1 John 3
1See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.
To have the privilege of being called a child of God is a great privilege and blessing of God which demonstrates His great love toward us. We are His children, and thus the world does not know us. We are distinct from the world and its ways, having been called by God to be conformed to the image of His Son. The world didn’t know Christ, but rejected Him. He was in the world but not of it, just as we are. Certainly those who are in the world know we exist, for we interact with them every day. What they don’t know is why we do what we do and why we live like we live. That is why we must preach the gospel to them. They have no understanding for no one seeks God and no one understands. That is why they need a preacher.
2Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.
3And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
We as children of God will one day meet Christ in the air. We will be given new bodies that are immortal, and we will lay aside this corruptible frame. Yet such is yet to come. When Christ appears, we will in the twinkling of an eye be transformed into His likeness, for we will see Him just as He is. What a joy it will be to see our Savior on that day. Everything that we have lived for and hoped for will be realized. Hopes will be fulfilled, and joy will be complete. In light of our fixing our hope upon Christ, we purify ourselves just as He is pure. People say that if we preach a gospel that is based upon grace and not works that there will be no incentive to do works. The obvious reality is that there is incentive to do good works. The believer has a new heart with different loves so it will be natural to do good works. We want to be like Jesus and we want to be pure. This is why it is impossible for a Christian to practice sin as John describes it. Furthermore, we have the opportunity in the future to meet Christ, and we don’t want to be caught sinning when He appears. I can’t imagine how embarrassing and shameful that would be. Of course, He will forgive us, but why would we want to meet Christ with unconfessed sin? He is God and He is holy. In light of this truth, we have motivation to stay pure and continue in good works. Eternal rewards are a good motivator also.
4Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.
5You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin.
6No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.
Since sin is lawlessness, everyone who practices sin breaks the law of God. The reason for Christ coming was to take away sins and fulfill the requirements of the Law. In Christ there was no sin. Since Christ came to fulfill all righteousness and to make it possible for us to be righteous, we too ought to be righteous. Those who remain in Christ and who are truly His do not continue practicing sin and loving the things of the world. Those who do this do not know Him, nor have they seen Him as He is and fallen on their knees as they see their sinfulness in light of His holiness.
7Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous;
8the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.
9No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
10By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.
The difference between those who are children of light and children of darkness is obvious. Those who practice righteousness are righteous. Those who practice sin are of the devil. The devil’s ways are sin as he is the father of lies (John 8:44). Jesus came to defeat the devil once and for all by destroying his works. He did this by making is possible for all men to overcome the law of sin and death if they would receive Christ by faith. Those who are born again in Christ do not practice sin. Here is the clincher: they cannot practice sin because they have the seed of Christ in them. They have been born of a righteous seed who Himself was without sin. Through the ministry of the Word of God, Christ’s seed was implanted in our hearts and souls, and it gave birth to a new life in Christ. Those who are born of Christ’s seed remain in Him in abiding obedience. It is part of his very makeup as a new creation in Christ. Such a person who is Christ’s and of Christ cannot go on practicing sin. The two cannot coexist. If a person is truly born again, they will not continue practicing sin. They do not “carry out, execute, keep on, spend time, pass time, or celebrate sin,” which is what practice implies. The person who practices sin is not merely dabbling in sin, but it is his very identity, love, and way of operation. It is how he lives, thinks, breathes, feels, desires, and acts. For such a person to sin, he is simply carrying out the desires of his heart, which is not a heart that delights in God. Indeed, it cannot, for it has not been reborn. The believer, on the other hand, is born of Christ, able to love as He loved and walk in His ways. This sharp difference in practical living is the key to separating the sheep from the goats. The children of God are obvious by their love for their brothers and sisters and by the fact that they practice righteousness. Their joy is righteousness, for they rejoice with the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6). The child of the devil hates the truth, rejoices in sin, and gives hearty support to others who sin (Romans 1:32). Sin is his identity. His love is cold (Matthew 24:12).
11For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another;
12not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother's were righteous.
Cain knew that he was supposed to love his literal physical brother. Yet, being a child of the evil one, he killed his brother. He did this because this is who he was on the inside. As a child of the devil, it only made sense for him to act unrighteously and practic sin. Abel was a child of righteousness, and Cain hated that fact just as the world hates Christ. It is no different now than it was in the beginning. The children of light and the children of darkness are obvious, based upon their conduct and love or lack thereof.
13Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you.
We are not to be surprised and shocked by persecution and hatred from the world. They hated Christ and they will hate His followers. As 2 Timothy 3:12 says, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” This is the way it is going to be. Those who are not reborn do not like those who are. They are enemies with God, and thus they are enemies with the children of God.
14We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.
15Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
16We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
We know that we are new creations in Christ who are not under the condemnation of spiritual death because of our love for one another. Those who hate, however, remain under the sentence of death. Those who hate are murderers, as Jesus said. Murderers cannot inherit eternal life because no one with unconfessed sin and who has not received Christ by faith can inherit eternal life. Thus, those who do not love but rather hate are children of the devil. Jesus showed us what the definition of love is by laying down His life for us. John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” John wrote that in his gospel, and now he emphasizes this ultimate manifestation of God’s love through Christ once again for the purpose of showing that believers are to love one another with the same kind of love. The world doesn’t understand this kind of love; thus it is the distinguishing mark of the Christian. The believer is a changed person, having passed from sinning which leads to death to love which is evidence of life.
17But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?
18Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.
If we have something that a brother needs and yet we do not give it to him, there is no way that we truly are born again. If we are Christ’s, His love would enable us to love our brother and give him what he needs. If we can’t come up with a morsel of food or a piece of clothing for a brother in need when we have plenty, how will we lay down our lives for them? The true Christian demonstrates love in all matters, including the giving of material goods. Note also that that God doesn’t expect us to give what we don’t have. Those who do have the ability to give, however, are held accountable if they do not give as they ought. We are not to love with mere word by wishing someone well but we are to actually do something about their need. As James said, it does us no good to wish somebody well and let them starve (James 2:14-16). Faith has works, and works are evidence of saving faith.
19We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him
20in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things.
21Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God;
22and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.
As we demonstrate love to our brothers in deed and in truth, we will again be assured of the fact that we are indeed born again. The place we want to be is in a place of certainty and confidence before God. That can only happen when our heart does not condemn us. When we are sure of the fact that there is no impurity or evil intent in our heart, we will be able to get answers to our prayers and know the will of God as we pray. The person who hides sin in his heart and does not please God by keeping His commandments is not able to pray in such a way to receive answers from his praying. It is only the prayers of a righteous man that accomplish much. If for some reason we doubt because of how we feel on a certain day, we must remember the truth that God knows our heart, and we are justified based upon His righteousness and not our own. If we have confessed our sins, we can be sure that we are conditionally righteous in addition to being positionally righteous. When this is the case, we will be able to know what we should pray, and we should expect answers to our prayers.
23This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.
24The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
God has commanded us to believe in Christ and receive Him as our Savior. If we do this, we will please God. If we continue then in loving others, we manifest evidence of our salvation, and we have confidence in our position in Christ. We remain in Christ and He remains in us if we keep His commandments (John 15:10). We can also know if we remain in Christ because of the ministry of the Spirit within our hearts, leading us, convicting us of sin, teaching us all things, and helping us to pray, among other things. The Spirit testifies to our spirits that we are indeed children of the Light (Romans 8:16).