Notes on 1 John 3:1-6

by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)

1 John 3:1-24 KJV 1 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.

John starts this new chapter by explaining the Father bestowed upon us! Jesus had told the unbelieving Jews, “Ye are of your father, the Devil. . .” in John 8:44; now, believers can be reassured that the Father loves us enough to “bestow” that love on us!

But John also gives a realistic warning: the world doesn’t “know” us because the world (system) didn’t know Jesus either. John doesn’t mean that a believer would lose his or her identity (e.g., “that’s John Smith over there”). He does state that the world system will not perceive or understand (Greek “ginosko”, the believer for the same reason the world didn’t recognize Jesus either.

2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

Note the promises in this verse: first, we as believers are sons (children) of God now—already! There was and never will be any waiting or probationary period: once we believe, we are God’s children—now! Contrast this with Paul had written about the standing between being a “son (child)” physically and a son (heir) legally in Galatians 3. He was observing that the heir was actually no different than a slave until the heir was formally adopted into the legal position as a son.

Second, John admits that we don’t know yet what we will be (in Heaven?) but when He—Jesus—will appear, then we’ll see Him as He is and we shall be like Him. Restricted knowledge now, revealed knowledge later, is a pattern the Lord uses at various times. Daniel being told to seal the book, Daniel 12: the “book” or scroll sealed with seven seals in Revelation 5, and the “little book” or scroll John was told to eat (Revelation 10) are examples of these,

3 And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

Purification had and has several meanings. The Old Testament had any number of regulations for the priests to be purified before they could offer sacrifices for others. In certain cases, vessels had to be either washed or destroyed if something had made them “unclean” under the terms of the Law. In John 2, at the wedding at the house at Cana, there were kept at least six waterpots or jars of stone to hold water for “purifying (John 2:6)”.

In John 3, during John the Baptist’s preaching, a controversy arose about purifying between some of John’s disciples and at least one Jew (John 3:25). But all this was external and visible, readily seen by others.

The apostle John here is perhaps speaking of inward purification because of the hope of seeing and knowing Jesus as He is. Remember that by this time few of the 500 who had seen Jesus at one time (1 Cor. 15:6) were probably still alive. The believers reading this letter may have never seen Jesus in person but still they believed. Oh that many more would believe this Gospel!

4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.

This verb is in the present tense, meaning this is happening habitually or continually. Paul had condemned this in Romans 6. John’s reference to the law is unclear but perhaps he is speaking to those who, like the Judaizers of Acts 15, tried to place Gentiles back under the Law of Moses.

He could also be speaking to those who may have thought that since they had believed in Jesus, they could do as they pleased. As a parallel, Corinth had been full of such problems, as described in 1 Corinthians. Note the many different types of problems Paul had to address in that letter.

5 And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.

Jesus came into this world—bodily, born of the Virgin Mary—to eventually take away our sins. Matthew and Luke both wrote of the Lord’s birth.

Also, John asserts that in Jesus there is no sin. First, Jesus did not have a human father. Joseph would have been known (clearly) as Mary’s husband and the foster father of Jesus, the Babe Who had none of the sin nature every other person has inherited from Adam (Romans 5:12-19). It is true that some called Jesus the “son of Joseph (Philip, in John 1:45; and the crowd of 5000 men whom Jesus had fed the day before, John 6:42).” But that was purely from a human standpoint.

Only a few seemed to accept the fact of the Lord’s virgin birth.
Later, Jesus asked point blank, “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” (John 8:46) and nobody answered! Earlier, Peter wrote in 1 Peter 2:22 that Jesus did no sin. Jesus alone is sinless among all people!

6 Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.

The verbs in this first clause or part of the verse are also in the present tense, meaning a regular or habitual pattern of abiding or sinning. John was well aware that believers do sin, explaining that fact in chapter 1 and verse 9. He also states that someone who continually or habitually sins has neither seen nor known Jesus. Peter spoke of false prophets who would lead others astray in 2 Peter 2, emphasizing that it would have been better for them to have never known the truth at all, than to walk away from it.

Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV)

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