God’s Grace & Salvation, part 2

Peter has focused his reader’s attention on their salvation & the grace which is theirs, spiritual treasures which prophets search intently for & angels strongly desire to see (3-12). With this firmly in mind, he will now exhort his readers to think & act in a holy manner.

Holy Living – By God’s Grace (1.13-2.3)

God’s grace enables Christians to a live a holy even under a hostile empire.

13Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Therefore: Due to the greatness & glory of salvation explained in verse 3-12…

Preparing your minds for action: lit. “gird up the loins of your mind” (so NKJV), a phrase lost on most modern readers, but a common practice in ANE culture where long robes were worn. In order to engage in vigorous activity (running, fast walking, etc.), the robes would have to be pulled up into their belt allowing them freedom of motion. In modern English, we might say “roll up your sleeves.” Peter is telling his audience to get ready for intense mental activity (your minds).

I have been saying that the church needs to be a thinking & thoughtful community. Peter exhorts even us to prepare for intense mental activity. Even as Elijah “gathered up his garment” and outran Ahab’s chariot, so we too must roll up the sleeves of our minds so that we can outthink culture & society with the Truth. Even our Lord has said, “Stay dressed for action” or “Let your waist be girded” (NKJV) – it’s the same idea.

Being sober-minded:  Not merely by abstaining from alcohol, but also do not let your mind wander to other mental intoxicants & addictions.  Things that belong to “the futile ways” (v.18).

We must also be clear-headed, not intoxicated by the thoughts of the world. With 24-hour news, non-stop social media, open-letter, politics, sports, etc. Just as surely as alcohol will impair your judgment, so too will intoxicating worldly thoughts carry away our minds from soundness to paranoia, fear, anxiety, worry, depression, defeat, etc.

Set your hope…revelation of Jesus Christ: Peter combines both the now & not yet aspect of our grace. First, we hope fully on this grace, that is, we are to have a very strong confident expectation of grace at the revelation of Jesus Christ. We look forward to His return when grace will be fully realized. But also, the grace “is being brought” (present participle) to you. Grace is already on the way, indeed, “the immeasurable riches of His grace” are ours in Christ Jesus (Eph 2.7). Yet, there is still more to come at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

14As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance,

As obedient children: As points to their present actual character before God, namely, obedient children or lit. “children of obedience.” Formerly, these were “children of disobedience” (cf. Eph 5.6), but now they are those who seek to please their heavenly Father by their holy character.

Do not be…former ignorance: Conformed is used by Paul in Romans 12.2. Here, as there, an apostle is exhorting Christians to avoid the pattern or mold into which the world would press us. This is a lifestyle that the audience was familiar with since is was their former ignorance. They did not know God’s ways, but instead gratified their passions.

“Christians must live as God’s children and be obedient to their Father” (Black & Black 45). Before our conversion to Christ we were supremely selfish; now we seek to serve others because saved people serve people. Before our conversion we lived to gratify our own desires; now we seek to do what God desires and so please Him. Before Christ, while we may have regarded basic decencies of life and sought some measure of health or reputation, we still did not regard God’s will; now, without regard to our own reputation or health, we seek to uphold God’s will. Before conversion we conformed to the culture & opinions around us; now we seek to influence culture for Christ and destroy every lofty opinion set up against the knowledge of Christ.

“Now [Christians] are to be governed by a different rule, and their own former standard of morals and of opinions is no longer their guide, but the will of God.” (Barnes)

15but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,

But as He…is holy: But is strong contrast. Holiness is an inherent attribute of deity (see Ex 15.11; Isa 6.3). God is separate from, even other than, all that we know in His majesty & glory. Notice: holy God called Christians, i.e. He initiated salvation through the gospel (cf. 2.9, 21; 3.9; 5.10).

You also…all your conduct: Christians have been called to be holy. All your conduct captures every thought & action of every day. This is total holiness, inward & outward conformity to the pattern of holiness (i.e. God Himself). The impetus for our holy conduct is the holiness of God.

“What God asked of Israel when he made that people his own he now asks and must ask of us whom he has called by Jesus Christ.” (Lenski) We imitate His moral character, His holiness, which is the ultimate basis for ethics. God’s holy moral character is the reason there are moral absolutes. Why are certain things right and certain things wrong and they are always right or always wrong? Look no further than the holiness of God. He delights in those things which reflect His holiness (moral character) and hates that which is opposed to His holiness. See Psalm 15.

16since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Since it is written: As is always the case, Scripture is the sole authority for doctrine & practice.

“You…I am holy”: Quote from Leviticus 11.44-45; 19.2; 20.7, 26. So both Testaments require holiness from God’s people & both ground this imperative in God’s holiness.

Since God is holy and we profess to be His followers, we must be holy. All that intense mental effort Peter just wrote about is to be devoted to holiness. A purging of the mind of all that is low, base, corrupt, wicked, & evil must take place. Even the heavens are not pure in His sight (Job 15.15)! Nevertheless, we flawed, fallen creatures of dust must roll up the sleeves of our minds, be self-controlled, & hope completely, perfectly upon His grace both now and forevermore. Eager, earnest effort is what is required of committed Christians. We are saints only if we pursue holiness with all that is within. And we do because we know “without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12.14). It is not just the big sins which weigh down the soul so that we do not progress in holiness (murder, fornication, etc.). A thousand little one pound sins will just as surely crush the soul. Stop using the world’s goods on yourself alone (selfishness). Cease thinking evil about other people, esp. your brethren (malice). Put away the idolatry of worry and pride. Then cultivate Christ-like behaviors & attitudes: help others, love others, esp. the unlovable. Do good to people, esp. your enemies. Not only have you shed those things which God hates, you are allowing His holiness to be reflected in you. Herein is true religion: the imitation of Him we worship. Holiness is imitating God.

17And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile,

And if…[work]: Or “and sincebecause this is a continuation of what Peter has been saying & no doubt these Christians do call the impartial judge of all Father. God called them to be obedient children, so they call Him Father. But He is also He Who judges (present part.) or more accurately “the one judging.” So in view is not final judgment (although this still applies, cf. 2 Cor 5.10), but the idea Peter expresses here is that God is presently weighing our actions & thoughts without prejudice or favoritism (lit. not receiving face). Our “work” summarizes all our actions & thoughts.

Conduct…your exile: Since God is an ever-present judge who weighs the heart, since we live in His presence and He knows our personal “work,” reverential awe & respect (fear) is the appropriate response during our earthly lives (i.e. the time of our exile).

Is our work holy unto God? Most people jump immediately to the final judgment. However, God is an ever-present judge, either excusing or condemning our life’s work. He “judges” or is judging right now. Either He pats us on the back or head and says “atta boy” or He shakes His head and “Why?” We need to maintain this holy fear derived from a deep sense of God’s presence realized by faith. We cannot even offer acceptable worship without godly, reverential fear of our God (Hebrews 12.28-29). Some (many?) in Christendom are of the opinion that the OT preaches fear, but the NT teaches nothing but love. Jesus and the NT writers bid us fear God.

18knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold,

Knowing…your forefathers: here is what prompts that reverential fear: knowledge of redemption. These Christians were slaves of the empty & useless lifestyle passed down to them by their ancestors. But in Christ they have been liberated from those ways. The contrast between how they conduct themselves now versus how they conducted themselves before is drawn. They were ransomed from (Gk ek) or out of the sphere of sinful ways to the sphere of obedience to God. The hereditary chain of sin is broken by Christ’s blood.

We tend to think of the spiritual aspects of redemption (saved from sin), but Peter points out the practical nature of redemption (saved from a former lifestyle). How many people today are caught up in the empty lifestyle passed down to them from the previous generation? How many people today know all too well the futility of their lifestyle? The hereditary chain of partying; the hereditary chain of drinking; the hereditary chain of smoking; the hereditary chain of drug abuse; the hereditary chain of pride; the hereditary chain of anger; the hereditary chain of foul language; the hereditary chain of hatred; the hereditary chain of worthlessness. Christ’s blood and only Christ’s blood can break all these chains. We here know this, just as the 1st century audience knew it: had it not been for God & the precious blood of Jesus Christ, we would still be in bondage to that former futile lifestyle. But God and Christ change lives.

Not with…silver or gold: Silver and gold cannot liberate anyone from spiritual captivity. No physical, earthly object(s) could buy back these people from their former sinful manner of life.

19but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

But with…Christ: But is emphatic (Gk alla). The impetus for holy conduct as exiles under empire is the ransom price: Christ’s precious blood. Only Christ’s blood could pay the ransom price.  Unlike gold & silver which will ultimately perish, Christ’ body did not see corruption (cf. Acts 2.31).

Not bling but blood. Not coins but Christ. The blood of Christ is so precious, so valuable to God. We must never take lightly the extreme cost of our redemption. The moment we do is when the evil has opportunity to snatch us away from Christ. To lightly esteem or underestimate the value of Christ’s blood in our redemption is a root of all kinds of evil. It is at the heart of every fallen away Christian. If we truly esteemed Christ’s blood as precious, as supremely valuable, we would never walk away from Him, but cling to Him more closely.

Like that…blemish or spot:  Some see here a Passover connection however it seems better to understand this more broadly since frequently the requirement under the Law was for a lamb “without blemish” (Lev 3.6; 4.32; et al). Christ of course was without sin—pure & undefiled. Thus Christ is the fulfillment of all the sacrifices under the Law. Specifically here, He was sacrificed in our stead to free us from bondage of the former life.

20He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you

He was foreknown…the world: Before time existed, in eternity, God knew that man would sin & rupture relationship with Him and need to be ransomed. So Christ, the Son, was “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev 13.8). It was the plan before time began.

But was made manifest…you: With the cosmic, eternal foreknowledge of God before them, Peter says that all of the scheme of redemption was “for your sake” (NIV). From the timeless realm of eternity comes the Lamb into human history (time & space) in the last times, i.e. “the end of the ages” (1 Cor 10.11). In light of such a great revelation of God’s Son, live appropriately.

21who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

Who through Him as believers in God: Through Christ those to whom Peter wrote had become believers, that is they came to put their trust in God. Their faith is based upon historical facts…

Who raised…Him glory: i.e. the resurrection & ascension of Christ by the power of God.

So that…in God: By the resurrection and glorification (exaltation) of Christ, God has a laid a firm foundation upon which the Christian can build his/her faith. Further, he/she can have confident expectation of their own resurrection and glorification someday.

22Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,

Having purified…love: Having purified (perf.) is used here in a spiritual sense to indicate consecration to God’s service. Their souls, i.e. their whole persons, are set apart for service unto God. Purification happens “in obedience to the truth” (NASB) and is for (Gk eis) a sincere (lit. unhypocritical) brotherly love (Gk Philadelphian). So Peter’s focus is on the rationale behind love: they love their siblings because they have purified their souls by obeying the truth.

Peter’s first specific application of his command to live a holy life is for Christians to love one another. This then is the first mark of genuine Christians who are in pursuit of holiness: deep, earnest love for their fellow Christians. This is testimony to the power of the gospel. Even the most hard-hearted individual might have their affections changed dramatically & permanently.

“Love one another” – why this command to these people? Certainly the temptation to just survive with fellow Christians, gathered together & rubbing shoulders like so many marbles in a sack. But that Peter has to command this implies they were a) growing lax in fulfilling this “new command” or b) former relationships with non-Christians were being rekindled. It would have been easy for these persecuted Christians to just fall back into old patterns of life, relapse due to these old connections. How many Christians does this same thing happen? Old relationships with people who know you became a Christian but themselves do not want a part of Christ have dragged many backward. But we have exchanged the flesh for the Spirit! Saved people love other saved people.

Love one another…heart: “As [these Christians] face persecution and distress from without, it is vital that they maintain mutual support from within” (Black & Black 51). Earnestly includes not only intensity but also duration (i.e. without ceasing). A pure heart is a prerequisite for Christian love.

This is all the more reason why our new relationships with fellow Christians must be all more “earnest” and spring from a “pure heart.” This is all the more reason why love must be “unhypocritical,” that is, genuine & without show. This is not a call for Christian glad-handing & hand-patting. Love is not smarmy. This is not a call for “working the crowd” or “pressing the flesh.” Love is not political. This is not a call for self-exaltation – “What would you do without me, brother?” Love does not boast (excessive praise). This certainly is not a call to pretend to love your brother to their face, & then tear them down behind their back to someone else. Real, genuine, sincere love is not duplicitous. “God is love” and He is none of these things.

Genuine Love: Romans 12.9; 2 Cor 6.6. Love from a “pure heart” – that is it is unmixed, i.e. not because of what you can do for me or “what have you done for me lately?” Not because it gives me some benefit or pleasure. Not because you belong to my church. “Even sinners do that!” That’s worldly love, but genuine love from a pure heart is unmixed with worldly love. “Earnest” or fervent – it is hot! “Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of YHWH. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it” (Songs 8.6-7).

23since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;

Since…born again: cf. v.3. Single word in original (perf. Pass.). Christians were born again and stand born of God as His children. Here is perhaps the highest argument for strong love for one another: we are all children of the Father, all born again.

The use of two perfect tense words (“having purified” [v.22] & “having been born again”) is interesting. The first is active; the second is passive. Said another way, the first states what we are able to do, the second what God did. The first goes back to the second. In other words, because God has caused us to be born again, we have been & are purifying our souls by our obedience to His truth.

Not…imperishable: Or “not of mortal seed (i.e. parentage) but of immortal.” The contrast is between natural birth (by a human father) & spiritual birth (by the heavenly Father).

“The seeds are the thoughts of God, the truth of God; and they are seeds out of which the life of holiness must burst and grow” (Caffin 59).

Through the…word of God: It is through His word that God causes people to be born again. The word is identified as “the good news” (v.25). “It is the uniform doctrine of the Scriptures that divine truth is made the instrument of quickening the soul into spiritual life” (Barnes). The word is living and abiding of course because Jesus said “My words will never pass away” (Matt 24.35, et al).

24for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls,

For…: This introduces the quotation from Isaiah 40.6, 8 as confirmation of what Peter has said.

“All flesh…flower of grass”: All flesh speaks all human beings, mankind. All its glory is a reference to man’s accomplishments, beauty, strength, intelligence, riches, & greatness. Peter says all mankind & all of the greatness of mankind is like grass…the flower of grass. In this comparison, Peter is pointing out the frailty of mankind.

“The grass…falls”:  Lit. “withered the grass, fallen the bloom!” It is emphatic. These earthly, natural elements fade away and perish. So too is human life & glory transitory, given only a certain amount vitality & endurance before it gives out.

We know how brief this life is. It is theme constant in Scripture (James 4.14, et al). When a brother or sister, a loved one, a close friend dies we are reminded yet again by our experience of the transitory nature of this life. Both Scripture & experience affirm what Peter is saying here.

25but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

“But the…forever”: Now the contrast—while everything in the natural world is transitory, the word (Gk rhema) of the Lord (LXX of God) is permanent. The world fades, but the word is fixed. Christians have an eternally abiding nature (2 Pt 1.4) because we have been born again by “the living & abiding word,” the forever-word of God.

“The Word of the Lord Abides Forever” – this world is going out of business. But God’s word is “living & abiding,” that is, it lives and continues to lives. Men & women, like grass & flowers, wither and pass away. But when the eternal word of God is uttered and they hear it with open ears and open heart, eternal life is imparted to the obedient. Everything in this world gives out except the spoken word of God contained in the gospel today.

And this word…preached to you: Word (Gk rhema) is the spoken word of God. It is the “good news” of Zion & Jerusalem (Isa 40.9), fulfilled in Christ, preached to you & imparting life & grace.

1So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.

So…: Since you have obeyed the gospel, been born again, & are to love one another…

Put away: Or stop doing what you are used to doing. Same word Paul uses in Ephesians (4.22) in speaking of putting off the old self. Indeed, these Christians have been ransomed from the former lifestyle and in Christ have a new lifestyle to live before their Father & with one another.

All malice: Every bit of hateful feelings toward others is to be abandoned. Malice is a disposition or spirit which holds ill-will & thinks evil of other people. Stop thinking evil of others, esp. siblings.

Malice eats churches alive because it eats too many members alive.

All deceit: Or “guile” (KJV, ASV). This is trickery & treachery, fraud & falsehood. Brethren ought not lie to each other, nor express with their lips what is not in their hearts.

Is it deceitful for us when we greet each other to respond “fine” when life is anything but fine? “How are you?” “Fine.” But you’re really not. Is that a form deceit?  Lenski says deceit is “to mislead other to their own hurt and to our own supposed advantage.”

Hypocrisy:  Lit. hypocrisies (pl). Pretending to be what we are not. The word originally was for stage actors in a play who wore masks & pretended to be someone else. Appearing religious, pious, Christian, when we never intend to truly be such. Plural because there are so many ways to be fake.

Barnes says the hypocrisies are toward both God and man:

hypocrisy to God is, when persons profess that which they have not, as love to God, faith in Christ, zeal for religion, fervent devotion, and sincerity in the worship of God; and do all they do to be seen of men, and appear outwardly righteous, and yet are full of all manner of iniquity: hypocrisy to men is, pretence of friendship, loving in word and tongue only, speaking peaceably with the mouth, but in heart laying wait; a sin to be abhorred and detested by one that is born from above; and is contrary to that integrity, simplicity, and sincerity of heart, which become regenerate persons, the children of God, and brethren one of another:

Envy: Envies (pl). Or “jealousies” (cf. NCV). Hating others because of some advantage (real or imaginary) or possession they have which we do not.

All slander: or “evil speaking” (NKJV).  This all kinds of unkind talk which seeks only to run down someone else. Defamation of character, false accusations, backbiting,

Note; all of these vices are not in keeping with the character of those who have been begotten of God and infused with a new divine nature. Those who have experienced the grace of God must themselves learn to be gracious to others, esp. toward brothers & sisters.

“All these sins aim at harming other people, whereas love seeks the good of others” (Grudem 94). All of these sins likewise will hurt the Christian, hinder his/her growth, and quite possibly jeopardize their salvation unless abandoned immediately. We must take off this robe of many sins

2Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—

Like newborn infants…: Infants would be free from all of the vices mentioned in v.1. As those “born again” by the Father they must “be infants in evil” but mature in their thinking (1 Cor 14.20).

Long for…spiritual milk: Long is an imperative and expresses a desire for something. As they get rid of the impure desires of v.1, they are to “crave” (NIV) for the pure spiritual milk of God. These would be the spiritual truths & doctrines of God which are “without guile” (contrast v.1).  Indeed, “the commandment of YHWH is pure” (Psalm 19.8).

Irenaeus, early church writer, in talking about heretics in his day that they mixed the pure spiritual milk with chalk. How many today do the same thing with the pure, unadulterated gospel of God? They gag & choke on the polluted, theologically shallow gospel!

The milk is “spiritual” (Gk logikon from which we get “logic”) or “reasonable” or “rational.” Hence, all of the sins mentioned in v.1 are unreasonable & irrational behaviors for the child of God. Flee to the reasonable, rational shores of pure love for one another & for God.

That…salvation: Putting away sinful attitudes & practices while filling ourselves up with the love & purity of God & His words is vital for spiritual growth. “The soul which feeds upon the pure milk of the Word [grows] continually unto salvation” (Caffin 69).

3if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

If indeed…is good:  Cf. Psalm 34.8. If would better be understood as “for” (RSV) or “since.”  Peter does not doubt these Christians have tasted the goodness & kindness of God. Rather, assuming they have tasted the Lord’s goodness, they will crave even more & fuller tastes.

You know how sometimes you try something which you are not sure you will like. As a kid you are coerced into trying stuff which was unappealing to you with the phrase, “You might like it.” Well, Peter knows that those who taste God’s goodness will like. And having tasted it…mmm…Yes, I would like more please! “The first experiences of the Christian life stimulate God’s people to further efforts” (Caffin 69).

There is some neat word play here: the word for Christ is Christos and the word for good is chrestos. In fact, early church writers like Tertullian adopted the confussion of heathens: Christos chrestos, Christ is good. Indeed, Christians follow the good Christ.

Grow in the Word of God, part 2

The integrity of a society begins with the integrity in the home and the home is the first & best place for children to learn faith and obedience. The collapse of a nation (any nation) is directly related to the home. When the family is decayed, the nation rots. The only remedy is a wholesale return to the godly principles contained in the Bible. Parents must 1st themselves be given over to the way of God and then in turn they instruct their children in obedience. Therefore, Paul continues his exhortation to the family, and in this section (6.1-4) focuses on the children’s responsibility toward their parents.

 God’s Word to Children (6.1-4)

As children grow they are to be obedient to their parents, especially their fathers.

1Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

Children: This epistle is addressed to “saints” (1.1), not exactly preschoolers and young children. Obedience and honor certainly begins in childhood, but it continues into adulthood.

Obey…the Lord: Obey is stronger than submit (v.21, 22). Submission is voluntary; obedience is mandatory. In the Lord (key phrase in Ephesians) “means to obey as part of one’s relation to the Lord” (Snodgrass 321).

The Scriptures paint a bleak picture of those who are disobedient to parents (Prov 30.11, 17). Disobedience to parents is characteristic of those who are depraved and reprobate whom God has given over to a debased mind (Rom 1.29, 30). It is also a signal that we are indeed living in the last days (2 Tim 3.1-2). At its heart, disobedience is spiritual rebellion since obedience to parents is part of our relationship with the Lord.

For this is right: Even the law of nature teaches we obey those who gave us life; the Romans understood the power of the father (patria potestas) in his home. Common sense dictates that parental obedience is right. The Law of God sanctioned & sanctified obedience (5th commandment). Now Paul, inspired of the Holy Spirit, baptizes the command and so enjoins it upon the church of Christ.

2“Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise),

“Honor…mother”: Honor means to revere, respect, and value upon the parents. Parents (v.1) is here defined as a father and mother, which would exclude other unlawful arrangements (i.e. Heather has Two Mommies).

Obedience may look different for a 20 year old than a 5 year old, but honor remains relatively unchanged. We should always respect our parents, regardless of what age we be. But a 5 yr olds obedience (maybe – eat your vegetables) looks different than a 20 yr olds obedience (say – stay away from alcohol). Honoring God is the theological principle undergirding the principle to honor and obey parents.

This is…a promise: Some have noted that the 2nd commandment (no idols) has a promise in it (Exodus 20.4-6). However, a close reading of the text shows that the Lord is describing His nature in the 2nd commandment, whereas the 5th commandment has a specific, personal promise (“you”).

3“that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”

“That it may go well with you”: The promise is that things will go better for you if you obey your parents. You’ll be more useful, healthy, happy than if you did not obey mom & dad.

“That you…in the land”: or “on the earth.”  Though originally “the land” is the Promised Land, here it is meant generally for the earth. The second aspect of the promise is longevity. Those who listen to their parents, doing what they say will live a long time.

Some point out the problem with the promise – some children, even those who are very obedient, die. Granted, there are the cases where lives are cut short due to willful rebellion and refusal to heed the voice of parental wisdom. But some kids’ lives are short without that willful rebellion. They don’t “live long on the earth” even though they may have been very obedient. What then? The problem is further compounded when we consider that some little hellion grows up into adulthood, perhaps to continue his profligate lifestyle. “Why do the wicked prosper, Lord?”

  • Reminder: when a child dies, we believe that they go to be with the Lord. Sin does not come alive until they come to know the Law and disobey it. So when a young child does die, we have the blessed assurance that they are “safe in the arms of Jesus.” Do not doubt in the dark what you knew in the light.
  • Though we can point to specific cases, this promise, when applied generally, tends towards the results specified. Where you find parental obedience, you will typically find longevity and habits which promote that.
  • Another reminder: God is sovereign. In the end, He owes us no explanation for the whys and wherefores of life (and death). Though we only have partial answers in this life, the promise still stands.

4Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Fathers: Some point out that the word used here (Gk pateres) is used of both parents (see Hebrews 11.23). However, Paul has just used the word for “parents” in v.1. It seems like the shift is intentional: primary responsibility to lead the home and primary accountability unto the Lord for the home is placed squarely upon men.

Do not…anger: Paul tells Christian fathers not to make their children mad or irritated. Coupled with Colossians 3.21 this comes into sharp focus: don’t lead your children down a path of frustration which culminates in their being discouraged in the faith.

But bring…the Lord: Provide for their physical & psychological needs, yes. But most important, give them what they need spiritually. Discipline relates to cultivating the mind and morals complete with commands and correction when necessary. Instruction could be either correction (for misdeeds) or confirmation (for good works).

First the wives, then the husbands. First the children, then the fathers. The dependent first followed by those upon whom they are dependent. Here Paul states the negative before giving the positive. This is Paul’s typical style.  First, don’t provoke them to anger: That is, although there is a proper and necessary place for discipline, that discipline must nevertheless “never be arbitrary (for children have a built-in sense of justice) or unkind. Otherwise, they will ‘become discouraged.’ Conversely, almost nothing causes a child’s personality to blossom and gifts to develop like the positive encouragement of loving, understanding parents.”[1] Second, bring them up in God’s instruction: How are fathers to do this unless they know what the Word of God teaches? How are they to teach with wisdom unless they have themselves learned in Christ’s school? Obviously fathers will fail at this great task unless they are themselves growing with God. They must be studying the Bible. They must be seeking to live by it and practice it in their own daily lives. Parents (and especially fathers) must be models. [2]

[1] James Montgomery Boice, Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Ministry Resources Library, 1988). 214.

[2] Ibid 215.

Grow in the Work of Christ, part 1

Some say that all of chapters 1-3 is a prayer of Paul (see 3.14; 1.15). So this section (2.1-10) is a recitation of the spiritual history of the Ephesians and all who come to obedient faith in Christ. This text can be seen to track with Genesis 1: We have the chaos (v.1-3) out of which God brings order (v.4-9) and a new creation (v.10).

Access to His Grace (1-10)

God made us alive in Christ when He saved us by grace through faith unto good works.

1And you were dead in the trespasses and sins

And you were dead: And indicates this section is connected with the previous verses in ch.1. You is emphatic. Paul is using a historical present tense (lit. you being dead) to remind these Christians of the filth from which they have come, that is spiritual death.

All people outside of and away from Christ are the walking dead. They are spiritual zombies, “dead even while [they] live.” Isa 25.7, they wear casket clothes. Those we walk by every day, who we work with, eat, with, commute with, perhaps even live with – they are dead! Just like you used to be. But God…even as God worked a work in your life, so He is able to work a work in theirs!

In the trespasses and sins: Two terms for offenses against God. 1) Trespasses—a term which points to boundaries set by God which we are not go beyond or barriers set up to keep us from harm (esp. the Law and conscience). 2) Sin—”missing the mark” by failing to do what God said to do or doing something which God said not to do. Both trespasses and sins have the same killing effect.

2in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—

In which you once walked: Or how they lived, going about with their dead lives. Walking is a figure used later in this epistle (v.10, 4.1; 5.2, 8, 15) and elsewhere in the NT (Col 4.5; 1 Jn 1.7).

Following the course of the this world: Here is the 1st antithesis to life with God. This is “earthbound motives” which are typical of the world. It is an ethic which stands juxtaposed with “the coming ages” (v.7). This system does not consider God and is opposed to God (cf. 1 John 2.15-17).

Following…of the air: Here is the 2nd antithesis to life with God. “Satan is here pictured as the ruler of the demons and other agencies of evil” (Robertson). Formerly, these Christians had their lives shaped by the master of evil as they followed his bidding. That these beings are of the air indicates that they are immaterial, spiritual beings, not necessarily that they “haunt” the atmosphere.

The spirit…the sons of disobedience: present tense, the devil is still working in the world, namely in “children in whom is no faithfulness” (Dt 32.20). He fans into flame their dislike for the will of God. Though he fell like lightning from heaven (Luke 10.18), is judged (John 16.11), and will soon be crushed under our feet (Romans 16.20), Satan energizes those not surrendered to God.

Those who are not surrendered to God are subject to Satan. There are only two energizing forces in this cosmic battle for the souls of men: God and Satan. And if a person is not surrendered to God, he is surrendered to the forces of darkness of whom Satan is the head. “And if people are surrendered to the power of evil, they become those whose habit of life is contrary to the living God, and so they are rightly called the sons of disobedience.

3among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Among whom…our flesh: We all once lived points to Paul including himself with the Ephesian readers as among the sons of disobedience. Lived (or “conducted ourselves,” NKJV) stresses daily behavior. So the daily behavior of the unregenerate person is the gratification of “the longings and impulses of the self-centered life” (Foulkes 79). This is the pattern of life which emerges when left to our own natural desires and proclivities. Neither Jew nor Gentile are exempt.

We “all” did this before Christ. If you say you did not, there is no hope for you. We all gave into the base, carnal, earthy, selfish desires and appetites. That’s sin in its basic definition – gratify the selfish desires.

Carrying out…the mind: our habitual practice was to fulfill the will of the flesh and mind. “Lusts lead to acts” (Lenski). So not only self-centered passions, but the actual doing of those desires, both in the flesh and in our thoughts. Indeed, from our thoughts issue forth our fleshly practices.

Were by nature…the rest of mankind: Before becoming the children of God or light (see 5.8), we were by nature children of wrath. There was a Jewish thought that the Gentiles were ignorant of God “by nature” (see Wisdom 13.1). Paul affirms that all men—Jew or Gentile—are subject to divine wrath due to disobedience. Because of what they did, they were under the judgment of God. Like the rest of mankind could speak of Gentiles, but it seems best to understand it as the former state of these Christians before coming to obedient faith in Christ. All men, if left to themselves, develop the habitual practice (i.e. nature) of self-gratification (i.e. sin).

We see here three (3) fatal guides: 1) The world (v.2, “the course of this world”), 2) The devil (v.2, “the prince of the power of the air”), & 3) The flesh (v.3, “the passions of the flesh”). When one follows these guides, heeding their voice to “trespass” and “sin” against God, it leads to a very dark condition for man: 1) Morally dead (v.1, 5, “dead in trespasses and sins”), 2) Practically worldly (v.2, “following the course of this world”), 3) Satanically ruled (v.2, “following the prince of the power of the air”), 4) Wickedly associated (v.3, “the sons of disobedience among whom we all once lived”), 5) Carnally debased (v.3, “the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind”), & 6) Perilously situated (v.3, “children of wrath”). Here is the bleak picture of life outside of and away from God and Christ.

4But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,

But God: When the night was darkest, in broke the light! God entered the fray.

Being rich in mercy: Mercy is not getting what we deserve (wrath, v.3). No doubt God’s mercy is immeasurable like His grace (v.7). It is our in abundance and overflowing.

Because…He loved us:  It is God’s infinite love which is the ground of our salvation.

“Mercy takes away misery; love confers salvation” (Bengal). God sees our deadness and offers us life in Christ. There is longing in the heart of God for us to be restored to life and vitality. You cannot have verse 4 without verse 1-3.

5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—

Even when we…our trespasses: Repeat of the reality of verse 1; spiritual death by trespassing. There were “No Trespassing” signs up and we crossed the line, climbed the fence and we paid the penalty for trespassing – spiritual death.

Made us alive together with Christ: As Christ was raised bodily by the power of God, so we are raised spiritually by God’s power. So we have new life with Christ, even eternal life (cf. Rom 6.4).

By grace you have been saved: At the heart of spiritual resurrection is God’s grace., i.e. His unmerited favor. The construction of this phrase (also in v.8) reaches forward & backward in time while also touching the present. We have been saved, are in a saved state, and are being saved—all by God’s grace. This is ubiquitous in the New Testament: Acts 15.11; Romans 3.24; Titus 2.11.

6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

And raised us up with Him: Having been revitalized (v.5) with new life we have also been resurrected with Christ. As Christ walked out of the tomb, so we vacate our spiritual sepulchers. As Christ ascended after His resurrection, so the Christian ascends out of the “domain of darkness” and into “the reign of the Beloved Son” (Col 1.13).

And seated us…in Christ Jesus: Or enthroned us. What happened to Christ (1.20) has happened to the Christian also. “We are joined to him so that we are where he is” (Snodgrass 102). The heavenly places refers the spiritual realm where we “reign with Christ” (Revelation 20.4, 6).

Salvation is presented as an event which has occurred in the past (i.e. baptism) and a present possession and reality experienced by those in Christ. To enjoy salvation requires being joined to the Savior. The gift cannot be separated from the Giver.

7so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

So that in the coming ages: that is, those periods and times from apostolic days until the second coming of Christ or the church age. Indeed, God’s grace has flowed freely and fully in history.

He might show…in Christ Jesus: throughout church history God has made known His grace in the example of the Ephesians and Paul (“us”). The riches of his grace must be immeasurable if He can show kindness (or love in action) toward such sinners! Grace is only found in Christ Jesus.

If God can show mercy, grace, and love toward the Ephesians and Paul, then couldn’t He show us the same? Haven’t we tasted the immeasurable riches of God’s grace in our own lives? God in kindness has freely and fully given us miserable, wretched sinners His grace.

8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,

For by grace…through faith: Here Paul expands upon what he mentioned parenthetically in v.5. Here divine sovereignty and human responsibility meet in the rugged realm of redemption. Grace is God’s part; faith is ours. God’s grace appeared and brought salvation and teaches us the appropriate and right response to all that God has done on our behalf (cf. Titus 2.11ff).

This is…the gift of God:  That is, salvation by grace conditioned upon faith is a gift from God.  Man is unable to save himself. Further, man neither initiated nor accomplished salvation. God did and He offers the gracious gift of salvation to man who receives it unto himself by obedient faith. We were saved, are in a saved state, and are being saved by God’s continued favor upon us as we continue to trust Him for all things.

9not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Not a result…no one may boast: If salvation were by works grace would no longer be grace (see Romans 11.6). Whether the works of the Law of Moses or any works man might attempt to perform to placate the divine fury—it does not matter. All man’s righteous works are filthy rags before holy God (see Isaiah 64.6). It is the law of faith by which boasting is excluded (Rom 3.27).

There are a lot of people today who believe that “if you’re just a good person, God will overlook all the bad you do and take you to heaven.” This heresy is straight from the pit of hell! Salvation by grace through faith is not of works. No amount of good deeds can atone for even one sin. “I’m basically a good person” is the statement of someone who does not know that Jesus says “No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10.18). Further, the Bible says, “None is righteous, no not one…no one does good, not even one” (Rom 3.10, 12). So, according to God’s word, no one is “basically a good person” and no amount of good works will save us because our good works are really polluted garments.

10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

For we are His workmanship: Or His masterpiece. Lit. We are that which God has made. This is language which harkens to God’s creative power. But though the creation of the world was grand, the new creation is grander! To bring a world out of nothing is great; to restore that world from chaos is greater! We have been made anew by God (cf 2 Cor 5.17). So we are His people, possession, prize, (see Psalm 100.3).

Created…for good works: Good works will not save us. But in Christ Jesus we are made to engage in good works. Having been spiritually renewed we can fulfill God’s purpose in our lives.

Which God prepared beforehand: From eternity, God purposed that those whom He would create new in Christ would engage in good works (as opposed to evil works). “Before the foundation of the world it was ordained that whoever should be saved by grace [thru faith] should walk in good works” (PC 64).

That we should walk in them: In time, God has a blueprint for our lives which we are to live by. This walk is the habitual practice, the career of those saved by grace. “He who is not holy in his life is not saved by the grace of Christ” (Adam Clarke). “If we are not living a life of good works, we have no reason to believe that we have been saved by grace” (PC 64). “Boast not of Christ’s work for you, unless you can show the Spirit’s work in you” (Ryle 47). One cannot claim to be saved but refuse to serve.

If we would become the masterpiece of God (“His workmanship”), we must be “in Christ Jesus” and “saved by grace through faith.” Further, to truly be God’s masterpiece, we must engage in the works He has prepared beforehand for us to walk in.

Rejoicing in Purity Before God

After the glorious heights of vs. 5-11 which captures in hymnody the exalted nature of Christ, Paul seeks to encourage his brethren toward continued obedience to the Lord in Philippians 2:12–18.

Working Out, Working In (2.12-13)

As Christians are working out their salvation God is working in them.

12Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,

Therefore: Lit. “So then” and ties directly back to 2.1-4. Paul is continuing his admonition of how they are look to the interests of others.

My beloved: This not a mere military call-to-arms; Paul includes his personal love for these brethren in his appeal. Paul’s commands are not burdensome, nor are God’s (1 John 5.3).

As you have…in my absence: The Philippians have been a marvelous testament to the missionary efforts of Paul. The greatest tribute a newly formed church can offer the missionary who leaves to continue his work elsewhere is to continue to obey God after the departure of the missionary. Paul encourages these brethren to further faithfulness though he is not there and may not be able to come ever again.

Work out your [own] salvation with fear and trembling: the word “own” is supplied in several English translations (KJV, NKJV, ESV). However, in keeping with his continued appeal from 2.1-4, it seems Paul is calling Christians to collectively work out our salvation (which includes not only the act of rescuing but also the state of safety). We are not only working out our own salvation; we are in this struggle for holiness together. Further, that this is a salvation which encompasses the church as a whole is seen in terms of Christ as Savior of His body, the church (see Eph 5.23) and Paul’s mention of “your salvation” (Phil 1.28). As Martin puts it: “After the great passage of 2:5-11 it would be singularly inappropriate to stress personal salvation” (116). The whole congregation, in fearful trembling before the Lord God Jesus Christ, seeks to help one another on the path to ultimate salvation when Christ returns. Not slavish terror but a reverential desire to do right.

13for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

For it is God who works in you: God is ho energon, the Energizer, in you (pl.) or among you, enabling the church’s work at salvation. God began the work; the church seeks to carry on to end what God began. Christ work of atonement is finished; we work from the cross to carry out sanctification by the Holy Spirit. “The grace of God is alleged as a motive for earnest Christian work” (Caffin 62). Not only does God give us the gift, but the means and will to put that gift into practice.

Both to will and to work: God’s inward energy impacts both the decision of the will (volition) and the practical deeds (Gk to energein). “God gives power to will, man wills through that power; God gives power to act, and man acts through that power…The power to will and do comes from God; the use of that power belongs to man” (Clarke). “So divine sovereignty and human responsibility time and again meet each other in the life of the redeemed” (Muller 92). “Paul makes no attempt to reconcile divine sovereignty and human free agency, but boldly proclaims both” (Robertson). God does all, and we do all.

For His good pleasure: Even as the self-emptying of Christ was for the “glory of God the Father” (v.11), so the Christian community cooperating with God, who is working within or among us, and with fellow Christians, who are working at carrying out to full completion salvation with one another, is for God’s good pleasure. This pleasing to God.

Blemishes Out, Blameless In (2.14-18)

Holding fast the word of life promotes a life free from impurity and ready to be a (living) sacrifice to God.

14Do all things without grumbling or disputing,

Do all things without grumbling or disputing: Present imperative. In other words, this is a command. Everything we do must be without complaining (NIV, NKJV) or arguing. We should not murmur (like Israel in the OT) or argue (like apostles in the NT—Mk 9.49).

15that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

That we may be blameless and innocent: Herein lies the purpose why we do everything without grumbling and arguing—the preservation of holiness.  Blameless means living a life which does not have an accusatory or critical finger pointed at it—to be faultless. Pure carries the idea of unmixed, like a metal which contains no alloys which could weaken it—no evil should be mixed in the Christian’s life. Together, these words provide somewhat of a commentary on living a life “worthy of the gospel of Christ” (1.27).

Children of God…twisted generation: They are to be holy children of the Father in the world but not of it (cf. John 17.15-16). Cf. Deut 32.4-5—Paul adopts and adapts a description of apostate Israel to stimulate these brethren on to faithful living. While the generation around them may be dishonest and engages in serious wrongdoing, these Christians are to be morally upright, even following after the Father who is a “God of faithfulness and without iniquity.”

Among whom…in the world: like when God created the stars to give light on the earth and shine in darkness (cf. Genesis 1.15, 18). In similar fashion, Christians are “the light of world” (Mt 5.14) which shine forth our own light (our own goodness, ideas, etc.); ours is borrowed light from “the Light of the world” – Jesus (Jn 8.12). We are “light-bearers” in a dark world; we are the vessel or vehicle through which the true Light shines forth.

16holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

Holding fast to the word of life: Present tense means they are to continue to hold fast what they have. Here is how we “shine as lights” in the “crooked and twisted” world. We are the lamps and God’s word is the flame. Christians are lights because they hold fast and hold forth the word of Life. The world does not have life’s Word and the church fulfills her glorious God-given mission when possessing and presenting God’s word. While the world must hear the word, they must also see the light present in our lives. “Their saintly lives testify to the power of the word of life” (Muller 95).

So that in the day of Christ: Paul’s has skin in the game because they are his fruit prepared for the coming harvest. The phrase “day of Christ” is unique to this epistle. It is more commonly the “day of the Lord” but both phrases appear synonymous.

I may be proud…labor in vain: Paul, looking forward to the final coming of Christ, anticipates glorying in his “joy and crown” (4.1) and in their salvation. He does not want to be disappointed in his brethren because they have not been living a life “worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Two images capture the kind of heart-wrenching disappointment: 1) completing a race only to learn of disqualification & 2) planting crops that never produce. Both imply strenuous exertion.

17Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.

[But] Even if …your faith: “I am poured out as a drink offering” is a single word (Gk spendomai) and appears in only one other place in the NT (2 Tim 4.6) though he captures the same idea elsewhere (2 Cor 12.15). Paul is using highly figurative language to capture the possibility of his martyrdom. Paul would joyfully face a violent, bloody martyr’s death for the Philippians’ faith. If that is what it would take for their faithfulness in “sacrifice and service,” so be it. His life would then be a drink offering poured “upon” their sacrifice and service. Some see here an allusion to the fact that his audience is predominately pagan versus Jewish. Jews would pour a drink offering next to or around the altar and sacrifice; pagan rituals required pouring the drink offering over or upon the sacrifice. Paul will do whatever it takes to stimulate these brethren to faithfulness.

I am glad and rejoice with you: This scene of martyrdom is faced with glad acceptance by Paul for he pleased to have God’s will accomplished in his life. Further, as Paul has already made known, “to die is gain” (1.21). Christ is honored in and through life or death.

18Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

Likewise…rejoice with me: These are actually imperatives. Paul charges his readers to joyfully face future suffering and persecution even as he faces potential martyrdom.

Textual Note

“Glad and rejoice with” are related terms (Gk chairo kai sunchairo) which should both be translated “rejoice.” Joy is here connected with a proper perspective concerning Christian service.

Dealing with Truth Devotees – 3 John

This commentary is offered with the working presumption that the author of 1, 2, & 3 John is the apostle John who also penned the gospel according to John and the Revelation. Further, while some have sought to reconstruct the occasion for John writing this postcard of an epistle, the frank reality is that there is precious little to truly build a definitive case.

Slightly different from 2 John which dealt with those who oppose the truth, in 3 John the apostle is going to give us the answer to what to do with those who love truth. This epistle is much more pointed as John names the person opposing the truth (Diotrephes) and much more personal as he names members of the church who support the truth (Gaius & Demetrius). 3 John provides us a glimpse of early church practice & faithful brethren. The take away is that Christian is to be an encourager of those devoted to truth not an inhibitor.

Outline of 3 John:

I.             The Perseverance of Gaius the Exhorter (v.1-8, 13-15)

A.     John’s Prayer for Gaius (v.1-2)

B.     John’s Praise of Gauis (v.3-8)

C.     John’s Plan Concerning Gaius (v.13-15)

II.             The Pride of Diotrephes the Egotist (9-11)

A.     The Wickedness of Diotrephes (v.9-10)

B.     The Warning about Diotrephes (v.11)

III.             The Profession concerning Demetrius the Example (v.12)

A.     His Associates’ Testimony (v.12a)

B.     The Apostle’s Testimony (v.12b)

Farewell (v.13-15)

3 John (ESV)

1The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth.

The Elder: John. Tradition tells us that he was a bishop (i.e. overseer) of the church in Ephesus. Since he is “the elder” this could suggest that he is the last survivor of the Twelve. However, could simply mean older man.

To the beloved Gaius: called “beloved” or “dear friend” (NET, NIV) in v.2, 5, 11. All that we know about this Gaius to whom John wrote is what is contained in this epistle.

Whom I love in truth: No definite article before “truth.” “[John’s] love is governed by this truth even as his love is that of true comprehension and corresponding purpose” (Lenski).  John loves this brother affirming it repeatedly since Diotrephes didn’t.

2Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.

Beloved: Common title of address for those whom John loves (v. 5, 11; 1 John 2.7)

I pray…good health: John’s constant prayer (pres. Tense) for Gaius is that 1) lit. his journey would go well (meta. Success or prosper), even 2) his health would be good (or he would be safe and sound). This is similar language to contemporary letters of general well wishing in all things and/or health.

As it goes well with your soul: John knows that Gaius is spiritually healthy.

3For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth.

For: Gk. gar, here is how John knows that Gaius is in spiritual vitality…

I rejoiced…brothers came: a recent visit from some traveling missionaries from Gaius was an occasion for celebration on John’s behalf.

Testified to your truth: lit. witnessed (Gk marturounton) of you in the truth or of your truth. The report about Gaius is an excellent one; he is a spiritual pillar. Coupled with his love (v.6) he is a balanced Christian with the proper mix of truth & love.

As indeed…[the] truth: He has been faithful to the apostolic doctrine of Christ, refusing Gnostic intrusion and heresy.

4I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

I have no greater joy: nothing fills John with such cause for rejoicing

Than to hear that my children: “The elder” refers to all of those Christians younger than him as his “children.” This is the fatherly affection John has for his brethren.

Walking in [the] truth: the definite article is found in some mss (eg. Alexandrinus) but is absent is others (eg. Sinaiticus). Given the construction in v.3 as well as 2 John 4, it seems that John did not include a definite article when he wrote this. Members holding fast to the apostolic teaching of Christ in spite of heretical attacks fills John with much joy

5Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are,

Beloved: affectionate term of endearment John regularly uses for his recipient.

It is a faithful…these brothers: “All his conduct towards the brethren, even when they were not previously known to him, was such as became a faithful Christian” (Pulpit Commentary). In Gaius, philadephia and philoxenia are combined; he loves the brethren and strangers. 

Strangers as they are: “he treated brethren who were entire strangers to him, not as strangers, but as brethren” (Pulpit Commentary). He did not pick and choose whom to show hospitality and neglect the rest; every traveling missionary was sure to be received by Gaius.

6who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God.

Who testified…before the church: those who had experienced the hospitality of Gaius came back and reported to the assembly of saints about what this Christian man had done on their behalf. (cf. Matt 25.38, 40)

You will do well…worthy of God: It is a faithful & beautiful thing to send forth missionaries with all they would need for the journey. They should be fully supported. Since they are representatives of God, treat them as such (cf. John 13.20). Send them out as if you were sending out Jesus as a missionary.

7For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles.

For they have…of the Name: Gk. gar, John explains that since these missionaries went out on their mission on behalf of the one & only Name in John’s mind—Jesus!

Accepting nothing from the Gentiles: these missionaries support was not solicited (as a policy) from non-Christians. If offered, they might accept, but not solicited.

8Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.

Therefore…like these: this is the proper deduction. We owe it to them (indebtedness is implied) to help & show hospitality to these missionaries.

That we…[for] the truth: by supporting these missionaries, we work together with them with the Truth (cf. 1 Cor 3.9).

9I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority.

I have written something to the church: 2 John or a lost epistle?

But Diotrephes: name means “nourished by Zeus.” Probably a church leader.

Who likes to put himself first: present participle (Gk. philoproteuon); lit. the one loving first [place]. He is diametrically opposed to the teaching of Jesus (Mk 10.43-44). “Not doctrinal heresy but personal ambition was the cause of the trouble” (Morris 229). If Diotrephes is first, where does that put Christ (Col 1.18)?

Does not acknowledge our authority: Lit. does not welcome/obey us. Diotrephes does not welcome, accept, or obey apostolic authority. Is he trying to take their place? If nothing else, he is not in compliance with divine injunction.

10So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church.

So if I come: John desires to come (v.14) and visit these brethren and also…

I will bring up what he is doing: John will confront Diotrephes’ unholy desires and the challenges to John’s apostleship, perhaps reminding him but certainly remind the church of his apostolic authority. “The root of the problem is sin” (Morris 230).

Talking wicked nonsense against us: “malicious gossip” (NIV) & “wicked words” are the product of this perverted presbyter.  The se were senseless & wicked words.

And not content…the brothers: those brothers who are with John are unwelcome

And also…the church: Diotrephes says who’s in and out and those who disagree with him, wanting to welcome (support) their brothers are thrown out

11Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.

Beloved: favorite affectionate address of John for those to whom he writes, here Gaius.

Do not imitate evil, but imitate good: Gk. mimou, comes mimic. Follow after that which is spiritually & morally beneficial, not what is deficient. Demetrius is an example of the good to imitate; Diotrephes is a bad example to follow. Don’t follow Diotrephes.

Whoever does good is from God: present participle. The one whose habitual practice is to do good is from God (cf. 1 John 3.9-10). Not mere kind acts every so often.

Whoever does evil has not seen God: present participle. The one whose habitual practice is toward what is displeasing & disobedient to God hasn’t experienced God.

12Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself. We also add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true.

Demetrius…everyone: all we know of this man is what is found in this single verse. Nevertheless, he is a member who does what is spiritually & morally beneficial. Probably unknown to Gaius, therefore the three-fold testimony (everyone, truth, us) to let him know that this leader/letter bearer is on the level (not a Diotrephes). He has received in the past and continues to receive even now a good testimony (perf. Tense); remains valid

And from the truth itself: definite article before “truth.” The Word is an objective witness of Demetrius for his life conforms to the Truth, which is Christ.

We also add our testimony: the apostolic college commends Demetrius. That is, John speaking on behalf of those apostles who have already gone to be with the Lord.

And you know…is true: perfect tense, have come to know and continue to know this

13I had much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink.

I have much…pen and ink: this short volume on a single sheet will suffice for now

14I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.

I hope…face to face: John hopes to set the record straight in person (v.10).

15Peace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends, each by name.

Peace be to you: a Hebrew greeting with new meaning in light of Christ’s resurrection. Peace is much needed with all the strife brought by Diotrephes.

The friends greet you: unique designation for Christians harkening to Jesus – Jn 15.13

Greet the friends, each by name: Sheep should know one another by name.

Let us imitate the example set by these men of truth like Gaius and Demetrius and walk in truth, willing to support those who walk in truth as well.

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 our understanding of our status as children

John has detailed how fellowship with God is rooted in love for God (2.15-17) and apostolic epistemology (2.18-27). Now he broaches the subject of the Christian’s relationship with God as Father and how fellowship is realized and enriched when God’s children understand that status.

1 John 2:28–3:3 (ESV)

28And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.

Little children—term of endearment/affection of the aged John to these Christians-2.1,12,18

Abide in him—same exhortation as we have seen in v.27: keep on abiding in Him (only). Him who? God? Christ? In one sense, yes. But specifically (contextually), I lean toward God (v.29). Here is the exhortation from John—in light of His coming, remain in Him.

So that (purpose) when he appears—Not sure when, but He will come, no uncertainty.

We may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame—John commonly juxtaposes counter positions and here is another example: boldness v. shame. The person who abides in Him has confidence (though standing in the intimidating presence of God) and does not need to be ashamed from Him (here is the shrinking back). Fear not, you who abide in Him.

At his coming—Lit. in His presence. Though in the presence of Almighty God, there is no need to be afraid, ashamed if we abide in Him. It would seem that John has the final coming of Jesus in mind.

29If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.

If you know that he is righteous—”know” is perfect tense from oida, that knowledge that is absolute. It is absolute knowledge that God (He must be God the Father based on latter part of this verse) is righteous, right, just.

You know the one practicing righteousness—lit. the one doing right(ness). You are doing the same thing God and it is you habitual practice to act like God (walk in the light). Children of God will act like their Father.

Has been born of him—”has been born” is perfect tense passive. We were born (in the past) and stand begotten of God. Further, it is God who made us children of God. This verse speaks not to the means by which one becomes a child of God but rather speaks to the evidence that shows one is a child of God.

1See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

What kind of love the Father has given to us—”what manner of love,” lit. “of what country.” This kind of love is of divine origin; it is out of this world. And God gave it and continues to give it to us.

That we should be called—this is an appeal to the conscious nobility of the readers: you have been given a great title, name, even God’s name.

Children of God—Paul often speaks of Christians as “sons of God” and this points to the adoption aspect of our conversion. Strictly speaking, though, the word used by John speaks to the actual parentage involved. Coupled with “the Father” who has called us and the picture is set.

The world does not know us—present tense, the world could perceive that we are of God if they would but know God first.

It did not know him—aorist tense, seems to point back to Jesus. This is the same point Jesus made while on earth (see John 15.18; cf. 1 Jon 3.13).

We are children of God. Therefore the world does not know us for the world does not know God. God is known/seen by seeing/knowing Christ (John 14.8-9).

2Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

We are God’s children now—in this present age/world, this is the present reality.

What we will be… – though our present state is known, the future state is unknown. It simply has not yet been manifested even as Christ has not yet been manifested (2.28).

We know…we shall be like him—though there is much we do not know, what we do know is that we’ll be like him (Jesus), of the same or similar nature/kind.

We shall see kim as he is—present tense, Christ has exchanged mortality for immortality and is presently with the Father functioning in His salvific roles (1 Tim 2.5; Heb 7.25; et al).

3And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

Everyone who thus hopes—to be like Him, with Him.

Purifies himself—present, keeps on purifying body and spirit (2 Cor 7.1). Christ, the Son is pure; what about the rest of God’s children, us?

Punch at the Potluck

People fight all the time. Turn on the TV and one will hear about the latest fight between a celebrity couple. Tune into the news and one will hear about violence all over. When people get upset they usually settle it with hostility. What happens when that hostility finds its way into the church? Although it is difficult to pinpoint all the details, it seems evident that the saints to whom James wrote were coming to blows regularly. Imagine that – here are people who are to pursue peace and reap a “harvest of righteousness” that is “sown in peace by those who make peace” (3.18). Yet among these brethren who should have been peaceable, “fights” and “quarrels” were breaking out, possibly in the assembly (2.2). Two thousand down the stream of time we might look down upon our brethren. But how many church league softball fistfights have broken out or, worse, were instigated by our hands? Into this calamity, quarreling, and fisticuffs, James speaks a better word, indeed, the Word of God

James 4:1–12 (ESV)

1What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this that your passions are at war within you?

2You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.

3You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

4You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

5Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?

6But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

7Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

8Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

9Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.

10Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

11Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.

12There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

Dissatisfaction with the World (1-6)

James identifies on key root to the problem in the church: personal passions. The fruit of this problem is all the quarrelsomeness and worldliness. Until we are thoroughly fed up with the world and worldliness, we will not find satisfaction with God. Notice how the world makes us unsatisfied as a people.

At war with one another (1-2a). Adam Clarke dives into the contemporary culture of these first century Christians to discuss the various insurrections the Jews led against Rome and says these are the wars and fights here mentioned. However, James is not writing to Jews as a whole, but to those Jews who have come to Christ and become “brothers” in Him. No, the “quarrels” (Lit. open warfare) and “fights” (Lit. serious conflict whether physical or not) which James here addresses are happening in the church among brethren! He asks a question: what causes the warring and fighting in the church? He answers his own question with a rhetorical question: isn’t the root of these battles hedonism? James says “passions” (or “pleasures” or “desires”; Gk. hedone from which we get our English “hedonism”) which are internally causing strife and disquieting the soul are the source of the tumult in the church. All the external strife in the church is the result of the internal conflict of personal passion for what one does not have.

James cuts even further explaining that they wish for something they do not have, in and of itself not necessarily a bad thing until, frustrated by failure to get the thing desired, “you murder.” Kept in context of Christian brethren apparently coveting what another brother has, it would seem when James speaks of “murder” in this context it is somewhat akin to what the apostle John would write decades later. Failure to obtain what another brother has produces resentment, distain, and full blown hatred. “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer,” says John (1 John 3.15). So James brings these Christians face-to-face with who they have become and it is far short of the character of Christ. They are covetous and when frustrated by not obtaining what they covet, fights and quarrels (same words as v.1) break out among brethren. A modern-day illustration might be something like a church league softball game in which both teams desire to win. How often these friendly exhibitions turn into a fistfight!

At war with ourselves (2b-3). James next turns his readers inward as he forces them to examine their prayer life. All this external strife cause by internal desires can and does wreak havoc upon one’s prayer life. “You do not have, because you do not ask.” Clearly, there is an allusion to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (cf. Matt 7.7). What James means here is not that God would grant them the wishes of their sinful covetousness. Rather, what is in view is the fact that these Christians are not praying. Their conversation with the Father in heaven is non-existent at this point.

In addition, there would no doubt be those who would object to James and say “We did ask!” So James tells them that when they do hit their knees and actually do voice their desires to God, what they ask for is not given “because you ask wrongly,” seeking to use what is received on hedonism (same word as v.1). Their asking is incorrect and improper. Their desires are self-seeking when they should be seeking to glorify God with what He bestows and blesses them. Prayer is powerful and effective, but only for the righteous who would seek to ask rightly. Even Christians can turn prayer into a gross form of idolatry, merely using God to get what you want.

At war with One (4-6). Finally James brings us up close and personal with the One whom we are at war if we seek satisfaction from the world: God Himself. While not calling them idolatrous, because they have so perverted prayer and battled their brethren, he calls them “adulteresses.” James reaches into the Old Testament for this figure. The Jewish community in the Old Testament was personified as an adulteress when in unfaithfulness they abandoned God (Cf. Hosea). Spiritual adultery has taken place in the church of Christ: these Christians were covetous (which is idolatry, Eph 5.5; Col 3.5), had perverted and polluted prayer, and had fallen in love with the world. James sugarcoats nothing. He is not soft. So appealing to their sensibilities, emotions, and faith, with great urgency he rebukes his brethren and calls them to repentance. They’ve not yet launched into full blown apostasy, but given their present course if they remain on it disaster looms. James portrays their present relationship with God as a woman who turns away from her husband in order to follow after other lovers. In this case, they abandon Christ, lover of their souls and lover of His church, for their love of worldliness. So speaking in generalities, James asks yet another rhetorical question: don’t you know that friendship with the world will produce and promote enmity (or hostility) with God? Of course they knew this! To fall in love with the world will take a Christian right back to where they started before they came to Christ and His church – an enemy of God (cf. Rom 5.10). You are no longer a part of the family of faith of which Abraham is patriarch and God is our friend.

But James does not stop there. He appeals to Scripture to drive his point home further. Master of the rhetorical question, James asks two more questions. First, do you think the Scriptures speak in vain? What a powerful question which must be answered by every man and woman who bears the name of Christ. If the Scriptures speak in vain, they are void and without power. If the Scriptures speak in vain, they are powerless to communicate the word of God and deliver us from worldliness. What a potent question! A negative answer is assumed by James – of course the Scriptures do not speak in vain! So when the Scriptures speak, especially in regards to worldliness, covetousness, and quarrelsomeness, there is purpose and power. Second, does the (Holy) Spirit which He (God) has made to dwell in us intensely desire jealousy? Again, a negative answer is anticipated – of course not! God’s Spirit in us does not produce or promote the feelings of ill-will toward the brethren because of some advantage they might possess, be it real or imaginary. Quite the contrary, God’s Spirit produces and promotes love, peace, goodness, and self-control (all fruit of the Spirit, see Gal 5.22-23). Therefore, the jealousy, covetousness, and strife among the members of the body are evidence that they have ceased to walk by the Spirit and are not walking according to the flesh.

All the more reason grace is needed. “Moreover He gives more grace.” God or the Holy Spirit? Yes. God through the Holy Spirit bestows grace into the life of the Christian. This is what friendship with God means for the Christian. Would they forfeit this or would they repent? And repentance is the reason more or greater grace is needed. Once more James appeals to Scripture, this time quoting Proverbs 3.34. Those proud ones who refuse to repent and turn from wicked ways are opposed by God. That is He stands in battle against them. But those individuals and congregations who will humbly repent of past failure to walk in the way of the Lord, putting away quarrelsomeness, worldliness, and prayerlessness, are the recipients of the gift of God’s unmerited favor.

Satisfaction in God (7-12)

Having brought his readers face-to-face with the pollution in their hearts, he goes off. James rolls out a litany of commands to his brothers, being quite frank in his evaluation of who they are (“sinners” and “double-minded”) and in his instruction of what they should do. In these verses is the solution for the human heart.

Submit (7a). “Therefore,” since you are guilty of the preceding indictments, submit yourselves to God. Adam Clarke says this means to “continue to bow to all his decisions, and to all his dispensations.” The reason is because all of his decisions and ways for obtaining His favor are good and beneficial for us. Literally James is calling his brethren to come under the control of God. They’ve been living for themselves and their passions and pleasures and the result has been disaster. But coming under the control of God brings grace.

Resist (7b). Submit to God “but resist the devil.” The devil wants us to harbor and manifest jealousy, worldliness, quarrels, and the like. The church is never more in line with the purposes of Satan than when she is demonstrating these. Hence, James exhorts the church to not only psychologically oppose the devil but to match the thoughts with appropriate actions and behaviors. No doubt James has in mind the episode in the life of Christ when He resisted the devil (see Matt 4.1-11; Luke 4.1-13). The devil fled from Jesus when Jesus resisted his advances. So too Christians, following in the footsteps of Christ, are to oppose his schemes and when we do the devil will move along.

Draw Near (8a). For too long these Christians have withdrawn from their God. Now James implores them to once more draw near to Him. If Christians would find the grace of God, they must approach the God of all grace. Even as the prodigal who arose and went “drew nigh” unto the father’s house, so James exhorts these prodigals to arise, go the father, and draw nigh unto Him. There is a promise attached to this command: when we draw near to God, He, like the prodigal’s father, “will draw near” to us. Not may or might; He will and therein lies the promise.

Cleanse (8b). James knows his audience well. They are “sinners” and as such they need cleansing. Indeed, only the clean-handed and pure of heart will dwell on the high, holy hill of God (Psa 24.4). No doubt James has this passage in mind as he writes this and the next exhortation. Washing or cleansing the hands was a ceremonial sign of purity and innocence. James wants his brethren to likewise determine to be pure and innocent before God. Sin has marred their walk. But now their conduct will be changed and different before God.

Purify (8c). Again, James shows he knows to whom he speaks. These brothers are “double-minded” (lit. two-souled, see 1.8), wavering between love for the world and love for God. But “no man can serve two masters.” So to purify the heart is to cease in wavering between the two. Love for the world, all jealousy and quarreling must be removed from the heart. They were to be done with their own base desires. What would be left is pure love for God, pure desires for His desires, and love for the brethren. From this and the previous imperative, both outward and inward purification are vital. What good is a clean inward man without corresponding action? What good is a clean cup if the inside of the vessel is rotten? Clean hands and pure hearts are both vital.

Mourn (9). James issues four (4) imperatives in a single verse which quantify the language of repentance. The first part of this verse can be translated “be sorrowful even mourn even weep” with an effect in which each of these commands builds on the next. First, James exhorts his brethren to feel bad. They need feel bad about what they have become (adulterous). Second, he tells them to feel sad. They should be grieved and mourn over their present condition. Third, feeling bad and sad about their circumstances these feelings should break forth in weeping and wailing. The emphasis of this command is upon the noise made. Thus, James fourthly demands that their laughter, a joyful expression and noise, should be turned into mourning accompanied by weeping, a sorrowful expression and noise. Do not be glad at the present situation but be sad. When God’s people adulterate their relationship with Him, this is not a time for gladness but for sadness and sorrow. This sorrow should drive us to repentance.

Humble (10). Building upon the previous four commands, part of repentance is humiliation. So James commands his brethren to humble themselves before the Lord. Adam Clarke points out the relationship of verse 7 with submission to God and verse 10 with humiliation before God. He says “submission to God’s authority will precede humiliation of soul.” Indeed, some ancient manuscripts begin verse 10 with “therefore.” Further, no doubt James is appealing also to the teachings of his half-brother Jesus (cf. Matthew 18.4; 23.12). These Christians had a haughty and proud spirit before God and therefore needed to make themselves low and once more view themselves in perspective to God. They are continually in the presence (i.e. in His sight) of Him who alone should be exalted and lifted up. It is God alone who exalts men from their lowly estate. Thomas a Kempis says,

“It is the humble man whom God protects and liberates; it is the humble whom He loves and consoles. To the humble He turns and upon them bestows great grace, that after their humiliation He may raise them up to glory. He reveals His secrets to the humble, and with kind invitation bids them come to Him. Thus, the humble man enjoys peace in the midst of many vexations, because his trust is in God, not in the world. Hence, you must not think that you have made any progress until you look upon yourself as inferior to all others.”[1]

Do not Speak Against (11-12). The final imperative in this litany of commands is a relational one. It would seem that much back-biting and gossip is happening among these Christians. Brother slanders brother and therefore James must tell them to cease and desist in this. False reports, false charges, discredit and disesteeming are all in view here. In addition, James will include judging into this discussion. Here are brethren passing judgment on one another and speaking evil about one another to other brothers! James highlights the severity of this sin by pointing out that speaking evil and judging a brother is tantamount to speaking evil and judging the law.

The question is asked: what law – the Law of Moses or the law of liberty (i.e. Christ)? It should be immediately noted that there is no definite article before the word “law” in the original language. Hence James speaks of simply “law” not “the law.” Further, it must be noted that James exposes this sin in a striking manner – showing its relation to “law” and law’s relation to God (as Lawgiver). Many scholars will say that this is the “law of Christ” (i.e. Coffman, Gibson, Alford, Lenski, Plumptre, Luther, Barnes, et al). However, it should be noted that James has already spoken of “royal law” previously in this epistle and when he did he appealed to “the Scripture,” namely “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev 19.18). It just seems that James in similar appeals to that same “royal law” here. Specifically, he seems to have in mind the ninth commandment: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20.16). So by speaking evil against a brother in Christ, one is not a doer of the law, but is in fact a law breaker. Further, one sits as judge over the law (and the contrast is emphatic by the word used for “but”).

On top of all this, James shows that by passing judgment upon the brethren one sets himself up as superior to God Almighty who is the one who determines and dictates law as well as sits in judgment upon those who would break His law. So James closes with a rhetorical question: who are you? The assumed answer is that compared to the supreme Lawgiver of the galaxy and judge of this universe, I am no one and therefore have no right to pass judgment upon my neighbor (i.e. brother). And so we see the necessity of humility before God Almighty. If we properly view ourselves and one another in relation to God, then we have no right to slander our brother.

It is necessary to point out that all of these imperatives are spoken not merely to individuals but to the congregation as a whole. In other words, these are things we are to do together in community. The church collectively submits to God, resists the devil, draws ever nearer to God, cleanses their hands, purifies their hearts, mourns over past failures (sin), and walks in humility. In addition, it should be noted that the previous imperatives are aorist tense verbs (snapshot or once-for-all) whereas in verse a shift takes place and James uses a present tense imperative. This leads some scholars to believe that James has shifted somewhat in subject matter while still tackling the obvious problem of brotherly hostility.


[1] Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1996). 63-64.