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Bible Commentaries
1 John 3

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New TestamentRobertson's Word Pictures

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Verse 1

What manner of love (ποταπην αγαπην). 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 (δεδωκεν). Perfect active indicative of διδωμ, state of completion, "the endowment of the receiver" (Vincent).

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

Children (τεκνα). As in John 1:12 and with an allusion to γεγεννητα 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 (κα εσμεν). "And we are." A parenthetical reflection characteristic of John (κα νυν εστιν in John 5:25 and κα ουκ εισιν in Revelation 2:2; Revelation 3:9) omitted by Textus Receptus, though, in the old MSS.

Because it knew him not (οτ ουκ εγνω αυτον). Second aorist active indicative of γινωσκω, precisely the argument in John 15:18.

Verse 2

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

It is not yet made manifest (ουπω εφανερωθη). First aorist passive indicative of φανεροω. For the aorist indicative with ουπω 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 (τ εσομεθα). Not τινες (who), but τ (what) neuter singular predicate nominative. "This what suggests something unspeakable, contained in the likeness of God" (Bengel).

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

Like him (ομοιο αυτω). Αυτω is associative instrumental case after ομοιο. 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 (οψομεθα αυτον καθως εστιν). Future middle indicative of οραω. 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' αυτω). Resting upon (επ) with locative rather than εις, looking to, Acts 24:15. That is upon Christ (Brooke), upon God (D. Smith), upon God in Christ (Westcott).

Purifieth himself (αγνιζε εαυτον). Present active indicative of αγνιζω, old verb, from αγνος (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 (καθως εκεινος αγνος εστιν). As in 1 John 2:6; 1 John 3:9 εκεινος (emphatic demonstrative) refers to Christ. Christ can be termed αγνος "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 ανομια). 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 (ποιων) means the habit of doing sin.

Verse 5

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

Was manifested (εφανερωθη). Same form as in verse 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 αρη). Purpose clause with ινα and first aorist active subjunctive of αιρω as in John 1:29. In Isaiah 53:11 we have αναφερω for bearing sins, but αιρω properly means to lift up and carry away (John 2:16). So in Hebrews 10:4 we find αφαιρεω and Hebrews 10:11 περιαιρεω, to take away sins completely (the complete expiation wrought by Christ on Calvary). The plural αμαρτιας here, as in Colossians 1:14, not singular (collective sense) αμαρτιαν as in John 1:29.

And in him is no sin (κα αμαρτια εν αυτω ουκ εστιν). "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 αμαρτανε). Linear present (linear μενων, keeps on abiding) active indicative of αμαρτανω, "does not keep on sinning." For μενω (abide) see 1 John 2:6; John 15:4-10.

Whosoever sinneth (ο αμαρτανων). Present (linear) active articular participle like μενων above, "the one who keeps on sinning" (lives a life of sin, not mere occasional acts of sin as αμαρτησας, aorist active participle, would mean).

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

Verse 7

Let no man lead you astray (μηδεις πλανατω υμας). Present active imperative of πλαναω, "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 δικαιοσυνην). "He that keeps on doing (present active participle of ποιεω) righteousness." For this idiom with ποιεω see 1 John 1:6; 1 John 3:4.

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

Verse 8

He that doeth sin (ο ποιων την αμαρτιαν). "He that keeps on doing sin" (the habit of sin).

Of the devil (εκ του διαβολου). 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 αμαρτανε). 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 λυση). Purpose clause with ινα and the first aorist active subjunctive of λυω. This purpose (εις τουτο) Jesus had and has. There is eternal conflict, with final victory over Satan certain.

Verse 9

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

His seed (σπερμα αυτου). God's seed, "the divine principle of life" (Vincent). Cf. 1 John 3:1.

And he cannot sin (κα ου δυνατα αμαρτανειν). This is a wrong translation, for this English naturally means "and he cannot commit sin" as if it were κα ου δυνατα αμαρτειν or αμαρτησα (second aorist or first aorist active infinitive). The present active infinitive αμαρτανειν can only mean "and he cannot go on sinning," as is true of αμαρτανε in verse 1 John 3:8 and αμαρτανων in verse 1 John 3:6. For the aorist subjunctive to commit a sin see αμαρτητε and αμαρτη in 1 John 2:1. A great deal of false theology has grown out of a misunderstanding of the tense of αμαρτανειν here. Paul has precisely John's idea in Romans 6:1 επιμενωμεν τη αμαρτια (shall we continue in sin, present active linear subjunctive) in contrast with αμαρτησωμεν in Romans 6:15 (shall we commit a sin, first aorist active subjunctive).

Verse 10

In this (εν τουτω). 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 δικαιοσυνην). Habit (linear present participle) again of not doing righteousness, as in verse 1 John 3:7 of doing it. Cf. ποιε and μη ποιων (doing and not doing) in Matthew 7:24; Matthew 7:26.

Neither (κα). Literally, "and," but with the ellipsis of ουκ εστιν εκ του θεου (is not of God). The addition here of this one item about not loving (μη αγαπων) 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 (αγγελια). In N.T. only here and 1 John 1:5, but επαγγελια (promise) fifty-one times.

From the beginning (απ' αρχης). 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 (verse 1 John 3:12).

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

Verse 12

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

Slew (εσφαξεν). First aorist active indicative of σφαζω, 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 τινοσ;). "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 (ε). Common construction after θαυμαζω (wonder) rather than οτ (that, because). Present imperative here with μη means "cease wondering." Note μη θαυμασηις (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 οιδαμεν). Emphatic expression of ημεις (we) in contrast to the unregenerate world, the Christian consciousness shared by writer and readers.

We have passed (μεταβεβηκαμεν). Perfect active indicative of μεταβαινω, 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 (οτ). Proof of this transition, not the ground of it.

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

He that loveth not (ο μη αγαπων). "The not loving man," general picture and picture of spiritual death.

Verse 15

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

No (πασ--ου). According to current Hebraistic idiom= ουδεις as in 1 John 2:19; 1 John 2:21.

Abiding (μενουσαν). Present active feminine accusative predicate participle of μενω, "a continuous power and a communicated gift" (Westcott).

Verse 16

Know we (εγνωκαμεν). Perfect active indicative, "we have come to know and still know." See 1 John 2:3 for "hereby" (εν τουτω).

Love (την αγαπην). "The thing called love" (D. Smith).

He for us (εκεινος υπερ ημων). Εκεινος as in 1 John 2:6; 1 John 3:3; 1 John 3:5, υπερ here alone in this Epistle, though common in John's Gospel (1 John 10:11; 1 John 10:15; 1 John 11:50, etc.) and in 3 John 1:7.

Laid down his life (την ψυχην αυτου εθηκεν). First aorist active indicative of τιθημ, the very idiom used by Jesus of himself in John 10:11; John 10:17.

We ought (ημεις οφειλομεν). Emphatic ημεις again. For οφειλω 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 εχη). Indefinite relative clause with modal αν with ος and the present active subjunctive of εχω.

The world's goods (τον βιον του κοσμου). "The living or livelihood (not ζωη, the principle of life, and see 1 John 2:16 for βιος) of the world" (not in the sense of evil or wicked, but simply this mundane sphere).

Beholdeth (θεωρε). Present active subjunctive of θεωρεω, like εχε just before.

In need (χρειαν εχοντα). "Having need" (present active predicate participle of εχω, agreeing with αδελφον). See the vivid picture of a like case in James 2:15.

Shutteth up (κλειση). First aorist (effective) active subjunctive of κλειω, to close like the door, changed on purpose from present tense to aorist (graphic slamming the door of his compassion, σπλαγχνα, 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 (πως). 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 (λογω μηδε τη γλωσση). 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 εργω κα αληθεια). Here is a case where actions do speak louder than mere words.

Verse 19

Shall we know (γνωσομεθα). Future middle indicative of γινωσκω, at any future emergency, we shall come to know by this (εν τουτω) "that we are of the truth" (οτ εκ της αληθειας εσμεν).

Before him (εμπροσθεν αυτου). In the very presence of God we shall have confident assurance (πεισομεν την καρδιαν ημων, either we shall persuade our heart or shall assure our heart) because God understands us.

Verse 20

Whereinsoever our heart condemn us (οτ εαν καταγινωσκη ημων η καρδια). A construction like οτ αν, whatever, in John 2:5; John 14:13. Καταγινωσκω occurs only three times in the N.T., here, verse 1 John 3:21; Galatians 2:11. It means to know something against one, to condemn.

Because God is greater than our heart (οτ μειζων εστιν της καρδιας ημων). Ablative καρδιας after the comparative μειζων.

And knoweth all things (κα γινωσκε παντα). 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 καταγινωσκη). Condition of third class with εαν μη 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 θεον). Even in prayer (Hebrews 4:16). See also 1 John 2:28.

Verse 22

Whatsoever we ask (ο εαν αιτωμεν). Indefinite relative clause with modal αν and the present active subjunctive, like οτ εαν καταγινωσκη in verse 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' αυτου). See 1 John 1:5 for απ' αυτου (from him).

Because (οτ). Twofold reason why we receive regularly (λαμβανομεν) the answer to our prayers (1) "we keep" (τηρουμεν, for which see 1 John 2:3) his commandments and (2) "we do" (ποιουμεν, we practise regularly) "the things that are pleasing" (τα αρεστα, old verbal adjective from αρεσκω, 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 αυτου, 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 αυτου).

That (ινα). Subfinal use of ινα in apposition with εντολη (commandment) and explanatory of it, as in John 15:12 (εντολη ινα). See Christ's summary of the commandments (Mark 12:28-31; Matthew 22:34-40). So these two points here (1)

We should believe (πιστευσωμεν, first aorist active subjunctive according to B K L, though Aleph A C read the present subjunctive πιστευωμεν) 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 ονοματ here with πιστευω as in 1 John 5:10, though εις ονομα (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 αλληλους), 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 1 John 3:13-17.

Verse 24

And he in him (κα αυτος εν αυτω). 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 πνευματος). 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 (ου). Ablative case by attraction from accusative ο (object of εδωκεν) to agree with πνευματος 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.

Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 1 John 3". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwp/1-john-3.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.
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