1 JOHN 3
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.
It is fitting that he should begin there for, as he tells us, the love of God for man is the root and well-spring of all our love for God and for each other. It is the motive and force behind all love.
God's love for man, as supremely manifested in His only begotten Son, is the transforming power and incentive of all holiness and righteousness --
"We are more than conquerors through him that loved us" (Rom. 8:37).
"The life I now live, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loves me and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20).
"The love of Christ constraineth us" (2 Cor. 5:14).
'We love, because He first loved us" (1 Jn. 4:19).
Beginning chapter 3, and arising from the thought of this marvellous manifestation of God's love in calling us, as weak, erring mortals, to be His children in glory, the apostle stresses how this hope and promise must lead us to holiness, how out of place and out of harmony any worldliness or ungodliness is with this divine relationship. *
Sons of Yahweh
This sentiment is a great possession to those who stand in the favoured position. It speaks to them of the Father's friendship; it is the pledge of sins forgiven; it is the incentive to vigilance against sin, and striving after true holiness. It represents the delightful truth that the Lord, in the flesh and blood of his brethren, destroyed, through death, their great destroyer, Sin; and delivered them who, through fear of death, were subject to bondage.
... for the poor in spirit, the broken and contrite in heart, the pure of hands, the forgiving of heart, the helpers of the poor and needy, the workers of righteousness, working out their own salvation with fear and trembling. Such are tenderly commended to the mercy of the Father by the Son, whose voice is always heard; their prayers are accepted, their trespasses forgiven, and their weakness aided in the fight. They overcome at the last, and in the day of his glory they will appear in the blood-washed throng, and join in the mighty anthem of the Saviour's praise!
Bro Roberts - The greatness of Christ
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.
How consoling and cheering is it, then, amid all the evils of the present state, that God hath found a ransom, who is willing and able to deliver us from the power of the grave; and not only so, but that "at the manifestation of the sons of God " (Rom. 8:17-25), when He shall appear in power and great glory, "we shall be like Him: because we shall see Him as He is" (1 John 3:2). Then will the saints be "changed into the same image from glory," now only a matter of hope, "into glory," as seen and actually possessed, "even as the Lord " Himself was changed, when He became "the spirit giving life," or "a quickening spirit."
Elpis Israel 1.2.
We shall be LIKE HIM
It is not holiness and glory as such that we must contemplate. These alone are fearful things -- infinitely, hopelessly above our mortal frailties and uncleannesses and limitations.
We are creatures of weakness and ignorance and continual, frustrating failure and disappointment -- with ourselves and with our circumstances. And yet, it is such as we are that are called to holiness and purity and godliness and strength.
It would be a mockery of our weak mortality, except that the call is in the resistless power of love --
"Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed on us. . ."
"I am the Good Shepherd: the Good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. . ."
"Greater love hath no man than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends."
Bro Growcott - The shepherd of the sheep
There are heights and varieties of divine glory and power which offer a boundless prospect of intellectual gratification in the day when, if happily accepted...."we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is".
Seasons 2 .54
3 And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.
A man with such convictions and such prospects before his mind will naturally conform to the standard of things associated with them. If ever we falter and drift again in the direction of the pollutions of the world, from which the truth has delivered us, it is when the power of conviction grows weak.
Full assurance of faith is at the bottom of all effectual enterprise, even in this world's affairs; unbelief at the bottom of all failure. Well-grounded faith and hope will bear a man up in the darkest and most difficult circumstances.
Bro Roberts - Sunday Morning 259
For acceptable walk in the Truth, and for ecclesial health and harmony and a state of true mutual spiritual joyfulness to which we as the sons and daughters of God are freely invited, it is necessary that the Spirit's teachings on the subject of love be continually and repeatedly presented before the mind.
The love which the Scriptures present to us as the fundamental characteristic of godliness is not a natural thing. It is contrary to all that is natural. It is purely a spiritual thing. It is a divine, transforming, unearthly principle of life.
It is a power and force that overcomes and subdues all that is natural. It is the "bond of perfectness" -- the bond -- the binding together -- the uniting, the unifying power of perfection -- unity of perfection -- perfect oneness -- based upon the only possible basis for perfect oneness -- an enthusiastic mutual striving toward perfection. *
4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
Truth and error
Man was the only creature of the Deity's "very good" animal creation, whose action was restrained by a law.
It was said to him,
"Of every tree of the garden eating thou mayest eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day of thine eating thereof, dying thou shalt die."
This was spoken to man only; but in the hearing of the serpent. Had the serpent, or any other animal, eaten of it he would not have transgressed, because the eating, or touching of
the tree, was only prohibited to man. The law demanded of man the recognition of the Deity as his ruler and lawgiver by a faithful abstinence from the thing forbidden.
The law was the spoken word, or oracle, of the Deity; and threatened the man with death if he despised it. No greater offence could be committed by the man; because
"the Deity hath magnified his word above all his name;"
so that to despise his word is equivalent to despising him.
The serpent saw the lawgiver, heard the law, and could distinguish the trees. Being very quick of thought, he instinctively speculated, or reasoned, upon what he saw and heard.
The eyes of the Elohim are open, and they know both good and evil, and yet are immortal. Adam is made in their image and after their likeness; and is doubtless like them in all things but the knowledge of evil as well as good.
This knowledge, it is clear, may be obtained by eating of the tree forbidden. If they eatthereof, the man and the woman would be like the Elohim; their eyes would be open, and they would know good and evil.
And as for dying, that is by no means a necessary consequence. The Elohim are immortal, and Adam and Eve may be so too; for all that is needful to be done toavoid the threatened penalty of the law, is for them to go to the other tree, called the Tree of Lives, and to eat of it, and they will live forever.
Such was the intellectualizing of the serpent upon what he had seen and heard. It brought him to conclusions, not altogether false nor entirely true. His conclusion was a mixture of truth and error, in which the error neutralized the truth and made it void. It was therefore "a lie;" and he, though ignorant of the falseness of the theory he was thinking out,
"a liar, and the father of it."
7 Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.
What is John driving at? Is he not trying to impress us with the fact that our effort must show some tangible results?-that good intentions are not enough. There must be visible improvement-a steady growth of godly attributes and weakening of earthly ones.
"Unto him that overcometh" are promised many things but nothing for him that meant to overcome. We must overcome-we must advance. What was acceptable yesterday is not good enough today. Yesterday's goal must be today's starting point. "Therefore," says Paul (Heb. 6:1)-
"Leaving the first principles . . let us GO ON to perfection."
It is a long way to perfection for the natural man. We have far to go and much to do. We must increase the talents entrusted to us. There was nothing but bitter condemnation for the servant who buried his lord's money in the earth. True, he kept it safely-but that is NOT ENOUGH. He didn't increase it. The warning is clear. There must be tangible RESULTS.
There is no excuse. We know the formula. We have only to make the effort to apply it. It is inevitable that we shall be molded and shaped by the influences with which we come in contact. It is a universal law. It is up to us to choose the influences wisely. WE CANNOT REMAIN UNCHANGED. Every experience and action has its effect, whether of death unto death or life unto life.
If we subject ourselves to the influence and thinking of the world, we shall bring forth fruit unto the world. It is a natural law of our constitution. If we subject ourselves to the influence of the Word of God with a consistency and intimacy that permits it to have its perfect work, we shall gradually acquire a godlike character. It cannot fail. AND IT MUST BE DONE.
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.
THE WORKS OF THE DEVIL (1 John 3:8).
It is clear to my mind that sin is the thing referred to by the apostle in the word devil. The sting of the serpent is its power of destruction. The "sting of death" is the power of death; and that, the apostle says, in one place, "is sin;" and in another, "is the devil."
There are not two powers of death; but one only. Hence, the devil and sin, though different words, represent the same thing. "Sin had the power of death," and would have retained it, if the Man, who was obedient unto death, had not gained the victory over it.
But, thanks be to God, the earth is not to be a charnel house for ever; for He that overcame the world in His own person (John 16:33), is destined hereafter to "take away the sin of the world," and to "make all things new" (Rev. 21:5). Every curse will then cease (22:3), and death be swallowed up in victory; for death shall be no more (21:4).
The works of the devil, or evil one, are the works of sin. Individually, they are "the works of the flesh" exhibited in the lives of sinners; collectively, they are on a larger scale, as displayed in the polities of the world. All the institutions of the kingdom of the adversary are the works which have resulted from the thinking of sinful flesh; though happily for the saints of God, "the powers that be" are controlled by Him. They cannot do what they please.
Elpis Israel 1.3.
The Old Man of Sin's Flesh, who is the Devil, cannot be converted. His destiny is destruction; "for this purpose was the Son of God manifested that he might destroy the works of the Devil," or the works of the flesh, which are the same things: and
"forasmuch also as the children (of his Father) are partakers of flesh and blood, He (the Son) himself, likewise, took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the Devil" (1 John 3:8; Heb. 2:14).
Hence the Old Man of the Flesh and his deeds are doomed to extirpation from the earth at the hands of Jesus and his brethren. The Devil and all his superstitions of temple, synagogue, and church, whether dissentient or established, are all to be destroyed. Clergymen and Rabbis, philosophers and fools, will not indeed "go to the devil," but far better will vanish with him from the earth, which will remain emancipated and blessed for the "meek" whose heritage it is.
Phanerosis - The Purpose of Divine Revelation
If the ecclesiasticism of Christendom were the worship of God in spirit and in truth, the poor in this world, rich in faith, would be the notables, revered and beloved by the rich; who would rejoice in emptying themselves of their glory and honour, that they might be exalted in due time. But the reverse of this is the fact.
Mammon reigns in Church as well as State; and the members of the one are the ambitious and brawling politicians of the other. All this is of the flesh, or Sin Incarnate, which is the Devil. Now the mission of Jesus is to destroy the Devil, and the works of the Devil (Heb. 2:14; 1 John 3:8) and we have already seen, that the Gentiles are to come to him after his apocalypse, and to confess that what they now cherish is only lies, vanity, and unprofitable.
They will then acknowledge that their denominations are works of the Devil; and as such they will rejoice in their abolition, and glorify their destroyer. The whole system now existing is a monster iniquity, which only awaits the "apocalypse of the Sons of God" for its disruption, and utter annihilation.
Another place in Paul's writings where he uses this noun in a notable manner is in 2 Thess.1:7. He there tells his persecuted brethren that God will recompense to them "a rest with us (Paul, Sylvanus, and Timothy) in the apocalypse of the Lord Jesus from heaven...
117. This mortal state, you say, came through sin. Have you considered Paul's statement that the devil has the power of sin (Hb. 2:14)?
118. And that Jesus was manifested in the flesh and blood of human nature to destroy him through death?
119. And John's statement that for this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil? (1 John 3:8)
I have considered that also.
120. What do you think is meant by the devil in those places?
It means sin in the flesh.
Bro Roberts - The Good Confession
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.
Jesus was capable of doing many things which he did not do. That he did not sin, and would not sin,
"because God's seed remained in him":
but, on the supposition of that seed, the truth, not being in him, his nature was as capable of sinning as the first Adam's; else would not the temptation in the wilderness have been a farce? What merit would there be in a man not sinning, who was unable to sin? The excellence of the character of Jesus consisted in being able to sin, but refusing so to do-
"Obedient to the death of the cross, wherefore God highly exalted him."
'... nevertheless, the apostle John says, in another place,
"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us;" "All unrighteousness is sin;"
but there are sins unto death, and there are sins not unto death, for which we may obtain mercy and pardon, if we confess them before the mercy-seat. "If any man see his brother sin a sin not unto death, he shall ask, and He shall give him life for them that sin not unto death."
Those who have in truth been born again and are in reality the children of the kingdom, will not be guilty of heinous offences, or outbreaking sins; but still they may be, and frequently are guilty of trespassing against the commandments of God in a greater or less degree, according to the differences in their natural organizations and temperaments; but is it permissible for them to continue in this state of trespassing during the whole of their course?
Assuredly not; shall we sin because grace abounds? asks Paul-God forbid. The son or daughter who desires to stand high in the love and favour of their Father, cannot do this. We must not rest satisfied with the idea that we shall escape condemnation along with the wicked; it is not only necessary to abstain from committing sins; there are virtues to cultivate, and graces whereby to adorn the gospel of Christ.
The Ambassador of the Coming Age, Aug 1867. p186-187.
If this seem inconsistent with what John says -- ("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"--1 John 3:9) -- it is only because the particular sense of John's word is lost sight of through not attending to the contention of those he was confuting.
"These things", he says, "I write concerning them that seduce you." These men, in the language of Jude, "turned the grace of our God into lasciviousness": that is, made the fact of justification by grace through faith a reason for "continuing in sin that grace might abound" (Rom. 6:1).
In contradistinction to those, John maintains that the man who holds the hope of seeing and being like Christ at his coming, "purifieth himself as he (Christ) is pure" (verse 3) -- lives not in sin as other men do: cannot do so, for the seed of the word which brings forth fruit in harmony with itself, is in him and remains in him.
It is morally impossible for a man believing the truth to live in rebellion against its demands. Such a man, begotten by the truth and changed by the truth, will necessarily love the truth and all things connected with the truth -- the God of the truth, the sons of the truth, and the principles, obligations, and commandments of the truth. Such a man "cannot" live as the world lives, which is controlled in all ranks by" the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life".
The universal law of affinities will make him stand apart from a system so alien to all that he loves, admires, and hopes for. He cannot sin in the sense contended for by "the evil men and seducers" whom John was writing against.
Law of Moses.
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.
Any ill feeling to any of our brethren cuts us off from relationship to God.
"For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another."
We notice that he divides all mankind into two relationships -- the children of God and the children of the Devil.
This is a very sobering thought -- if we are not one, we are the other. There are no neutrals --we are either of the Seed of the Woman -- that is, of Christ in harmony with the mind of Christ, or we are of the Seed of the Serpent.
And he gives two identifications of the children of God --
1. Doing righteousness.
2. Loving his brother.
Let us try to fully realize the prominent and vital place this matter of loving our brethren is given in the commands of God. We find that John returns to it again and again...*
11 For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
Any aim short of perfection is not unifying, but dividing and breaking up. No group can have true unity unless it is wholly and wholeheartedly dedicated to the pursuit of divine perfection.
And Love is the "bond of perfectness." Unless we as a group mutually possess this bond together, we might as well go our separate ways -- because we shall never have any true ecclesial unity or spiritual life without it.
Let us face this basic fact of ecclesial life. If we are not prepared as a whole body to love each other with a pure heart fervently, then our assembling together is utterly meaningless; we are just another poor little lost group among millions of others. It is worse than meaningless -- it is a sad, pitiful delusion -- destined only to failure.
The Body of Christ is not a lot of little isolated individual compartments. It is not a limited association merely for form and convenience -- it is one intimate, closely-knit intensely interdependent unity --
"By one Spirit are we all baptized into one Body."
"The eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of thee."
"God hath tempered the body together ... that the members should have the same care one for another." *
13 Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.
Our meeting... has a meaning which is appreciated by those only who understand the truth, and by few of them as it ought to be. By the world without, it is regarded with quiet scorn. They see in it nothing but an idle ceremony-an effete piece of sacerdotalism- the lingering shadow of an ancient superstition.
They may respect those who persevere in it from week to week; they may approvingly regard them as at least persons of sincerity, who act consistently with their professed convictions: but their respect is mixed with pity for what they consider weakness, and regret that honest purpose should be thrown away on what they regard as a bootless enterprise.
Their feelings are also strongly tinctured with a resentful contempt for the implied condemnation of their own position; for of course our being right involves that they are fatally wrong. Indeed, this implied condemnation is at the bottom of all the hostility ever shown by the world towards those who walk in the way of God. "Only admit that we are right also," say they, "and we will agree to differ": but this is just what the believers of the Gospel cannot do; hence the traditional "enmity."
We have to thank God that we live in a day when the world has no power to give practical effect to its hostile feelings against the friends of Christ.
Bro Roberts - Breaking of Bread
Nobody likes to be hated. It is unpleasant and embarrassing to take the not-of-the-world attitude that leads to the hating, and so there is a liability to conform to the world in its principles, habits, and ways.
Many weary of the restrictions of the truth and give in. Under the influence of evil counsels they are found smoking where from a desire for holiness they had given it up; reading novels, where they had turned away from all forms of spiritual enervation; attending theatres, where they had separated themselves from the pollutions of the world; and generally doing things "they never thought they could have done."
The Christadelphian, Nov 1886
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.
Here is a simple, but deeply searching test that we can each apply to ourselves, to see if we really have passed from death to life -- to see if we really are "in the faith," or just living a lie.
Do we find ourselves powerfully moved and motivated by love, kindness, concern, gentleness, sympathy, patience, and desire to render comfort and service to all our brethren? Not just a limited few who happen to please us and appeal to us, but to all --especially to those who seem least lovable -- these are the ones most in need of patience and guidance and brotherly kindness.
If this is not honestly true of us, then we must face the implication of John's searching words --- we have not passed from death to life -- we are not "in Christ" -- we are not "in the faith" -- we have not properly learned the Gospel -- we have not entered the divine family -- we are still "children of the devil," *
15 Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.
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.
"By this we know love," or "From this we learn what love is" -- "that he laid down his life for us."
When the Scriptures speak of love, they do not mean some puny little part-time hobby...
love in the true, scriptural sense is not the flabby, shapeless, foggy sentimentalism as presented by the churches of the world, but a clear, precise, careful adherence to specific divine instructions based upon a pure zeal and affection for God...
Love, in the scriptural sense is a tremendous, all-consuming passion for goodness and service to others -- and if we haven't got it we are not the children of God. John goes on --
"And we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren."
Not just be willing to face death for them in some very unlikely far-off emergency -- but give our whole PRESENT lives for them.
The next verse should be imperishably engraved on our hearts. It carries the seeds of a deeper, broader, more world-shaking revolution than this planet has ever yet seen -- *
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?
It is for each alone to search his heart and, as standing in the presence of God, to decide just what, and how much, that statement means to him, remembering that it is impossible to obey it too much, but fatally easy to obey it too little.
"WHOSO HATH THIS WORLD'S GOODS, AND SEETH HIS BROTHER HAVE NEED -- HOW DWELLETH THE LOVE OF GOD IN HIM?"
And let us remember that the Scriptures are not speaking of little, conscience-salving, token handouts, but on the large scale of the love of Jesus --
"Love one another, as I have loved you."
Are we BIG enough to be children of God, or are these teachings too vast and noble for our petty, selfish, earthy natures to rise to? *
"If a brother have this world's goods, and see his brother have need, and assist him not, how should the first-named brother be dealt with?"
The obvious answer to this is, that as we cannot properly judge of each other's private affairs, it must be left to each man to decide with himself what he can do, and ought to do in the service of Christ-"not by constraint but willingly."
If, in this process of self-assessment, a man cheat Christ, he will have to answer bitterly for it in the day of account. We must leave all such presumed offenders to the Lord at his coming, "judging nothing before the time."-(1 Cor. 4:5). It is only in the case of open and indisputable breaches of the apostolic law that we are allowed to apply the remedy of withdrawal.
The Christadelphian, Oct 1870
18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.
There is much -- SO much -- talk about love, but where shall we find that life-giving, self- sacrificing love of which John speaks as essential to salvation? Is it the rule among us? Are we the children of God, or is our "love" that of word and tongue, such kind words of sympathy --
"Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled -- we are so sorry to hear of your trouble, we hope everything will be all right. We'll come and see you again."
What a noble feeling it gives us to be so kind and sympathetic "in tongue and word!"
"Let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth."
There is a terrible reckoning in store on the matter of selfishness and unfaithful stewardship. *
19 And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.
IF we are living and rejoicing in this divine love which the apostle has so beautifully described. *
20 For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.
Do our hearts condemn us as we measure ourselves by this one and only way of life? *
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.
Nearly twenty times in this epistle this same command is emphasized -- that we MUST love one another. It is the key and theme of the whole epistle. *
*Bro Growcott - Bond of Perfectness.