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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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21 If our heart condemns not I have already explained that this refers not to hypocrites nor to the gross despisers of God. For how muchsoever the reprobate may approve of their own lives, yet the Lord, as Solomon says, weigheth their hearts. (Proverbs 16:2.) This balance of God, by which he tries men, is such, that no one can boast that he has a clean heart. The meaning, then, of the Apostle’s words is, that then only we come in calm confidence into God’s presence, when we bring with us the testimony of a heart conscious of what is right and honest. That saying of Paul is indeed true, that by faith, which relies on the grace of Christ, an access to God with confidence is opened to us, (Ephesians 3:12;) and also, that peace is given us by faith, that our consciences may stand peaceably before God. (Romans 5:1.) But there is not much difference between these sentences; for Paul shews the cause of confidence, but John mentions only an inseparable addition, which necessarily adheres to it, though it be not the cause.

Here, however, arises a greater difficulty, which seems to leave no confidence in the whole world; for who can be found whose heart reproves him in nothing? To this I answer, that the godly are thus reproved, that they may at the same time be absolved. For it is indeed necessary that they should be seriously troubled inwardly for their sins, that terror may lead them to humility and to a hatred of themselves; but they presently flee to the sacrifice of Christ, where they have sure peace. Yet the Apostle says, in another sense, that they are not condemned, because however deficient they may confess themselves to be in many things, they are still relieved by this testimony of conscience, that they truly and from the heart fear God and desire to submit to his righteousness. All who possess this godly feeling, and at the same time know that all their endeavors, how muchsoever they come short of perfection, yet please God, are justly said to have a calm or a peaceful heart, because there is no inward compunction to disturb their calm cheerfulness.




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