in this place applies to Cain who slew Abel, his brother, in the Gospel to Satan who destroyed, murdered Adam. Notwithstanding this difference, the two passages are connected with each other, the one shedding light on the other. Cf. Lange on John 8:44; Vol. IV. p. 244 sq.—The devil, having seduced Eve, and Adam through her to sin, to the transgression of the divine law of which death was the penalty fixed by God.—Sin causing mortality is itself a kind of dying, the fall or falling into death [German: The fall of sin, i.e. the fall, a fall of death.—M], and sin, born of lust, when it is finished, bringeth forth death (James 1:15); the first sin was a falling from the life created (out) of God into death threatened as a punishment. Thus Satan became the murderer of Adam and Eve in the strictest sense of the word (Wis 1:11-13; Wis 2:23-24). With the entrance of sin, moreover, there died in Eve the love of her husband whom she had seduced, and in Adam the love of his wife whom he accused to God and on whom he laid the guilt. There hatred and death are again together. In Cain also there was the hatred of his brother united with the murder of his brother, whereby he showed that he was ἐκ τοῦ διαβόλου. Cf. Stier, Reden Jesu, Vol. I 3:414 sqq.

And ye know that no man-killer hath eternal life abiding in him.—This concludes the thought: μὴ� 1 John 3:10 b led the Apostle to speak of μὴ� 1 John 3:14, then of μισῶν τὸν� 1 John 3:15 and in remembrance of Cain of ἀνθρωποκτόνος; he first said οὐκ ἔστιν ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ 1 John 3:10 b μένει ἐν θάνατῳ, but here οὐχ ἕχει ζωὴν αἰώνιον ἐν αὐτῷ μένουσαν. Before he said, he is in death, but now, in him is not eternal life, consequently death is in him. The Apostle denies that he “possesses permanently and fully” (Lücke) eternal life and thus denotes the “permanent state of death” (Düsterdieck) of him that hates and kills his brother. The Present ἄξει has respect to this present life; it is not habebit (a Lapide). Hence ζωὴ αἰώνιος not the future glory (a Lapide, Bede and others). Μένουσαν certainly intimates the existence of eternal life, of baptism, etc., out of or in the word of God by means of Christian instruction and the Christian family-discipline; for the Apostle speaks of and to Christians. But even such gifts of God are consumed by hatred abiding; hence he loses entirely the possession of eternal life, so that nothing thereof abideth in him; μένουσαν is therefore not an intensified to be (Huther), nor must the want of the Article be pressed as if the reference were only to powers of the future world (Ebrard). This the Apostle lays down as an undeniable fact of Christian experience and consciousness (οἴδατε); hence they know it not from the fifth commandment (S. Schmidt) or from the Old Testament with its death-penalty in the case of murderers, spiritually interpreted (Grotius, Lücke).

Description of brotherly love, 1 John 3:16-18.

1 John 3:16. Hereby have we known love that He laid down His life for us.—S. Schmidt: “Ne quis vel se ipsum decipiat, vel ab aliis decipiatur, exponendum etiam erit, quæe sit vera et Christiana caritas.” First after the example of Christ. On ἐν τούτῳ cf. on 1 John 2:3; on ἐκεῖνος, 1 John 3:3; 1Jn 3:7; 1 John 2:6; ἐγνώκαμεν = cognitum habemus. Τὴν� should be taken in a general sense without any further qualification: love.—Bengel: “Amoris natura.” In Christ may be known love, the being and nature of love. Hence we must not supply τοῦ Χριστοῦ (Carpzov and others), or τοῦ θεοῦ (Grotius, Calov, Spener, al.); the Vulgate (amorem Dei) constrains the Romanists to do so. Ebrard’s explanation is rather forced: “we have known love as consisting in this,” as if we had ἐν τούτῳ οὖσαν, and this were described in the following ὅτι as the predicate and as if ἐγνώκαμεν had only an introductory and secondary sense. Both the form (the position of the words) and the thought (to give His life = love) render that exposition untenable. The point is that whereby love is known: τὴν ψυχὴν τιθέναι (John 15:13; cf. John 10:11; cf. John 10:15; cf. John 10:17-18; John 13:37-38)=vitam ponere (Cicero ad Fam. 9:24); this is the highest proof of love; for love imparts her very best, her most precious goods, παραδοῦναι the ψυχή or ἑαυτόν (Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:2); this makes Christ the object of the Father’s love (John 10:17). The context required here ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν, for our protection; literally over us, who had fallen, were wounded, in danger, of perishing from our wounds or in the hands of enemies, fighting against the enemies, protecting us, becoming our substitute and assuming the fight for us: hence it is not exactly identical with ἀντὶ, and yet the two prepositions touch each other in thought “in indissoluble correlation” (Düsterdieck) cf. 1 John 2:2.

And we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.—From the act of Christ’s love for us springs a duty towards our brethren, incumbent on us (ὀφείλομεν); the thought is similar to 1 John 2:3; 1 John 2:6. The example of Christ must not be without corresponding works on our part (1 John 3:3; 1 John 3:7). The essential union of believers to Christ must exhibit itself in the real moulding of their life after the pattern of Christ, in the use of the imparted gifts and the solution of the task assigned to us by the bestowal of that gift. Cf. John 13:34; John 15:12-13; John 21:18-19; Romans 16:3-4.

1 John 3:17. But whoso has the world’s goods (sustenance of life).

By the adversative δὲ “John denotes the progress from the greater, which is justly insisted upon, to the less, the non-performance of which, therefore, appears as a correspondingly greater violation of the rule just laid down.” (Düsterdieck), Ὅς δ̓ ἂν makes the sentence quite general. The proverb quoted by Grotius: “βίος βίου δεόμενος οὐκ ἔστι βίος” gives the double sense of life, and the necessaries of life, or the means of sustaining life. Cf. Mark 12:44 (Luke 21:4); Luke 8:45; Luke 15:30. Col. 5:12. Beza: “res mundanæ,” “des biens de ce monde.” The Genitive τοῦ κόσμου simply points to the sphere to which the βίος belongs, and, according to 1 John 2:17, denotes the profane and worthless character of these goods, as contrasted with the eternal love and the eternal life in Christ. Βίος τοῦ κόσμου is the antithesis of ζωὴ αἰώνοις; the Christian shares the latter with Christ, the former with the world. The reference is not to uncommon wealth, but rather to any kind of property (ἕχῃ, emphatically in anteposition), though it be in limited circumstances, a mere mite, or bread and potatoes. He that hath the means to give and

Seeth his brother have need.—θεωρεῖ pictorially describes the attitude and activity of the spectator; it is not a hasty look, but permanent looking on and into it (Matthew 27:35; Mark 15:40; Mark 15:47; Mark 12:41; Luke 21:6; Luke 23:35; John 2:23; John 6:19; John 6:62; John 7:3; John 9:8; John 10:12; John 14:17; John 16:10; John 16:16); he has it before him like a picture which he contemplates with calmness and attention, τὸν�. On the expression and the thought cf. Ephesians 4:28; Mark 2:25.Acts 2:45; Acts 4:35; Acts 20:34; Acts 28:10; Philippians 4:6. [He beholds the brother’s need with unmoved eye—M.].

And shutteth up his bowels [inwards] from Him.—After the analogy of the Hebrew רַחֲמִים, σπλάγχνα is =καρδία, Proverbs 12:10 and very often in the New Testament. Bengel: “Cum visceribus clauditur vel aperitur res familiaris. Aspectus miserorum corda spectatorum illico pulsat vel etiam aperit.” The heart ought to open itself in compassion and sympathy and move and open the hand to communicate; but it is under the aggravating circumstances of his having the means and beholding his brother’s need that he shutteth up his heart and turns away from him (ἀπ̓ αὐτοῦ). The same pregnancy of thought occurs at 1 John 2:28. A similar use of κρύπτειν� may be seen at Luke 19:42; John 12:36 b. Hence we need neither supply ἀποστρεφόμενος (Carpzov), nor ἀπὸ̀=coram (Socinus). [This was the case of Dives. He saw Lazarus flung at his gate, Lazarus desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table, but he desired in vain; Dives saw him lie in misery; the dogs had pity and sympathized with the poor man, but Dives, who fared sumptuously every day, looked with unpitying eye on his brother’s distress; he saw in him a beggar, not a brother. See Augustine, Serm. 178, c. 3, and Massillon’s beautiful Lent Sermon on this subject.—M.]—The negative is emphatically expressed with an implied paracletical inference in the interrogative sentence:

How abideth the love of God in him?—A similar construction may be seen 1 John 4:20; John 3:12; John 5:47. The substance of the question answers to 1 John 3:15 : οὐκ ἔχει ζωὴν αἰώνιον ἐν αὐτῷ μένουσαν, where eternal life not abiding and even not being in him is inferred from the non-existence of brotherly love, while here the non-existence of the love of God is inferred from the same premises. Ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ is our love to God and indicates the motion of eternal life to its fountain, as in 1 John 2:5. This love to God does not abide, where it does not become operative and preserve its vitality in the active exhibition of brotherly love. Hence it is neither God’s love to us (Calov), nor the love prescribed by God (Socinus, Grotius), nor the love which answers to that of God and Christ (S. Schmidt).

Final exhortation, 1 John 3:18.

1 John 3:18. Little children, let us not love [German: that we do not love] in word, nor with the tongue, but in deed and in truth.—The affecting address, τέκνια, denotes at once the geniality and zeal of John; his earnestness is brought out in the rapid, hortatory, all-embracing expression: μὴ�. The four substantives occur in pairs and as correlates. First: λόγῳ and τῇ γλώσσῃ to describe false love; then: ἐν τῷ ἔργῳ and (ἐν) ἀληθείᾳ. It is important to note that the first pair in the Dative indicates only the means by which love is or becomes operative, while the preposition ἐν which by the copula καὶ belongs also to ἀληθείᾳ denotes the element wherein it moves (John 4:24). The first pair simply denotes the outwardness of a love which only makes use of words and the tongue, while the contrast indicates that it is destitute of deed and truth, that it is of real activity and inward heartiness which are the characteristics of true love. The Apostle accordingly annexes to λόγος, the word, which possibly might announce or accompany the deed, the emphatic μηδὲ τῇ γλώσσῃ, the Article serving the purpose “of rendering the expression more conspicuous” (Lücke); the tongue, “as the member appointed to utter the word” (Huther); so that love is not simply the word which might flow from the heart and be the instrument of its application, but stops with the tongue, the means and sole instrument of the word which does not proceed from the heart. Therefore λόγῳ is contrasted with ἐν ἔργῳ and τῇ γλώσσῃ with ἐν�—Ἔργον and λόγος frequently connected together, as in Luke 24:19; Acts 7:22; sometimes λόγος and δύναμις (1 Corinthians 4:19-20), or λόγος and δύναμις καὶ πνεῦμα ἅγιον καὶ πληροφορία (1 Thessalonians 1:5) are placed in opposition. Bengel: “Sermone otioso, lingua simulante.” Lyra says excellently: “Verbo, facto nihil; lingua fallaci; hic amor non solum, fictitius et nanus, sed etidm proditorius.” Τῇ γλώσσῃ denotes “the hollow nothingness,” “the purely outward babble which without inward truth produces only a hypocritical show” (Düsterdieck). Hence we need not supply μόνον to λόγῳ (Bede, Socinus, Sander and others); and Grotius is also wrong who chiastically [i e. crosswise—M.] opposes: λόγῳ and ἀληθεία, γλώσσῃ ἔργῳ, thus: “Verbo amat qui prædicat a se diligi proximum, non autem vere diligit; lingua diligit qui egenti dat bona verba.” Nor is Huther right, who takes τῇ γλώσσῃ and ἀληθείᾳ as epexegetical additions without introducing a difference to λόγῳ and ἕργῳ respectively, as if the two words of each member expressed only one idea [He says, to express the idea mathematically, that λόγῳ: γλώσσῃ=ἐν ἕργῳ: (ἐν) ἀληθείᾳ.—M. Compare ἀγαπᾷν ἐν� 2 John 1:1; 3 John 1:1, and James 2:15-16.


1. All the doings (ποιεῖν τὴν δικαιοσύνην 1 John 3:10 b, ἔργα δίκαια and ἔργα πονηρὰ 1 John 3:12) and all the dispositions (ἀγαπῶν 1 John 3:10 b and 1 John 3:14, ὁ μισῶν 1 John 3:15) of men points to a deeper ground, a fellowship with God or with Satan which is not discernible per se, neither to others nor to the respective persons themselves, but discernible by their disposition and doing.

2. The grossest transgression, e.g. the fratricide of Cain, is never alone, but exhibits itself as one of many, as one of a greater complex of manifold transgressions and plainly indicates, that matters must be bad in other respects, because otherwise this would not have happened (1 John 3:12).

3. Like attracts like, unlike repels unlike: love and antipathy are reciprocal. The Christian need not be surprised that the world from which he has separated himself, has turned away and remains alienated from him, dislikes and hates him; it is just so with himself, with this difference, that the world hates to persecute and destroy, whereas the Christian strives to improve and to overcome.
4. Before it can be said: μεταβεβήκαμεν ἐκ τοῦ θανάτου (1 John 3:14), we are ἐν τῷ θανάτῳ, ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ. Consequently:

1. Before such a stepping forth has taken place and without it, no one is a child of God.
2. Such stepping forth is indispensable in the case of any and every one who desires to become a child of God.
3. It is possible to all who are called to become the children of God.
4. The children of God and the children of the world are perfectly alike in kind and nature before the difference connected with such transition sets in.
5. Consider that those who are not yet brethren, may and shall become brethren as well as thou.—Indeed, it is not said here how it comes to pass, but it is plainly stated and may be seen at John 5:24, a passage to which the Apostle unmistakably refers here, and from which may be inferred what is said here and well expressed by Scholiast II.: τὸν λόγον αὐτοῦ δεξάμενοι, of course ἐν πίστει. But we must not by any means say with the Roman Catholics that although faith produces the beginning of our justification before God, yet the love to God and to our neighbour increases the same. This love is simply the sign and mark of recognition that our justification has taken place, that we are justified. Augustine accordingly says very correctly: “Redeat unus quisque ad cor suum; si ibi invenerit caritatem fraternam, securus sit—jam in dextera est.”

5. The principle affirmed at 1 John 3:16 as a duty (ὁφείλομεν) with reference to the example of Christ that we also should lay down our lives, is a general one. We must not regard it with the Roman Catholics as a counsel (consilium), but view and observe it with Evangelical Christians as a precept (præceptum). It applies not only to priests or saints, but to all Christians: “Ministri verbi non debent fugere in periculo pestis” (Luther); neither physicians in case of a pestilence, nor parents and brothers and sisters, nor the government in seasons of insurrection, nor soldiers in war, in the fight, before a battle, nor a mother when she has to nurse her child, nor a man when duty calls. This saying, moreover, must not be treated casuistically after the manner of Socinus, who thinks a Christian ought to die for a non-Christian if thereby his soul may be saved, or if the preservation of a brother is more necessary to the common weal than his own; or after that of Ammon (Sittenlehre 3, 24 sq.) be set aside, who thinks it right that in common danger of shipwreck, fire or self-defence, men are justified to kill others if they cannot save their own life in any other way. Düsterdieck rightly observes: “Concrete directions respecting the practical application of the principle can only be given in the connection of a complete system of Ethics in which especially the duties of Christian self-preservation and the virtues of Christian prudence and simplicity as well as those of Christian self-denial and Christian courage must be exhibited not as limitations, but as sacred ordinances of the fully valid evangelical principle as described by St. John.” As St. Paul says 1 Corinthians 3:22 : πάντα ὑμῶν ἐστιν—εἴτε ζωὴ εἴτε θάνατος and at Philippians 1:21 calls: τὸ�, so the giving up of one’s own life in the calling and for the love of Christ is an άποθανεῖν τῷ κυρίῳ (Romans 14:8). Cf. Matthew 10:39; Matthew 16:25.—

6. The duty of beneficence is universal; it relates as much to the rich as to the poor; it is immaterial whether a man has much or little of the βίος τοῦ κόσμου. The having much or little determines the giving with or without self-denial, with or without deprivation, consequently the giving with ease or with difficulty. But nothing is said here on that head or on the situation of the necessitous, his greater or lesser need, which may be very extraordinary; nor is any thing said of the worthiness or unworthiness of the necessitous. But the remark of Luther has a very important bearing on the care of our parochial poor; he says: “Vult nos de nostro largiri; non de alieno aut communi, sicut stulti Anabaptistæ faciunt, qui tollunt proprietatem rerum, sine qua non possunt respublicæ consistere.” Private charity, even personal charity, is here distinctly referred to. In this connection it must be supposed as ranged under the fifth commandment.—Its opposite is Stoicism which includes also compassion among the passions to be left off: σοὶ μὴ ὀργὴν εἶναι, μὴ μῆνιν, μὴ φθόνον, μὴ ἔλεον.

7. We must not think lightly of the word and its instrument, the tongue. But as the mouth-work of hypocrisy is hateful to the Lord (Matthew 6:5), so the mouth-work of brotherly love is equally hateful to John, since neither the word nor the tongue is in the service of the love of the heart and speaks or is spoken separate from the heart and contrary to the life in the heart. The friendly utterance of the mouth must and ought to be in the case of Christians the friendly utterance of the heart. Otherwise it is only a μόρφωσις τῆς εὐσεβείας without the δύναμις (2 Timothy 3:5). For the contrary see, Matthew 12:34-35; Romans 10:8-10.

8. These concrete particulars of the laying down of our lives, of communicating the sustenance of life and of the love to our brother in deed and in truth plainly and pathetically indicate that regeneration and adoption by God, (1 John 2:29) if it is a reality, penetrates, as the central life-power the whole periphery of life, so that we read not only of a εὐσέβεια but of εὐσέβειαι, 2 Peter 3:11 and even of the θεοσέβεια δἰ ἔργων� (1 Timothy 2:10). For the diversity of good works induced by the faith of the heart makes it evident to others that the Christian sonship is not a show, but power and truth; his conduct towards the brethren reveals his relation to God the Father and this relation produces such conduct.

[The Apostle’s declaration that every one that hateth his brother is a murderer or man-killer embodies the well known ethical principle that the moral quality of an action does not belong to the outward act, nor to the conception of it, nor to the resolution to carry it into effect, but to the intention. Hatred in St. John’s view, is murder committed in intention, and he that cherishes hatred towards his brother stands convicted of murder before God and at the bar of his own conscience.—M.]


The twofold piety of a child of God; 1. Obedience to the Father; 2. Love of the brethren.—Like the elder brother thou mightest stay with the Father and work in His field, be envious of and take offence at the friendly reception accorded to the younger son by the Father in the parable of the prodigal (Luke 16:0). Cain was the elder brother. This applies primarily to the servants of the Church but it applies also to many others. Cain did not hate Abel because of his herds, for he had his fair fields; or because of his parent’s love, for he was his mother’s pride; or because of personal beauty or any outward, temporal good; but he hated him because of his piety, on account of the favour he found before God.—Cain [קיִן a lance a spear, a weapon.—M.], called by Eve in feminine rashness her weapon, and in maternal vanity favoured and spoiled by her, made his offering of anything he found without any particular discrimination as to its quality, while Abel, disregarded and neglected, carefully selected the best of the best and presented it as an offering to his God.—Thou art able to take the life of thy brother’s body but in doing so thou forfeitest thy own immortal life; thou becomest a man-killer in respect of thy brother’s body, but in respect of thyself, a suicide, even a suicide of thy soul; depriving thy brother of his bodily, earthly life, thou deprivest thyself of thy spiritual, eternal life.—Three difficult questions: 1. Canst thou hate those whom God loves? 2. Darest thou shorten or waste the term of grace which God accords? 3. Wilt thou cast from thee the gift of God in thee, eternal life?—Threefold exhibition of brotherly love: 1. Laying down one’s life for the brethren at duty’s call. 2. Communication of one’s possessions to the needy brethren. 3. Friendly and sincere readiness to oblige and aid the brethren.—Three things thou hast for the benefit of others: Body and life, goods and property, hand and heart.

Epistle to Diognetus [cap. 6]:—As the soul is in the body, so are Christians in the world. The soul dwells in the body but is not of the body; so Christians also dwell in the world, but are not of the world. The invisible soul is, as it were, keeping guard in the visible body; this is the mark of Christians as long as they remain in the world: their piety is invisible. The flesh hates and wars against the soul, which (the soul) is, however, by no means wronged [ἀδικομμένη=affecta injuria.—M.] by it because it (the soul) forbids the indulgence of the lusts of the flesh; so the world hates the Christians, although they by no means wrong it but only resist the lusts of the world. The soul loves the flesh and the members which hate it; so also Christians love their enemies. [Cf. Matthew 5:44.—M.]

Basilius:—Because the devil’s hatred cannot reach God, he seeks to hurt and destroy man, the image of God.

Augustine:—The Christian lives, but, as it were, in winter; the root is alive but the boughs look dry; the living pith and marrow is within, and within are hidden the leaves and the fruits—but they wait for summer.

Ambrose:—“Nemo dicat proprium, quod commune est; esurientium panis est, quem tu detines; nudorum indumentum est, quod tu recludis.”

Luther:—The world is a den of murderers, subject to the devil. Would we live on earth we ought to be satisfied with being guests therein and putting up at an inn whose host is a roguish host, whose house bears the sign and title over the door: “Murder and lie.” For Christ Himself did affix such a sign and title to his house right over the door by saying that He is a murderer and a liar. A murderer to destroy the body; a liar to seduce the soul.

Starke:—Because God is Love and loves those who are born of Him, therefore love of the brethren is also the mark of the regenerate.—Art thou tempted with the thought that thou art without the grace of God, without the adoption, without salvation: be of good courage! If thou really and heartily lovest the godly, yea even the wicked and thy foes, thou mayest be quite sure that all these blessings are thy own.—Good Christian, whenever thou readest and hearest some portion of Divine truth, consider well the purpose of God in announcing it and shape thy course accordingly.—Contrary dispositions are not uncommon among actual brothers; the one may be good, the other bad, the one may be saved, the other damned.—The power of Satan over those children is so great that he changes even natural love into hatred.—Mad features of the ungodly! they cannot bear that the works of others are good—why? What is it that envy will not do? They also do not like it because it puts them to shame and sometimes becomes the means of their punishment.—Happy state of believers as contrasted with that of unbelievers! The former truly live, the latter are dead though their body is alive. We mourn for the dead—how much more ought we to mourn for the ungodly, for they are spiritually dead, before they die, and if they die, they fall into eternal death.—God has not only connected the hand but also the mouth and the heart with the fifth commandment.—Hatred is not a trifling sin of infirmity compatible with a man’s continuing in a state of grace, but so great a sin as to entail the loss of eternal life, which is irrecoverably lost while hatred lasts. He that hates is a double murderer, he wants to hurt others and deprives himself of eternal life.—To have had life does not render us blessed; but he is blessed with whom eternal life abides.—It is one thing to have this world’s goods and another to covet them: the one is the blessing of God, the other covetousness.—Poverty is no disgrace: a man may be poor and yet be the child of God, the brother of Christ and of good Christians.—Doing good to the poor is not only incumbent upon the rich, possessed of great abundance, but to every one who has this world’s goods and is able to communicate; even as every one has to work, also for this purpose, that he may have something to give to the poor.—Love is blind in not having respect to the person of the poor, whether it be known or unknown, strange or native; but it is not blind in taking cognizance of the need it is to relieve.—Do not always wait for a poor brother’s application, begging, supplication and appeal to thy love; many are ashamed to disclose their need; but if thou knowest thy brother’s case, show pity unasked and joyfully.—If unable to do anything else, thou canst love with the tongue by words of good counsel and consolation; but see that thy heart be with thy tongue.—The greatness of a benefaction does not determine its worth before God, nor does its smallness lessen it; a great benefaction without sincere love is small, even nothing before God; but a small benefaction prompted by sincere and hearty love is great in God’s sight.

Neander: As Cain hated and slew Abel in consequence of the contrast between a godly and an ungodly disposition, so the world hates and slays the children of God in consequence of the same contrariety of disposition. Hence the world and the children of God are ever at war like love and selfishness. Hence Christians need not be surprised, if the world hates them. This is to them the stamp of the divine life, the possession of which renders them the opposite of the world.

Heubner. Being without love makes men like Cain, whose kind is not extinct. The mind of Cain is to destroy the hated children of God;

literary murder also belongs to this head. As to its secret, inmost tendency, all hatred aims at murder.—The duplicity of mankind was prefigured in the case of Cain and Abel; this dichotomy runs through the whole Bible. Cain is the prototype of the evil and unloving, Abel the prototype of Christ.—A Christian Nil admirari, Psalms 37:0. Hatred and enmity is that which disquiets, vexes, excites and disconcerts the natural man most. But the Christian is bidden not even to be surprised at it! He knows the world, is aware of what he has to expect of it, he is at peace with God, lives a life of introversion, is so well rooted and grounded in God, so abundantly satisfied with the grace of God, that the world’s hatred does not disturb him. God is his fortress: but he must not leave that fortress.—Where the hatred of the world has not yet fully developed, there is most surely a want of decided Christianity.—Love displays its most glorious beauty under the world’s hatred. The Christian loves while the world has no idea of the existence of his love.—Formerly this world was extra-Christian, but now there is a world on the soil of the Christian Church. Is it offensive, hostile, presumptuous to speak of this difference? then it is the fault of the Bible, of Jesus Christ. We ought to hold up a mirror to all: you are either this or that. But it would be presumption to refer individuals to the class to which they belong, for this is the prerogative of God.—Death is the state of insensibility and impotence with respect to whatever is good and godly, the conscience is blunted and without receptivity, the heart is dead without any emotion, or interest in religion. Life is activity, emotion, a sense for, an impulse to and ability for the holy, a work after the will of God, a state of holiness, of a walk well-pleasing to God. Brotherly love is mentioned as a criterion, as a test of life.—Think of hatred as the root and beginning of murder. Often a bitter grief is to others more deadly and vitally injurious than a gross bodily injury.—Distinguish between that which passes with men and that which passes with God.—Never make room for secret anger: or life, the Holy Ghost will depart from thee.—The unloving thinks more highly of lifeless, worthless metal than of the living man created in the image of God.—What can you accomplish with the metal? Refresh the weary, comfort their hearts and dry their tears! Then you transmute stones into bread, earthly treasures into heavenly.—The word is only the shadow of the deed and by no means an equivalent of love or gratitude. (Themistius).

Besser:—Where hatred is, there is death: where love is, there is life; yea, love itself is the life.—Thus Luther showed that he was willing to lay down his life for the brethren when in the year 1527 he stayed at Wittenberg with those who were stricken with the plague. So the ancient historian Eusebius narrates how a pestilence at Alexandria brought out the difference between the Christians and the pagans. So Hans Egede laid down his life when for the sake of the poor Greenlanders he exchanged his comfortable parish for hunger and cold, for unspeakable toil and sufferings; and the coast of Africa, also, lined with grave-hills with the seed of the negroes proclaims the love which is stronger than death. Would that it might be said of the Christians of our time what Tacitus said of the Christians, viz.: that they are as inflexible concerning their faith, as they are ready in the exhibition of mercy.—How can he live on God’s compassionating love in whom no compassionating love does live?

On the Epistle for the second Sunday after Trinity, 1 John 3:15-18.

Heubner, during the siege of Wittenberg, in 1813, preached on the hatred of the world to which Christians are exposed, and said, notwithstanding the presence of the French garrison, when he came to speak of deserved hatred: the hatred is deserved, which visits the tyrant who sacrifices thousands and the welfare of thousands to his lust of rule.

The Christian under the hatred of the world.

1. How dignified is his demeanour in bearing it a. with calmness, composure and patience (1 John 3:13); b. with the consciousness of his innocence, his love, as known to God (1 John 3:14); c. with the hope of being one day justified (1 John 3:2); 2. how holily he uses it: a. as a warning against all the motions of hatred (1 John 3:15); b. as a challenge to become more like Christ in love (1 John 3:16); c. as an instrument to reconcile the world to himself by love (1 John 3:17-18).

Motives of comfort for Christians under the world’s hatred. 1. (1 John 3:13). They are unknown and misunderstood; 2. (1 John 3:14); they become conscious of their life; 3. (1 John 3:15); they are encouraged to fight against all unlovingness; 4. (1 John 3:16); they resemble Christ; 5. (1 John 3:17); become more and more assured of the love of God; 6. (1 John 3:18); they hope to gain their enemies over.

The mind of the Christian and of the world opposed to each other in love and hatred. 1. To hate is natural to the world, to love to the Christian (1 John 3:13-14); 2. Hatred destroys, love sacrifices the life (1 John 3:15-16); 3. The world shuts up, the Christian opens the heart (1 John 3:18).

Whither do we come if the spirit of love leaves us? 1. Answer: we come from the fellowship of the saints to the fellowship of the world (1 John 3:13), from the life of God to spiritual death (1 John 3:14), to vice and shame (1 John 3:15), to forfeiting our salvation and the fruits of the death of Christ (1 John 3:16).—2. Application: learn the worth of true love (1 John 3:16), fight against every motion of unlovingness (1 John 3:17), practise love in deed and in truth (1 John 3:18).

The strong warnings given to Christians against an unloving mind.—Love appears most beautiful under the world’s hatred.—Love, a sign of life.—It is only by love that a Christian can know whether he is a child of God or regenerate. 1. The truth. 2. The laying to heart being reminded of this truth.

F. A. Wolf:—The Apostolical refutation of the principal errors prevailing on the subject of Christian love: 1. The fate of love, 2. The reign of love, 3. The value of love, 4. The origin of love.

Caspari:—Of the nature of true love: 1. Its consolation, 2. Its powers, 3. Its purity.

Kapff:—How necessary true brotherly love Isaiah , 1. As a test of our spiritual life; 2. As a condition (?) of eternal life.—The Law and the Testimony: Of Brotherly Love. I. Motives. 1. The contrast of Cain; 2. Marks of discipleship and regeneration; 3. The passing away and perdition of the hater. II. Marks. 1. Laying down one’s life; 2. Communication of one’s goods; 3. Love in deed.

The true life in love and certain death in hatred: 1. The ground, fruit and nature of the true life; 2. Certain death in hatred of the brethren, as to ground and nature.

Brotherly love. 1. Who are our brethren? 2. How do we love the brethren? 3. What moves us to such love?

How operative is the love which flows from the living knowledge of the sacrificing love of Christ! 1. It takes us from death to life; beloved of God in Christ, we love. 2. It alone is able to bear the hatred of the world without ceasing to love (Matthew 5:39-42). 3. It is not only love in words and with the tongue, but in deed and in truth.

We know that we are born of God, for, 1. The world hates us; 2. We love the brethren; 3. We hate hatred, but not the hater; 4. We lay down our life for the brethren.

A heart-test of what spirit we are (Luke 9:55-56; Jeremiah 8:6). 1. For the satisfaction of the righteous who in their love grieve over the world’s hatred; 2. For the terror of the ungodly who hate their neighbour without fear or anxiety; 3. for the awakening of the hypocrites who love their neighbour only in appearance.—Questions of Confession.

[Ignatius:—(ad Smyrm, 6.): “Observe those who are heterodox with regard to the grace of Christ, how contrary they are to the mind of God. They have no regard for love,—περὶ�—they do not care for the widow, or the orphan, or the hungry or the thirsty.”—M.].

[Wordsworth: (on 1 John 3:16).—“And we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren;” a remarkable saying on the duty of Christian martyrdom. It was probably suggested by the seductive tenets of the false teachers (αἱ πλανῶντες mentioned 1 John 2:26; 1 John 3:7), who courted popularity in times of persecution; by alleging that provided a man had knowledge of the doctrines of Christianity as delivered by them, and adopted their theories, it was not necessary for him to expose himself to any danger in the maintenance of the faith, much less to endure martyrdom and to lay down his life for the brethren: but that he might freely associate with the heathen in their worship, and eat things offered to idols. This was particularly the doctrine of the Simonians (Origen c. Cels. VI. p. 282; Euseb. II. 13), and of the Nicolaitans (Revelation 2:15. Irenæus I. 23) and of the Cerinthians (Philastr. hær. c. 36).—Tertullian wrote his book called Scorpiace against these notions and he refers to this passage in proof of the duty of martyrdom, c. 12.—M.].

[Macknight: (1 John 3:14-15):—According to the Apostle in this place, the surest mark, by which we can know our actual state, is to consider whether we possess that characteristic disposition towards our brethren, which the Christian religion enjoins. The high encomiums, passed in this and the following verse on love to mankind, are not to be so understood, as if no virtue but benevolence were necessary to complete the Christian character. The virtues have all such a connection with each other, that they cannot subsist separately. And therefore, if one really loves his brethren, he will not only be charitable to the poor, but he will be just in his dealings, true to his promises, faithful in all the trusts committed unto him. In short, he will carefully abstain from injuring his neighbour in any respect, and will perform every duty he owes to him, from a sincere principle of piety towards God, whereby his whole conduct will be rendered uniformly virtuous.—M.].

[Secker:—If we do a person no harm, yet if we wish him harm, St. John has here determined the case, “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer.” For indeed, hatred not only leads to murder, and too often, when indulged, produces it unexpectedly; but it is always, though perhaps for the most part in a lower degree, the very spirit of murder in the heart; and it is by our hearts that God will judge us.—M.].

[Clarke: (on 1 John 3:15).—This text has been quoted to prove, that no murderer can be saved. This is not said in the text; and there have been many instances of persons who have been guilty of murder, having had deep and genuine repentance; and who, doubtless, found mercy from His hands who prayed for His murderers, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” It is, however, an awful text for the consideration of those who shed human blood on frivolous pretences; or in those wars which have their origin in the worst passions of the human heart.

(On 1 John 3:17).—Here is a test of this love: if we do not divide our bread with the hungry, we certainly would not lay down our life for him. Whatever love we may pretend to mankind, if we are not charitable and benevolent, we give the lie to our profession. If we have not bowels of compassion, we have not the love of God in us: if we shut up our bowels against the poor, we shut Christ out of our hearts and ourselves out of heaven.

(On 1 John 3:18). There is a good saying in Yalcut Rubeni, p. 145, 4. on this point: “If love consisted in word only, then love ceaseth as soon as the word is pronounced. Such was the love between Balak and Balaam. But, if love consists not in word, it cannot be dissolved; such was the love of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the jest of the patriarchs which were before them.”—M.].

[Trower: (on 1 John 3:17).—“What a picture is here brought before us, of a Christian possessed of this world’s good, and seeing his brother have need; yet turning away his eyes, and hardening his heart against the claims of charity, shutting up his bowels of compassion from him! How unlike Him who, though He was rich, yet for our sake became poor, that we through His poverty might be rich. May we learn more and more that whatever share we enjoy of “this world’s good,” is intrusted to us as stewards for God; and that all pretence of possessing Christian love is vain, unless we minister freely to the necessities of our brethren what we have so freely received. Hereby alone can we know that we are of the truth, and can assure our hearts before Him.”—M.].

[Stanhope:—The good we would do, but cannot, shall be rewarded; and the evil, which we are disposed to do, though not actually done, shall be punished. Hence, if a man keep malice, though but in his heart, if he wish or rejoice at the misery or harm of his brother, this man is, in the eye of God, and of the Gospel dispensation, a murderer.—If some sudden change befalls my neighbour’s fortunes, the diminution of his honour or estate, the blemishing his credit and reputation, and I feel a secret pleasure in such calamities, can it be charity that ties up my tongue from bitterness or slander, or my hands from invasion and cruelty? No, certainly.—He that triumphs in mischief and doth not act it himself; he that is fond of and cherisheth a scandal, but forbears to raise or spread it; it is not religion, but some other consideration, by which even this man is restrained. But alas! how few are there, in comparison, who think themselves bound to stop here! How few who, while they hold their hands from action, make no scruple to give their tongues a liberty of speaking “all words that may do hurt,” and so contribute to the disgrace and grief of their injured and afflicted brother! and if they, with these sharp razors, wound and mangle a bleeding reputation, would not the same malice unsheath their sword and thrust it into his bowels, if their own safety, the fear of human laws, or some other prudential consideration, did not bind their hands, which leaves their tongues and thoughts at liberty? For, were religion, were the fear and love of God, their check, they would prevent the very beginnings of malice. This tells us that we must be compassionate and kind; that we must do to every man whatsover we would that he should do unto us; that but to meditate or delight in evil is a sin, and that no instance of goodness should be wanting which the circumstances of any brother render seasonable for him to receive, and ours have put in our power to give; that a design of making him uneasy is not one whit less murderous and guilty, because not prosecuted in tenderness to one’s self, and not to be effected with impunity. Thus God interprets it, and by this rule He will proceed with us; for He declares Himself a trier of the heart, and that in our last great reckoning, “every secret thing shall be brought into judgment.”—M.].


[20][1 John 3:10 b. πᾶς ὁ=“ Every one that.” So German.—M.]

[21][καὶ=“And.” So German, and most foreign versions.—M.]

[22][1 John 3:11. ὅτι=“Because.” So German.—M.]

[23] ἀγγελία A. B. G. K.; ἐπαγγελία C. Sin. and a few, unimportant Codd.—The context admits the sense “promise” only on the artificial interpretation that it is a gift and a happiness to love.

[24][1 John 3:12. οὐ καθὼς Κάϊν ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ ἦν. German: “Not as Cain was of the wicked one.”—Lücke: “Some supply after οὐ: ἀγαπῶμεν, others ποιῶμεν and the like. But in the first case there arises an irony unsuitable in this connection; and in both cases a second supplement becomes necessary, to wit, of ὅς after Κάϊν, which, as. the omission of the relative pronoun is in classic as well as in N. T. Greek without example, could hardly be justified. Much simpler is it with Grotius to complete the sentence thus: οὐκ ὦμεν ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ, καθὼς Κάϊν ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ ἦν.” Winer: “Properly, there is nothing to be supplied (ὦμεν or ποιῶμεν would not suit οὐ), but, the comparison being negligently expressed, the reader easily adjusts the clauses for himself: that we love one another, not as Cain was of the wicked one, etc., shall it or may it be so with us.” For further authorities see Lillie.—M.]

[25][German: “Because his works were wicked, but his brother’s righteous.” It is difficult to determine the right reading, whether it is αὐτοῦ, αὑτοῦ or ἑαυτοῦ (B.) Most probably αὑτοῦ.—The correspondence between Κάϊν ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ ἦν and τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ πονηρὰ ἦν should by all means be brought out.—M.]

[26][δὲ=“but,” not “and,” as E. V.—M.]

[27][1 John 3:13. German: “Marvel not, brethren,” agreeing with Sin. G. K. Rec. al. in omitting μου.—M.]

[28][μισεῖ. German, Wiclif. al. retain the Indicative mood.—M.]

[29][1 John 3:14. German: “We have passed out of death into life.”—M.]

[30]Ἀγαπῶν without τὸν�, A. B. Sin.; with it C. G, K., although less authentic, and rather inserted than omitted. [German: omits the words, and renders: “He that loveth not abideth in death.”—M.

[31][1 John 3:15. πᾶς ὁ=Every one.—M.]

[32][ἀνθρωποκτόνος; German: “man-murderer,” but better to render, “man-killer” (Lillie following Rhemish vers. at John 8:44), which is free from the extenuating force suggested by the technical use of such words as “homicide” or “man-slaughter.”—M.]

[33][1 John 3:16. German: “Hereby have we known.”—M.]

[34]θεῖναι A. B. C. Sin. al., decidedly preferable to τιθέναι G. K. al.

[35][1 John 3:17. German: “Life-sustenance.” Goods might be used in that sense.—M.]

[36][German: “His inwards;” but “bowels” without the supplement “compassion” should by all means be retained.—M.]

[37]ἀπ̓ αὐτοῦ A. B. C. Sin.; the words are omitted only by several unimportant Codd.

[38][German: “Abideth.”—M.]

[39]μου after τεκνία occurs in Rec. after G. K., but is wanting in the best Codd.—M.

[40]The Article τῇ before γλώσση is wanting in Rec. Sin., but found in A. B. C. G. K. and most of the Codd. verss. and editions. [German: “with the tongue.”—M.]; ἐν, omitted by K., is found in almost all the authoritative Codd., including Sin.

[41]Huther in a note [2d ed. p. 163] replies to the objection of Ebrard and Myrberg that this could only apply to our love of God and not to our love of the brethren, that in John’s opinion Christian love of the brethren is identical with the love of God, because the Christian loves his brother as one born of God. He suggests also that ἀγάπη might be better denned as the “essential exhibition” of δικαιοσύνη—M.].

Verses 19-24

5. The Glorious Consequences of our Adoption by God

1 John 3:19-24

19And42 hereby we know43 that we are of the truth44, and shall assure45 our hearts before 20him. For46 if our heart condemn us47, God48 is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. 21Beloved, if our heart condemn us not49, then have50 we confidence toward God. 22And whatsoever we ask51, we receive of52 him, because we keep53 his commandments, and do those54 things that are pleasing in his sight. 23And this is his commandment, That we should55 56 believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. 24And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth57 in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by58 the Spirit which he hath given us.


Transition and first consequence: the assurance of being of the truth.

1 John 3:19 a.—And hereby we shall know that we are of the truth.—The connection is by the copula καὶ; the Future γνωσόμεθα is occasioned by the hortatory form of 1 John 3:18 : μὴ�, the sense being: “If we love ἐν ἔργῳ καὶ�, we shall know thereby that etc.” (Huther); the object of our knowing, ὅτι ἐκ τῆς�, is defined by what is said in 1 John 3:18. Thus close is the connection of the Apostle’s argument with the preceding section in which he treated of obedience to the commandments of God and more particularly of brotherly love (1 John 3:10-18). Ἐν τούτῳ refers to what precedes, as in 1 John 2:5 b, and not to what follows as in 1 John 2:3.—1 John 3:19 is plainly connected with 1 John 3:18, not with 1 John 3:10 (Rickli, de Wette), or 1 John 3:14 (Lucke). The Future has here the same sense as in John 7:17; John 3:31-32; John 13:35. denoting the possibility of a case which may justly be expected to arise. Winer, Grammar, p. 294, sq.—Ἐκ� requires to be interpreted like ἐκ θεοῦ εἶναι, τέκνον θεοῦ εἶναι both on account of the force of the preposition ἐκ which signifies principium vel ortum, and of the pregnant sense which John attaches to the word ἀληθεία. It is the truth eternal, originating in and springing from God revealed in Christ, testified to by the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of truth, the real substance of the Gospel, and designed to be expressed in the life of believers; it comes nearest to the idea of φῶς, and we ought therefore to compare the term: υἱοὶ φωτός (John 12:36). Cf. John 18:37.—It is not covered by ἐκ θεοῦ εἶναι, but should be combined with it. The truth (out) of God is the nature of those who love the brethren and a well of life in them.—Hence we must not explain with Bede: “ex veritate quæ Deus est” (so also Calvin, Rickli and others), or with Calov: “ex verbo veritatis” (so also Spener, Bengel, Lücke, de Wette), and still less understand with Jachmann “the true religion,” or with Nösselt: “doctrina divina,” or with Semler: “perfectior vita.” These definitions do not explain the idea ἀληθεία. Nor must we weaken the force of the preposition ’εκ and explain with Oecumenius: “ἀληθεύειν,” or with a Lapide: “veracem esse, veraciter ambulare,” or with Socinus: “vere talem esse, ut quis se esse se profitetur,” or with Grotius: “congruere evangelio.”

Second consequence: An assured heart before God, 1 John 3:19 b. 1 John 3:20.

1 John 3:19 b. And we shall persuade our hearts before Him.—Πείθειν either to convince or to persuade; the object καρδίας ἡμῶν points to a difference within the personality, qualified by καταγινώσκῃ and hence perceptible. It is an ethico-religious difference: the accusation and condemnation of our heart against our own person. The Apostle designates by καρδία the inmost seat of the emotions (John 14:1; John 14:27; John 16:6; John 16:22), the source of our actions (John 13:2), and here also the judge within; συνείδησις in John, occurs only in the spurious passage John 8:9, but is frequently used by Paul (Romans 2:15; Romans 9:1; Romans 13:5; 1 Corinthians 8:7; 2 Corinthians 5:11; Acts 24:16) and also at 1 Peter 3:16; 1 Peter 3:21; Hebrews 13:18. Origen cites 1 John 3:21, plainly either as: “ἐὰν μὴ ἡ συνείδησις καταγινώσκῃ ἡμῶν,” or as “ἐὰν ᾑ συνείδησις ἡμῶν μὴ καταγινώσκῃ.” The Greeks take καρδία simply for συνείδησις. Although καρδία is more comprehensive than συνείδησις, yet the latter is contained in the former, viz., conscience is in the heart, which we must conceive to be disquieted and excited by and with the conscience. The connection requires us to construe πείθειν aimed at the point “ut desistant condemnare” (Bengel), as at Matthew 28:14 : πείσομεν αὐτὸν, i.e., the ἡγεμόνα and ἀμερίμνους ποιήσομεν the soldiers on guard who had fled on the morning of the resurrection. According to the context and conformably to usage πείθειν denotes a pacifying persuasion. The antithesis 1 John 3:21 : ἐὰν μὴ καταγινώσκῃ—παῤῥησίαν ἔχομεν likewise makes ἐὰν καταγινώσκῃ—πείσομεν denote to pacify, to quiet as the effect of persuasion. Hence Fritsche’s explanation: “flectemus animosad amorem ostendendum,” is false and wholly repugnant to the context. The reference however is not to the last judgment when the final decision and separation will take place, but rather to the inward transactions, which though prophetical of the last judgment, precede the same during this our earthly life. Accordingly, ἔμπροσθεν αὐτοῦ is not coram illo in the last judgment and πείσομεν relates not to eternity (as Socinus, Lücke, de Wette construe), but only coram illo, in His presence, in His light. As the accusing heart on the ground of the Divine word, and in virtue of the impulse of and the fellowship with the Holy Spirit is disquieted, and the voice of God is heard in the conscience, so the heart must be quieted before God, on the ground and in virtue of His word and promise and in the fellowship with Him, so that the following words: “μείζων ἐστὶν ὁ θεὸς καὶ γινώσκει πάντα; explain ἔμπροσθεν αὐτοῦ; imaginings of our own spirit and worldly diversions do not promote such quieting. Compare Düsterdieck. Hence we should construe the Future πείσομεν in coördination with γνωσόμεθα and so connected with καὶ that it is also governed by ἐν τούτῳ, although the latter connected zeugmatically with γνωσόμεθα denotes thereat, with πείσομεν, thereby; this is the more practicable, because ἐκ τῆς� intervenes and completes ἐν� and γνωσόμεθα introduces πείσομεν. It is therefore wrong to begin a new sentence with ἔμπροσθεν (Paulus, Fritzsche, Ebrard).

1 John 3:20. Because, if the heart condemn us, because God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.—The reading ὅτι ἐὰν—ὅτι μείζων is so well established that neither a conjecture like that of Stephanus, who proposes to read ἔτι μείζων, nor the cancelling of the second ὅτι, as done by Grotius, warrants us to lessen or remove the difficulties which are also rather contained in the thought. We have now the reason specified that we shall quiet our hearts before Him in case our heart should condemn us and find a verdict against us. Hence ἐὰν with the Subjunctive is perfectly right. Winer, Grammar, pp. 307, 308.—“Καταγινώσκειν stands midway between κατηγορεῖν, to accuse (Romans 2:15), which is still accompanied by an ἀπολογεῖν (Romans 2:15), and κατακρίνειν, to sentence [in a bad sense—M], condemn (John 8:10 sq.); the latter includes the judicial punishment (John 8:10; Colossians 4:0), while καταγινώσκειν denotes only the verdict found against a person accused to be followed by the punishment corresponding thereto. Cf. Deuteronomy 25:1-2. The term is therefore very significant with respect to the verdict found by our own soul against ourself, which is more than the mere accusation, because the καταγινώσκειν implies also the guilt of the person accused, so that the condemnation to the punishment, the κατακρίνειν, may justly be expected” (Düsterdieck). In the heart there is not only a party, but also a judge; the conscience is a court of justice. Hence it denotes here not only reprehendere or accuse (Vulgate, Augustine, Lücke, al.). Why the heart finds a verdict against us the context indicates “in a relative play on the words” γνωσόμεθα—καταγινώσκῃ, exactly like John 15:2. (Düsterdieck). Consequently [it finds the verdict against us—M.] that we are not wholly of the truth, that we do not perfectly, gladly and uninterruptedly love the brethren; for these are correlates of extraordinary difference in degree up to perfection. The explanation of the Greek commentators, who think of 1 John 3:18, and that of Düsterdieck, who connects it with 1 John 5:19, should be combined against those of Luther and Nösselt, who think of every defect except that of brotherly love; but every other defect would also show itself with respect to brotherly love, and render it deficient. Of course, the reference cannot be to a complete relapse, to a knowingly and grossly repeated case of untruthfulness in love or of unlovingness, since the lying words of love would have no corresponding deed (Estius, Episcopius, Lücke, al.) though we may and should think not only of lesser but also of graver offences, seeing that the conscience of Christians is sufficiently tender and acute to find an adverse verdict also with respect to lesser defects of love. The repetition of ὅτι before ἐὰν and μείζων is not peculiar to this passage but occurs also at Ephesians 2:11-12. Lücke cites an example from Xenophon, Anab. 7, 4, 5 and 5, 6,19 remarking, however, that while ὅτι in both places signifies that, it denotes here “because.” The reason of the epanalepsis is not the forgetfulness of the author, but the importance of the thought which allows and requires such a rhetorical emphasis. Lücke admits the epanalepsis without hesitation, Winer, (Grammar p. 604, note 3,) is undecided, Huther hesitates and decides against it, the older and many modern commentators (Calvin, Wolf, Sander, Düsterdieck) are for it. There is hence no reason to read with Bengel, Baumgarten-Crusius, Lachmann, ed. maj. and others ὅταν or ὅ τι ἐὰν=quicquid like ὃ ἐὰν in 1 John 3:22 instead of ὅτι. It cannot be maintained with Düsterdieck that this is not Greek, and from the circumstance that ὃς ἐὰν or even ὅστις ἐὰν never occcurs in the New Testament without the variant reading ἂν, while ὅστις ἂν frequently occurs without a variant reading, it cannot be inferred that ὅ τι ἐὰν cannot be read here. Cf. Winer, Grammar, p. 322, sq.—Matthew 8:19 ὅπου ἐὰν occurs without the variant reading ἂν, and ὅστις ἐὰν is as well authenticated as ὃς ἐὰν. But on that account it is only possible to read here ὅ τι ἐὰν which is occasioned by the reading ἂν in A; καταγινώσκειν, which may have its object in the Accusative, also allows that reading. But the context forbids it; for it is hardly true that we can quiet our heart at every accusation, and the reason of such quieting to be connected with πείσομεν is too much separated, while the putting and assumption of the case, as stated in 1 John 3:20, and required at 1 John 3:21, in which the heart stands in need of such quieting, is all but wiped out.—The main difficulty is, that in the circumstance of God being greater and knowing all things must be found, and that it really contains, a quieting of the heart under its accusations.—The word μείζων is of frequent occurrence in the writings of John; in a similar connection at 1 John 4:4; 1 John 5:9; in other connections, particularly at John 4:12; John 5:36; John 8:53; John 10:29; John 13:16; John 14:28; John 15:20. The context invariably supplies the sense in which it is used; here the sentence καὶ γινώσκει πάντα furnishes the necessary explanation; He γινώσκει, while the heart καταγινώσκει. “Dulce paregmenon in Græco” (Bengel). God is here called greater in comparison with our heart; the heart accuses: it is not that He accuses more than our heart, but that He judges differently, more justly than our heart; for He knoweth all things which our heart does not perceive, know or observe in giving sentence. Πάντα of course points into the heart itself and to the immediate surroundings; what is that? The context answers that question: 1 John 3:2 : οὔπω φανερώθη τί ἐσόμεθα, 1 John 3:9 : σπέρμα αὐτοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ μένει, we do not altogether know ourselves, we have only the beginnings and germs of the life from Him; Christ, His life, His bearing and taking away sin (1 John 3:5-6), His destroying the works of the devil (1 John 3:8), objectively completed, but subjectively to be gradually completed from a life-principle of the regeneration (1 John 2:29), and moreover passing through man’s own weakness and sin (1 John 3:3 : ἁγνίζει ἑαυτὸν), and through the hatred of the world (1 John 3:13 : μισεῖ ὑμᾶς ὁ κόσμος). God knows the whole (πάντα) of the new life of man even to the ὅμοιοι αὐτῷ εσόμεθα (1 John 3:2), while man knows only the particular, the particular error of which the heart accuses him; God knows the power of His gift to man and its preservation in penitence, its growth and development both in the hope and the faith in him. Therefore God is greater and knoweth all things; therefore, this greatness of the God who is our Father is a ground of quieting when the heart accuses us, and in its vitality and tenderness finds a verdict against us. So Besser: “Our heart knows some things and pronounces against us: God knows all things and pronounces not against us, but for us, because the seed of the truth out of which we are born, is not concealed to Him.” He knows, as Sander says, even the smallest spark of faith in the glimmering wick, or even the hidden germs of true love (Rickli). “Conscientia pusilla est et scit aliquid nostri duntaxat, at Deus magnus est, novit omnia nostra, præsentia, præterita, futura, et omnium, et habet jus voluntatemque condonandi” (Bengel).—Hence this verse is, sensu evangelico, to be understood of the love which forgives and destroys sin (Luther, Spener, Bengel, Besser, Düsterdieck, Huther and others), and not sensu legali, of judging righteousness and omniscience (Calvin, Beza, Socinus, Grotius, Calov, Lücke, Neander, Ebrard and others). Ebrard begins a new sentence and explains thus: And before the face of God we shall convince our heart, mind, conscience, not the understanding, that if (already) our (easily deceived smaller) heart accuses us (that we do not practise love), God, the Omniscient, is greater than our heart (and that we so much the less can stand before Him, have παῤῥησία).—Nor must we construe: For, if the heart accuses us, because God is greater than our heart, He also knoweth all things; so de Wette sensu legali, Brückner sensu evangelico. Rather the importance of the thought justifies the epanalepsis of the ὅτι.

Third consequence. Filial confidence. 1 John 3:21-22.

1 John 3:21. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not.—Ἀγαπητοί as in 1 John 2:7; 1 John 3:2; 1 John 4:1; 1 John 4:7; 1 John 4:11 is here connected with the enjoyment of the forgiving love of God in order to bring out a new and other feature. The recurrence of the words ἡ καρδία καταγινώσκῃ ἡμῶν indicates the connection with the foregoing (although, as Bengel maintains, καρδία, 1 John 3:20, καταγινώσκῃ has the emphasis), in the same sense, in order to mark a particular case (ἐὰν with conjunct.), which is sure to arise, and only the negative μὴ marks the antithesis; the word used is μή and not μηκέτι, which would make the supposed case the consequence of what goes before (as Huther supposes). A similar construction occurs at 1 John 1:8-9.

We have confidence towards God.—The words παῤπ̔ησίαν πρὸς τὸν θεὸν ἔχομεν denote the state of the peace of the soul and of undisturbed confidence to God-ward which is opposed to that described before by πείθειν τὰς καρδίας ἡμῶν, like at Romans 8:15. The παῤῥησία 1 John 2:28; 1 John 4:17 is indeed the child-like free confidence before the Father in the time of judgment; the reference here also is to a judgment, in the court of the conscience, in one’s own heart, but not to the future and final judgment. Hence Estius explains falsely: fiducia evadendæ damnationis in die judicii. But the limitation of παῤῥησία to confident prayer and supplication is neither warranted by the word itself (2 Corinthians 7:4), the context, nor the construction with πρός, which simply indicates the direction and relation as in Romans 5:1 : εἰρήνην—πρὸς τὸν θεόν, nor by the parallel-passage at 1 John 5:14. Here it denotes joyful confidence to God-ward at every moment of life (Rickli, Düsterdieck and others), but not fiducia in nostris necessitatibus recurrendi ad ipsum (Lyra), or the girdle or mendicant’s bag of all manner of necessaries (Luther), fiducia in rogando (Bengel). [Alford: “To God-ward, in our aspect as turned towards and looking to God.—It must be remembered that the words are said in the full light of the reality of the Christian State,—where the heart is awakened and enlightened, and the testimony of the Spirit is active: where the heart’s own deceit does not come into consideration as a disturbing element.”—M.]. But hereby it is not denied that the specific, yea the most significant feature of this filial confidence (Düsterdieck) is, what follows—

1 John 3:22. And whatsoever we may (perchance, German: etwa) ask, we receive from Him.—The conjunction καὶ connects a particular already contained in παῤῥησία like καὶ in 1 John 3:10 b (Düsterdieck). Ὃ ἐὰν αἰτῶμεν is to be taken quite generally and to be limited only by the subject asking, namely the child of God and his wants (Düsterdieck, Huther). [The latter beautifully adds: “The child of God asks for nothing which is contrary to the will of his Father”—M.]. The same holds good of λαμβάνομεν�’ αὐτοῦ (θεοῦ). The Present must not be taken for the Future (Grotius); it rather denotes the present, constant intercourse between the child of God with his God. Cf. John 14:13; John 16:24. Augustine: “Caritas ipsa novit, caritas ipsa orat, contra hanc aures claudere non novit, qui illam dedit; securus esto, caritas roget, et ibi sunt aures dei; non fit, quod vis, sed fit, quod tibi expedit.”

Because we keep His commandments and do the things which are pleasing in His sight.—Here is evidently a parallelism: ἐντολὰς—τηρεῖν and τὰ�, so that the two together constitute one idea. At John 8:29, τὰ� occurs in a connection similar to the present. Besides this also in Acts 6:2; Acts 12:3.—The term εὐαρεστός of frequent occurrence in the Pauline writings (Romans 12:1; Romans 14:18; 2 Corinthians 5:9; Ephesians 5:10; Philippians 4:18), with the Dative τῷ θεῷ or τῷ κυρίῳ is used Colossians 3:20 of the fourth commandment, and the parallel passage Ephesians 6:1, has δίκαιον. Cf. 1. Tim. 1John 1 John 5:4 : ἀπόδεκτον ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ. Hence we must also connect τὰ� with the commandments. But while the first clause of the parallel sentence specifies the commandments, the second clause marks that which is pleasing in His sight and the kind of obedience, because God requires not a slavish service, but filial obedience, and that an active one (ποιοῦμεν). Hence we must not explain with the Roman Catholic expositors ἐντολαὶ of præcepta and ἀρεστὰ of consilia evangelica. The greater difficulty is the right construction of the connection with ὅτι, which indicates the reason why our prayers are heard. But the ground is not necessarily causa meritoria as the Greek writers think who assume an ἀντιδιδόναι on the part of God; and the Roman Catholics and the Rationalists of course agree with them. The context, especially with respect to 1 John 2:29; 1 John 3:6; 1 John 3:9; 1 John 3:23-24, shows that while prominence is given to their conduct the reference is to the relation in which they stand, or with the description of their activity to the ground on which they move. The relation between God and themselves which conditions and regulates their conduct is the cause why their prayers are heard, because their conduct conditioned by that relation also regulates their prayers according to the will of God (κατὰ τὸ θέλημα αὐτοῦ 1 John 5:14); the prayers as they are made, so they are heard, because we are the children of God. The expression of Hunnius, that the particle ὅτι is not causalis but rationativa, is beside the mark, although the idea is correct. Cf. Düsterdieck. [Huther has multum in parvo: “ὅτι in close connection with the immediately preceding λαμβάνομεν indicates the ground of the Divine exhibition of love in hearing prayer; this ground, which must not be taken as causa meritoria, is the filial obedience of the person asking, whereby God identifies him as His child; the idea of obedience is expressed in two coördinated sentences (resembling the Hebrew parallelism); τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ and τὰ� are synonymous; ποιεῖν marks the obedience as being active; the second sentence points to the circumstance that it does not consist in servile subjection to the commandment, but in the filial performance of that which is well-pleasing to God.” Alford, adverting to the Romish misinterpretation, excellently expounds: “Out of Christ, there are no good works at all: entrance into Christ is not won or merited by them. In Christ, every work done of faith is good and is pleasing to God. The doing of such works is the working of the life of Christ in us: they are its sign, they are its fruits: they are not of us, but of it and of Him. They are the measure of our Christian life: according to their abundance, so is our access to God, so is our reward from God: for they are the steps of our likeness to God. Whatever is attributed to them as an efficient cause, is attributed not to us, but to Him whose fruits they are. Because Christ is thus manifested in us, God hears our prayers, which He only hears for Christ’s sake: because His Spirit works thus abundantly in us, He listens to our prayer, which in that measure has become the voice of His Spirit. So that no degree of efficacy attributed to the good works of the child of God need surprise us: it is God recognizing, God vindicating, God multiplying, God glorifying His own work in us. So that when e.g. Corn, a Lap. says, “Congruum est et congrua merces obedientiæ et amicitiæ, ut si homo faciat voluntatem Dei, Deus vicissim faciat voluntatem hominis,” all we can reply is that such a duality, such a reciprocity, does not exist for Christians: we are in God, He in us; and this St. John continually insists on. We have no claim ab extra: He works in us to do of His good pleasure: and the works which He works, which we work, manifest before Him, and before all, that we are His children.”—M.].

Fourth consequence: Fellowship of the Spirit with particular reference to the ground of these consequences, 1 John 3:23-24.

1 John 3:23. And this is His commandment.1 John 1:5 : καὶ ἐστιν αὕτη. Καὶ is simply copulative and connecting with τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ specifies the most essential contents of ἡ ἐντολὴ, which indeed embraces two commandments, faith and love, but which two commandments, being indissolubly united, contain the sum-total of the being determined by the Divine Will in Christ. Ἐντολὴ refers neither to the first commandment (J. Lange), nor must it be construed in a sense it does not bear (de Wette); it is and remains the expression of the Divine Will (Düsterdieck). Αὐτοῦ of course is=τοῦ θεοῦ. [Oecumenius: ἔχοντες ἐντολὴν, ἴνα τῇ πίστει τῇ ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ αὐτοῦ Ἰησ. Χρ. ἀγαπῶμεν�. Bede: Singulari numero mandatum præmisit, et duo subsequentia adjungit mandata, fidem scilicet et dilectionem, quia nimirum hæc ab invicem separari nequeunt. Neque enim sine fide Christi recte nos alterutrum diligere, neque vere in nomine Jesu Christi sine dilectione possumus credere.—M.].

That we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another.—Here ἵνα indicates the purpose and not only the contents of the commandments, as Huther explains [But the strong telic sense of ἵνα can hardly be pressed here; see 1 John 3:1; 1 John 3:11.—M.]. The Aorist πιστεύσωμεν is not only the best authenticated and difficilior lectio, but also more thoughtful than the πιστεύωμεν formed after the pattern of ἀγαπῶμεν, and denotes by the side of the Present ἀγαπῶμεν, that the former precedes the latter, πίστις as the pre-supposition, not as being done once for all (against Düsterdieck), but as a root of vital strength, and ἀγάπη as the stem, as in Galatians 5:6 : πίστις ἐν�, or 1 Timothy 1:5 : ἀγάπη—ἐκ πίστεως. Faith conceived as an ἔργον θεοῦ (John 6:29) and John 16:9 (ἁμαρτία, ὅτι οὐ πιστεύουσιν εἰς ἐμέ) as the ground of a holy being, of the whole obedience, is yet man’s work and hence may be required in the commandment, more especially since the construction πιστεύειν τινι (John 4:21; John 5:24; John 5:46-47; John 8:45) denotes the assensus with which man’s agency awakes, while πιστεύειν τινα describes the received notitia, and πιστεύειν εἰς τινα the God-wrought fiducia, which embraces the least, the notitia, and also the moment next to it, the assensus. The object of faith is τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ Ἱησοῦ Χριστοῦ. This ὄνομα is the revelation of the being of the Son of God, and contains within itself and discloses to believers what is testified of Him and by Himself, and is to be testified; it includes both the prædicatio (Romans 10:14) as Calvin and Beza explain, and the meritum and the promissiones Christi et de Christo, as pointed out by S. Schmidt and others. Doctrina Christiana (Episcopius), and the dignity of the Messiah (S. G. Lange), are consequently insufficient. [Alford: “To believe the Gospel-message concerning Him, and Him as living in it, in all His fulness.”—M.]. Conformably to the close connection of faith and love (John 16:4; John 16:7 sqq.) the Apostle now annexes the Present ἀγαπῶμεν to the Aorist by the copulative καὶ.—The additional clause—

As He gave us commandment, being a further qualification of love (1 John 2:7-8; 1 John 3:16; John 13:34; John 15:12-13), belongs to the latter part of the sentence (Myrberg: non modo amandum est, sed etiam vere et recte amandum), and not to the former (πιστεύσωμεν), as Estius, Bengel, Sander.—Hence Christ, and not God, is and remains the subject of this lateral idea. Christ, on whom, as the Son of God, we have to believe, is the origin and standard of brotherly love.

1 John 3:24. And he that keepeth His commandments, abideth in Him and He in Him.—Passing over the lateral idea and the ἐντολὴ, 1 John 3:23, and resuming the ἐντολὰς τηρεῖν, 1 John 3:22, the Apostle now makes prominent the fourth consequence, the fellowship of God with us and our fellowship with God, according to which He is in us and we are in Him. Hence αὐτοῦ, αὐτῷ, αὐτὸς—all three—describe God and not Christ (Neander, Besser, Sander).

And hereby we know that He abideth in us, from [out of] the Spirit that He gave us.—God’s abiding in us is the object of knowledge; and it is important to notice that God’s abiding in us is not specified here as res minus verisimilis (Socinus), but as the condition of our abiding in God; the two mutually include each other and must be taken in that sense. And this is known ἐν τούτῳ=ἐκ πνεύματος. Ἐν τούτῳ obviously refers to what follows, as 1 John 2:3, and not to what precedes, as ch. 1 John 3:5. Surprising is the transition from the formula ἐν τούτῳ, placed at the beginning of this sentence and so current in John, to ἐκ πνεύματος, but the transition may be explained by the circumstance that after ὅτι μένει ἐν ἡμῖν the clearness and beauty of the structure required substantive proof, and that this substantive proof occasioned the fine and thoughtful description of the source and origin of that knowledge by the preposition ἐκ. Cf. 1 John 4:6 : ἐκ τούτου γινώσκομεν. The πνεῦμα is the Holy Spirit who moves us, the living and powerful principle of our life from (out of) and in God. Here we should remember the χρίσμα, 1 John 2:20-26. Inadequate is de Wette’s explanation, that πνεῦμα denotes the Divine appropriated in faith and life, but that the reference here is to the right knowledge and doctrine of the person of Jesus, and even more inadequate is the opinion of Socinus, that πνεῦμα is love.—In the annexed relative sentence οὗ must not be taken as a genit. partitivus, but as the result of attraction. Winer, Part III. § 24.


1. The Christian should not be or remain in a state of uncertainly whether he really is a child of God (out) of the truth; his redemption and the reconciliation of God to him and his reconciliation to God and his salvation need not be to him a doubtful or only probable state. But clear and firm knowledge on this subject he does not acquire at one stroke, over-night; he must learn it by living and exercising himself in love. The Christian in process of being [i.e., in the development of this Christian life—M.] is in a state of fermentation, or engaged in single combat, without a survey of the whole field, the battle conducing to victory, although here and there defeats occur, and he is forced to retire even unto flight—without being able to imperil the ultimate victory. Hence he has misgivings which he can and ought to discard, fearless and full of confidence and reliance on the Lord of hosts and of the victory.

2. The final cause of such assurance of faith and blessed certainty of salvation, constantly exposed to the danger of being disturbed by the accusations and charges of the heart discerning and reproving the ever-recurring omissions and imperfections and transgressions in thought, word and deed, lies not in ourselves, neither in the mark, in brotherly love and, generally, in obedience to the commandments of God, nor in such: acts of reproof of an anxious and contrite heart, but in God Himself, in that which He has promised and imparted to us, and that He abides by His word and work, also in our hearts, nursing and furthering the same even unto completion. Three things are clearly and distinctly asserted.

a. If the Christian looks at himself, anxiety and doubts concerning the state of grace are justified; Hebrews 6:4-6; Hebrews 10:26-31, in, which passages Luther found “a hard knot,” and on which see R. Stier, point to the possibility of a relapse, as also Romans 8:13; Galatians 6:7-8. This is contrary to Calvin’s assumption of the donum perseverantiæ given with regeneration, and which is not taught at John 10:28-29. But if the Christian looks up to the mercy of God, he acquires confidence and joyfulness and the Holy Spirit bears witness of his adoption and Divine life-fellowship (1 John 3:24, Romans 8:16-27). This is contrary to the Roman Catholic doctrine except by that the Christian, special revelation, cannot have any certainty concerning his state of grace.

b. The point in question is not a mathematical certitudo, an actus intellectus, but only fiducia as well as confidence in the pureness of a man’s disposition.

c. The certain assurance of standing in God’s grace is not identical with nor to be confounded with the certainty of being predestinated. The Council of Trent was right, in opposition to the Reformed, to reject this certainty (Romans 6:15-16) but wrong in rejecting the former assurance (Romans 6:9): “Sicut nemo pius de Dei misericordia, de Christi merito deque Sacramentorum virtute et efficacia dubitare potest, sic quilibet, dum se ipsum suamque propriam infirmitatem et indispositionem respicit, de sua gratia formidare it timere potest, quam nullus scire valeat certitudine fidei, cui non potest subesse falsum, se gratiam Dei esse consecutum.” Here, as we may readily perceive, truth and falsehood are suspiciously mixed up. Cf. Frank, Theologie der K. F. 2. 78, 141. Thiersch, Vorlesungen über Protestantismus und Katholizismus, 2, 149–159.

3. The two cases that conscience finds a verdict against us and not against us are opposed to each other, but nevertheless facts belonging to the Christian life and perfectly compatible with it, even as 1 John 1:8-9 and 1 John 3:9 do not cancel each other. These propositions cannot be classed among the paradoxes, which may not be without truth, as stated by Luther, e.g. “Si in fide fieri posset adulterium peccatum non esset,” and Proposition 32 in Grund und Artikel, which were unjustly condemned by the Romish bull (1520, Erlangen, 24, 138): A. good work done in the very best manner, is still a daily sin, etc.—Nor dare we try to aid the establishment of a morality for the people, and another morality for the saints by drawing with the Roman Catholics a distinction between præcepta and consilia evangelica, between a selfish amor concupiscentiæ calculating on salvation and an amor amicitiæ surrendering itself in pure fidelity. We may neither separate by false distinctions the objectively given commandments with the will of God nor the subjectively imposed obligations, nor, worse still, men from one another. But we ought to contemplate both truths, that our natural disposition which is sinful before God ever and again mingles without, and contrary to the Christian’s will with the works done by the motions of the Spirit from above and in faith, and that the Christian born of God has before his eyes and in his heart the one will of God, as revealed in the Law and in Christ, which aims not at a higher or a lower morality [but at one morality—M.], and that his obedience is well-pleasing to God, not because of his own doings or nature, but solely for the sake of Christ. Our life here on earth is made up of alternate joy and grief, of rising and falling, of forgiveness of sins and cancelling and the commission of sin. Sin, moreover, is more sinful in the children of God than in the servants of perdition, for they have a more profound and lively sense of the slightest stirrings of the wrath of God, because and though their falling is not yet a falling from grace, as at Galatians 5:4 (τῆς χάριτος ἐξεπέσατε). Not every falling involves the loss of grace. But obedience and patience in good works remain marks of the state of grace. Cf. C. A. 6, 20, f. C. 4, 5, 6, Frank 1, 1; 2, 177 sq.; 181 sq.; 139 sqq.; 369 sqq.

4. Filial confidence which does not begin with the entrance upon our inheritance [but here on earth—M.], has a παῤῥησία not only in the day of judgment, but already here on earth, and it evidences itself both by zealous efforts towards self-sanctification based on the assurance of the forgiveness of sins, and by confident prayer. “Prayer is as essential to man as his conscience, because the conscience, in proportion to its clearness and vitality, necessarily passes into prayer” (Löber, Lehre vom Gebet p. 1.). If the conscience is pacified, prayer will be sure of being heard. If man is so circumstanced that he lives and moves in God’s word, his word in prayer to God will also prevail with God, in whose being (as we may learn from the case of the praying God-man), as well as in man’s being prayer has its ultimate reason. Harless, therefore, has not very judiciously classed prayer among the subjective means of Christian virtue (Ethik §. 33).—A limitation of prayer that may be heard beyond the pattern-prayer of the Lord’s Prayer is not permitted; you may in the state of grace pray for every thing assured of being heard, but equally assured that nothing is said of the time when and the manner how your prayers will be heard. God hears whatever we ask, but not exactly as we ask.

5. Faith in God, who is Love, and (in virtue of our belief in the love of God) love of the brethren are intimately connected, the reference being to “faith as the transition from darkness to light and love as the walk in the light” (Hofmann, Schriftbeweis XI., 2, 337, cf. 1 John 3:14).

6. It follows from the testimony of the Holy Spirit within thee (cf. No. 2 above), that thou art a temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16), or a tabernacle of God among men (Revelation 21:3).


Much depends on knowledge, more on knowledge of the truth, most on the knowledge whether we are ourselves of the truth.—He is to be pronounced happy in whom the difficult self-knowledge was acquired and carried out as the knowledge of sin, but more happy he in whom the knowledge of God forces itself through the knowledge of himself.—Four marks of our adoption or four evidences of our being of the truth: 1. Peace of the soul under the accusations of conscience (1 John 3:19-20); 2. Filial trust under the wants and deprivations of life (1 John 3:21-22); 3. Assurance and decision under the manifold and different requirements (10. 23); 4. Joy of fellowship in solitude or desertion.—How can you pacify your heart disquieted by the accusings of conscience? 1. Know what God has hitherto done for you not in vain: He desires to save you; 2. Feel how in such a judgment the holiness of God is working in you: He desires to purify you; 3. Hope that He will gloriously accomplish it, as He has promised: He is the Master and your life will be a masterpiece at the last.—Prayer and commandment are essentially related to each other; thy word addressed to God in prayer will surely be heard, if God’s word addressed to thee in the commandment is observed. God will not be asked in vain by those who suffer themselves to be commanded by Him. The hearing of prayer is not affected by the conduct of man fixed by his relation to God, but by this relation which produces in man childlikeness, childlike obedience, childlike trust, childlike disposition and childlike ways, even as it affords paternal fidelity and paternal aid. With faith in the name of His Son Jesus Christ thou hast the love of God above all things, or the fulfilment of the commandments of the first table; and from faith in the paternal love of God revealed in Christ flows Christian brotherly love, or the fulfilment of the commandments of the second table.—He is in us, this is ever the first and most important thing; His commandments are before our obedience to them; and He is with and in them. But if we do not value His commandments we do not value ourselves, we become ruins and a desert. In desert ruins He does not dwell; we must be builded up, if not into temples, at least into tabernacles. He builds—even the tabernacle into the temple, and instead of cares of the soul in indigence of the Good and the Eternal Good, jubilant hymns of praise for the inheritance of the saints swell in majestic fulness and strength.—Without Christ, the Son of God, God is not thy Father but without the Spirit of the Father and the Son, thou hast neither God the Father nor the Saviour.

Luther:—Although our conscience make us afraid and represent to us God as angry, yet God is greater than our heart. Conscience is but a single drop, but the reconciled God an ocean of consolation.—When a man is rebuked and condemned by his conscience, he grows terrified; but against this darkness of the heart we may say, God knoweth all things. Conscience is always fearful and shuts the eyes; but God is deeper and higher than thy heart and searches its inmost state most thoroughly.

Starke:—We believers do not indulge in idle imaginings and suppositions, but have sure, firm, irrefragable grounds and testimonies, wrought by the Holy Ghost Himself that we are of the truth and born of God.—A man may have a great temptation and yet be a child of God.—Away with forged letters and testimonials! if the inward witness of the conscience contradicts and condemns. Conscience is more than a thousand witnesses. How false is the charge that Christianity causes melancholy and gloominess! Sorrow may indeed be found among Christians but without any fault of Christianity or of God, and moreover with them true knowledge is followed by their sorrow being turned into joy.—A heart rejoicing before God is a great treasure; O, the happiness of being permitted to appear before God in His majesty with joyfulness; therefore let us pray: Lord, give us a cheerful heart!—The spirit of joyfulness is also a spirit of prayer. Believers will receive what they ask of God in the manner which He has promised and at the time He thinks proper.—Nothing can be required of a Christian beyond faith and love: believers will not be taken captive by statutes, but they stand in liberty.—Be ashamed to say or order anything without the commandment of God, and again be ashamed to do anything in opposition to the commandment of God.—To live a good life requires us to abide good; it is not enough to have come into God, one must also abide in Him.—The believer is a great miracle, seeing that the infinite and immeasurable God wholly dwells and walks in him.

Heubner:—Is here perchance taught work–confidence? No! faith remains the ground of justification but we may hope that the genuineness and purity of our faith will follow love.—The Christian’s prayer is never unheard; for God gives us that which is good although not always that to which we gave utterance, not that which we intended; the Christian ever desires the Good and the Good only, and the better we grow, the more do all our desires coincide with the will of God. Only those are able to ask who are in a state of grace; a serious, pious, honest mind is the condition of prayer; a braggart cannot pray.—The presence and continued operation of the Spirit in keeping us in the right discipline, warning, moving, strengthening and comforting us, is the sign that we belong to Christ, if He leaves us we are separated from Christ.

Adapted from Ziel (Gesetz and Zeugniss, 4):—How happy they who are of the truth! 1. They may pacify their heart before Him. 2. They have a joyful confidence toward God; 3. They are they that will receive from Him whatsoever they ask.—Compare here hymns like Paul Gerhard’s: “Ist Gott für mich, so trete (If God is for me, etc.).

Sein Geist spricht meinem Geiste

His Spirit cheers my spirit

Manch süsses Trostwort zu;

With words of comfort sweet;

Wie Gott dem Hülfe leiste,

That they God’s help inherit

Der bei Ihm suchet Ruh;

Who rest with Him do seek.

Und wie Er hab’ erbauet,

And that He has upbuilded

Ein’ edle neue Stadt

A city fair and new,

Da Aug’ und Herze schauet,

Where eyes and heart forever

Was es geglaubet hat.

What they believed shall view.

Da ist mein Theil und Erbe

For there in glory lying

Mir prächtig zugericht’t;

My lot is held in store

Wenn ich gleich fall und sterbe,

With all my falls, and dying,

Fällt doch mein Himmel nicht. (1 John 3:9.)

My heaven falls nevermore.

Also Erdmann Neumeister’s: Jesus nimmt die Sünder an (Jesus, sinners does receive); especially 1 John 3:7.

Mein Gewissen quält mich nicht,

My conscience now is purified,

Moses darf mich nicht verklagen;

All plea to Moses is denied,

Der mich frei und ledig spricht,

He acquitteth me to-day

Hat die Sünden abgetragen (1 John 3:5),

Who all sin did take away;

Dass mich Nichts verdammen kann;

Nothing can condemn or grieve

Jesus nimmt die Sünder an.

Jesus sinners does receive.

[Pyle: 1 John 3:19-21.—This will show us to be Christians indeed; and while the impartial testimony and inward sense of our own consciences assure us of the sincere performance of our own duty, we may safely conclude that God, the Searcher of hearts and Standard of all truth, will approve of and reward us. And on the contrary, whoever by the clear conviction of his own mind knows and feels himself to be a hypocritical transgressor of his moral duty, must be assured that God, who knows him better than he does himself, cannot fail to be his more severe judge and avenger.—M.].

[Bull: 1 John 3:20.—If a man be conscious to himself of his own wickedness, yea, the very secret wickedness and hypocrisy of his heart, sure God Himself, who set up in every man this “candle” of conscience, as Solomon calls it, Proverbs 20:27, cannot be ignorant of it; He being the fountain of all knowledge, and all knowledge in the creature derivative from Him, and so knowing all things that are knowable by any creature, and infinitely more.—M.].

[Macknight: 1 John 3:22.—This general declaration must be limited by the conditions, which in other passages of Scripture are made necessary to our petitions being granted by God; such as, that we ask things agreeable to His Will, 1 John 5:14-15; and that we ask them in faith, James 1:6; that is, in the full persuasion of the Divine wisdom and goodness, and with sincerity and resignation. Such prayers, they who keep the commandments of God, may hope will be heard, because they keep His commandments by habitually doing the things which are well-pleasing to Him.—M.].

[Pyle: 1 John 3:23-24.—These verses may be thus paraphrased; In short, true faith in the doctrine of Christ, and true charity to mankind, especially to our Christian brethren, is the sum-total of our duty. And you, that have already duly performed it, have a sufficient pledge and earnest of your acceptance with God, as true disciples of Christ, by the gifts and graces of His Holy Spirit conferred upon you.—M.].

[Ridley: 1 John 3:24.—The way of the Spirit is not to be traced; the working of God is not to be perceived. The Divine Author and His operation are hidden from us, but His work is manifest. And though we cannot see God at any time, or feel the motion of the Spirit in our hearts, yet is there certain evidence whether we are brought on by Him or not. St. John gives us an infallible rule, that we may know that God, by His Spirit, dwelleth in us, if we keep His commandments.—M.].

[Ezekiel Hopkins:—A clear conscience gives us boldness of access unto God. Guilt abashes the soul, and makes it both ashamed and afraid to appear in the presence of God: and therefore Adam, as soon as he had sinned against his Maker, presently hides himself from Him. We may observe in ourselves, what a slavish dejectedness seizeth us when we come to God in duty, after we have wronged Him by any known sin: we come to Him suspiciously; and with such a misgiving fear, as if we would not have God take notice that we are before Him; and are still in pain, till the duty be over. But, when our consciences are clear, oh, with what delight do we haste to God, and with what content do we stay with Him! How doth the soul dilate and spread itself under the smiles of God, beating full upon it! “So, O Lord, here is a heart that I labour to make and keep void of offence; do thou fill it with thy promised grace and Spirit. It is not, indeed, a mansion pure enough for the pure and holy God; yet it is such, as thou wilt accept, and in which thou wilt dwell. There are still many hidden corruptions in it, but do thou search them out; and thou, who hast kept thy servant from presumptuous sins, do thou also cleanse me from secret faults.” Thus a clear conscience, with a holy and reverend boldness, addresseth itself to God; and sweetly closeth up every duty and every prayer, with full assurance of obtaining mercy from God. So the Apostle (Hebrews 9:22): “Let us draw near …. in full assurance of faith:” how may we gain this full assurance, when we draw near to God? By “having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience:” get but a pure and clear conscience, and that will enable you to draw near to God in full assurance of faith, and so here (1 John 3:21): “Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God:” if conscience be not evil to accuse us, then have we confidence towards God: when the face of man’s conscience looks cheerful, and hath not a frown or a wrinkle upon it, this makes us joyfully to apprehend that God’s face towards us is serene also, and that we shall be welcome at all times into our Father’s presence: this conscience suggests to us, and makes us come with a holy, yet with an awful boldness unto God.—M.].

[Barrow:—No man can otherwise found any assurance of God’s special love to him, than upon a good conscience: testifying that he doth sincerely love God, and endeavour faithfully to obey His commandments.—If we desire to judge reasonably about ourselves, or to know our true state, the only way is to compare our hearts and lives with the law of God, judging ourselves by that rule according to which God will judge us. If we find in our hearts the love of God and goodness (sincere although imperfect); if we perceive ourselves disposed to keep God’s commandments (to live piously, righteously and soberly in this world); then may we have a satisfactory hope concerning our state; then “we may (as St. John saith) have confidence toward God, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing to Him:” but if we do not find that mind in us, and that practice, we, in conceiting well of ourselves upon any other grounds, do but flatter and impose upon ourselves; if all the world should account us good, and take us to be in a good case, we should not at all believe them, or mind them; for let no man deceive us, he that doeth righteousness, he (and he alone) is righteous, is the most faithful advice and unquestionable sentence of St. John. It is therefore (that by resting on such false bottoms we be not abused, and drawn thence to neglect the amendment of our hearts and ways, in order to our final account) a duty incumbent upon us thus to search our hearts and try our ways, and accordingly to judge ourselves: the doing which with care and conscience would dispose us to prepare for the judgment we speak of; for, if (saith St. Paul) we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged, or not condemned.—M.].

[Neander:—(Christ), when about to partfrom His disciples, no more to be with them in His personal bodily presence, promised that He would be invisibly near and present among them, no less truly than during His earthly manifestation. The proof of this, His actual presence among them, should be the communication to them of His Spirit. This should be the medium between believers and their Saviour, until vision takes the place of faith; till that immediate view of Christ, enjoyed by His disciples in the familiar intercourse of his earthly life, is restored in heightened glory to believers. It is to this inward experience that the Apostle makes his appeal with these Churches and to it the inward experience of believers in all ages bears witness. Here, then, are conjoined two characteristic marks of fellowship with Christ which cannot be discovered from each other; the one inward, perceptible to the immediate inner consciousness, the other belonging to the outward life, but presupposing the former, of which it is at once the outward expression and the condition of its continuance. The first is-Participation in the Spirit—promised by Christ; the second, Obedience to His commandments, which is the fruit of that Spirit’s agency, and in which such participation makes itself apparent. This being the Spirit’s work, is also, as the evidence of this work, the condition of its continuance; all Divine gifts being conditioned upon the faithful use of what “is bestowed, according to the words of Christ: Whoso hath, to him shall be given.”—M.].

[On 1 John 3:19-20

see De corde condemnante, Critici Sacri Thes. No 3:2, 991.

1 John 3:20.

A Sermon by Robert South, D. D. Sermon Themes: God greater than our heart.


Conscience an earnest of the last judgment.


Use to be made of the misgivings of conscience.

1 John 3:20-21.

Charles Simeon, A good and evil conscience, Works 20, p. 454.

1 John 3:21.

R. South, The nature and measures of conscience, 2 Sermons.

1 John 3:23.

Andrew Gray, The mystery of faith opened up, 6 Sermons.


Isaac Williams, The Gospel a feast of Love, Serm. 2, 67.

1 John 3:24.

John Flavel, The Spirit’s indwelling, Works, 2, 328.


J. Basnage, L’union de l’âme avec Jésus-Christ, Serm. 2, 501.—M.].


1 John 3:19; 1 John 3:19. Καὶ, though wanting in A. B., is found in C. G. K. Sin., many cursives and versions.

1 John 3:19; 1 John 3:19. γνωσόμεθα with A. B. C. Sin; γιγνώσκομεν G. K.; another reading is γινώσκομεθα, cognoscemur. [German: We shall know.—M.]

1 John 3:19; 1 John 3:19. [German: “Out of the truth.”—M.]

1 John 3:19; 1 John 3:19. [German: “And shall persuade our hearts before Him.”—M.]

1 John 3:20; 1 John 3:20. ὅτι, is written by Lachmann ὅτι, only after A, which reads ὅτι ἂν. [German: “because.”—M.]

1 John 3:20; 1 John 3:20. καταγινώσκη is the reading of the best Codd. also of Sinait; elsewhere καταγινώσκει.

1 John 3:20; 1 John 3:20. ὅτι before μείζων, B. C. G. K. Sin. is well authenticated [and adopted in the German which reads: “Because God is greater etc.”—M.]

1 John 3:21; 1 John 3:21. καταγινώσκῃ, elsewhere καταγινώσκει, Sin;—κω, is at all events an error of the pen like ἔκπροσθεν 1 John 3:19, ἔσσφαξἑν 1 John 3:12.—Besides A. omits the first, and B. C. the second ἡμῶν, but both occur in G. K. Sin; and B. C. testify for the former, A. for the second.

1 John 3:21; 1 John 3:21. ἔχομεν well supported instead of ἔχει B, ἔχωμεν, habeamus.

1 John 3:22; 1 John 3:22. German: “And whatsoever we may ask.”—M.

1 John 3:22; 1 John 3:22. ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ A. B. C. Cod, Sin;—παρ’ αὐτοῦ G. K.

1 John 3:22; 1 John 3:22. τηρῶμεν A. K. Sin. is probably a slip of the pen for τηροῦμεν.

1 John 3:22; 1 John 3:22. [καὶ τὰ�. τ. λ. “And do the things, etc.;” the demonstrative pronoun is unnecessary and is not used in most of the versions, the German renders “and do the well-pleasing before Him.”—M.]

1 John 3:23; 1 John 3:23. πιστεύσωμεν B. G. K.—A. C. Cod. Sin. πιστεύωμεν.

1 John 3:23; 1 John 3:23. ἡμῖν after ἐντολὴν in Cod. Sin. before or after ἔδωκεν in the best authentic Codd.

1 John 3:24; 1 John 3:24. [German: “abideth” to be retained to preserve the uniformity.—M.]

1 John 3:24; 1 John 3:24. [ἐκ τοῦ πνεύματος=of the Spirit; so German.—M.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 1 John 3". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/1-john-3.html. 1857-84.
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