Fellowship with God is rooted in Jesus’ present ministry

Sometimes we wonder what the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are doing up in heaven right now. Sometimes that actually causes us to miss what the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are doing right now in us. Nevertheless, the Son has a specific ministry He is accomplishing even as you read these words and He is working that on your behalf. In John 5.18-21, we get a glimpse of what the Son is doing in His present ministry at the right hand of God.

18We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.

We know that everyone who has been born of God—”we know” (Gk. Oida) is absolute (positive) knowledge. “Everyone who has been born of God” is perfect passive participle. Past completed action, present continuing results. We were born (baptistery) and stand begotten of God (children).

Does not keep on sinning—present tense verb. The ESV captures the import of the Greek. There is no habitual practice, career of sinning in the child’s of God life.

But he who was born of God—aorist tense participle. The perfect participle “expresses him who came to be, and still continues to be, a son of God. The aorist participle occurs nowhere else in St. John: it expresses him who, without relation to time past or present, is the Son of God” (PC).

Protects him—some mss. do have “keeps himself” with the reflexive pronoun (Gk. Heauton), however, “auton is preferable.” Calvin says, “were any one of us the keeper of our own salvation, it would be a miserable protection.” There is some debate about who the Protector is: God or Christ. One school of thinking is “The One born of God (Christ) keeps him (the Christian).” Another theory is “The one who is born of God, he protects him,” that is, God protects the begotten one. Certainly either would acceptable both theologically, grammatically and contextually

And the evil one does not touch him— “the evil one” is Satan, our adversary who would love nothing less than to rob us of life. But since we are kept or guarded (carefully watched) by Christ/God, he cannot lay a finger on us. We are in the grip of Christ/God and safe from the grasp of Satan.

19We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

We know that we are from God—again, positive, absolute knowledge of whom we are out of/from: God. We who? Apostles may be a little awkward to make work. Christians in general seems best. In addition, John seems to be contrasting Christians who are “out of” God (born) and the “whole world” which is “in” the evil one.

The whole world lies in the power of the evil one—while we are presently “from God,” the whole world “lies” (present, middle/passive) in the grip of Satan. What is pictured is a reclining, with no struggle to be free. Just nicely laying there passively.

20And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

And—one final assertive declaration: whatever philosophy and the world may claim…

We know that the Son of God has come—again, positive, absolute knowledge (Gk. Oida) that Jesus, the Son of God, has come. Present tense of a root that has a perfect sense; hence, KJV “is come” however this is better understood as a perfect tense verb. Therefore, in one sense Jesus has come in the Incarnation. In another, He is still present (“is come”) as He is present in His church.

And has given us understanding—perfect tense; he gave in the past and we continue to posses understanding. “Us” are the people of God, Christians. Some point to the anointing of ch.2. It is the power to know, the capacity for knowing.

So that we may know—Gk. Hina, introduces the purpose of Christ coming and giving us understand: “we may know.” This is gnosko kind of knowledge, that experiential knowledge.

Him who is true—or real, or genuine. As opposed to the false prophets and antichristian spirits (ch.4). John in this epistle has detailed exactly who the real Jesus is in contrast to the false Jesus of the Gnostics.

We are in him who is true—we (Christians) are in the real one presently. So long as Christ is God, the Son of God, came in the flesh, etc. then He is the real Jesus, the Jesus the apostles knew and preached and the only one to be in.

In His Son Jesus Christ—John makes it plain that “him who is true” is Jesus, the Son of God, the Christ. This is the only genuine one among all the imitations and imposters.

He is the true God and eternal life—This same Jesus is also genuine and real God. Every other god is an idol. Every other Christ that the false prophet and antichrists may bring are idols also. In Him (and only in Him) is eternal life (5.12), indeed, He Himself is the embodiment of eternal life (1.2; Jn 14.6).

21Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

People look at v.21 and think “This doesn’t fit” or we’ve only got a portion of the letter of 1 John, the last portion lost over time. However, if you have tracked with John through this entire epistle and understand his true v. false argument, it is exactly where we should end up. The Jesus of history is the “true God.” Any other Jesus preached by Gnostics (or whoever) is a “false god,” or an idol. John’s final admonition to his “little children” is to stay away from the false prophets and antichrists who teach another Jesus, a false god.

Little children—aged John’s favorite affectionate term to describe his audience.

Keep yourselves from idols—follow and cling to the true God, Jesus the Christ, the Son of God. Make every effort to stay away from these idols being presented by the Gnostic teachers. The word’s usage outside of the Bible is for watchmen who stood on guard to protect the city during the night. The picture for Christians is clear: be awake, alert, on duty and watchful for the city of God, the heavenly Jerusalem, the church of Christ. Hold fast to the true God and shun the idols the world and philosophy invent.

Fellowship with God is rooted in Confidence in Intercessory Prayer

Just a casual reading of the gospel of John and then the epistles of John will undoubtedly strike the reader with similarities between the gospel and epistles. There is however a marked difference in the purpose of the gospel and this first epistle: the gospel is intended to produce faith in Christ so that one might have eternal life in his name (Jn 20.31) and the epistle is written so that Christians might know (fully) that they have eternal life.

13I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.

I write—lit. “I wrote” or “I have written” (NET), i.e. in the sum of this epistle. This corresponds directly to 1.4 (“I write”): completed joy = full knowledge of having eternal life.

These things—contained in this epistle: walking, obeying, antichrist, love one another…

To you who believe in the name of the Son of God—i.e. Christians, those begotten-ones of God (5.1; Jn 1.12). “In the name” is eis to onoma (Greek). “The name” points to the very character or nature of the person; this is the object of faith. To “believe in” the name is to put your full trust/faith in the nature and character of that person; here it’s Jesus. To those who continue to put their faith and trust in the full character of Jesus, the Son of God John has written…

That—or “so that”; here is the purpose of John’s having written this epistle to these Christians.

You may know that—perfect subjunctive of oida, that full and absolute knowledge. John has developed a tight and detail argument for these Christians and against the anti-christians. It is all for the purpose of convicting and convincing his brethren to true knowledge. Know for certain!

You have eternal life—present indicative. These Christians have (present real possession) eternal life. We right now possess eternal life. This is the real possession of eternal life. You have it and continue to have inasmuch as you continue to trust in the Son of God.

14And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.

And this is the confidence—or “boldness.” This is the freedom to speak. Prayer is speaking to, talking with God. John says we have freedom to speak to Almighty God. This has been a common theme of this epistle (3.21; 4.17) – the confidence of God’s people before God, both on the day of judgment (2.28; 4.17) and  in prayer (3.21; 5.14).

That we have toward him—This is nearly identical grammatical arrangement as 3.21. Hence, we have (present indicative) this confidence “before Him” who is God.

That if we ask anything—”that” is explanatory. In other words, this is our confidence.  Even as “we ask” whatever it may be, “he hears” (both pres. Tense). There is no timidity and we can present before Him “anything.”

According to his will he hears us—so, if what we ask for isn’t according to His will, He doesn’t hear us? I thought He always hears us. So then wouldn’t this exclude “anything”? We can only ask for those things which are “according to his will” as revealed in His word.

15And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask—”know” is oida that absolute knowledge. And we do know that he hears us, v.14, no matter what we ask.

We know—oida, full and absolute knowledge.

That we have the requests… – present indicative. “requests” or “petitions” is the noun form of the verb “to ask.” We ask and we have our askings. In other words, He answers.

We have asked of him—perfect tense verb. We have asked and continue to ask, continue to bring it before God (cf. Lk 18.1ff). Don’t lose confidence in prayer or in God’s ability to answer

John will next illustrate this point in v.16 when he seems to treat the greatest thing one could for—a brother in sin. Implies we shouldn’t sweat the small stuff (like gold Cadillacs).

16If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.

If anyone sees his brother—It seems John is resuming the style common in this epistle for exposing religious error. It is somewhat akin to “If we say..” earlier in the epistle. ”Brother” is fellow Christian, not your brother of the world community. “Sees” is aorist tense—if you happen to see on some particular occasion.

Committing a sin—lit. sinning [a] sin. This is a sin that is becoming a habitual practice. Is this person lost? No, he is still your brother; fellowship exist. But this sin can jeopardize his salvation.

Not leading to death— lit. sin unto/toward (Gk. Pros) death. Pros is a directional preposition; this brother is not “toward death” but is toward life, light. This brother is striving to please God, however there is some sin in his life that could eventually be “unto death.”

He shall ask—”Anyone” shall ask, a Christian who sees his brother sinning will pray (intercessory) for his brother. John picks the greatest thing a Christian can pray for to illustrate v.15: God hears us whatever we ask. This asking is urgent pleading, even demanding.

God will give (to) him life—lit. “he shall ask and he shall give.” First, who is “he”? Seems to me that whoever “he” is both asks and gives life. In other words, once you have finished praying, go to your brother and tell him his sin. If he listens, you have won your brother (Mt 18.15; cf. Lk 13.6ff; James 5.19-20). What should we ask for? Strength, words. To whom is life given? “Anyone” or the “brother”? Seems like John makes it clear that “anyone” is giving life to his brother.

There is sin that leads to death—rather, “there is sin unto death.” Sin that is toward death, facing death. In other words, sin that is committed outside of fellowship with God/brethren.

I do not say that one should pray for that—This person has walked away from God. He has been told repeatedly to repent and has not. Fellowship has been broken on earth for fellowship was broken in heaven (Cf. Mt 18.15ff)

17All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.

All wrongdoing is sin—or all “unrighteousness” is sin. John does not downgrade the utter terribleness of sin. Sin is terrible. However, there are sins unto death and sins not unto death.

But there is sin not unto death—it depends on which direction you are facing: toward death or toward life; toward light or toward darkness. This is a fellowship thing also. These are sins committed when in fellowship with God/brethren and of which Jesus’ blood cleanses us.

Fellowship with God is rooted in the New Birth through True Faith

Verse 21 of chapter 4 ended with this statement: “whoever loves God must also love his brother.” The question may arise: Who is my brother? Well, it makes sense that if we are a family, even the family of God, a birth must have taken place. John picks up where he left off addressing this question (so it seems) of who is my brother.

1Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.

Everyone who believes—present active part. Everyone who keeps on believing that…Here’s your brother, O Christian!

Note: John isn’t talking to unbelievers about what they must to be saved; he’s speaking to Christians under heretical assault.

Jesus is the Christ—that is He is Messiah, the subject and fulfillment of OT prophecy. To believe anything about other than Him being the Messiah is antichristian (2.22; cf. 4.3). Indeed, Cerinthain Gnostics denied this key doctrinal point (from Cerinthus), the identity of Jesus.

Has been born of God—”has been born” is perfect tense (past completed action, present continue results). It is in the passive voice (meaning we are being acted upon [by God]). We are born “out of God.”  Here is my brother: the one who has been born of God believing Jesus to be the Messiah.

Everyone who loves the Father—present active part. Everyone who keeps on loving God. In this phrase, John focuses on the paternity aspect of God: He is the Father.

Loves whoever has been born of God—If you love the Father, you will also love His children. These have been born of God the same as you. Hence, they are your brothers.

Note: one writer called this verse a sorites, an argument composed of propositions linked together which ultimately unite the first and last. “To believe in the Incarnation involves birth from God. To be born of God involves loving God. To love God involves loving His children. Therefore to believe in the Incarnation involves loving God’s children.” (Pulpit Commentary)

2By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.

By this we know— “By this” i.e. by what follows in this verse (“when…”). Here is the “proof” (as it were) that we love God’s children. ”Know” is ginosko, that experiential knowledge.“ These are the words, not merely of an inspired apostle, but of an aged man, with wide experience of life and its difficulties.”

We love the children of God—and therefore, our brothers. We desire to Christ formed more perfectly in the heart and mind of our brethren.

When we love God—present tense. Hence, we keep on loving God. What does love for God look like? Verse 3…

And obey his commandments—What commandments? Walk in the light, walk as Jesus walked, practice righteousness, and, of course, love one another.

3For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

For this is the love of God—that is, the believer’s love for God. This is based on the forgoing verse where the believer’s love for God is evidently under discussion. John clearly defines what it means to love God.

That we keep his commandments—there can be no question about what loving God looks like: an obedient life. Compare 2 John 6. “Love for God is not an emotional experience so much as a moral commitment” (Stott).

His commandments are not burdensome—So many (of the world and even in the church) have the opposite view of John. They see commandments (and commandment keeping) as legalistic requirements and “intolerably burdensome.” God’s commandments are not burdensome or grievous. They were not designed to keep us from being happy, poop our party. They do not produce grief; breaking them is a source of all our grief. It is men who make them burdensome (Scribes and Pharisees, Matt 23.4 same word used for “heavy”); Jesus’ burden is easy (Mt 11.30). God’s will is “good, pleasing, and perfect” (Rom 12.2). Indeed, when our will is united with God’s will, the Christian will not find obedience taxing.

4For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

For everyone who have been born of God—”For” is hoti, preposition of explanation. Why are the commandments of God not burdensome? Because everyone born of God has overcome (conquered) the world. There is power in the new birth. This is exclusive for the children of God collectively (use of neuter in Gk points to universality of this). Most see John emphasizing the church collectively overcomes the world. We are the born of God ones; we were born of God and we is born of God.

Overcomes the world—present tense, keeps on overcoming. Gk. Nika from which we get Nike (she was the Greek goddess of victory). This is victory. One person has said that Christians have Nike shoes on in which we are outrunning the devil/world. Overcoming the world is vital to the Christian for it is not from the Father (2.16), passing away (2.17), and it lies under the control of the evil one (5.19).

This is the victory—same word as “overcome” (Nike). Unfortunate translation but we get the idea. We (collectively) win and overcome the world. We are victorious people. Only time this appears in NT.

Overcomes the world—above was the present tense. Here, though, is the aorist tense. Past tense snapshot. The victory is pictured as having already taken place. There the assurance we need in this world! We are overcoming, indeed, we have overcome. How? By what means?

Our faith—lit. the faith of us. A singular noun with a plural pronoun. The church gathers around this one banner and by it we gain the victory and are victorious. Faith must have an object. “Our faith” in what/whom? In Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God.

5Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Who is it that overcomes the world—Or “Who is it that keeps on overcoming?” Perhaps clarification is needed concerning “our faith.” John does not leave his readers in the dark. You want victory? Who overcomes?

The one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God—Overcoming is tied up in what you believe about Jesus. In v.1 we must believe He is Christ; here John also presents Jesus as the Son of God. Jesus, the man from Nazareth, is (present tense; He’s not stopped being the Son of God) the Son of God. Here is humanity and deity in one person.

6This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.

This is he who came— “Is” present tense; He still is Christ! Aorist tense. John points his readers to the historical reality of Jesus having come (past), something Gnostics dismissed.

By water and blood—Gk. Dia, through water and blood. See special study.

Not by the water only—”by” or “with” (ASV). Not only at His baptism where God the Father and God the Holy Spirit give their approval and are present.

But by the water and the blood—Again, “by” or “with.” In baptism and on the cross (which Gnostics made light of or even denied), Jesus is the Christ through and through.

The Spirit is the one who testifies—or “the Spirit is the one testifying,” present tense.

Because (hoti) the Spirit is the truth—there can be no higher testimony than the truth.

7For there are three that testify:

Three that testify—under the law, the requirement was two or three witnesses; John is establishing full legal testimony (see Deut 19.15).

8the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.

The Spirit—some say this is from prophetic word (even John Baptist) others the moment the Spirit lighted upon Jesus at His baptism. Clarke says it is the confirmed written word which is inspired of the Spirit. Either way, the living Divine testimony comes first.

The water—Christ’s baptism, historical reality

The blood—Christ’s death, historical reality

These three agree—lit. “the three into one are.” Bad English, good Greek? They agree that Jesus was/is Christ, second person of the Godhead. “The false witnesses at the trial of Jesus, seeking to discredit him, did not agree (Mk 14.56, 59); the true witnesses, however,… seeking to accredit him, are in perfect agreement.” (Stott) They converge upon one truth.

9If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son.

If we receive the testimony of men— and we do. This can be fallible witness

The testimony of God is greater—this is infallible witness, therefore we should receive it.

For (hoti) this is the testimony of God—It is one and the same with the three: Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah and was such throughout His entire life.

That he has borne concerning his Son—”he has borne” is a perfect tense verb indicating either that the witness continues or that in the past the testimony was borne and it is on record at present time.

Note: verses 6-9, the Trinity’s activities—the Son came, the Spirit testifies and the Father has testified

10Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son.

Whoever believes in the Son of God—present tense part. “The one who keeps on believing in the Son of God.” Not merely faith in the fact, but faith in the person of Jesus the Christ. This is one who is also begotten of God (v.1), loves God (the Father, v.1) and the other begotten-ones of God (v.1).

Has the testimony in himself—present tense verb. “Continues to have the testimony (of God) in himself.” How? Some say by the indwelling Spirit bearing His witness in us (cf. v.6). Others say this testimony of God abides in the heart of the believer “as an additional source of evidence, supplementing and confirming the external evidence” (PC). Still others say faith is this testimony, serving as its own witness in the hearts and minds of Christians and confirmed in the objective evidence God has provided in the Spirit, water and blood.

Whoever does not believe God—present (reality) rejection of the Son-ship and Messiah-ship of Jesus which God has testified to objectively/historically.

Has made him a liar—perfect tense verb, permanent/present condition as a result of past failure to trust the testimony.

Because he has not believed in the testimony—perfect tense verb, points to a past act which perpetuates itself in the present condition of the unbeliever. He disbelieved God in the past and continues to disbelieve the testimony at present.

That God has borne concerning His Son—namely, His Son-ship and Messiah-ship.

11And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

And this is the testimony—John explains the content of the testimony of God and which the three (Spirit, water, blood) bear witness to.

That God gave us eternal life—aorist tense points to the historical fact of the giving of eternal life. God is the giver and we receive this life from Him through the Son. When did God “gave” us eternal life? Some say in the giving of His Son, either at birth or on the cross. Others says it is when the believer first put Christ on in baptism.

This life is in his Son—only! There is no other person, god, or Jesus (Gnostics) who can supply us with life eternal. Our possession of eternal life in His Son is present reality (v.13).

12Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Whoever has the Son has life—Present tense part. Followed by a present tense verb. John indicates the present reality of the believer’s possession of life eternal. Its ours now! The possession of the life is emphasized in this phrase. In the next, the life is emphasized.

Whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life—No man can have “the life” (RSV) apart from the Son for this life is found only in the Son (v.11). This was the message of Messiah while on earth (Jn 5.24; 14.6). You can lose possession of the life (v.16b).

Fellowship with God is rooted in God’s Love Perfected in Practice

John has exposed religious error (specifically Gnostic teachers) and called upon his brethren to reject that heresy. Now he turns his attention to strengthening the fellowship of the saved through the love of God (4.7-21).

1 John 4:7–21 (ESV)

7Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.

Beloved—tender term of endearment from aged John; but also a possible play on words: “Beloved…love one another.” Since you are loved (of God) love one another.

Let us love one another—14 x’s in NT you have this command (Jn 13.34; 15.12, 17; Rom 12.10; 13.8; 1 Thess 4.9; 1 Pt 1.22; 4.8; 1 Jn 3.11, 23; 4.7, 11, 12; 2 Jn 5). Important? Yes! Why love one another?…

For love is from God—or love is out of God. This has to do with origin; love originates in God, He is its source, author. Not only that, He is love. Based on the continuing love of God, our loves continues (present tense).

Whoever loves has been born of God—If love originates from God, it makes sense that those who practice love are “from” or “out of” God. We were begotten and stand begotten before God. And we love the other begotten ones of God, our brothers and sisters. ”Love is the one characteristic of the Christian religion which it is impossible to counterfeit!” (Woods 294) We cannot have new life without love.

And knows God—present tense, we continue to know God through the manifestation of brotherly love. “Know” is Gk. Ginosko, that knowledge which comes through experience.

8Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

Anyone who does not love—settled, habitual practice of no brotherly love (hatred).

Does not know God—aorist tense; has not once know, hence, has never known God.

God is love—”and love thus becomes the infallible test of the birth from above.” – Woods. This idea (God is love) is very anti-Gnostic; The Gnostic would agree with God is spirit (immaterial being) and God is light (immaterial), but God is love is foreign to Gnostic philosophy.

“The anarthrous predicate suggests a qualitative force, not a mere abstraction, so that a quality of God’s character is what is described here.” (NET). So no interchangeability (love is God).

We can wrap ourselves in all the trappings of religiosity, but it is ultimately void and hollow without love not only for God, but for one another. Love is a sign that we have truly been born of God and know God (1 John 4.7). Love was manifest in the man Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, the Son of God (4.9-10). And when we love one another as we should, even as Christ loved us (John 13.34-35), the love of God is perfected in us and God lives within us (4.11-12). What a fantastic concept! How vitally important this is for the church today!

“A wicked man may have baptism. He may have prophecy. He may receive the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ. All of these things a wicked man may have. But no wicked man can have love.” (Augustine quoted in Woods 294).

9In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.

In this (what follows “that”) the love of God… – Here we have the heart of God on full display. God revealed His love for man, a love that existed even before time began. It existed and from it sprung the eternal plan of redemption.

Was made manifest—aor. Passive, ind.; He appeared (cf. 3.5) once and stands revealed.

Among us— lit. in us. In our midst, reminiscent of John 1.14.

That (hoti) God sent his only (begotten) Son into the world—herein is the love of God manifested. The root of “sent” is the same word we get “apostle” from. Jesus emphasized in His ministry that He had been sent from heaven (John 5.23; 6.29; 8.29, 42). One commentator says that this verse might serve as a summary of John’s gospel. But the perfect tense is used in pointing to the permanent mission of the Son. There are permanent abiding results from God’s sending of His unique Son. “Only begotten” (monogenes) points to the fact that although God has begotten many children (2.29; 3.9; 4.7), Jesus the Son is unique from His brothers and sisters (even as Isaac was unique from Abraham’s other sons (Heb 11.17). “Only” seems as a partial translation of this word, implying God (Abraham) has no other children.

So that we might live through him—Jesus’ death was vicarious, for us. We might have eternal life (even now) only through the Life, the Lord Jesus Christ.

10In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

In this is love—that is, in what follows in this verse.

Not that we have loved God—Perfect v. aorist tense; some mss have perfect, but oldest mss (Sinaticus) has aorist. Point: it does not matter whatever kind of love man may have for God, you don’t find the true nature of love in man’s love for his Maker. Rather, you find it in God’s love for man.

Sent his Son—aorist, points to the completed mission, accomplished in Christ’s life.

To be propitiation for our sins—John has called Christ “propitiation” before (2.2); it is the means of forgiveness, Christ being the sacrifice for (concerning) our sins. Whatever obstacles may have hinder/inhibited fellowship have been removed by the cross.

11Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

If God so loved us—or “since God so loved us.” It is a matter of fact.

We also ought to love one another—”ought” has come up before (2.6) and points to a debt, something we owe one another (cf. Rom 13.8). Because/since God has sent Jesus to die for us, we live through Him by expressing agape love for one another.

12No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

No one has ever seen God—”God” is emphatic. Further, there is no article before “God” (common in NT to see o theos). Here just theon, no one has ever seen Him. God’s character/nature/essence is emphasized and stressed. No one has ever seen deity in its essence.

If we love one another—obedience to the commandment of Christ. We don’t have to…

(1) God abides in us—God dwells in His people (collectively). This is fellowship language.

(2) His love is perfected in us—Perf. Pass. Part. Love “has been made perfect or complete and exists in its finished reality” (Wuest). God brings it to completion (passive). God’s love manifested among brothers. God is revealed in His people if and when we love one another. In us (the people of God collectively) is brought to maturity/completion, finds fulfillment when we love one another. God’s love is perfected is us only when it is reproduced “among us” in Christian fellowship.

13By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.

By this (what follows “because”) we know (present) that we (collectively) abide in him (God) and he in us (body) – Further, “know” is ginosko, that experiential knowledge. We know God lives in us and we in God because we have experienced the Spirit of God.

Because he has given us of his Spirit—”he has given” (perfect tense); he has given and we currently possess God’s Spirit. “This gift of God is proof of our fellowship with God” (Robertson). God gives, we receive (Acts 2.38). Reception takes place at the baptistery and we possess God’s Spirit.

14And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.

And…and—kai…kai in the Greek translated “both…and’ in English.

We have seen—perfect tense; the apostles saw in the past and presently experience results from it. This has to do with the manifestation of the Son coming in the flesh.

Testify—present tense; John, with the apostolic college in total, is bearing witness (Gk. Martureo) to the coming of the Son as Savior of the world.

The Father has sent his Son—perfect tense, same as v.9. There are permanent abiding results of the Father having sent His Son on a mission into this world. Namely…

To be the Savior of the world—salvation. The lost-ness of the world is implied; the world was/is in need of a Savior. Indeed, Jesus is propitiation for the sins of the whole world (2.2). John is the only one who uses this title for Jesus (see 4.42).

15Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God—(aorist) agree with, speak the same word as God about Jesus: He is the Son of God. “Whoever has once for all taken up the position of confessing” (Pulpit Comm.) or the position that Jesus is Son of God. This characterizes people who have accepted the witness/testimony of the apostles.

God abides in him, and he in God—John has tied this fantastic thought throughout this section that we can have the abiding presence of God, enjoying close fellowship with God. This is the present reality for the one confessing Jesus as the Son of God. God has taken up his residence in the individual.

16So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

So…and—kai…kai in the Gk again. Should be “Both…and”

We have come to know—perfect tense; came to know in the past and continue to know at present. Know what? The love of God. Ginosko root, experiential knowledge.

To believe—or “trust” or “rely on.” Perfect tense; we came to trust and continue to trust. Trust in/rely on what? The love of God.

In John’s writing, knowledge and belief are often coupled in the same context (see John 6.69). “It appears that the author considered both terms to describe a single composite action.” – NET

The love that God has for us—should be “in us” or “among us.” Through the manifestation of love in the believing body we experience and depend on the love of God. In other words, we need the love from one another. Without it, the greatest dimension of our faith is removed.

God is love—seen this before in v.8. Is this important? Absolutely. But be careful with this; so many people get caught up in “God is love” and forget that there are other descriptions of God elsewhere in Scripture: vengeance and judging (Heb 10.30-31), light (1.5 which exposes darkness/sin), consuming fire (Heb 12.29).

Whoever abides in love abides in God—or “the one abiding in love.” The one who’s practice is to demonstrate love (for one another). “Live in love” – Stott. It makes sense that if “God is love” then to live in love would be to live in God. Again, fellowship with God.

God abides in him—He (presently) takes up his residence in us. The residence of God in the individual is highlighted here but it points to the community (v.17).

17By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.

By this (what follows “because”) is love perfected with us—This idea of perfected love has come up before (v.12). Love “has been made perfect or complete and exists in its finished reality” (Wuest). God brings it to completion (passive). God’s love manifested among brothers. “With us” emphasizes cooperation, that is man’s cooperation with God. Participation in the love of God. “If saints have this agape love habitually for one another, that shows that this love which God is in His nature has accomplished its purpose in our lives.” (Wuest)

So that (purpose) we may have confidence… – We have seen this concept of confidence on Judgment Day in 1 John already (2.28). Confidence is the freedom to speak. Even on Judgment Day, we who have had love perfected in us, within us have nothing to fear. Here is the assurance Christians have: you don’t have anything to worry about come judgment day.

Because (hoti) as he is so also are we in this world—Here is the reason love is perfected with us. “He” who? Jesus (based on Greek ekeinos which John uses often to speak of Jesus; see 2.6; 3.3, 5, 7, 16). How is He? Pure (3.3), righteous (3.7). Christians resemble Christ. Indeed, only because we are as he is (present tense) do we have love perfected with us and therefore confidence on Judgment Day. No man can look forward to that Day with confidence without these.

18There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

There is no fear in love—many commentators point to “servile fear” as the fear being spoken of here pointing to Rom 8.15. Possibly. But the word used here is phobos, which is a word used for fear in general. Dread and terror accompany it. It can also mean “reverence.” But there is no dread or terror of judgment in love. That’s the context.

Perfect love casts out fear—this complete/perfect love casts/throws out the dread and terror of judgment and this is replaced by confidence (v.17). The Gnostic has cause for fear; his love is not perfected. Indeed, the Gnostic hates and is a liar. The Christian, though, has no fear but confidence even in the presence of the Judge.

For (hoti) fear has to do with punishment—lit. “fear has punishment.” “Punishment” implies severe suffering, torment even (some translations have “torment”). Jesus is the only other person in the NT to use this word (Mt 25.46). Even now, presently, fear has punishment in its anticipation of the punishment. Or fear carries a special punishment in itself; “Fear is always revolving in the mind the punishment deserved.” (JFB)

Whoever fears has not been perfected in love—lit. the one fearing. This is tied directly to “No fear in love.” From the abstract (no fear in love) John makes it personal (whoever fears). What is your habitual practice, career? One of fear? Or one consumed with love for God and brethren? John says the two cannot coexist (like love and hatred).

19We love because he first loved us.

We love because he first loved us—KJV, NKJV, Young’s Lit.: “We love him…” Vulgate: “We love God…” The earliest mss do not have “him”; it is just “We love” the love being quite general, i.e. there is no object. Present tense: “We keep on loving…” Subjunctive or indicative mood? Subjunctive: “Let us keep on loving.” Indicative: “We keep on loving.” Is it an exhortation or expressing reality? Either is fine, but it seems John “states as fact what ought to be a fact” (Pulpit). Love who? Certainly God. Brothers; in context (v.20-21), it would seem John may emphasize the brethren. We Christians do not fear; we love. To not love after what God has done for us out of His incredible love for man would be monstrous. Our love is in response, then, to His love for us “first.” “All human love is preceded and generated by the love of God.” – Vincent. “This is the foundation of our love to God” – Clarke. Christ was not sacrificed so that God could love mankind; Christ died because God already loved mankind.

20If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.

If anyone says—this seems to be a variant of John’s tool to expose error we saw earlier in the epistle (“If we say…”; 1.6, 8; 2.4, 9). John exposes the person who’s profession does not match his practice. Instead of practicing Christianity, this person is pretending at it.

“I love God” – any and every Christian would profess this. This is very similar to the person of 2.9. To claim to know God, love God, make God your aim/standard for conduct and yet walk in darkness/disobedience to God’s commandment (“Love one another”) makes one a (monstrous) liar. Loving God necessitates loving God’s children (brethren).

Hates his brother—lack of love or even indifference toward his brother. Present tense: keeps on hating his brother. Again, settled practice, career of brotherly hatred.

He is a liar—what a scathing rebuke from the apostle of love! John has called many people liars (1.6; 2.4) and contrasted this with God’s word (cf. 1.8, 10) and the anointing from Christ (2.27b). Basically, John says the profession (“I love God”) is false if the accompanying action is in contradiction to the commandment of God.

For (gar) he who does not love his brother—lit. the one not loving (or the unloving one) his brother. That is, the one hating his brother. Here is direct disobedience to the command of God (love one another). Your brother is your fellow Christian.

Whom he has seen—perfect tense; has seen and continues to see (even daily, cf. Acts 2.46; 5.42). They didn’t “go to the church” because they were too busy being the Church. They saw their brothers daily. John says, if you hate this person (your brother) whom see constantly…

Cannot love God whom he has not seen—one has not seen nor presently sees God (as opposed to your brother). John’s argument is somewhat akin to what Jesus does in the gospel accounts: which is easier? Sight aids one in love; it is easier to love something/someone you can see. No one has ever seen God (v.12) but you see your brother constantly. So if one cannot do the easier of the two, he cannot perform the more difficult. “To affirm one’s love for the unseen while failing to love the seen is to enter the realm of fantasy” (NBC). Love for one another is the best indicator of love for God.

21And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

And this commandment we have from him—Just as God given the greatest commandment (Mark 12.30), obligatory to obedience to this command is obedience to the command “love one another.” Each is just as binding. From whom have we this command? God.

Exegetical note: there is a hina that belongs between “from him” and “whoever” which the NET translates epexegtically to “this” at the beginning of the sentence.

Whoever loves God must also love his brother—lit. the one loving God, again present tense pointing to habitual practice, career. You’re a God-lover, then you had better also love your brother. This is, though, a positive command. We are privileged to love our brother, children of the Father. And better yet, we are privileged to love the Father.

 

Fellowship with God is Rooted in the Rejection of Error

John has made known the present reality of these Christians: they are begotten of God (3.1-3). They need to understand that position, then live accordingly (3.4-10), i.e. practice righteousness and true love for one another (3.11-24). He now warms them of the the clear and present danger of false teachers (4.1-6).

1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 

Beloved—aged John’s term of address which also points to endearment. Also v.7, 11

Do not believe every spirit—This is a present imperative. “Stop believing every spirit” because every spirit is not “from God.” It would seem that some of the members of the body were following after the Gnostic teachers/spirits. Spirit: “not so much the personal teacher as the principle or tendency of the doctrine” (PC). “Every teacher claiming inspiration of the Holy Spirit” (JFB).

But test the spirits…– Also a present imperative. All believers (individually and collectively) were/are to “test the spirits.” Test: Originally to test metals and their worth, this means to test, scrutinize , prove the genuineness of a thing, in this case the message brought by the spirit. They did this either by miraculous means (see 1 Cor 12.10) or by comparing it to the apostolic revelation (Jesus has come in the flesh, v.2). In context, the latter seems best.

From God—what’s the origin? If these spirits have their origin in God, they will “speak the same word” as God about Christ (v.2). If not, they are the words of a “false prophet.”

Many false prophets have gone out—even Jesus predicted these were coming (Matt 24.24). John says they were already come and are still present in the world. Perhaps these have even come as if they are from God; John makes it clear they are not.

“Nowhere else in the NT is there so strong an emphasis as here on trust in the πνεῦμα who works in the community, who needs no official authorisation (sic), who bears witness, not by bringing new and unheard of revelations, but by bringing the old message.“ – TDNT, V.6, p.449

By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 

By this you know the Spirit of God—John will give the test by which one can identify the Spirit of God. The Gnostic teachers claim to have this Spirit and even call themselves “spirit-people” or “soul people.”

Jesus Christ has come in the flesh—what doctrine would have denied this core fact of the gospel message? Gnosticism certainly, but specifically the docetic flavor which Jesus only seemed to have a body of flesh. The Spirit of God would not deny this core fact. Where would this idea that Jesus did not have a body of flesh come from? Platonic philosophy which said that matter is evil and therefore a bodily incarnation is impossible. Augustine (theologian 4th cent.) said he find parallels between Platonic philosophy and the NT in everything except “The Word became flesh.”

Has come—or “is come”; lit. having come, perfect tense participle. Past completed action with present continuing results. The effects—benefits and blessings—continue.

From God—this message/word concerning Jesus’ humanity originates in the mind of God. The personification of the mind of God (Gk. Pnuema), the Spirit, reveals it. Indeed, only in the mind of God could something so fantastic originate that God could be with us, dwell among us, put on flesh and die for us. This message is too fantastic, incredible to have its origin in the mind of man

and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 

Every spirit that does not confess Jesus—”confess” is Gk. Homologeo, (1.9) which is lit. “same word” or “speak the same word.” In this case, a spirit that does not speak the same word as God about Jesus (humanity, divinity, Messiah-ship, etc.) does not have its origin in God.

This is the spirit of the antichrist—”spirit” is supplied in nearly every translation (Darby: power). Lit. “This is that of the antichrist.”

You heard was coming—perf. Tense verb, you heard (past) and continue to hear (present) or you heard (past) and therefore know (present). Either way, they were warned of antichrists coming.

Now is in the world already—not a future prospect but an existing condition. Not a mysterious political figure rising out of the revived Roman Empire, i.e. the European Union who (even now) is yet to be revealed. John says they’re here, now (1st cent.) and they are messing up the faith of people with their heretical doctrine. The stuff these antichrists are saying does not have its origin in God.

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 

Little children—again, a favorite expression of John regarding his readers.

You are from God—”you” is emphatic and stands in opposition to “them” who are the Gnostic teachers/antichrists who propagate a message not from God. It is also plural pointing to this being a body thing. The Christian community is “from God.”

Have overcome them—perf. Tense, overcame (past) and continue to overcome (present). One writer says, “past completed victory…present state of being a conqueror.” How? Various ideas: 1) as a body, they have driven the errorists out and keep them out; 2) by their refusal to listen to the heretics heresy; 3) repudiation of the heretics doctrine. See also 2.13b, 14b where the young men overcame the evil one.

He who is in you—God the Holy Spirit. These believers have the Spirit (3.24) and He is in them, taken up his residence, fellowship language. Note that “you” is plural; this is a body thing. The Spirit is in their midst. Not only that, He is greater than that spirit that is in the world.

Is greater than he who is in the world—Spirit of antichrist, Satan. Though the Devil has some power, compared to the power of God…there is no comparison.

They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 

They are from the world—those Gnostic teachers who are promoting doctrine that is antichristian in nature. The Gnostic community is from the world, from that system that is under the subjection to the Devil (evil one, 5.19).

Therefore they speak from the world—they get their inspiration from the world; the character of what they speak corresponds to its origin. It is worldly.

The world listens to them—Hence, the world readily hears them. Contrast with Jn 15.19

We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

We are from God—apostles. The teachers of truth (inspired by the Spirit of truth) as opposed to the teachers of error (inspired by the spirit of error).

Whoever knows God listens to us—What does it mean to know God? John has already discussed this concept (2.3) and clearly defined that a person who keeps the commandments of God is one who knows God (and knows he knows). In other words, a person who listens to (keeps on listening to) the voice of God, His Word. So a person who listens to God, obeys His Word, will naturally listen to “us” (the apostolic college).

Whoever is not from God… – an example of this would be Diotrephes (3 John 9). He refused to heed apostolic address. But it begins with a refusal to hear and heed God’s revelation.

By this—lit. from this. Based on the foregoing.

We know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error—”The test of a prophet of God is not only that he recognizes that the Christ has appeared in the person of Jesus of Nazareth but that his teaching agrees in the essentials of faith and practice accepted by Christians from the beginning” (Sweet Commentary, 18:110). John says we can identify truth and error. If its truth then it lines up with God’s revelation in Christ and God’s revelation in apostolic doctrine. If it is error, it will not match God’s revelation by the Spirit.

Fellowship with God is Rooted in the Practice of Brotherly Love

1 John 3.1-10 was an expose on the works of the children of God v. the children of the devil. The child of God is to practice righteousness. John concluded that section with the evidence used to identify the child of God: practice righteousness and love one another. This launches the present conversation on loving the brethren.

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

For this is the message—some commentators say that since this is identical to 1.5 that John is starting a new division in his epistle. John’s admonition to his readers in light of the Gnostic teachers is to look to the revealed message which they have heard from the apostles from the beginning, not to the secret enlightenment of the Gnostics.

That you have heard from the beginning—”you have heard” is aorist tense. “From the beginning” harkens back to 2.7; this is the beginning of their career as Christians. And it continues to be in-force. Abide in the teaching which they have heard from the beginning (2.24).

Love one another—here is the aim of the message. This was the message even revealed by Jesus (John 13.34-35). Objectively, the singular desire to see Christ formed in your brother.

12We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.

Like Cain—Cain’s attitude and actions typifies the conduct of the world toward Christians. Cain was under the influence of Satan even as the world lies under the influence of him (5.19). For a Christian to exemplify this kind of behavior would be worldly, wrong, devilish.

Murdered his brother—the word used for murder in contexts such as these points to the violence and mercilessness of the act, hence, the NET “brutally murdered.” Savagery involved. Gk. Sphazo, to slay, slaughter, butcher, by cutting the throat; John graphically describes this.

Why…? His own deeds were evil—his deeds lined up with the evil one. It seems this also points to Cain’s lifestyle (linked to context); he lived a lifestyle of evil deeds. “own” – as compared to the righteous works, done by faith, of Abel. This produced resentment, jealousy, hatred, then murder.

13Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.

Do not be surprised…– Present imperative, “stop marveling.” Apparently, the readers were surprised by the treatment they were receiving from the world. Cain (world) still hates Abel

Brothers—before and after, they are “beloved” and “little children” but brothers in this section.

The world hates you—hatred is the lack of the desire to see Christ formed in another person. “You mean the world doesn’t want to help me look like Christ?” Light and darkness are hostile (cf. John 3.19).

14We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.

We know that we have passed—”we know” is perf. Tense from oida; certain, absolute knowledge. “We have passed” is perfect tense. We were dead (state of being) and became alive. We know beyond a shadow of a doubt this change happened. How?…

Because we love the brothers—they are obeying the commandment. Those who are obedient to the commandments of God (namely, the commandment of Christ to love one another) is in the light, has light.

Whoever does not love—lit. the one not loving; connect to “the one hating” in v.15.

…abides in death—the person failing to obey the commandment remains in a state of spiritual death, settled into it. In other words, he remains in darkness (2.9; cf. John 12.46). “A Christian can no more live without love that a plant can live without growth.” Pulpit Commentary.

15Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

…is a murderer—a throat cutting brother butcher. You’re a Cain who is serving the evil one. This is the same word that is used of Satan (John 8.44); he was a murderer from the beginning and when you hate you brother (no desire or indifference toward their becoming like Christ), you exhibit devilish behavior.

You know—Gk. Oida, perfect tense. The settled conviction; absolute, certain knowledge.

No murderer has eternal life abiding in him—John is not saying murder is the unpardonable sin (cf. Mark 3.29). Rather, he is showing hate and death go together just as love and life go together. Death and life are mutually exclusive. “Where hate is, there is death; where there is death, there can be no life.” – Woods, pg.280.

16By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

By this we know love—or lit. “we know the love.” “The thing called love” (Smith). “Know” is Gk. Ginosko, to know something through investigation of the facts. They have acquired and possess this knowledge concerning love. How? Looking at Christ’s love. We cannot know agape without a trip to the Calvary/the cross.

He laid down his life for us—”He” is unquestionably Jesus. “laid down” – as one would lay down/aside a garment (see 13.4). He was active in this (John 10.18); no one took it from Him. It was deliberate, voluntary, and even casual. Jesus died on purpose; it was no accident. He died “for us” or “on our behalf.” Cain is the example of hatred (murderer) whereas Christ is the supreme example of love (murdered). Love, then, is wrapped with the blanket of self-sacrifice.

We ought to lay down our lives—”We” is emphatic. We have seen this “ought” before (2.6) concerning the debt we owe to God to live like Christ. We also owe our brethren the debt of love (cf. Rom 13.8). There is an assignment, an obligation (see 2 Cor 5.14-15). While our laying down of our lives has no atoning value, it is a supreme proof of our love for the brethren.

17But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?

If anyone has the world’s goods—”anyone” is anyone in the household of faith. “World’s goods” (Gk. Ton bion tou kosmou) is your livelihood. The woman with an issue of blood (Luke 8.43-48) spent all her bios, livelihood, trying to get well. Your possessions, property, what you live on, resources.

Sees his brother in need—not just a passing glance; this person worships with you, is your brother/sister and you see them week-in and week-out (daily in 1st century). You’ve watched their plight and understand their need and lack.

Yet closes his heart against him—”against” is Cainish language, behavior (see Gen 4.8). This can also be translated “turns away from him.” To close the heart is lit. to shut up the bowels, the ancient thought that emotions are from the inward parts (similar to our heart today). Implied is that for a moment, his heart was open to his brother’s plight.

How does God’s love abide in him? – rhetorical question: it doesn’t! The motivation of neglect, then, is hatred. And even passive neglect is itself hatred; it certainly doesn’t represent God’s love.

18Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Let us not love in word or talk—James 2.15-16 is a prime example of someone who loves in word only. John does not condemn affectionate speech; but this only is empty.

But in deed and truth—Back up what you speak/say with action; love is a verb.

19By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him;

By this we shall know—”By this” points back to v.18. “It is by doing these deeds that believers assure themselves that they belong to the truth, because the outward action reflects the inward reality of their relationship with God. Put another way, ‘conduct is the clue to paternity.’” (NET notes). ”We will know” future tense; in any future occurrence/emergency we will know…

That we are of the truth—some commentators say “of the truth” can be understood “of God.” It would seem if John wanted to say that, he would have said it. It seems John is rather saying that Christians can know they are listening to the voice of Christ (Jn 18.37).

Reassure our hearts—(an idiom, literally ‘to convince the heart’) to exhibit confidence and assurance in a situation which might otherwise cause dismay or fear—‘to be confident, to be assured’” (Lowe-Nida). What better to silence the voice of the heart (conscience) than the voice of the Lord! The voice of “the truth” speaks a better word, assuring our hearts.

Before him—in the very presence of God, the Judge.

20for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.

Whenever our heart condemns us—our heart (conscience) acts as local peace officer, telling us “good job” or “bad form,” what is right and wrong. Needs divine law—Rom 2.12

God is greater than our heart—God is the Supreme Court; He overrules. Only God can give us a clean conscience by the blood of Jesus: Heb 9.14; 1 Peter 3.21. Cf. Rom 8.1

He knows everything—He knows your lifestyle, career, habitual practice when it comes to listening to the voice of Christ. He understands when we are conscience stricken over sin.

21Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God;

If our heart does not condemn us—Our heart (conscience) does not convict us of something bad/wrong. If we are free from the internal judgment of conscience…In reality, we need this freedom from condemnation. We need a clear conscience before God. This has implications upon our prayer life.

We have confidence before God—This is present reality. We continue to have confidence/boldness before God Almighty. Lit. confidence is the freedom to speak and coupled with the word “towards” (Gk. Pros) implies a special “face-to-face” communication. Prayer.

22and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.

Whatever we ask we receive from him—We can ask with the expectation that we will receive. “We ask” is present tense, i.e. we keep on asking. “The prerequisites for answered prayer are an uncondemning heart, the habitual keeping of God’s commandments, and the habitual doing of those things which please Him.” (Wuest) “We receive” is present tense; keep on receiving. This is the Christian’s habitual experience (see also Matt 7.7a, 8a).

Because (causal hoti) we keep his commandments—present tense, we keep on obeying His commandments (see 5.3b). Walk in the light, walk as Jesus walked, abide in Him; contextually, love one another in deed and truth. “Obedience is the indispensible condition, not the meritorious cause, of answered prayer” (Stott).

And do what pleases him—This is a characteristic of Jesus (John 8.29) and He was heard (John 11.42). God desires it and therefore it is fit, right that we do it. This also touches on motivation – out of our love and gratitude we do these things.

23And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.

This is his commandment—singular, what God has ordered of humanity.

We believe in the name of His Son—Belief is personal conviction; how can God demand this? When the evidence is clear, then He can command that people believe. It is evident in what He has made (Rom 1.19-20; Heb 11.1). He demands that we evaluate the evidence and believe. Concerning His Son, the evidence is clear and has been preserved even to today. There is enough evidence to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Aorist tense used points to a decisive moment when you put your faith and trust in “the name” (the whole personality, all that Jesus is) of the Son of God.

Love one another—How can God command this? Because He Himself is love (4.8). To know God, is to demonstrate brotherly love. (See John 13.34; 15.12, 17; 1 Jn 2.7; 3.11; 4.7). Present tense is used pointing to the continuous action of loving the brethren.

24Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.

Whoever keeps his commandments—lit. the one keeping His commandments; this is present tense, continued, habitual obedience to the commandments of God; lifestyle. What commandments? V.23

Abides in God and God in him— should read: “abides in Him and He in him.” keeps on abiding in God. Same language as 4.15. Whether “Him” is God or Christ would probably be unimportant to John esp. considering John 14.23; 17.21 where Jesus uses the pronouns “we” and “us” dwelling in/with believers. God lives in us, present reality. Fellowship language.

We know that he abides in us—Gk. Ginosko for “know”; that knowledge which comes through comprehension by seeing, hearing, investigation, experience. We understand God has taken up residence in us (fellowship with God); how?

By the Spirit whom he has given us—”he has given” is clearly past tense (aorist in Gk) but the precise time of this giving is disputed. Some say Pentecost (Pulpit Commentary), although it should be noted that “us” seems to include not only the apostle but his recipients. Others say beginning of Christian life (Stott). But then the question of operation arises. Some say it is fact God has given us the Spirit but that only through the Word does He motivate us to present an abode hospitable for the Father and Son to abide (Woods). Others say the Holy Spirit will enlighten our minds, elevate our affections, quicken us in performance of duty, and imbue us with the temper and spirit of the Lord (Barnes). Still others say this is the “Gift Ordinary” of the Holy Spirit, the earnest of our inheritance: Acts 2.38; Eph 1.14; 2 Cor 1.22; Rom 5.5 (Coffman). “By the Word we were taught that such a life was the right one to lead. By the Spirit we are so inspired that we cannot lead any other.” (Pulpit Commentary 86). If I confess Jesus has come in the flesh, to that degree I apprehend that I am inspired and will live accordingly.

Fellowship with God is rooted in our Settled Practice of Righteousness

John ventures forth having established our position before God as children of God to explaining that with this position comes a practice God’s children are to follow. The shift is subtle: our positional status prompts and promotes a practical style of living. This practical aspect is captured by John in 1 John 3.4-10.

4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 

Everyone who makes a practice of sinning—Present active participle, lit. the one doing  the sin. This is a person whose habitual practice is to sin (miss the mark, veer from the right). This is in contrast to “the one doing right” (2.29).

Also practices lawlessness—lawlessness (Gk. Anomia) is to behave with complete disregard for the laws of society. In this case, there is no regard for the laws (commandments) of the kingdom of God (cf. 2.3).

Sin is lawlessness—veering from what is right is also disregard for the law.

5 You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.

You know—perfect tense of oida, absolute knowledge.

He appeared to take away sin—these Christians knew absolutely the purpose of Jesus’ coming: to take away, remove, bear/carry sins (ours). What is emphasized here is not the manner of the removal but the removal itself. Sin has been taken away.

In him there is no sin—not a single sin whatsoever. Present reality.

6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.

No one who abides in Him—or “Whosoever abideth in him” (KJV). Abiding in Christ means certainly to be in Christ, but it also points to the communion we enjoy with Christ/God and is characterized by our habitual doing of God’s will. If our goal and aim is to do the will of God (do right, 2.29), we would not keep on sinning…

Keeps on sinning—KJV “sinneth not.” (Linear) Present tense verb which is captured in the KJV with the “-eth” suffix attached to the word. This is not occasional sin John is talking about here but habitual sin. And as is characteristic of John’s writing, he presents the two camps as opposite (light and darkness, right and wrong).

This is also a logical deduction from the foregoing discussion: if the nature of the Son of God is sinless perfection and if His purpose in coming was to take away sin, then no one who abides in Him keeps on sinning.

No one who keeps on sinning—and here is the clarification of the practice of sin (linear present tense participle). Lit. this is “the one sinning” and points to a life marked by a habit of sin. It also points a life which is not in Christ and denies Him.

Has either seen him or known him—Woods says this points to the enjoyment one finds in God (sees) and the recognition of God in one’s life (knows). John uses the perfect tense of the verbs: one has not seen nor presently sees Him and has not known nor presently knows Him. Indeed, Sin and Christ are irreconcilable, incompatible and are at enmity.

7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.

Let no one deceive you—Let no one pull you away so as to stray from the truth.

Whoever practices righteousness is righteous—lit. the one doing the right(ness) as opposed to the one sinning (v.6). Compare this with 2.29. The one whose habitual practice (keeps on doing) is to do what is right concerning the will/law/commandments of God is righteous. In other words, you are doing what God desires. God makes us righteous through Christ; we, being righteous, will do what is righteous.

As he is righteous—In other words, your doing exactly what Jesus did while on earth. Character and practice cannot be separated; Jesus’ life shows us this.

8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 

Whoever makes a practice of sinning—present tense part. lit. the one doing (the) sin. This is again continuous action, a lifestyle and career of sin. The habit of sin.

Is of the devil—cf. Jn 8.44; When one acts like the devil, they demonstrate they are not children of God but children of the devil. This person belongs to and is aligned with the devil. Important note: John is careful not to say they are “begotten” of the devil. “The devil made no one, he begot no one, he created no one; but whosoever imitates the devil, is, as it were, a child of the devil, through imitating, not through being born of him” (Augustine). “There is the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the evil one, and man cannot find or make a third domain; if he is not in the one he is in the other.” – Pulpit Commentary

For the devil has been sinning from the beginning—this is his character. Hence, when one sins, breaking the law of God, they demonstrate the same character as the devil and their relation to him. “From the beginning” probably points to the devils fall from an angel of God to the demonic evil being he is now. He was the first sinner. But he continues to sin.

The reason the Son of God… – In v.5 we see the work of Jesus to take away sin. Here John adds that Jesus’ work was to destroy the “works” (pl.) of the devil. The word John uses for “destroy” is “loose” picturing, as it were, chains that had bound mankind; he unbinds, dissolves the bonds. So Christ, in removing our sins, looses us from the bonds of sin. He takes away/looses the us from the penalty and punishment of sin.

9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.

No one born of God—Perf., pass., part; lit. the one having been born of God. How? John 3.3,5 – baptism. God is incompatible with sin; irreconcilable opposites. Hence…

Makes a practice of sinning—KJV “doth not commit sin” is unfortunate and unbiblical (2.1). John is dealing with the habitual, continual career of sin; walking in darkness.

For God’s seed abides in him—God’s seed has taken up resides and continues to dwell in the begotten of God. But what is that seed? Most commentators point to the parable of the soils where Jesus says the word of God is the seed. That’s fair. In context, that fits (2.24). The apostolic word. But dig a bit deeper: you had Gnostics running around saying they had been reborn and enlightened and as a result they had the divine nature  or seed remaining in them. Over against this heresy, John tells Christians who have been born again they have God’s seed (His nature) in them. And what higher motive is there for not sinning?

He cannot keep on sinning—indeed, if he is a partaker in the divine nature, God makes his dwelling in him, then he should be done with sin and be focused on righteousness (2.29; 3.7, 10). Children of God do not act unbecoming of their Father.

Because he has been born of God—perf. Pass., ind. We were begotten and stand begotten of God. We continue to be children of God, bearing the divine nature/image in our being.

10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

By this—preceding or what follows? Either/both for they both are similar

It is evident who are the children of God—the individual who is a child of God is clearly known by what their practice is. Partakers in divine nature. Cf. Matt 7.16

Who are the children of the devil—at the same time, we can clearly know (identify) who the children of the devil, those who are partakers in the nature of Satan (sin).

Whoever does not practice righteousness—Present Active Part., lit. the one not doing righteousness. This is lifestyle, habitual, continual career stuff.  What does it mean to “do righteousness”? Obedience to the will and word of God. Do what is right when faced with the commandments of our holy God. Said another way: doing what God desires of us. Ok, what does it mean not to “do right”? Failure to keep the commandments of God, disobedience to the law of God. The person whose life does not match up with God’s revelation is “not of God.”

The one who does not love his brother—Present Active Part., lit. the one not loving his brother. Here John ties in the “new commandment” and places this on par with righteous behavior. The significance of this commandment cannot be over-stressed. This is the springboard into the next portion of John’s letter about sacrificial love. Who is my brother? One commentator says “mankind at large.” Eh…But John specifies in 3.14, 16—”the brothers.” Fellow Christians, fellow children of God.