Notes on 1 John 3:7-12

by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)

1 John 3:7 Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.

Apparently some in John’s day were trying to deceive the believers. John again states that one who continually, as a pattern or way of life, does righteousness is righteous, even as Jesus is righteous!

8 He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.

These verbs are also in the present tense, meaning someone (for example) is sinning habitually or continually. The devil sinned in the beginning (see Isaiah 14:12-14 and Ezekiel 28:14-15) and has sinned continuously since then. John adds that the Son of God (Jesus) was manifested or displayed so that He might destroy the works of the devil.

9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

The meaning of the phrase “his seed remaineth in him” is not clear. John again states that whoever is born of God does not commit sin as a habit or continual pattern. Paul had explained earlier, in 1 Corinthians 11, that those who persisted in taking the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner became weak and/or sick and that a number of believers “sleep”, meaning some believers died before their time.

The writer of Hebrews had written “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth (Heb, 12:6)” some years before this, adding that if anyone did not receive chastisement, that person was illegitmate and not truly a son (born one) of God (Heb. 12:7-8). If one is not receiving chastisement, discipline, etc., from the Lord, there may be a question if the salvation was true or simply going through the motions.

10 In 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.

Again John emphasizes the proof whether someone is a child of God or a child of the devil by living a lifestyle or pattern of righteousness and loving his or her brother.

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

John may have recalled the words of Jesus in John’s gospel (John 13:34 twice, 15:12, 15:17) where He spoke these very words to the apostles. The first few chapters of Acts display loving each other in action as does the collection/s Paul took to Jerusalem to help the poor (Romans 15:26, Galatians 2:10, 1 Cor. 16:1, 2 Cor. 8-9, etc.).

12 Not as Cain, (who) was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous.

This refers to Genesis 4, where Cain and Abel were born to Adam and Eve. As Moses relates, Cain and Abel each brought an offering to the LORD. God respected Abel’s offering, an animal, one of the firstlings of the flock (Gen 4:4), but He did not respect Cain’s offering, fruit of the ground. (One irony exists here, a fruit forbidden brought sin into the world, and one of the first offerings Cain brought to God was fruit!).

God later spoke directly with Cain, warning him that sin was lying (in wait?) at the door—apparently an attempt to simply motivate Cain to properly honor God by using a better offering. Cain had none of it, killed Abel, his brother, and lied to God about it. God cursed Cain for his sin but would have forgiven him if Cain had repented. There is, sadly, no record that this ever happened.

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

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