1 John 3


‘See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.’ 1 John 3:1-3

John begins this chapter by thinking about the significance of being called the ‘children of God’. Think about the implications of what it should mean in our lives.

John appears to be overwhelmed when he thinks about the great love the Father has lavished on Christians, John 1:12 / Acts 17:28 / Romans 8:15 / Galatians 3:26-27 / Galatians 4:5-7 / 1 John 3:10 / 1 John 5:3, and that’s because it’s through God’s love that we can become His children, John 3:16 / Romans 5:8 / 1 John 4:9-10. His love for us is immeasurable, Titus 3:3-7.

David in Psalm 8:3-4 was also struggling to come to terms with God’s love for mankind when he more or less asks the very same question. God’s love for us is far beyond what we can comprehend.

However, John says that ‘the world does not know us’. I’m sure if we went outside to our non-Christian friends they would know who we are, but John isn’t talking about that kind of knowing. He’s talking about those who aren’t Christians, those who don’t truly recognise or appreciate what we have become in Christ.

They may accept that we’re a Christian but they don’t really understand what the term Christian means, 1 Corinthians 4:9-13. Paul says he understands why the world wants to ridicule us for our beliefs in Christ. Paul says to some people we’re the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.

The reason the world did not and still does not really know us is because they did not and still don’t know Jesus, John 1:11 / John 15:18-19 / John 16:3.

If the world doesn’t recognise Jesus for who He was, how on earth are they going to recognise us for who we believe in? That’s why Paul talks about our lives being hidden with Christ in God, Colossians 3:3-4.

As God’s children, we are loved and honoured with a love and honour that cannot be measured. As children of God were unknown and sometimes despised by the world but for the Christian, the best is yet to come, we will appear with Him in glory, Colossians 3:4.

What are God’s children going to be like in the future? Who knows, because what we shall be like hasn’t been revealed yet and I think the reason for that is that we just couldn’t comprehend it all in our earthly minds.

We do know a couple of things about what we will be like. For example, Paul tells us that we will have a new spiritual body 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, Paul also says we will be immortal, 1 Corinthians 15:50-53. In the future, we’re going to get a new spiritual body and were going live forever.

John says that we’re going to be just like Jesus, as Paul did, 1 Corinthians 15:49. Can we imagine that in our minds? I can’t. It’s beyond comprehension and these lowly bodies that we possess just now are going to undergo an amazing transformation, 1 Corinthians 15:51-54 / 2 Corinthians 5:1-8 / Romans 8:29 / 2 Peter 1:4. They are going to have bodies like Jesus’ Philippians 3:20-21.

John says that the hope of these new bodies, being like Christ should influence how we live for Christ, Philippians 4:1. He says that this hope should motivate us to live pure lives for Christ.

The word ‘purify’ here is the Greek word ‘hagnizo’ which means ‘to make clean or sanctify.’ But it’s also closely related to the Greek word ‘hagiasmos’ which means ‘holiness or sanctification’.

And so what John is saying here is that as children of God we are ‘set apart’ for a holy purpose and it’s those things that God’s children are taught to pursue, Hebrews 12:14.

When we are motivated by the hope that Jesus will ‘transform our lowly bodies into His glorious body’, the true children of God will always be working towards the purity or holiness which is seen in Jesus Christ Himself.

Notice that John says everyone who has this hope in him ‘purifies himself’. How can Christians purify themselves? Well first and foremost by recognising the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus, 1 John 1:7 / 1 John 1:9.

When we recognise what the blood of Christ does for a Christian, we need to remain in His love, Jude 21, and we need to continue to obey His commands, 1 John 5:3 / 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 / 1 Peter 1:22, it’s then and only then can we hope to be truly holy and without blemish, Ephesians 5:25-27 Colossians 1:22 / Colossians 1:28.

However, it’s one thing to accept the cleansing power of Christ’s blood to purify us and make us holy but it’s another thing to take the responsibility for how you live your lives. Because of the very fact that we are holy, we need to be aware of the things around us which can and will defile us.

And the way to stay holy is to recognise the areas in your own world which can make you unholy. We should be striving for holiness in our lives because our God is holy, 1 Peter 1:16. We need to recognise those areas in our lives and separate ourselves from them, 2 Corinthians 6:16-7:1.

‘Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.’ 1 John 3:4-6

When we keep in mind that John is dealing with Gnosticism in this letter and that’s important because the Gnostic believed that sinning didn’t affect your relationship with God. What’s your attitude towards sin? How should the true child of God regard to sin?

Is sin something to be taken lightly? Not if the apostle John has anything to say about it and so, John starts by giving us a definition of sin.

Now some people think that sin is nothing more than a violation of human relationships which can be easily resolved by correcting relationship problems. Other people think that some sins may be a violation of human relationships, but the true meaning of sin goes much further than that.

Literally speaking the word sin means, ‘to miss the mark’ just like when an archer fails to hit the centre of the target, Romans 3:23. And so, when we look at sin literally, it means that it’s some kind of action or lack of it in which a person fails to meet the goal intended by God.

John says that sin is ‘lawlessness’, or ‘transgression of the law’ as some translations have it, in other words, everyone has violated God’s Law, Romans 4:15. If a person steals for example from someone else, they have broken or violated God’s Law which says, ‘You shall not steal’, Exodus 20:15.

In this context John speaks of one’s free-moral reaction against the law of God, Romans 4:15 / Matthew 23:28 / Romans 6:19 / 2 Corinthians 6:14 / 1 John 4:4.

When we do something in the world which is illegal, we have broken the law, haven’t we? Well, that’s what sin is, when we do something which God has forbidden us to do, we have sinned against God’s Law.

James describes another kind of sin, he says that if we know what is right to do but we don’t do what’s right then we’re sinning. James 4:17. Failing to love our brother or sister in Christ is a sin.

In other words, sin isn’t just found in the doing of something but sin is also found in the not doing of something.

As Christians, the standard is the ‘law of God,’ which when carefully looked at, is designed to help us in our relationships with not only God Himself but with other people and even ourselves. Every command of God, whether it is a negative or positive command, affects these relationships in one way or the other.

And so when we ‘miss the mark’ by either doing what we shouldn’t be doing or failing to do what we should be doing. What we’re doing is revealing the influences of the devil in our lives. If sin can make a person be ‘a child of the devil’, that ought to tell us something about the terribleness of sin, shouldn’t it?

I think that sin has been seriously watered down over the years and in the world, we live in today, it has almost lost its true meaning. People fail to see and understand that sin is so serious in God’s eyes that God had to send His One and only Son to the earth as a human to defeat it, 1 John 3:8.

John the Baptist declared those very words when he saw Jesus coming toward him in John 1:29. Why do we think Jesus came to the earth?

Because how we portray Jesus’ reasons for coming will reflect on how we view sin. If we continue to walk in sin, all we’re doing is undermining the purpose of our Lord’s coming, 1 Corinthians 15:3 / 1 Peter 1:18-19.

When we properly understand what sin is, and we begin to understand how terrible it must be in God’s sight, it’s then that we understand that for the ‘child of God’ there can only be one goal. If we are living the Christian life, we won’t live in sin, 1 John 1:7-9 / 1 John 2:24, but will keep His commandments, 1 John 5:2-3.

The phrase ‘does not sin’ is present tense in Greek and it suggests a practice of not sinning. Remember that John has already affirmed that Christians sin, 1 John 1:8 / 1 John 1:10, and so, to say we have no sin is to lie, and to make God a liar.

So what sin is John talking about? I believe that John is talking about people who do not ‘continuously practice sin.’ Because it’s people who do not continuously sin that ‘lives in Him’. Those who ‘live in Jesus’ don’t continuously engage in sin. Why? Because they let that which they have heard from the beginning remain in them.

And what is that they heard from the beginning? Nothing less than the very words of Jesus Christ Himself, 1 John 2:24. It’s people who do not continuously sin but are striving to walk as Jesus walked, 1 John 2:6.

Now we can claim that we know Jesus all we want, but if we continuously practise sin, we’ve neither seen Jesus nor known Him. It is only through obedience to God’s Word can we see and know God and so, those who live in sin, don’t know God or His ways and they will never be able to see Him or know Him, 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 / 1 John 3:3-5 / 1 John 4:8.

‘Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.’ 1 John 3:7-10

John now goes on to warn his readers, not to let anyone lead them astray, Matthew 24:23-24 / 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 / 1 John 3:18 / 1 John 1:8 / 1 John 4:1-3. And one way to make sure that doesn’t happen is to continue to practice doing what is right.

Because we fail to understand the true nature of ‘sin’ that we sometimes have so much lack of concern toward it today. Every time we sin, we seriously damage our relationship with either God, others, or our ourselves.

And if we still think that sin is something not to be too worried about, then John is going to tell us just how terrible sin is. It’s terrible because of its origins, John says that sin is of the devil. John and Jesus say that the devil is a liar and the father of lies, what He means is that the devil is the origin of sin, Matthew 13:38.

John is saying that people who sin are of the devil. In other words, since he is the ‘father’ of sin, those who practice sin are his children, John 8:44.

Jesus was sinless in reference to God’s law because He as God, was the author of divine law, 2 Corinthians 5:21 / Hebrews 4:15 / Hebrews 9:14 / 1 Peter 1:19 / 1 John 2:29. Because He was sinless, He could be the offering for those who were in sin, Isaiah 53:5-6 / Matthew 1:21 / John 1:29 / Titus 2:14.

That was the main purpose of Christ coming to the earth in the first place. One translation says that ‘He was manifested to take away our sins,’ the same translation says that ‘for this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.’ Luke 10:18 / John 12:31 / John 16:11 / 1 Corinthians 15:25-26 / 2 Timothy 1:10 / Hebrews 2:14-15 / Revelation 21:4.

John says anyone who has been born of God won’t continue to sin, but please don’t misunderstand what he’s saying here, he’s not suggesting that a person ‘born of God’ never sins, he’s not saying that. He’s saying that a person who is truly ‘born of God’ won’t continuously practise sin.

And why is that? Because ‘God’s seed remains in him’. The ‘seed’ is that life-giving word of God which Jesus talked about it in the parable of the sower, Matthew 13:1-23. James talks about it in James 1:18, and Peter talks about it in 1 Peter 1:22-23.

In other words, as long as a Christian allows the ‘seed’, the Word of God, to remain in them, they are ‘born of God’. And a person who is born of God doesn’t want to continuously practice sin, nor can they continuously practice sin, if the ‘seed’ is remaining in them.

And so instead of continuously practising sin, they continuously practise righteousness, 1 John 2:29 / 1 John 3:6. That’s why John warned his readers and us today not to let anyone lead us astray, we must practice righteousness and He is righteous.

The idea that a person can claim to be ‘born of God’ and not be concerned about sin in their life is a teaching of Gnosticism.

However, when we keep in mind the definition of sin as we have looked at. When we keep in mind the origin of sin which we have looked at. When we keep in mind Jesus’ defeat of sin and how we as Christians are to ‘stop sinning’. Then our attitude toward sin should certainly be different from those Gnostics that John was having to fight off during the first century.

John again reminds us that God’s children are classed as those who do what is right and those who love their brothers and sisters, 1 John 4:20. Loving one another shows that we belong to God. I think the KJV reads better, ‘in this the children of God manifest and the children of the devil.’

The word ‘manifest’ is the Greek word ‘phaneros’ which literally means ‘shinning or apparent’. In other words, we need to show or demonstrate in our lives that we are indeed children of God. It’s not enough just to say it, we need to prove it or provide evidence that we truly belong to God.

More On Love And Hatred

‘For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.’ 1 John 3:11-15

The children of the devil don’t practise righteousness and they don’t practice brotherly love, but John says, we should love one another.

But when did they first hear about loving one another? I believe they heard it first when they first heard the Gospel, Matthew 22:37-40 / John 13:34-35.

Jesus stresses the point about how His disciples would show or prove to anyone they ever met that they belonged to God, John 15:12 / John 15:14 / 1 John 2:7-8 / 2 John 5.

He says if we show the world that we love one another, not just say it but practice it, then everyone will know that we are His disciples, John 13:35.

Now some decisions in life are out of our hands, but how we choose to live isn’t, we either live as a child of God or live as a child of the devil.

However, we can’t have our feet in both camps. And do you know why? Because the people of the world need to know who we belong and we need to make up our minds about whose child we want to be. Because the children of God and the children of the devil are constantly in a conflict which each other.

As we know from the story of Cain and Abel, righteousness and evil are always going to be at war with each other. Cain killed his brother Abel why?

Because Abel was standing up for righteousness and Cain didn’t want to be reminded about what righteousness was all about, Genesis 4:1-16 / Hebrews 11:4. Cain’s actions were the opposite of the love God wishes that Christians demonstrate toward one another.

We can be sure that if we’re walking as a child of God, we’re going to get opposition from the children of the devil, hence why John tells us not to be surprised if the world hates us as well.

When we follow the teachings of Jesus, especially His command to love one another, it soon becomes evident to the world that we are different from those of the world, John 15:18-20.

It’s important for us to stand out from the rest of the world, not because of the persecution we receive but because when we love one another the world will also see that we have also passed from death to life, Ephesians 1:1-5 / Colossians 2:13 / John 5:24 / 1 John 5:11-12. John says, loving one another is the mark of true conversion.

Now remember that brotherly love is not the only indicator of a true conversion because we also need to practice righteousness, this again should be evident in our life, Galatians 5:22-23.

How is our relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ? Any love lost?

Those who love one another are alive but those who don’t remain in death, they are still in darkness, 1 John 2:9 / 1 John 2:11. John here warns us that if we hate one another, we’re no better than a murderer, just like Cain and common sense tells us that a murderer doesn’t possess eternal life.

A baby Christian doesn’t know how to deal with conflicts within the family, 1 Corinthians 3:1-3. A baby Christian needs to learn from those who are mature about how to help those who don’t love each other. The world says, get right in there and get it fixed, no matter what the cost.

Those who are mature in the faith should know how to deal with conflict within the church family, they should be humble and gentle, Ephesians 4:1-2. Maybe a reason why some people don’t love their brother or sisters in Christ is because of unbelief and sin, Hebrews 3:12-14.

Whatever the reason is or whatever the circumstances are for not loving one another, it’s not what God desires for us, Matthew 5:22-30 / John 8:44 / Galatians 5:21.

The kind of love which John is writing about is ‘agape’ love, it’s the kind of love that builds, not demolishes. The kind of love that seeks nothing but the best for one another, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. That’s the kind of love John is talking about.

John has given us two real reasons as to why we should love one another. He says this kind of love for each other shows us to be children of God and he says this kind of love for each other signifies a passing from death to life. It’s important that we continually practice this love towards one another, Hebrews 13:1 / 1 Thessalonians 1:3

‘This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.’ 1 John 3:16-18

After speaking about the importance of loving one another, John gives us the ultimate example to follow, His Name is Jesus Christ. Jesus demonstrated ‘agape’ love, that active goodwill towards all.

In other words, His love for mankind had legs attached to it, it’s not enough to say we love someone, we need to act because of that love.

It amazes me when people wonder if God loves them and it amazes me, even more, when Christians wonder if God loves them, especially in light that He dies for each of us, John 3:16.

Because in giving His life for our sins, Jesus Christ certainly actively demonstrated goodwill, John 5:12-13 / John 10:11 / John 10:17-18 / Romans 5:8 / Mark 10:45 / Galatians 4:1 / Titus 2:14 / Hebrews 10:8-10 / 1 John 4:8-11.

By voluntarily going to cross at Calvary, He showed more than love for mankind, He showed “Agape” love, He showed love with legs on it. And if we as Christians consider Jesus’ example, the Bible says that we are being ‘taught by God to love one another’, 1 Thessalonians 4:9.

And when we look at Jesus’ example, we come to understand what brotherly love is all about. We can clearly see that it’s all about one thing, sacrificially serving others.

The question is, are we willing to lay down our lives for one another? That’s a tough question, isn’t it?

But you see, if we confess to follow Christ and follow His example then we should be willing to lay down our lives for one another. Remember that sometimes we can lay down our lives for each other in different ways. We can also be ‘living’ for each other through serving one another.

John uses the example of not helping a brother when it is within our power to do so. In other words, in view of Christ’s love, with Christ’s example of love to follow, John is asking us, how we can claim to have love if we are not willing to sacrifice for a brother or sister in need?

John is saying, if we love God and want to show it, he says that brotherly love is not only about a willingness to ‘die’ for someone, but it also means we need to have a willingness to ‘live’ for them as well, through active service on their behalf. In other words, don’t just say that we love someone, show them, Acts 2:44-45 / Acts 4:32-37 / Acts 20:35.

John loves using the term ‘dear children,’ 9 times throughout this small letter, and it gives us the idea that he is addressing them as a loving caring father. The Good News Translation says, ‘My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action’.

John is saying that ‘brotherly love’ not only distinguishes the children of God from the children of the devil, it not only signifies one as having passed from death to life, but he says that, that brotherly love must go beyond the spoken word or occasional hymn.

There are many Christians who are going through a crisis in their lives, and we’re very good at listening to their problems, and that’s good and right and sometimes we give them a hug of sympathy which certainly helps and again is good and right.

But there are times when people need more than just someone to listen to, they need more than just a sympathetic hug. They need people to go back to their homes with them and look after their loved ones or children so that they can catch up on some much-needed sleep. They need an invitation to your home because they haven’t eaten for two days.

Sometimes it’s not enough to give people some money for food, sometimes it’s not enough to give someone some food from the kitchen because maybe all they want is to have some company.

Maybe their home is freezing cold because they have no heating and they are too humble to ask for help with their heating bill and all they really want is to go to someone’s house for a warm meal in a warm house with some warm fellowship.

If we are to follow the pattern of Jesus Christ, then we need to learn how to love each other properly. Real love is visibly clear to the world not simply because of what we say but because of what we do, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Our love for each other needs to be more than just words, our love needs to have legs attached to it.

It should be second nature when it comes to showing that love, it should be second nature to help each other when we see there is a need to be met.

And John reminds us that the blessings of this love are twofold, not only are the people that we help blessed but when we share that love with those in need we too are blessed.

‘This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.’ 1 John 3:19-24

John says that love with legs attached assures us before God, our love for each other shows the world that we are ‘belong to the truth’. And practising this love does help to provide us with the assurance of our salvation, 1 John 3:10.

If our hearts condemn us maybe it’s because we don’t love each other as we should.

Matthew Henry, in his commentary, says the following.

‘If our conscience condemns us in known sin, or our conscience condemns us because of our neglect of known duty, God does so too.’

What’s he saying is that sinning isn’t just about the things you do wrong, it’s about the things that you don’t do which you know you should do, that is just as bad, James 2:14-26 / James 4:17. If our hearts don’t condemn us, it’s simply because we’re loving each other as we know we should, 1 John 4:7 / 1 John 4:12.

And when we love each other as we should then this will make our approach to God easier, we can approach God with joyful confidence, 1 John 2:28. And it’s because of that confidence that we can expect positive answers to our prayers.

In other words, our prayers are more likely to be answered according to our requests. Why? Because we are keeping the commandments of God, of which loving each other is one, and thereby pleasing Him.

And commandment-keeping is a condition upon which God hears prayer, just as it is a condition upon which Christ promises His abiding love, John 15:10.

If we claim to live in Christ, then we need to keep His commands and if we keep those commands then we are living in Him, the two go hand in hand, John 14:23.

And how do we know that Christ truly lives in those who keep His commandments?

We know by the Spirit whom Christ has given us at our baptism, Romans 8:9-11 / 2 Timothy 1:13-14. I don’t want to be disrespectful to some religious groups, they are good people who do a lot of good things in the Name of Jesus.

But if they haven’t been fully immersed into Christ for the forgiveness of their sins, they haven’t got God’s Spirit, because you cannot receive God’s Spirit any other way, Acts 2:38.

John mentions three blessings for the Christian.

1. We’re blessed to live in Him as He lives in us.

2. We’re blessed for God to hear and answer our prayers.

3. Were blessed to have confidence concerning our standing before God.

Go To 1 John 4


"Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."