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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
1 John 3

 

 

Verse 1

1 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.

Ver. 1. Behold what manner] Qualem et quantum, as 2 Peter 3:11. {See Trapp on "John 1:12"} If Jacob was at such pains and patience to become son-in-law to Laban, if David held it a great matter to be son-in-law to the king, what is it then to be sons and daughters to the Lord Almighty? 2 Corinthians 6:18.

The world knoweth us not] Princes unknown are unrespected; unkent, unkist, as the Northern proverb hath it. After the sentence was pronounced upon Mr Bainham, the martyr, he was counselled by Mr Nicholas Wilson to conform himself to the Church; to whom he answered, I trust I am the very child of God, which ye, blind asses, said he, do not perceive. The "king’s daughter is all glorious within," her beauty is inward, Psalms 45:13; she is black, but comely as the tents of Kedar, Song of Solomon 1:5; rough, but rich; as the tabernacle in the wilderness, covered with goat’s hair, but within costly and curious; as Brutus’s staff in the story, cuius intus solidum aurum corneo velabatur cortice. (Plut.) All righteous men are kings, as may appear by comparing Matthew 13:17; cf. Luke 10:24; they are kings in righteousness as Melchisedec, but somewhat obscure ones as he; they must be content to pass to heaven as Christ their head did, as concealed men. Their glorious faith, James 2:1, now not notified or regarded, shall one day be "found to praise, honour, and glory," 1 Peter 1:7.


Verse 2

2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

Ver. 2. What we shall be] Great things we have in hand, but greater in hope; much in possession, but more in reversion. Let this comfort us against the contempts cast upon us by the world, blind and besides itself in point of salvation.

For we shall see him as he is] Now we see as in a glass obscurely, 1 Corinthians 13:12, as an old man through spectacles, as a weak eye looks upon the sun; but in heaven we shall see him as he is, so far as a creature is capable of that blissful vision.


Verse 3

3 And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

Ver. 3. Purifieth himself] That is true hope that runs out into holiness. Faith and hope purge, and work a suitableness in the soul to the things believed and hoped for.

Even as he is pure] In quality, though not in an equality. There shall be comparatio, though not aequiparatio.


Verse 4

4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.

Ver. 4. Sin is the transgression] As there is the same roundness in a little ball as in a bigger, so the same disobedience in a small sin as in a great. Papists tell us that concupiscence is not truly and properly a sin (Concil. Trident.); but St Paul saith otherwise, Romans 7:8. There are among us that say that original sin is not forbidden by the law; but sure we are it is cursed and condemned by the law, as that which hath in it a tacit consent to all sin. Peccatum est dictum, factum, concupitum contra aeternam legem, saith Austin (contra Faust. xxii. 27). Any lack of conformity to the eternal law is sin.


Verse 5

5 And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.

Ver. 5. To take away our sins] Shall sin live that killed Christ? Shall I drink the blood of these men? said David of those that but ventured their lives for him. Oh that each Christian would turn Jew to himself, and kill the red cow, &c.; present himself a whole burnt sacrifice to God; not going about to frustrate the end of Christ’s incarnation and passion, by retaining that sin that he came to take away, lest that doleful sentence be passed upon him, that was once upon the stubborn Jews, "Ye shall die in your sins," John 8:21; John 8:24.


Verse 6

6 Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.

Ver. 6. Sinneth not] Sin may rebel, it cannot reign in a saint. He sinneth not sinningly; there is no way of wickedness in him, Psalms 139:23-24, he loves not sin, he lies not in it, but riseth again by repentance, and is restless till that be done, and done to purpose.


Verse 7

7 Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.

Ver. 7. Let no man deceive you] As if you might pass e coeno in coelum; fly to heaven with dragon’s wings; dance with the devil all day, and sup with Christ at night; live all your lives long in Delilah’s lap, and then go to Abraham’s bosom when you die. These are the devil’s dirt daubers that teach such doctrine, his upholsterers that sew such pillows, Ezekiel 13:18.

He that doth righteousness is righteous] Provided that he do it from a right principle. For otherwise men may naturally perform the outward act of righteousness, and yet not be righteous persons; as Ahab humbled himself. Alexander the Great, when he had killed Clitus, was troubled in conscience, and sent to all kinds of philosophers (as it were to so many ministers) to know what he might do to appease his conscience and satisfy for that sin. Uriah, that brought in the altar of Damascus, is called "a faithful witness," Isaiah 8:2, true to his word; yet no man looketh upon him as righteous. It is not, saith a reverend man, in divinity as in moral philosophy, where iusta et iuste agendo simus iusti, by doing righteous things and righteously we are made righteous; but we have esse to be first, and then the operari, &c., the work, the habit, and then the act.


Verse 8

8 He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.

Ver. 8. He that committeth sin] ποιων, that makes a trade of it, and can art it (as the word properly signifieth), not act it only.

Is of the devil] Bears his image, wears his livery; is as like him as if spit out of his mouth.

For the devil sinneth] Or is a sinning; he never ceaseth to sin, he commits the sin against the Holy Ghost every moment.

That he might destroy the works] The devil then hath his works in the very hearts of the elect, for whose cause Christ came into the world, that he might unravel the devil’s work, break his head, Genesis 3:15. The Son of the woman, our Saviour (not the Virgin Mary, as Papists blasphemously affirm, illa conteret tibi caput) breaks the serpent’s head, that first of the devil’s works against mankind: trampled upon him and triumphed over him on the cross, and will tread him under our feet also shortly. But what a bold conceit is that of Josephus, that God, when he said "He shall bruise thy head," meant no more but this, Every son of Eve, whensoever he meeteth with a serpent, shall strike it upon the head, which containeth in it somewhat hurtful to mankind. (Antiq. Judaic, i. 2.)


Verse 9

9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

Ver. 9. For his seed] The new nature, which causeth that sin cannot carry it away without some counter buffs. The Spirit quickens the word: as there is a spirit in the natural seed that maketh it prolific; so here.

He cannot sin] i.e. Sinningly, so as to be transformed into sin’s image: cannot do wickedly with both hands earnestly, Micah 7:7-9. He sinneth not totally and finally, he cannot so fall as apostates; for the seed of God ever abideth in him. Bellarmine is forced to confess that this is the hardest place in all the Bible, urged for proof of perseverance in grace.


Verse 10

10 In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.

Ver. 10. In this the children of God] As David’s daughters were known by their garments of various colours, 2 Samuel 13:18; so are God’s children by their piety and charity.


Verse 11

11 For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.

Ver. 11. That we should love, &c.] This beloved disciple was all for love. {See Trapp on "1 John 2:9"} {See Trapp on "1 John 2:5"}


Verse 12

12 Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.

Ver. 12. Who was of that wicked one] Tertullian calleth Cain the devil’s patriarch. Cain is dead, saith another, but I could wish that he did not still live in his heirs and executors, Qui clavam eius sanguine Abelis rubentem, ut rem sacram circumferunt, adorant et venerantur, who bear about and make use of Cain’s club, to knock on the head God’s righteous Abels. (Bucholcer.)

And slew his brother] Gr. εσφαξε cut his throat. Acerbissima sunt odia (ut ita nominem) Theologica, saith one. These divinity hatreds are most deadly. Such fratricides were Alphonsus Diazius, and Charles, king of France, stirred up by Pope Urban to kill his brother Manford, king of Sicily.

Because his own works, &c.] The old enmity, Genesis 3:15. So Numbers 22:3-4. Moab was irked because of Israel, or did fret and vex at them, as Exodus 1:12, yet they were allied, and passed by them in peace, and, by the slaughter of the Amorites, freed them from evil neighbours which had taken away part of their land, and might do more, as one hath well observed.


Verse 13

13 Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.

Ver. 13. Marvel not, my brethren] Since it was so from the beginning, and the very first man that died, died for religion; so early came martyrdom into the world.


Verse 14

14 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.

Ver. 14. We know that we have passed] Not we think, we hope, &c. If we would not have with the merchant an estate hanging upon ropes, fortunam rudentibus aptam, and depending upon uncertain winds, let us make sure work for our souls. This is a jewel that the cock on the dunghill meddles not with. Sensum electionis ad gloriam in hac vita nullum agnosco, saith Greevinchovius the Arminian, I know no such thing as assurance of heaven in this life. Papists allow us nothing beyond a conjectural confidence, unless by special revelation. Miserable comforters! They tell us that to taste though but with the tip of a rod (Jonathan-like) of this honey will hinder us in the chase of our lusts; but believe them not; for the joy of the Lord is our strength, Nehemiah 8:10.

Because we love the brethren] This is to be seen in the natives of New England. The first appearance of grace in them is, their love and respect to those that are truly gracious.


Verse 15

15 Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.

Ver. 15. Whosoever hateth his brother] Not to love then is to hate, as not to save a man is to kill him, Mark 3:4.

Is a murderer] Because he wisheth him out of the world, as Caracalla did his brother Geta, of whom he said, Divus sit, modo non sit vivus, I would he were in heaven or anywhere, so that I were rid of him. By like reason we may say that sin is God-murder; forasmuch as sinners are God haters, Romans 1:30, and could wish there were no God, that they might never come to judgment. The godly man, on the contrary, cries out with David, Vivat Deus, " Let the Lord live, and blessed be the God of my salvation," &c., Psalms 18:46.


Verse 16

16 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

Ver. 16. Because he laid down] {See Trapp on "John 15:13"} {See Trapp on "Romans 5:8"}

We ought also to lay down our lives] If Pylades can offer to die for Orestes merely for a name, or out of carnal affection at the best; should not Christians lay down their own necks one for another, as Aquila and Priscilla did for Paul? Romans 16:4.


Verse 17

17 But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?

Ver. 17. This world’s goods] Gr. τον βιον, livelihood, which is all that the world looks after.

And shutteth up his bowels, &c.] Not drawing out unto him both his sheaf and his soul, Isaiah 58:9. But locking up as with a key (so the Greek κλειση here signifies) both his barn and his bowels; not considering his brother’s necessity and his own ability.


Verse 18

18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

Ver. 18. Let us not love in word] Words are light and cheap; and there is a great deal of mouth mercy abroad. Julian the Apostate is not presently a friend to Basil, though he write unto him, φιλος φιλω, και αδελφος αδελφω, Thou art my friend and beloved brother. The Roman legions loved Otho the emperor, saith Dio the historian, and gave him all respect, ουκ απο της γλωττης, αλλα και απο της ψυχης, not from the teeth outward but from the heart root. {See Trapp on "James 2:14"} {See Trapp on "James 2:15"} {See Trapp on "James 2:16"}


Verse 19

19 And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.

Ver. 19. And shall assure our hearts] This, saith father Latimer, is the desert of the feast of a good conscience. There are other dainty dishes in this feast, but this is the banquet.


Verse 20

20 For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.

Ver. 20. If our keart condemn us] Conscience is God’s spy and man’s overseer, Domesticus index, iudex, carnifex; God’s deputy judge, holding court in the whole soul, bearing witness of all a man’s doings and desires, and accordingly excusing or accusing, absolving or condemning, comforting or tormenting. Quid tibi prodest non habere conscium, habenti conscientiam? saith one; and another, Turpe quid acturus, te sine teste time. Inprimis reverere te ipsum. Look to conscience.

" Conscia mens ut cuique sua est, ita concipit intra,

Pectora pro facto spemque metumque suo." (Ovid.)


Verse 21

21 Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.

Ver. 21. Then have we confidence] Sincerity is the mother of serenity, Sine qua, tranquillitas omnis tempestas est, without which saith serenity is all a storm. Isidore. Uprightness hath boldness. It is not a peace, but a truce, that the wicked have; such a storm will befall them as shall never be blown over. Israel is the heir of peace, Galatians 6:16; Isaiah 32:17.


Verse 22

22 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.

Ver. 22. And whatsoever we ask] sc. According to his will. Fiat voluntas mea, quia tua, said Luther. I can have what I will of God, said one; for my will shall be concentric with his will.

Because we keep] The obedience of faith emboldens us; yet may no man say as the prodigal, "Give me the portion that belongeth to me." It was a proud speech of that emperor (Antonin. Philo.) that said, Non sic Deum coluimus, aut sic viximus, ut ille nos vinceret, We have not so served God, that the enemy should overcome us. It was much worse in that arrogant Papist that said, God forbid that we should enjoy heaven as of alms to us; no, we have it by purchase or conquest.


Verse 23

23 And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.

Ver. 23. And this is his commandment] This is the sum and substance of the gospel, that we believe and love; and the more we believe God’s love to us, the more love shall we bear one to another; for our love is but a reflex of his.

And love one another, as he gave us commandment] Lo, love is a commandment; we should therefore not only submit, but embrace it joyfully as a gift.


Verse 24

24 And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.

Ver. 24. By the Spirit] Christ hath satisfied the wrath of the Father; and now the Father and Christ both, as reconciled, send the Spirit, as the fruit of both their loves, to inherit our hearts. And truly, next unto the love of Christ indwelling in our nature, we may well wonder at the love of the Holy Ghost that will dwell in our defiled souls.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 John 3:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/1-john-3.html. 1865-1868.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, October 13th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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