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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

1 John 3

Verse 1

What manner of love (ποταπην αγαπηνpotapēn agapēn). Qualitative interrogative as in 2 Peter 3:11; Matthew 8:27. Only here in John‘s writings. Originally of what country or race.

Hath bestowed (δεδωκενdedōken). Perfect active indicative of διδωμιdidōmi state of completion, “the endowment of the receiver” (Vincent).

That we should be called (ινα κλητωμενhina klēthōmen). Sub-final use of ιναhina with the first aorist passive subjunctive of καλεωkaleō to call or name, as in Matthew 2:23.

Children (τεκναtekna). As in John 1:12 and with an allusion to γεγεννηταιgegennētai in 1 John 2:29 in an effort “to restore the waning enthusiasm of his readers, and to recall them to their first love” (Brooke).

And such we are (και εσμενkai esmen). “And we are.” A parenthetical reflection characteristic of John (και νυν εστινkai nun estin in John 5:25 and και ουκ εισινkai ouk eisin in Revelation 2:2; Revelation 3:9) omitted by Textus Receptus, though, in the old MSS.

Because it knew him not (οτι ουκ εγνω αυτονhoti ouk egnō auton). Second aorist active indicative of γινωσκωginōskō precisely the argument in John 15:18.

Verse 2

Now (νυνnun). Without waiting for the παρουσιαparousia or second coming. We have a present dignity and duty, though there is greater glory to come.

It is not yet made manifest (ουπω επανερωτηoupō ephanerōthē). First aorist passive indicative of πανεροωphaneroō For the aorist indicative with ουπωoupō with a future outlook Brooke notes Mark 11:2; 1 Corinthians 8:2; Hebrews 12:4; Revelation 17:10, Revelation 17:12.

What we shall be (τι εσομεταti esometha). Not τινεςtines (who), but τιti (what) neuter singular predicate nominative. “This what suggests something unspeakable, contained in the likeness of God” (Bengel).

If he shall be manifested (εαν πανερωτηιean phanerōthēi). As in 1 John 2:28, which see. The subject may be Christ as in 1 John 3:9, or the future manifestation just mentioned. Either makes sense, probably “it” here better than “he.”

Like him (ομοιοι αυτωιhomoioi autōi). ΑυτωιAutōi is associative instrumental case after ομοιοιhomoioi This is our destiny and glory (Romans 8:29), to be like Jesus who is like God (2 Corinthians 4:6).

We shall see him even as he is (οπσομετα αυτον κατως εστινopsometha auton kathōs estin). Future middle indicative of οραωhoraō The transforming power of this vision of Christ (1 Corinthians 13:12) is the consummation of the glorious process begun at the new birth (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Verse 3

Set on him (επ αυτωιep' autōi). Resting upon (επιepi) with locative rather than ειςeis looking to, Acts 24:15. That is upon Christ (Brooke), upon God (D. Smith), upon God in Christ (Westcott).

Purifieth himself (αγνιζει εαυτονhagnizei heauton). Present active indicative of αγνιζωhagnizō old verb, from αγνοςhagnos (pure from contamination), used of ceremonial purifications (John 11:55; Acts 21:24, Acts 21:26 as in Exodus 19:10) and then of personal internal cleansing of heart (James 4:8), soul (1 Peter 1:22), self (here). Cf. Philippians 2:12. the work of both God and man.

As he is pure (κατως εκεινος αγνος εστινkathōs ekeinos hagnos estin). As in 1 John 2:6; 1 John 3:9 εκεινοςekeinos (emphatic demonstrative) refers to Christ. Christ can be termed αγνοςhagnos “in virtue of the perfection of his humanity” (Westcott). Our destiny is to be conformed to the image of God in Christ (Romans 8:29).

Verse 4

Sin is lawlessness (η αμαρτια εστιν η ανομιαhē hamartia estin hē anomia). The article with both subject and predicate makes them coextensive and so interchangeable. Doing sin is the converse of doing righteousness (1 John 2:29). The present active participle (ποιωνpoiōn) means the habit of doing sin.

Verse 5

He (εκεινοςekeinos). As in 1 John 3:3; John 1:18.

Was manifested (επανερωτηephanerōthē). Same form as in 1 John 3:2, but here of the Incarnation as in John 21:1, not of the second coming (1 John 2:28).

To take away sins (ινα τας αμαρτιας αρηιhina tas hamartias arēi). Purpose clause with ιναhina and first aorist active subjunctive of αιρωairō as in John 1:29. In Isaiah 53:11 we have αναπερωanapherō for bearing sins, but αιρωairō properly means to lift up and carry away (John 2:16). So in Hebrews 10:4 we find απαιρεωaphaireō and Hebrews 10:11 περιαιρεωperiaireō to take away sins completely (the complete expiation wrought by Christ on Calvary). The plural αμαρτιαςhamartias here, as in Colossians 1:14, not singular (collective sense) αμαρτιανhamartian as in John 1:29.

And in him is no sin (και αμαρτια εν αυτωι ουκ εστινkai hamartia en autōi ouk estin). “And sin (the sinful principle) in him is not.” As Jesus had claimed about himself (John 7:18; John 8:46) and as is repeatedly stated in the N.T. (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; Hebrews 7:26; Hebrews 9:13).

Verse 6

Sinneth not (ουχ αμαρτανειouch hamartanei). Linear present (linear μενωνmenōn keeps on abiding) active indicative of αμαρτανωhamartanō “does not keep on sinning.” For μενωmenō (abide) see 1 John 2:6; John 15:4-10.

Whosoever sinneth (ο αμαρτανωνho hamartanōn). Present (linear) active articular participle like μενωνmenōn above, “the one who keeps on sinning” (lives a life of sin, not mere occasional acts of sin as αμαρτησαςhamartēsas aorist active participle, would mean).

Hath not seen him (ουχ εωρακεν αυτονouch heōraken auton). Perfect active indicative of οραωhoraō The habit of sin is proof that one has not the vision or the knowledge (εγνωκενegnōken perfect active also) of Christ. He means, of course, spiritual vision and spiritual knowledge, not the literal sense of οραωhoraō in John 1:18; John 20:29.

Verse 7

Let no man lead you astray (μηδεις πλανατω υμαςmēdeis planātō humas). Present active imperative of πλαναωplanaō “let no one keep on leading you astray.” See 1 John 1:8; 1 John 2:26. Break the spell of any Gnostic charmer.

He that doeth righteousness (ο ποιων την δικαιοσυνηνho poiōn tēn dikaiosunēn). “He that keeps on doing (present active participle of ποιεωpoieō) righteousness.” For this idiom with ποιεωpoieō see 1 John 1:6; 1 John 3:4.

He (εκεινοςekeinos). Christ as in 1 John 3:5.

Verse 8

He that doeth sin (ο ποιων την αμαρτιανho poiōn tēn hamartian). “He that keeps on doing sin” (the habit of sin).

Of the devil (εκ του διαβολουek tou diabolou). In spiritual parentage as Jesus said of the Pharisees in John 8:44. When one acts like the devil he shows that he is not a true child of God.

Sinneth from the beginning (απ αρχης αμαρτανειap' archēs hamartanei). Linear progressive present active indicative, “he has been sinning from the beginning” of his career as the devil. This is his normal life and those who imitate him become his spiritual children.

That he might destroy (ινα λυσηιhina lusēi). Purpose clause with ιναhina and the first aorist active subjunctive of λυωluō This purpose (εις τουτοeis touto) Jesus had and has. There is eternal conflict, with final victory over Satan certain.

Verse 9

Doeth no sin (αμαρτιαν ου ποιειhamartian ou poiei). Linear present active indicative as in 1 John 3:4 like αμαρτανειhamartanei in 1 John 3:8. The child of God does not have the habit of sin.

His seed (σπερμα αυτουsperma autou). God‘s seed, “the divine principle of life” (Vincent). Cf. John 1.

And he cannot sin (και ου δυναται αμαρτανεινkai ou dunatai hamartanein). This is a wrong translation, for this English naturally means “and he cannot commit sin” as if it were και ου δυναται αμαρτεινkai ou dunatai hamartein or αμαρτησαιhamartēsai (second aorist or first aorist active infinitive). The present active infinitive αμαρτανεινhamartanein can only mean “and he cannot go on sinning,” as is true of αμαρτανειhamartanei in 1 John 3:8 and αμαρτανωνhamartanōn in 1 John 3:6. For the aorist subjunctive to commit a sin see αμαρτητεhamartēte and αμαρτηιhamartēi in 1 John 2:1. A great deal of false theology has grown out of a misunderstanding of the tense of αμαρτανεινhamartanein here. Paul has precisely John‘s idea in Romans 6:1 επιμενωμεν τηι αμαρτιαιepimenōmen tēi hamartiāi (shall we continue in sin, present active linear subjunctive) in contrast with αμαρτησωμενhamartēsōmen in Romans 6:15 (shall we commit a sin, first aorist active subjunctive).

Verse 10

In this (εν τουτωιen toutōi). As already shown. A life of sin is proof that one is a child of the devil and not of God. This is the line of cleavage that is obvious to all. See John 8:33-39 for the claim of the Pharisees to be the children of Abraham, whereas their conduct showed them to be children of the devil. This is not a popular note with an age that wishes to remove all distinctions between Christians and the world.

Doeth not righteousness (ο μη ποιων δικαιοσυνηνho mē poiōn dikaiosunēn). Habit (linear present participle) again of not doing righteousness, as in 1 John 3:7 of doing it. Cf. ποιειpoiei and μη ποιωνmē poiōn (doing and not doing) in Matthew 7:24, Matthew 7:26.

Neither (καιkai). Literally, “and,” but with the ellipsis of ουκ εστιν εκ του τεουouk estin ek tou theou (is not of God). The addition here of this one item about not loving (μη αγαπωνmē agapōn) one‘s brother is like Paul‘s summary in Romans 13:9, a striking illustration of the general principle just laid down and in accord with 1 John 2:9-11.

Verse 11

Message (αγγελιαaggelia). In N.T. only here and 1 John 1:5, but επαγγελιαepaggelia (promise) fifty-one times.

From the beginning (απ αρχηςap' archēs). See 1 John 1:1 for this phrase and 1 John 2:7 for the idea. They had the message of love for the brotherhood from the beginning of the gospel and it goes back to the time of Cain and Abel (1 John 3:12).

That we should love one another (ινα αγαπωμεν αλληλουςhina agapōmen allēlous). Sub-final clause (content of the αγγελιαaggelia) with ιναhina and present active subjunctive. John repeats the message of 1 John 2:7.

Verse 12

Of the evil one (εκ του πονηρουek tou ponērou). Ablative case and the same for neuter and masculine singular, but 1 John 3:10 makes it clear that the reference is to the devil.

Slew (εσπαχενesphaxen). First aorist active indicative of σπαζωsphazō old verb, to slay, to butcher, to cut the throat (Latin jugulare) like an ox in the shambles, in N.T. only here and Rev (Revelation 5:6, Revelation 5:9, Revelation 5:12, etc.).

Wherefore? (χαριν τινοσcharin tinos̱). “For the sake of what?” Post-positive preposition (Ephesians 3:1, Ephesians 3:14) except here. The interpretation of the act of Cain (Genesis 4:8.) is an addition to the narrative, but in accord with Hebrews 11:4. Jealousy led to murder.

Verse 13

If (ειei). Common construction after ταυμαζωthaumazō (wonder) rather than οτιhoti (that, because). Present imperative here with μηmē means “cease wondering.” Note μη ταυμασηιςmē thaumasēis (do not begin to wonder) in John 3:6 (an individual case). See this same condition and language in John 15:18.

Verse 14

We know (ημεις οιδαμενhēmeis oidamen). Emphatic expression of ημειςhēmeis (we) in contrast to the unregenerate world, the Christian consciousness shared by writer and readers.

We have passed (μεταβεβηκαμενmetabebēkamen). Perfect active indicative of μεταβαινωmetabainō old compound to pass over from one place to another (John 7:3), to migrate, out of death into life. We have already done it while here on earth.

Because (οτιhoti). Proof of this transition, not the ground of it.

We love the brethren (αγαπωμεν τους αδελπουςagapōmen tous adelphous). Just this phrase (plural) here alone, but see 1 John 2:9 for the singular.

He that loveth not (ο μη αγαπωνho mē agapōn). “The not loving man,” general picture and picture of spiritual death.

Verse 15

A murderer (αντρωποκτονοςanthrōpoktonos). Old compound (Euripides) from αντρωποςanthrōpos (man) and κτεινωkteinō (to kill), a man-killer, in N.T. only here and John 8:44 (of Satan).

No (πασουpās- ουδειςou). According to current Hebraistic idiom = μενουσανoudeis as in 1 John 2:19, 1 John 2:21.

Abiding (μενωmenousan). Present active feminine accusative predicate participle of menō “a continuous power and a communicated gift” (Westcott).

Verse 16

Know we (εγνωκαμενegnōkamen). Perfect active indicative, “we have come to know and still know.” See 1 John 2:3 for “hereby” (εν τουτωιen toutōi).

Love (την αγαπηνtēn agapēn). “The thing called love” (D. Smith).

He for us (εκεινος υπερ ημωνekeinos huper hēmōn). ΕκεινοςEkeinos as in 1 John 2:6; 1 John 3:3, 1 John 3:5, υπερhuper here alone in this Epistle, though common in John‘s Gospel (John 10:11, John 10:15; John 11:50, etc.) and in 3 John 1:7.

Laid down his life (την πσυχην αυτου ετηκενtēn psuchēn autou ethēken). First aorist active indicative of τιτημιtithēmi the very idiom used by Jesus of himself in John 10:11, John 10:17.

We ought (ημεις οπειλομενhēmeis opheilomen). Emphatic ημειςhēmeis again. For οπειλωopheilō see 1 John 2:6. Of course our laying down our lives for the brethren has no atoning value in our cases as in that of Christ, but is a supreme proof of one‘s love (John 13:37.; John 15:13), as often happens.

Verse 17

Whoso hath (ος αν εχηιhos an echēi). Indefinite relative clause with modal ανan with οςhos and the present active subjunctive of εχωechō world‘s goods (τον βιον του κοσμουton bion tou kosmou). “The living or livelihood (not ζωηzōē the principle of life, and see 1 John 2:16 for βιοςbios) of the world” (not in the sense of evil or wicked, but simply this mundane sphere).

Beholdeth (τεωρειtheōrei). Present active subjunctive of τεωρεωtheōreō like εχειechei just before.

In need (χρειαν εχονταchreian echonta). “Having need” (present active predicate participle of εχωechō agreeing with αδελπονadelphon). See the vivid picture of a like case in James 2:15.

Shutteth up (κλεισηιkleisēi). First aorist (effective) active subjunctive of κλειωkleiō to close like the door, changed on purpose from present tense to aorist (graphic slamming the door of his compassion, σπλαγχναsplagchna common in lxx and N.T. for the nobler viscera, the seat of the emotions, as in Philippians 2:11; Colossians 3:12). Only here in John.

How (πωςpōs). Rhetorical question like that in James 2:16 (what is the use?). It is practical, not speculative, that counts in the hour of need.

Verse 18

In word, neither with the tongue (λογωι μηδε τηι γλωσσηιlogōi mēde tēi glōssēi). Either instrumental or locative makes sense. What John means is “not merely by word or by the tongue.” He does not condemn kind words which are comforting and cheering, but warm words should be accompanied by warm deeds to make real “in deed and in truth” (εν εργωι και αλητειαιen ergōi kai alētheiāi). Here is a case where actions do speak louder than mere words.

Verse 19

Shall we know (γνωσομεταgnōsometha). Future middle indicative of γινωσκωginōskō at any future emergency, we shall come to know by this (εν τουτωιen toutōi) “that we are of the truth” (οτι εκ της αλητειας εσμενhoti ek tēs alētheias esmen).

Before him (εμπροστεν αυτουemprosthen autou). In the very presence of God we shall have confident assurance (πεισομεν την καρδιαν ημωνpeisomen tēn kardian hēmōn either we shall persuade our heart or shall assure our heart) because God understands us.

Verse 20

Whereinsoever our heart condemn us (οτι εαν καταγινωσκηι ημων η καρδιαhoti ean kataginōskēi hēmōn hē kardia). A construction like οτι ανhoti an whatever, in John 2:5; John 14:13. ΚαταγινωσκωKataginōskō occurs only three times in the N.T., here, 1 John 3:21; Galatians 2:11. It means to know something against one, to condemn.

Because God is greater than our heart (οτι μειζων εστιν της καρδιας ημωνhoti meizōn estin tēs kardias hēmōn). Ablative καρδιαςkardias after the comparative μειζωνmeizōn knoweth all things (και γινωσκει πανταkai ginōskei panta). Just so Peter replied to Jesus in spite of his denials (John 21:17). God‘s omniscience is linked with his love and sympathy. God knows every secret in our hearts. This difficult passage strikes the very centre of Christian truth (Brooke).

Verse 21

If our heart condemn us not (εαν η καρδια μη καταγινωσκηιean hē kardia mē kataginōskēi). Condition of third class with εαν μηean mē and present active subjunctive. The converse of the preceding, but not a claim to sinlessness, but the consciousness of fellowship in God‘s presence.

Boldness toward God (παρρησιαν προς τον τεονparrēsian pros ton theon). Even in prayer (Hebrews 4:16). See also 1 John 2:28.

Verse 22

Whatsoever we ask (ο εαν αιτωμενho ean aitōmen). Indefinite relative clause with modal ανan and the present active subjunctive, like οτι εαν καταγινωσκηιhoti ean kataginōskēi in 1 John 3:20. In form no limitations are placed here save that of complete fellowship with God, which means complete surrender of our will to that of God our Father. See the clear teaching of Jesus on this subject in Mark 11:24; Luke 11:9; John 14:12.; John 16:23 and his example (Mark 14:36; Matthew 26:39; Luke 22:42). The answer may not always be in the form that we expect, but it will be better.

We receive of him (λαμβανομεν απ αυτουlambanomen ap' autou). See 1 John 1:5 for απ αυτουap' autou (from him).

Because (οτιhoti). Twofold reason why we receive regularly (λαμβανομενlambanomen) the answer to our prayers (1) “we keep” (τηρουμενtēroumen for which see 1 John 2:3) his commandments and (2) “we do” (ποιουμενpoioumen we practise regularly) “the things that are pleasing” (τα αρεσταta aresta old verbal adjective from αρεσκωareskō to please, with dative in John 8:29 with same phrase; Acts 12:3 and infinitive in Acts 6:2, only other N.T. examples) “in his sight” (ενωπιον αυτουenōpion autou common late vernacular preposition in papyri, lxx, and in N.T., except Matthew and Mark, chiefly by Luke and in the Apocalypse), in God‘s eye, as in Hebrews 13:21.

Verse 23

His commandment (η εντολη αυτουhē entolē autou).

That (ιναhina). Subfinal use of ιναhina in apposition with εντοληentolē (commandment) and explanatory of it, as in John 15:12 (εντολη ιναentolē hina). See Christ‘s summary of the commandments (Mark 12:28-31; Matthew 22:34-40).

So these two points here (1) We should believe (πιστευσωμενpisteusōmen first aorist active subjunctive according to B K L, though Aleph A C read the present subjunctive πιστευωμενpisteuōmen) either in a crisis (aorist) or the continuous tenor (present) of our lives. The “name” of Jesus Christ here stands for all that he is, “a compressed creed” (Westcott) as in 1 John 1:3. Note dative ονοματιonomati here with πιστευωpisteuō as in 1 John 5:10, though εις ονομαeis onoma (on the name) in 1 John 5:13; John 1:12; John 2:23; John 3:18.

But (2) we should love one another” (αγαπωμεν αλληλουςagapōmen allēlous), as he has already urged (1 John 2:7.; 1 John 3:11) and as he will repeat (1 John 4:7, 1 John 4:11.; 2 John 1:5) as Jesus (even as he gave us commandment, that is Christ) had previously done (John 13:34; John 15:12, John 15:17). There are frequent points of contact between this Epistle and the words of Jesus in John 13-17.

Verse 24

And he in him (και αυτος εν αυτωιkai autos en autōi). That is “God abides in him” as in 1 John 4:15. We abide in God and God abides in us through the Holy Spirit (John 14:10, John 14:17, John 14:23; John 17:21). “Therefore let God be a home to thee, and be thou the home of God: abide in God, and let God abide in thee” (Bede).

By the Spirit (εκ του πνευματοςek tou pneumatos). It is thus (by the Holy Spirit, first mention in this Epistle and “Holy” not used with “Spirit” in this Epistle or the Apocalypse) that we know that God abides in us.

Which (ουhou). Ablative case by attraction from accusative οho (object of εδωκενedōken) to agree with πνευματοςpneumatos as often, though not always. It is a pity that the grammatical gender (which) is retained here in the English instead of “whom,” as it should be.

Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright © Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 1 John 3". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.