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3. Children of God

1Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are. For this cause the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. 2Beloved, now are we children of God, and it is not yet made manifest what we shall be. We know that, if he shall be manifested, we shall be like him; for we shall see him even as he is. 3And every one that hath this hope set on him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. 4Every one that doeth sin doeth also lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. 5And ye know that he was manifested to take away sins; and in him is no sin. 6Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither knoweth him. 7My little children, let no man lead you astray: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous: 8he that doeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. To this end was the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. 9Whosoever is begotten of God doeth no sin, because his seed abideth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is begotten of God. 10In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. 11For this is the message which ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another: 12not as Cain was of the evil one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his works were evil, and his brother's righteous. 13Marvel not, brethren, if the world hateth you. 14We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not abideth in death. 15Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. 16Hereby know we love, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17But whoso hath the world's goods, and beholdeth his brother in need, and shutteth up his compassion from him, how doth the love of God abide in him? 18My Little children, let us not love in word, neither with the tongue; but in deed and truth. 19Hereby shall we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our heart before him: 20because if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. 21Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, we have boldness toward God; 22and whatsoever we ask we receive of him, because we keep his commandments and do the things that are pleasing in his sight. 23And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, even as he gave us commandment. 24And he that keepeth his commandments abideth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he gave us.

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19. herebyGreek, "herein"; in our loving in deed and in truth (1Jo 3:18).

we know—The oldest manuscripts have "we shall know," namely, if we fulfil the command (1Jo 3:18).

of the truth—that we are real disciples of, and belonging to, the truth, as it is in Jesus: begotten of God with the word of truth. Having herein the truth radically, we shall be sure not to love merely in word and tongue. (1Jo 3:18).

assure—literally, "persuade," namely, so as to cease to condemn us; satisfy the questionings and doubts of our consciences as to whether we be accepted before God or not (compare Mt 28:14; Ac 12:20, "having made Blastus their friend," literally, "persuaded"). The "heart," as the seat of the feelings, is our inward judge; the conscience, as the witness, acts either as our justifying advocate, or our condemning accuser, before God even now. Joh 8:9, has "conscience," but the passage is omitted in most old manuscripts. John nowhere else uses the term "conscience." Peter and Paul alone use it.

before him—as in the sight of Him, the omniscient Searcher of hearts. Assurance is designed to be the ordinary experience and privilege of the believer.

20. Luther and Bengel take this verse as consoling the believer whom his heart condemns; and who, therefore, like Peter, appeals from conscience to Him who is greater than conscience. "Lord, Thou knowest all things: thou knowest that I love Thee." Peter's conscience, though condemning him of his sin in denying the Lord, assured him of his love; but fearing the possibility, owing to his past fall, of deceiving himself, he appeals to the all-knowing God: so Paul, 1Co 4:3, 4. So if we be believers, even if our heart condemns us of sin in general, yet having the one sign of sonship, love, we may still assure our hearts (some oldest manuscripts read heart, 1Jo 3:19, as well as 1Jo 3:20), as knowing that God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. But thus the same Greek is translated "because" in the beginning, and "(we know) that" in the middle of the verse, and if the verse were consolatory, it probably would have been, "Because EVEN if our heart condemn us," &c. Therefore translate, "Because (rendering the reason why it has been stated in 1Jo 3:19 to be so important to 'assure our hearts before Him') if our heart condemn (Greek, 'know [aught] against us'; answering by contrast to 'we shall know that we are of the truth') us (it is) because God is greater than our heart and knoweth all things." If our heart judges us unfavorably, we may be sure that He, knowing more than our heart knows, judges us more unfavorably still [Alford]. A similar ellipsis ("it is") occurs in 1Co 14:27; 2Co 1:6; 8:23. The condemning testimony of our conscience is not alone, but is the echo of the voice of Him who is greater and knoweth all things. Our hypocrisy in loving by word and tongue, not in deed and truth, does not escape even our conscience, though weak and knowing but little, how much less God who knows all things! Still the consolatory view may be the right one. For the Greek for "we shall assure our hearts" (see on 1Jo 3:19), is gain over, persuade so as to be stilled, implying that there was a previous state of self-condemnation by the heart (1Jo 3:20), which, however, is got over by the consolatory thought, "God is greater than my heart" which condemns me, and "knows all things" (Greek "ginoskei," "knows," not "kataginoskei," "condemns"), and therefore knows my love and desire to serve Him, and knows my frame so as to pity my weakness of faith. This gaining over the heart to peace is not so advanced a stage as the having CONFIDENCE towards God which flows from a heart condemning us not. The first "because" thus applies to the two alternate cases, 1Jo 3:20, 21 (giving the ground of saying, that having love we shall gain over, or assure our minds before Him, 1Jo 3:19); the second "because" applies to the first alternate alone, namely, "if our heart condemn us." When he reaches the second alternate, 1Jo 3:21, he states it independently of the former "because" which had connected it with 1Jo 3:19, inasmuch as CONFIDENCE toward God is a farther stage than persuading our hearts, though always preceded by it.

21. Beloved—There is no "But" contrasting the two cases, 1Jo 3:20, 21, because "Beloved" sufficiently marks the transition to the case of the brethren walking in the full confidence of love (1Jo 3:18). The two results of our being able to "assure our hearts before Him" (1Jo 3:19), and of "our heart condemning us not" (of insincerity as to the truth in general, and as to LOVE in particular) are, (1) confidence toward God; (2) a sure answer to our prayers. John does not mean that all whose hearts do not condemn them, are therefore safe before God; for some have their conscience seared, others are ignorant of the truth, and it is not only sincerity, but sincerity in the truth which can save men. Christians are those meant here: knowing Christ's precepts and testing themselves by them.