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the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
1 John 3

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New TestamentZerr's N.T. Commentary

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Verse 1

1Jn 3:1. Behold is a term used as a call to attention, directing the minds of the readers to a matter the apostle regards as of special importance. It is the manner (sort, kind or quality) of love that the writer wishes to emphasize. God's love was so great that He was willing to demonstrate it by giving us the highest possible honor, namely, taking us into the divine family as children. It is like a very wealthy king who takes a poor man from the depths of poverty and humility, and makes him an heir to the royal estate, only the illustration but faintly compares the circumstance. Since the world knew not the Father it would not recognize those who have been redeemed from the regions of sin, and adopted into the family of the Heavenly King.

Verse 2

1Jn 3:2. In beginning this verse with the word beloved, the apostle does so in the same sentiment that caused him to use the term little children; it is a term of endearment. Now signifies he is speaking of the condition in this life before he shall appear. Being a son of God is a spiritual relationship which does not make any change in our personal appearance. That is because we must retain our fleshly body while we live in this world. What we shall be pertains to what can be seen as the connection in the verse shows, and John is referring to what our appearance will be after the coming of Christ. He says what that. will be doth not yet appear. Yet he does know (by inspiration) that when Jesus comes we shall be like hint. But the apostle did know even as he was writing, what the appearance of Jesus was when he was on the earth, for he appeared as a man with a fleshly body. Hence He will be changed and John was not instructed as to what the new form would be in appearance. Another thing of which he was certain was that when he shall appear we shall be like him. If that is the case then we shall be alike since "things equal to the same thing are equal to each other." Then if the saved ones are all alike there will be no distinction between them. This is fatal to the carnal notion that we will recognize our "loved ones" (family relations) in heaven. There will be no male nor female nor other personal distinctions and hence no recognition of one person as to whether he is my father or your brother or the husband of this or that woman: all bodily or personal distinctions are for this life only.

Verse 3

1Jn 3:3. Hath this hope means the hope of seeing Jesus and being like him. With such an incentive it is expected that all who have become the sons of God will cleanse themselves of impurity in life and strive to be like his Son.

Verse 4

1Jn 3:4. Since committeth is a key word in verse 9 I shall leave my comments on it until that verse is reached. Sin is the transgression of the law. It should be observed that John does not say transgression is the only thing that constitutes sin; it is the only phase of the subject being considered at this place.

Verse 5

1Jn 3:5. In him is no sin. This is what is meant in Joh 14:30 where Jesus says the prince of this world (Satan) cometh "and hath nothing in me." No sacrifice could have atoned for the sins of the world if attempted by a person who was himself tainted with sin.

Verse 6

1Jn 3:6. Abideth signifies a continuous life in Christ and not a wavering from side to side. Such a person sinneth not which is akin to the word committeth as to its ending which will be explained at verse 9. A person cannot abide in Christ until he first comes into Him, then if he continues in that relation it can be said that he is abiding in Him. By the same token if a man sinneth it is proof that such a person has not yet made his acquaintance with Christ.

Verse 7

1Jn 3:7. Little children is general and is used as explained at chapter 2:1. They are again warned against being deceived which evidently refers to the antichrists who are mentioned in the preceding chapter. The first he stands for the faithful follower• of Christ and the second he means Christ himself. Doeth and is righteous are related and will receive some more light at verse 9.

Verse 8

1Jn 3:8. Committeth and sinneth will be explained by the comments on the next verse. Is of the devil refers to the practice of sin which was introduced into the world by the devil. From the beginning means the beginning of mankind on the earth. Not that he had not sinned before that, for he had, by reason of which he was cast out of heaven (Luk 10:18). But John is here concerned only with the devil's first attack upon man as the rest of the verse indicates. We know that the Son of God was manifested in the world to destroy the works of the devil, therefore the word beginning can apply only to the beginning of man on the earth.

Verse 9

1Jn 3:9. The two key words in this verse are commit and cannot. Words, like people, "Are known by the company they keep," which is another way of saying that the meaning of words may be learned by their connection or by the use that is made of them. The first word is from POIEO and Thayer uses three pages of his lexicon with definitions and explanations, which indicates the wide scope of its meaning. Among his comments on the word are, "To follow some method in expressing by deeds the feelings and thoughts of the mind; carry on; describing a plan or course of action." Robinson gives as one explanation, "What one does repeatedly, continuedly, habitually." One of Webster's definitions is, "To pledge; to bind; as, to commit oneself to a certain course." The Englishman's Greek New Testament translates the word by "practice." All of these definitions and translations show the word has no reference to what a man does occasionally or incidentally, but it means what he makes a practice of. The term "practicing physician" does not mean a man who occasionally gives a dose of medicine to a friend. If a man "retires" from the occupation of a carpenter he may occasionally drive a nail or saw a board, yet we would not say he -has gone into the occupation again. Likewise a man who becomes a child of God ceases to commit sin as a "practice," but that does not mean he will never do anything that is wrong. (See the comments at chapter 1:7, 8.) We are certain an inspired man would not contradict himself, so John would not use the word commit in this verse to mean an occasional sin, when he taught in chapter 1:7 that even a man who "walks in the light" needs to be cleansed from sin by the blood of Christ. Cannot is from OUDUNAMAI, which means morally unable and not that it is physically impossible. We will consider some other passages where the same word is used. Mat 5:14 says "A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid." Yet all of us know that during the war many cities and other important places were actually hid by camouflage. In Mar 2:19 Jesus says of certain persons that "they cannot fast"; does this mean they actually could not refrain from eating? Luk 11:7 says the man who had retired but was asked to give a friend some bread replied, "I cannot rise and give thee." We know the man did not lack the physical ability of getting out of bed. And so the word in our verse does not mean that the child of God has come to the place where he is physically unable to do any wrong, but that he is morally restrained from it, just as a good man who is asked to join another in some crime would reply, "0 no, I couldn't do anything like that." Besides, to say a man has reached a condition where it is impossible for him to do anything wrong, would be like taking from him the necessity of watching his step, and would also make it unnecessary for him to seek the services of the Intercessor. The principle on which all these things are said of the child of God is the truth that he is born (begotten) of God. He has been conceived and born of a parentage that is spiritual and hence that holy characteristic is constantly in his spiritual person to urge him in the right course of life.

Verse 10

1Jn 3:10. In this refers to the practice of sin as explained in the preceding verse. Doeth is used in the same sense as the word commit (or com-mitteth), meaning the continual or general manner of life. The children of the devil may occasionally perform some act that is good in itself but their life as a whole is devoted to the service of Satan.

Verse 11

1Jn 3:11. From the beginning means from the start of man's existence on the earth. The message is the teaching that we should love each other.

Verse 12

1Jn 3:12. This verse confirms the comments on the preceding one as to when the beginning occurred. The case of Cain and Abel is the first one in the divine record that pertains to the subject of love. Cain would not have slain his brother had he loved him. John's explanation of the cause of the lack of love is that his own works were evil while those of his brother were righteous. It seems strange that such a circumstance would cause the hatred. The basic or remote cause actually was envy which gave him a feeling of spite.

Verse 13

1Jn 3:13. Marvel not means not to be surprised or wonder at it, because such an attitude is to be expected. Jesus taught the same thing as recorded in Joh 15:18-19, and it is also taught in 1Pe 4:12. The world will hate a faithful disciple of Christ on the same principle that Cain hated his brother. The righteous life is a constant rebuke to the unrighteous ways of the world and causes it to hate the righteous people.

Verse 14

1Jn 3:14. The absence of love for the brethren is proof of one's being still out of the body of Christ. Those who actually enter the spiritual body will necessarily have a fellow feeling for the members. The act of entering the body is equivalent to passing from death unto life. John says we know in the sense that we have the direct evi-dence, namely, our mutual relation to each other in Christ. The last sentence of the verse is merely the reverse of the forepart. With this verse before us we may conclude that genuine evidence of brotherly love is not just the sentimental feeling, but it can be claimed only after a person has passed from death unto life. There will be more said on this subject when we come to chapter 5:2.

Verse 15

1Jn 3:15. Cain slew his brother because he hated him, so that the poison of murder was in his mind before he talked with him. Others may have the same kind of hatred in their heart but do not have the opportunity of carrying it out. The Lord can read such a mind and hence will regard that man as a murderer. Ye know that no murderer, etc. The Old Testament condemned a murderer and required that he be punished with death (Gen 9:6 and many other passages). John is repeating the same condemnation except that he applies it to murderous intent as well as the actual deed.

Verse 16

1Jn 3:16. The words of God have been supplied by the translators. The passage means that the Lord gave direct evidence of His love in that he laid down his life for us. This is a beautiful contrast with the man who hates his brother. Such a person not only does not make any sacrifice for another, but takes the other man's life from him. We ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. This cannot necessarily mean that we can literally die for the sake of another, except where the other person's life is in danger and we might lose ours in protecting him. The passage refers to the interest or devotion we would manifest for our brethren even to the extent of making great and trying sacrifices. (See Rom 16:4.)

Verse 17

1Jn 3:17. In this verse the apostle gives a simple example (on the negative side) of what it means to be devoted to the interests of others. Bowels is used figuratively because people in old times thought that was the seat of the finer sentiments of the mind. John uses it to mean that when a man closes his sentiments of compassion against such an unfortunate creature as this, he cannot truly claim the love of God.

Verse 18

1Jn 3:18. This verse means for our love to go farther than words; to be proven by our actions. It is a summing up of the preceding verse.

Verse 19

1Jn 3:19. Nothing can give a disciple any stronger confidence than to know that he is proving his love by actions that benefit the brethren. He thereby manifests his relationship with the truth of the Lord which requires us to show practical love.

Verse 20

1Jn 3:20. Our heart refers to our mind with its various attributes. Having been instructed to show our love by helpful works, if we do so we will feel assured in connection with the subject. If we fail to do our known duty we will have "a guilty conscience" and be self-condemned. If our own knowledge of neglect causes us to feel condemned, we may be sure that God will condemn us also because He knows our hearts.

Verse 21

1Jn 3:21. This verse is virtually a repetition of the preceding one, except that it is considering a person who has carried out the teaching of practical love.

Verse 22

1Jn 3:22. Because we keep his commandments is the condition on which we will receive what we ask. Keeping the commandments includes the obligation of consulting the scriptures to learn what would be right for us to receive. It also includes our doing the things that please Him.

Verse 23

1Jn 3:23. Believing on Christ and loving the brethren (with practical love) sums up the qualities of an obedient child of God. That is because belief in Christ means more than a mere profession. It includes a working faith that will carry out the teaching in Jas 2:18, to show our faith by our works.

Verse 24

1Jn 3:24. Dwelleth in him, and he in him. The matter of dwelling is a mutual affair between the Lord and his people. Since the subject is a spiritual one it is possible for "two persons to be at the same place at the same time"; it means they are dwelling with each other. Spirit which he hath given us enabled the apostles to speak with knowledge on the affairs of the kingdom.
Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on 1 John 3". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/1-john-3.html. 1952.
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