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Thursday, May 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
1 John 3

Caton's Commentary on the Minor EpistlesCaton's Commentary

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God shows a great love to you in bestowing upon you the great honor of being called his children. You are the sons of God, and yet there are greater blessings for you in store. You shall be like him, and see him just as he is. This is a great hope and a strong reason for striving to be pure. A violation of law is sin. Christ came to take away sin; those who abide in him! do not sin. One who sins does not know Christ. To be righteous, you must act right. One who sins does so at the dictates of the devil, who sinned from the first. Christ came to destroy the works of the devil. One born of God does not commit sin habitually, and so long as God's will and desire are present with him, he will not sin. You can tell the children of God from the children of the devil in this; he that sins habitually and loves not his brother is not a child of God. From the beginning of the gospel of Christ, this is the message: "Love one another." Cain did not love his brother, for he slew him, because his brother's deeds were right in God's sight, and he thus condemned the works of Cain as evil. I give you a criterion by which you may know whether you have passed from death unto life, if you love the brethren. In this we see God's love. Christ laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. Such a love as this can not exist in one who refuses to administer to the needs of his brother. We must not love in profession only, but in fact, showing it by acts. Otherwise our hearts will condemn us, and God is greater than our hearts. But if we obey his commandments, believing on the Son of God, and loving the brethren, we know assuredly that God abides with and in us, and we with him, by this his Spirit which he hath given us.

Verse 1

Verse 1. Behold, what manner of love.

Remembering that the last thought in the foregoing chapter introduced was the fact that we were born of God. How wonderful has been the love of God in permitting and making provisions whereby we might thus become his sons. Here is a wide field for meditation. It would be quite a condescension for an earthy king to make provisions, whereby his subjects might become members of his royal family ; it would be quite an exhibition of love. How, then, can we comprehend that love,, whereby the King of all kings provides the means of earth's born subjects being inducted into his family, and becoming his sons and heirs of his glory. Well may the inspired writer exclaim, Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us!

Therefore the world knoweth us not.

It follows, as a matter of course, that if the world know not the Father that is, did not recognize and acknowledge him that it will not know us, who are his children.

Verse 2

Verse 2. Beloved, now are we the sons of God.

The announcement that we have the exalted privilege of being the sons of God is followed by a still greater and more important fact, which is connected with that relation-ship, viz.: that it does not appear what we shall be. Our future reward and glory are not yet manifest, yet we know something great is to follow. The revelation already is assurance enough to us, that when the Lord shall come we shall be like him, both in body and in moral character. We shall see him as he is in glory, and just such image as he possesses will by him be conferred on us, that where he is we may be also.

Verse 3

Verse 3. And every man that hath this hope.

Every faithful Christian has this hope. The hope of being like and dwelling with the Lord of glory will cause us to strive to be like him. Christ was, and is, pure; there-fore, every faithful Christian will strive to be pure.

Verse 4

Verse 4. Whosoever committeth sin.

The idea is, habitually or continually does wrong. This idea must be borne in mind in order that we may fully understand other statements contained in this chapter and thereby insure perfect harmony. Doing, working, or com-mitting sin is a transgression of the law, and will surely be followed by punishment.

Verse 5

Verse 5. And ye know that he was manifested.

One of the objects of Christ's coming into the world was to take away our sins, by remitting the same; but a second object had in that coming was, by his example and the course of instruction given by him, which, if pursued by us, would take away even our disposition to sin. He could be our example, and give this kind of instruction, because he was himself without sin.

Verse 6

Verse 6. Whosoever abideth in him.

Keeping close to his example, trustingly, lovingly fol-lowing his instructions, we abide in him, and thus, abiding in him, sin not ; have no disposition or desire to sin.

Whosoever sinneth hath not seen him.

We cease to abide hi him when we engage in sinning. Such an one hath not seen Christ; that is to say, had no true insight into his character, or that of his doctrine, for no experimental knowledge is by such an one exhibited. It is safe to say of such that they have not known Christ, for if they had, the same would have been manifested in their conduct.

Verse 7

Verse 7. Little children, let no man deceive you.

Exhortation is here made to prevent delusion or decep-tion. Those claiming to be righteous are those only who do righteousness. Works are demanded in the economy of heaven to show the existence of faith. Those who abide in Christ do righteousness because Christ was righteous.

Verse 8

Verse 8. He that committeth sin is of the devil.

Since sin emanates from the devil, and is, therefore, of him, those who work sin, who exhibit a sinful life, give, thereby, all the proof sound reason can demand that they are under the dominion and control of the devil. From the very beginning of the world the devil sinned.

For this purpose the Son of God was manifested.

That he might destroy sin and its punishment, which are the works of the devil, is the purpose for which the Son of God came into the world and appeared among men in the flesh. Dr. Macknight says: "Demolish that horrible fabric of sin and misery which the devil, with such art and industry and malice, hath reared in our world. From this text some have argued that all moral and penal evil will, at length, be extirpated from the universe."

Verse 9

Verse 9. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin.

Here some have failed to catch the apostle's idea. It is not that those born of God become so far out of the reach of sin that temptation can not assail them, but those who are born of God do not habitually sin or live a life of sin. One can not sin and at the same time remain a child of God. Yet, while in the flesh, the old nature may for a time exert an influence in the wrong direction, requiring the constant watch-care of the Christian. He, however, can not lead a sinful life while the principle of the divine life remains in him. Paul gives us a thought, throwing light along this line of investigation, well to remember for our good. "Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me." ( Rom_7:20-21 ).

Verse 10

Verse 10. In this the children of God.

Here, a sure mark of distinction is drawn between the children of God and the children of the devil. It is easy to tell one from the other. The child of God habitually per-forms good acts, deeds and works, and with a real affection loves his brother, while the children of the devil manifest no such fruits. The rule of measurement is plainly desig-nated. The children of God show by their pure lives, their constant endeavors to do good, their affection not only for the distressed, but for all, who their Father is. By the same rule the parentage of the evil may be easily determined.

Verse 11

Verse 11. For this is the message that ye heard.

Christ brought from the Father, and we apostles pro-claimed the message from the establishment of the kingdom on earth, that we should love one another. This message is God-given ; it came from him, and this was evidently God's will from the beginning of time.

Verse 12

Verse 12. Not as Cain, who was of that.

This is the opposite of love it is hate. Hate is of the devil. Cain was, therefore, begotten by the devil that is to say, so controlled as to do the works of the devil. The child of God one begotten of God loves and does not hate. "This hater and murderer is condemned far more severely in the Scriptures than the disobedient Adam." (Johnson's Notes.)

And wherefore slew he him?

Cain's offering was not accepted, because it was offered in disobedience. His works, therefore, were evil, while the works of his brother were righteous, because offered in obedience. His brother being accepted, and he rejected, he therefore hated him. So, the S a vior foretold, would be the result to all righteous lives hatred by the world. It hated him. Why should his followers escape?

Verse 13

Verse 13. Marvel not, my brethren.

The apostle here says : We should not marvel wonder ---if we be hated by the world. While no reason is given, the former verse indicates the source of all hatred. The con-flict between good and evil had its origin early in the his-tory of the race. That conflict is still going on, and will to the end of time. It is the common lot of all the righteous to be hated by the wicked from the beginning.

Verse 14

Verse 14. We know that we have passed from death.

While we are hated by the world, this should not be regarded by us, since we know that we have passed away from a state the final end of which is eternal death, into a state the end of which is life eternal.

Because we love the brethren.

The reason is here given for the knowledge we possess of having passed from death into life. Love of the brethren is the test. This is the surest mark by which we can know our state. This disposition is enjoined by our holy religion. There is no danger that the humble disciple, because of the high encomiums bestowed on this virtue by the sacred Writers, shall ever conclude that love of the brethren exhausts all of his Christian duties. He knows better; he has always before him the example of his Master and his blessed teachings, and these unmistakably require at his hands many other duties which embrace those not of the brotherhood.

Abideth in death.

The test by which one may know that the hope of eternal life is not entertained. When one hates his brother, the test is sure. Such an one is still under the condemnation of death; in other words, he is in that state which will ultimate in eternal death.

Verse 15

Verse 15. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer.

One who hates his brother is in a state or condition, under slight provocation influenced by his passion of hate, to slay him. His hatred is the seed or germ from which murder is produced. The instance of Cain, given in a for-mer verse, clearly illustrates this. It was his hatred which led him to slay Abel. As it influenced Cain, so hatred will, in like manner, influence others.

No murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.

Here is the announcement of a great truth. It is simply impossible that one who cherishes such a hatred of his brother as will, under any circumstances, lead to the taking of his life, justly or unjustly, has, or can have, the capacity for eternal life abiding in him. The states of love and of hate are opposites.

Verse 16

Verse 16. Hereby perceive we the love of God.

Christ, by the appointment of God, showed his love when he laid down his life on the cross. Having his example before us for our guidance, should occasion require it, we should lay down our lives for the brethren.

Verse 17

Verse 17. But whoso hath this world's goods.

A plain contrast is here presented. If it be true that we should lay down our lives for the brethren, what shall be said of one who has an abundance, and yet refuses to furnish a needy brother those things necessary for his present succor? It is utterly impossible that the love of God could dwell in such a man. It can in no sense abide in him.

Verse 18

Verse 18. My little children, let us not love.

We may claim to love our brethren, and many proper occasions present themselves where no outward manifesta-tion is given : If such a thing were possible, this would be loving in word or tongue. Such love is not acceptable. The love must be shown by deeds ; if it be true love, it will so manifest itself ; empty professions will not do.

Verse 19

Verse 19. And hereby we know that we are of the truth.

When our love exhibits itself in deeds, when it is oper-ative or active, we may know assuredly that we are in the fellowship of God.

Verse 20

Verse 20. For if our heart condemn us.

If we are deficient in love to our needy brethren, we know it ; our own conscience so informs us. We thus con-demn ourselves. God is greater than our hearts, for he knows all things ; his condemnation is therefore certain, because he is a more perfect and impartial Judge.

Verse 21

Verse 21. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not.

But if our conscience does not condemn us that is, does not accuse us of being deficient in love to our needy brethren we have a conscience void of offense toward God, and we are assured that he will hear us, for he knows that we have not failed in duty.

Verse 22

Verse 22. And whatsoever we ask.

Having kept Gods commandments, by loving our breth-ren in deed and in truth, and thereby acting in a way well pleasing to God, we know that whatever blessings we ask of him, agreeably to his will, we shall receive.

Verse 23

Verse 23. And this is his commandment.

The commandment that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another; believe that God sent his Son into the world ; the same Jesus that was born in the manger; that he was sent to save us ; take him, accept him as our Prophet, Priest and King; follow him as our Leader, trusting and relying upon him for salvation, and, in addition, love the brethren in deed and in truth. This is God's commandment.

Verse 24

Verse 24. And he that keepeth.

By keeping God's commandments we have fellowship with him. We dwell with him, and he with us.

That he abideth in us.

The spirit of the Master that is given to us manifests itself in our daily walk. If we be led by his spirit, we show its fruits in our lives, and by this spirit we know that we are the sons of God.

Bibliographical Information
Caton, Nathan Thomas. "Commentary on 1 John 3". Caton's Commentary on the Minor Epistles. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ntc/1-john-3.html. 1916.
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