From: Over 50 Interpreters Explain 1 to 3 John Return to Home
By Roland H. Worth, Jr. © 2018
List of All Sources Quoted At End of File
WEB: Behold, how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! For this cause the world doesn't know us, because it didn't know him.
Young’s: See ye what love the Father hath given to us, that children of God we may be called; because of this the world doth not know us, because it did not know Him;
Conte (RC): See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we would be called, and would become, the sons of God. Because of this, the world does not know us, for it did not know him.
3:1 Behold. Inspired by the subject of which his mind was full, the apostle here breaks forth in an expression of wonder at the infinite mercy and goodness of God displayed in the Gospel. 
What love, in “kind” and in “degree.” In kind the most tender and the most ennobling, in adopting us into His family, and in permitting us to address Him as our Father; in “degree” the most exalted, since there is no higher love that can be shown than in adopting a poor and friendless orphan, and giving him a parent and a home. 
Whole volumes might be written upon this and the two following verses, without exhausting the extraordinary subject contained in them, viz., the love of God to man. The apostle himself, though evidently filled with God, and walking in the fullness of his light, does not attempt to describe it; he calls on the world and the Church to behold it, to look upon it, to contemplate it, and wonder at it. 
what manner of love. What great love, both as to quantity and quality; for these ideas are included in the original term. The length, the breadth, the depth, the height, he does not attempt to describe. 
Greek note on “what manner of:” The word (ποταπός) always implies astonishment, and generally admiration. 
the Father hath bestowed upon us. God, regarded as a Father, or as at the head of the universe considered as one family. 
that we should be called the sons of God. What greater glory than to be acknowledged as sons of the King of Kings! 
That is, that we should “be” the sons of God--the word “called” being often used in the sense of “to be. 
If Jacob was at such pains and patience to become son-in-law to Laban, if David held it a great matter to be son-in-law to the king, what is it then to be sons and daughters to the Lord Almighty? 2 Corinthians [“And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty”]. 
[Critical text adds here (NASB): and such we are.] Now these words come with a very great weight of manuscript authority, and of internal evidence. They are parenthetical, a kind of rapid “aside” of the writer’s, expressing his joyful confidence that he and his brethren are sons of God, not only in name, but in reality. They are the voice of personal assurance, the voice of the spirit “by which we cry Abba, Father,” breaking in for a moment on the flow of the sentence, like an irrepressible, glad answer to the Father’s call. 
These words are now generally admitted to be genuine. The sense is not really affected, whether they are allowed or excluded; for undoubtedly, according to common usage, “being called the sons of God” means actually becoming the sons of God. But they add to the emphasis of this noble appeal. 
therefore the world knoweth us not. Does not understand our principles; the reasons of our conduct; the sources of our comforts and joys. The people of the world regard us as fanatics or enthusiasts; as foolish in abandoning the pleasures and pursuits which they engage in; as renouncing certain happiness for that which is uncertain; and as practicing needless austerities, with nothing to compensate for the pleasures which are abandoned. 
Thus the Lord said: “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John -19). 
A fashionable and cultured world, not influenced by the spirit of Christ, can be an intolerant and persecuting world. Sneers and ridicule are as effective weapons of persecution as the stake and the jail. 
because it knew him not. That is, the world had no right views of the real character of the Lord Jesus when He was on the earth. 
Knoweth us not and does not recognize our supernatural parentage, our knowledge of another world, even a spiritual one. This is not within reach of the world’s vision; and so it was with our Master, the Son of God Himself. The world of His day, though possessing a God-given religion and worship, knew Him not. They asked: “Is not this the carpenter’s son?” Some said: “If this man were a prophet he would have known” etc. (Luke ). John said: “Though he had done so many miracles, yet believed they not on him” (John ). 
WEB: Beloved, now we are children of God, and it is not yet revealed what we will be. But we know that, when he is revealed, we will be like him; for we will see him just as he is.
Young’s: beloved, now, children of God are we, and it was not yet manifested what we shall be, and we have known that if he may be manifested, like him we shall be, because we shall see him as he is;
Conte (RC): Most beloved, we are now the sons of God. But what we shall be then has not yet appeared. We know that when he does appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
3:2 Beloved. This form of address only occurs once in the first part of the Epistle (1 John 2:7), just where the subject of love appears for a few verses: it becomes the more common form of address (1 John 3:2, 21; 4:1, 7, 11) now that the main subject is love. Similarly, in 1 John , where brotherly love is the special subject, “brethren” is the form of address. 
now are we the sons of God. “Now” in contrast with what once was. Then we had temporal “legitimacy,” but not spiritual. We had earthly ties, but not heavenly. Now we have “family”—so to speak—in both places. [rw]
No matter how poor, how persecuted, how despised we are, we are yet the children of the Highest. 
and it doth not yet appear what we shall be. Even to ourselves. 
It is yet an unrevealed thing, Romans 8:18; a veil is drawn before it, which is to be drawn aside at the appointed season. 
“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). 
but we know that. The word to know, shows the certainty of faith, in order to distinguish it from opinion. Neither simple nor universal knowledge is here intended, but that which every one ought to have for himself, so that he may feel assured that he will be sometime like Christ. Though, then, the manifestation of our glory is connected with the coming of Christ, yet our knowledge of this is well founded. 
when he shall appear. A s Paul says, a “glory shall be revealed in us.” And then will be “the manifestation of the sons of God.” Romans 8:18-19. 
we shall be like him. He does not [say] that we shall be equal to him; for there must be some difference between the head and the members; but we shall be like him, because he will make our vile body conformable to his glorious body, as Paul also teaches us in Philippians 3:21 [“Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself”]. 
He himself has said it: “Where I am, there also shall my servant be” (John ). And Paul tells us to what He was looking forward to: “Now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Corinthians ). And again, “The dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians ). 
for [because, NASB] we shall see him as he is. “Because” or “for” may give the cause either (1) of our knowing that we shall be like Him, or (2) of our being like Him. Both make good sense; but, in spite of “we know” being the principal sentence grammatically, the statement which most needs explanation is the subordinate one, that we shall be like God. “We shall be like Him,” says the Apostle, “because, as you know, we shall see Him.” Compare “But we all, with unveiled face reflecting as a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians ); the sight of God will glorify us. This also is in harmony with the prayer of the great High Priest: “And the glory which Thou hast given Me, I have given unto them” (John ). Compare “And they shall see His face” (Revelation 22:4). The “even as” emphasizes the reality of the sight: no longer “in a mirror, darkly,” but “face to face.” 
In depth: Why is it that we aren’t permitted to know “what we shall be” in the future ? It is not fully revealed what we shall be hereafter; what will be the full result of being regarded as the children of God. There are, indeed, certain things which may be inferred as following from this. There is enough to animate us with hope, and to sustain us in the trials of life. There is one thing which is clear, that we shall be like the Son of God; but what is fully involved in this is not made known. Perhaps, (1) it could not be so revealed that we could understand it, for that state may be so unlike the present that no words would fully convey the conception to our minds. Perhaps, (2) it may be necessary to our condition here, as on probation, that no more light should be furnished in regard to the future than to stimulate us to make efforts to reach a world where all is light. For an illustration of the sentiment expressed here by the apostle, compare 2 Peter 1:4. 
WEB: Everyone who has this hope set on him purifies himself, even as he is pure.
Young’s: and every one who is having this hope on him, doth purify himself, even as he is pure.
Conte (RC): And everyone who holds this hope in him, keeps himself holy, just as he also is holy.
3:3 And every man. Every person—without exception. [rw]
that hath this hope in [on, NASB] him. That is, upon Christ, the ground on which the hope rests; the hope, namely, of resurrection glory and likeness to Christ. 
The hope rests on him as on a foundation. The Christian life does not exhaust itself in dreams of heaven, but shapes the life that now is into accord with the life that is to be. 
Why to substitute “on” for “in.” This [KJV reading] is certainly wrong: the preposition is “on,” not “in,” and “Him” is either the Father or Christ; probably the former. It is precisely the man who has the hope, based upon God, of one day being like Him, that purifies himself. For the construction “to have hope on” a person compare, “On Him shall the Gentiles hope” (Romans ; compare 1 Timothy ; ). 
purifieth himself. In LXX this verb (ἁγνίζειν) is used chiefly in a technical sense of ceremonial purifications, e.g. of the priests for divine service: and so also even in [the] N.T. (John ; Acts , 26; Acts 24:18). But we need not infer that, because the outward cleansing is the dominant idea in these passages, it is therefore the only one. Here, James 4:8 and 1 Peter , the inward purification and dedication become the dominant idea, though perhaps not to the entire exclusion of the other. 
Tension in John’s teaching on the subject:
Augustine on the subject: “See how He does not take away free-will, in that he saith ‘purify himself.’ Who purifieth us but God? Yea, but God doth not purify thee if thou be unwilling. Therefore in that thou joinest thy will to God, in that thou purifiest thyself; thou purifiest thyself not by thyself, but by Him who cometh to inhabit thee.” (Augustine) 
even as he is pure. The same kind of purity here, the same degree hereafter. That is, the tendency of such a hope is to make him holy now, though he may be imperfect; the effect will be to make him “perfectly” holy in the world to come. 
A reference to the Father or the Son? It is not easy to determine with certainty whether “He” means the Father or Christ. There is a change of pronoun in the Greek from “on Him” (ἐπ' αὐτῷ) to “He” (ἐκεῖνος), and this favors, though it does not prove, a change of meaning. Probably throughout this Epistle ἐκεῖνος means Christ (1 John 3:5, 7, 16; 1 John 2:6; 1 John ). He who, relying on God, hopes to be like God hereafter, purifies himself now after the example of Christ. Christ conformed Himself to the Father, we do the like by conforming ourselves to Christ. This interpretation brings us once more in contact with Christ’s great prayer. “For their sakes I consecrate Myself, that they themselves may be consecrated in truth” (John ). Moreover, would John speak of God as “pure?” God is “holy” (ἅγιος): Christ in His perfect sinlessness as man is “pure” (ἁγνός). 
Not sinless perfection in the current world. It cannot be shown from this passage that the apostle meant to teach that anyone actually becomes as pure in the present life as the Savior is, that is, becomes perfectly holy; for all that is fairly implied in it is, that those who have this hope in them aim at the same purity, and will ultimately obtain it. But the apostle does not say that it is attained in this world. If the passage did teach this, it would teach it respecting everyone who has this hope, and then the doctrine would be that no one can be a Christian who does not become absolutely perfect on earth; that is, not that some Christians may become perfect here, but that all actually do. A true Christian does not, indeed, habitually and willfully sin; but no one can pretend that all Christians attain to a state of sinless perfection on earth, or are, in fact, as pure as the Savior was. But unless the passage proves that every Christian becomes absolutely perfect in the present life, it does not prove that in fact any do. It proves: (1) that the tendency, or the fair influence of this hope, is to make the Christian pure; (2) that all who cherish it will, in fact, aim to become as holy as the Savior was; and, (3) that this object will, at some future period, be accomplished. There is a world where all who are redeemed shall be perfectly holy. 
A note on the word “he:” A specially emphatic term in the Greek, for which we have no equivalent. 
WEB: Everyone who sins also commits lawlessness. Sin is lawlessness.
Young’s: Every one who is doing the sin, the lawlessness also he doth do, and the sin is the lawlessness,
Conte (RC): Everyone who commits a sin, also commits iniquity. For sin is iniquity.
3:4 Whosoever committeth sin. A universal fact. There are no exceptions. [rw]
Note that throughout these verses (3–15) John uses the strong expression, “Every man that” and not simply “He that.” It has been suggested that “in each case where this characteristic form of language occurs there is apparently a reference to some who had questioned the application of a general principle in particular cases” (Westcott): compare 1 John 2:23, 29; 4:7; 5;1, 4, 18; 2 John verse 9. 
transgresseth also the law [also commits lawlessness, NKJV]. As all law supposes a lawgiver, so it supposes reward and punishment. 
On the proper translation of the text: This [KJV rendering] is very unfortunate, destroying the parallelism: Every man that doeth sin, doeth also lawlessness. It is imperative to have the same verb in both clauses and also in 1 John 2:29: to do sin is to do lawlessness, and this is the opposite of to do righteousness. The one marks the children of God, the other the children of the devil. 
Why the point needed to be made: “Lawlessness” both in English and Greek (ἀνομία) means not the privation [= lack] of law, but the disregard of it : not the having no law, but the acting as if one had none. This was precisely the case with some of the Gnostic teachers: they declared that their superior enlightenment placed them above the moral law; they were neither the better for keeping it nor the worse for breaking it. Sin and lawlessness, says the Apostle, are convertible terms: they are merely different aspects of the same state. And it is in its aspect of disregard of God’s law that sin is seen to be quite irreconcilable with being a child of God and having fellowship with God. 
Arguing that this is a case where strict accuracy undermines the actual point being made by John: John evidently intends to intensify the evil of sin by saying that it is anomia, but lawlessness is in our day applied to many who cannot be called iniquitous or wicked. A tribe who are living without settled law are called lawless without at all imputing to them actual wickedness. A number of clergymen of the highest moral character were recently accused of lawlessness because they felt it their duty to a rubric which they conceived they had sworn to obey at their ordination. No doubt the word “anomia,” as to its derivation, means lawlessness, but the question is, does our use of the term lawlessness represent the Apostle’s meaning? I believe it does not. Bengel, following Augustine, translates it by “iniquity.” The meaning of John is better reproduced by Augustine: “Let no man say, Sin is one thing, iniquity is another: let no man say, I am a sinful man, but not a doer of iniquity.” 
for sin is the transgression of the law [sin is lawlessness, NKJV]. That is, all sin involves this as a consequence that it is a violation of the law. The object of the apostle is not so much to define sin, as to deter from its commission by stating what is its essential nature--that God has given a law to people to regulate their conduct, and that whatever is a departure from that law in any way is held to be sin. The law measures our duty, and measures therefore the degree of guilt when it is not obeyed. The law determines what is right in all cases, and, of course, what is wrong when it is not complied with. The law is the expression of what is the will of God as to what we shall do; and when that is not done, there is sin. 
A “sin” and a “transgression of the law” are one and the same thing, so that the act at variance with the “law” is “sin,” and liable to all the condemnation of “sin,” or violated divine “law.” 
Doctrinal point: The Roman Catholic commentators make a mistake in referring this statement to what are called mortal sins in distinction from venial sins. John is dealing with sin in its innermost nature; as such the statement is true of all sins. 
line of argumentation in verses 4-6: Four arguments against committing sin,
or transgressing the law, are here suggested; all of them connected with Him
whose essential purity is to be our model in purifying ourselves:
In depth: Why might they have come to the conclusion that sin was an irrelevancy to the Christian ? It seems evident that the apostle is here combating an opinion which then existed that people might sin, and yet be true Christians, 1 John 3:7; and he apprehended [= understood] that there was danger that this opinion would become prevalent. What ground this opinion was held is unknown. Perhaps it was held that all that was necessary to constitute religion was to embrace the doctrines of Christianity, or to be orthodox in the faith; perhaps that it was not expected that people would become holy in this life, and therefore they might indulge in acts of sin; perhaps that Christ came to modify and relax the law, and that the freedom which He procured for them was freedom to indulge in whatever people chose; perhaps that, since Christians were heirs of all things, they had a right to enjoy all things; perhaps that the passions of people were so strong that they could not be restrained, and that therefore it was not wrong to give indulgence to the propensities with which our Creator has formed us.
All these opinions have been held under various forms of Antinomianism, and it is not at all improbable that some or all of them prevailed in the time of John. The argument which he urges would be applicable to any of them. The consideration which he here states is, that all sin is a transgression of law, and that he who commits it, under whatever pretence, is to be held as a transgressor of the law.
WEB: You know that he was revealed to take away our sins, and in him is no sin.
Young’s: and ye have known that he was manifested that our sins he may take away, and sin is not in him;
Conte (RC): And you know that he appeared in order that he might take away our sins. For in him there is no sin.
3:5 And ye know. The Apostle once more (1 John ; 3:2) appeals to the knowledge which as Christians they must possess. 
that he was manifested. That is, appeared upon this earth. 
That he came into the world for this very purpose. 
The manifestation of the Word in becoming visible to human eyes is meant; the Incarnation. The expression necessarily implies that He existed previous to being made manifest. 
to take away our sins. The essential argument here is, that the whole work of Christ was designed to deliver us from the dominion of sin, not to furnish us the means of indulgence in it; and that, therefore, we should be deterred from it by all that Christ has done and suffered for us. He perverts the whole design of the coming of the Savior who supposes that His work was in any degree designed to procure for His followers the indulgences of sin, or who so interprets the methods of His grace as to suppose that it is now lawful for him to indulge his guilty passions. 
“To take away” (αἴρειν) is the safest rendering; for this is all that the Greek word necessarily means (see John ). Yet it is not improbable that the meaning of “to bear” is included: He took the sins away by bearing them Himself (1 Peter ). This, however, is not John’s point. His argument is that the Son’s having become incarnate in order to abolish sin shows that sin is inconsistent with sonship: the way in which He abolished it is not in question. 
and in him is no sin. There was in Christ a sinless nature and therefore a sinless life. 
And therefore he is properly qualified to be the atoning sacrifice for the sins of men. 
The order of the Greek is impressive; sin in Him does not exist. 
moral purity of Christ is here recalled for several reasons: 1. To show that He was prepared in character
to be a sin-bearer for others; 2. To suggest that He would specially
desire the purity of his people; 3. To
give them a strong motive to this in His own example and position with regard
to sin; 4. To prepare the way for the
doctrine of the next verse. 
In depth: The sinlessness of Jesus . It is needful to maintain the spotlessness of the character of Christ. Only in this way can we maintain the divinity of His nature and His fitness to be a mediatorial sacrifice. His sinlessness is maintained by all the New Testament writers in a formal or in an incidental way. The book of Hebrews shows the superiority of His priesthood in that he was not forced to make an offering for Himself (Hebrew ). John the Baptist regarded Him as the bearer of the world's sins (John ). Peter speaks of him as a lamb without spot or blemish (1 Peter ). Paul speaks of Jesus as dying for the ungodly, asserting for Him a perfect godliness (Romans 5:6).
The strongest proof of Christ's sinlessness is found in His attitude toward God. Other good men like Payson, Judson, Brainerd, Spurgeon have been burdened in
their confessions and prayers with a sense of their own infirmities. Jesus never betrays any sense of His own sin, though He reproves others. He worships God, but He makes no confession of wrong-doing. He asserts that He is always well pleasing to God (John ). He says that Satan finds nothing in Him (John ). He was tempted in all points as we are, without sin. 
WEB: Whoever remains in him doesn't sin. Whoever sins hasn't seen him, neither knows him.
Young’s: every one who is remaining in him doth not sin; every one who is sinning, hath not seen him, nor known him.
Conte (RC): Everyone who abides in him does not sin. For whoever sins has not seen him, and has not known him.
3:6 Whosoever abideth in him. While he so abideth. 
The word here employed (μένων menōn) properly means to remain, to continue, to abide. It is used of persons remaining or dwelling in a place, in the sense of abiding there permanently, or lodging there, and this is the common meaning of the word, Matthew 10:11, 26:38; Mark 6;10; Luke 1:56. In the writings of John, however, it is quite a favorite word to denote the relation which one sustains to another, in the sense of being united to him, or remaining with him in affection and love; being with him in heart and mind and will, as one makes his home in a dwelling. The sense seems to be that we have some sort of relation to him similar to that which we have to our home; that is, some fixed and permanent attachment to Him. We live in Him; we remain steadfast in our attachment to Him, as we do to our own home. In the passage before us, as in his writings generally, it refers to one who lives the life of a Christian, as if he were always with Christ, and abode with him. 
sinneth not. Habitually and willfully. 
These texts however do not mean an impossibility of sinning, because John says, If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father. He also cautions the saints to abide in Christ, and to keep themselves from idols. 
The Apostle sets forth “abiding in Christ and sinning as irreconcilable opposites; but he does not mean to say that believing Christians entirely cease to sin or that those, who are yet sinning, are not yet in Christ ( 1John 1:8–10; 2:1, 2; 3:3)” (Huther). “John is here dealing with realities and about to give us the signs whereby we may know whether we love the Lord or not, whether we are the children of God or of the wicked one” (Sander). 
By these apparently contradictory statements put forth one after another John expresses that internal contradiction of which every one who is endeavoring to do right is conscious. What John delivers as a series of aphorisms, which mutually qualify and explain one another, Paul puts forth dialectically as an argument. “If what I would not, that I do, it is no more I that do it, but sin which dwelleth in me” (Romans ). And on the other hand, “I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Galatians ). 
whosoever sinneth. Which is not to be understood of a single action, but of a course of sinning. 
hath not seen him neither known him. Has had no just views of the Savior, or of the nature of true religion. 
Has not had either a vision of Him, or an experience of Him; is now in a state of spiritual blindness and ignorance. “The Greek perfect denotes an abiding present effect resting on an event in the past. In the Greek perfect the present predominates” (Alford). John states antithetically a truth implied in the former part of the verse—a truth that comes out from the mutual exclusiveness of the sin character and the Christ character. John states here the law, or tendency, of the sin character. He who sins as his law, the on-going, developing law of his life, knows nothing of the saving vision or purifying knowledge of Christ. Sin is blinding. Sin is the foe of divine fellowship. If this be the total effect in the unregenerate, is it not to the Christian dust in his spiritual sight and a palsy in his spiritual love? 
In depth: The case against the text implying a doctrine of sinless perfection . There has been much difference of opinion in regard to this expression, and the similar declaration in 1 John 3:9. Not a few have maintained that it teaches the “doctrine of perfection,” or that Christians may live entirely without sin; and some have held that the apostle meant to teach that this is always the characteristic of the true Christian. Against the interpretation, however, which supposes that it teaches that the Christian is absolutely perfect, and lives wholly without sin, there are three insuperable objections:
(1) If it teaches that doctrine at all, it teaches that all Christians are perfect; “whosoever abideth in him,” “whosoever is born of God,” “he cannot sin,” 1 John 3:9.
(2) This is not true, and cannot be held to be true by those who have any just views of what the children of God have been and are. Who can maintain that Abraham, or Isaac, or Jacob; that Moses, David, or Job; that Peter, John, or Paul, were absolutely perfect, and were never, after their regeneration, guilty of an act of sin? Certainly they never affirmed it of themselves, nor does the sacred record attribute to them any such perfection. And who can affirm this of all who give evidence of true piety in the world? Who can of themselves? Are we to come to the painful conclusion that all who are not absolutely perfect in thought, word, and deed, are destitute of any religion, and are to be set down as hypocrites or self-deceivers? And yet, unless this passage proves that “all” who have been born again are absolutely perfect, it will not prove it of anyone, for the affirmation is not made of a part, or of what any favored individual may be, but of what everyone is in fact who is born of God.
(3) This interpretation is not necessary to a fair exposition of the passage. The language used is such as would be employed by any writer if he designed to say of one that he is not characteristically a sinner; that he is a good man; that he does not commit habitual and willful transgression. Such language is common throughout the Bible, when it is said of one man that he is a saint, and of another that he is a sinner; of one that he is righteous, and of another that he is wicked; of one that he obeys the law of God, and of another that he does not. John expresses it strongly, but he affirms no more in fact than is affirmed elsewhere.
WEB: Little children, let no one lead you astray. He who does righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.
Young’s: Little children, let no one lead you astray; he who is doing the righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous,
Conte (RC): Little sons, let no one deceive you. Whoever does justice is just, even as he also is just.
3:7 Little children. The renewed address, “Little children,” adds solemnity and tenderness to the warning. 
let no man deceive you. Do not be deluded into the belief that any one can be righteous unless he practices righteousness. 
This caution implies the zealous endeavor of the seducers of that time, to instill their poisonous doctrine and principles; and his own solicitude, lest these Christians should receive them, and be mischiefed [= injured] by them. 
The popular idea of the Apostle John is strangely unlike the real man. He is supposed to be the gentle Apostle of Love, the mystic amongst the Twelve. He is that, but he was the “son of thunder” before he was the Apostle of Love, and he did not drop the first character when he attained the second. And because he loved the Love and the Light, he hated and loathed the darkness. 
he that doeth righteousness is righteous. As in 1 John 3:6, we have the present participle; he who habitually does righteousness, not merely one who does a righteous act. If faith without works is dead (James , 20), much more is knowledge without works dead. There is only one way of proving our enlightenment, of proving our parentage from Him who is Light; and that is by doing the righteousness which is characteristic of Him and His Son. This is the sure test, the test which Gnostic self-exaltation pretended to despise. Anyone can say that he possesses a superior knowledge of Divine truth; but does he act accordingly? Does he do divine things? 
We must not only talk of righteousness, but must also practice it, exhibit it in our lives, just as Jesus proved by His acts that He is the righteous one. 
even as he is righteous. The quality of the righteousness of the believer is of the same kind as that which dwells in God, but far inferior in degree, in quantity. 
As in 1 John 3:3, we are in doubt whether “He” means the Father or Christ. It is the same pronoun (ἐκεῖνος) as in 1 John 3:3, but there is not here any abrupt change of pronoun. Here also it seems better to interpret “He” as Christ (1 John 2:2), rather than God (1 John 1:9). 
WEB: He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. To this end the Son of God was revealed, that he might destroy the works of the devil.
Young’s: he who is doing the sin, of the devil he is, because from the beginning the devil doth sin; for this was the Son of God manifested, that he may break up the works of the devil;
Conte (RC): Whoever commits sin is of the devil. For the devil sins from the beginning. For this reason, the Son of God appeared, so that he might eradicate the works of the devil.
3:8 He that committeth sin is of the devil. A sinful life is a proof of the devil's power. Christ came to destroy the works of the devil, and it is his work to destroy sin in all His disciples. 
Not everyone that sins, or commits acts of sin [is meant for] then every man is of the devil, because no man lives without the commission of sin; but he who makes sin his constant business, and the employment of his life, whose life is a continued series of sinning, he is of the devil; not as to origin and substance, or by proper generation, as some have literally understood the words; but by imitation, being like him. 
There is a personal devil, at the opposite moral pole from God. Through him sin entered the moral universe, through him the human race was corrupted. All sin is, therefore, an imitation of Satan; all who sin are moved by the impulses that move him. Satan stands as the representative of sin; those who sin are bound to him by spiritual ties. 
for the devil sinneth from the beginning. The beginning of the world; or from the first account we have of him. It does not mean that he sinned from the beginning of his existence, for he was made holy like the other angels (Jude, verse 6). The meaning is, that he introduced sin into the universe, and that he has continued to practice it ever since. 
The present tense indicates continuousness. He sinned in the beginning, and has never ceased to sin from the beginning, and still sinneth. 
Hence “he that committeth sin is of the devil” is the one who both sins and continues in persistent evil for that is the pattern cited as being manifested in the Devil himself. [rw]
For this purpose the Son of God was manifested. The Apostle now proceeds to state the purpose which the Son of God had in view in becoming incarnate and in taking up His visible abode here on earth. 
The object of the incarnation was to reconcile all things to God (Colossians ). This involved the removal of all hindrances, the destruction of Satan's hold upon men. 
that he might destroy the works of the devil. The works of the devil are both moral and physical and Jesus Christ came to destroy both. He came to destroy sin and to purify any member of the human race that would accept Him, from all sin and its effects. He came to make men at peace with God and with one another and in themselves. 
There is a personal agency of Satan in leading men astray, in begetting sins of all kinds (Galatians -21), in blinding the eyes of men (2 Corinthians 4:4), in alienating the mind from God, in perverting men's conceptions of God (Genesis 5). As Jesus came to destroy the works of Satan, it is not possible for one of God's children to be in alliance with the opponent of Christ. Christ is Redeemer, Satan is destroyer. Apollyon, one of the names of Satan, signifies the destroyer (Revelation ). Jesus came to build the foundation of his kingdom on the ruins of Satan's kingdom. Only that man who renounces all sin can share in the work of Christ, can live in accord with the purpose for which Christ came into the world. Christ's triumph means a Satan bruised and under foot (Romans ). Christ and the Christian must be equally antagonistic to Satan, and equally triumphant over him. 
destroy. Lit., dissolve, loosen. Compare Acts 27:41; Acts . “The works of the devil are represented as having a certain consistency and coherence. They show a kind of solid front. But Christ, by His coming, has revealed them in their complete unsubstantiality. He has ‘undone’ the seeming bonds by which they were held together” (Westcott). 
WEB: Whoever is born of God doesn't commit sin, because his seed remains in him; and he can't sin, because he is born of God.
Young’s: every one who hath been begotten of God, sin he doth not, because his seed in him doth remain, and he is not able to sin, because of God he hath been begotten.
Conte (RC): All those who have been born of God do not commit sin. For the offspring of God abides in them, and he is not able to sin, because he was born of God.
3:9 Whosoever is born of God. The Greek implies “has been made and remains a child of God.” Cf. verse 18. 
doth not commit sin. Does not make it his trade and business; it is not the constant course of his life. 
The practical application of this is that just so far as the birth from God is perfected in any one, the man in whom it is perfected no longer lives in sin. 
If it can be used as referring to the doctrine of absolute perfection at all, it proves, not that Christians may be perfect, or that a “portion” of them are, but that all are. But who can maintain this? Who can believe that John meant to affirm this? 
for his seed remaineth in him. There is much obscurity in this expression, though the general sense is clear, which is, that there is something abiding in the heart of the true Christian which the apostle here calls “seed,” which will prevent his sinning. The word “his” in this phrase, “his seed,” may refer either to the individual himself --in the sense that this can now be properly called “his,” inasmuch as it is a part of himself, or a principle abiding in him; or it may refer to God--in the sense that what is here called “seed” is “His,” that is, he has implanted it, or it is a germ of divine origin. The word “seed” (σπέρμα sperma) means properly seed sown, as of grain, plants, trees; then anything that resembles it, anything which germinates, or which springs up, or is produced. It is applied in the New Testament to the word of God, or the gospel, as that which produces effects in the heart and life similar to what seed that is sown does. Compare Matthew 13:26, 37-38. Grotius, Rosenmuller, Benson, and Bloomfield, suppose that this is the signification of the word here. The proper idea, according to this, is that the seed referred to is truth, which God has implanted or sown in the heart, from which it may be expected that the fruits of righteousness will grow. The exact idea here, as it seems to me [however], is not that the “seed” refers to “the word of God,” as Augustine and others suppose, or to “the Spirit of God,” but to the germ of piety which has been produced in the heart by the word and Spirit of God, and which may be regarded as having been implanted there by God himself, and which may be expected to produce holiness in the life. 
and he cannot sin. That is to say, it is contrary to his nature. 
The Christian has two natures, the old nature and the new nature. The old nature is not eradicated; a believer when he sins does so because he has given way to that old nature, has acted in the flesh. But the new nature followed will never lead to sin, for it is a holy nature, and for that nature it is impossible to sin. 
If the words prove that a regenerate person cannot become a sinner, then Romans 8:7 proves that no carnally minded man can ever become subject to the law of God; for the same word for cannot is there used. 
Not, Because a man was once for all born of God he never afterward can sin; but, Because he is born of God, the seed abiding now an Him, he cannot sin; so long as it energetically abides, sin can have no place. Compare Genesis 39:9, Joseph, “How can I do this great . . . sin against God?” The principle within is at utter variance with sin, and gives a hatred for all sin, and an unceasing desire to resist it. “The child of God receives wounds daily, and never throws away his arms, or makes peace with his deadly foe” (Luther). The exceptional sins of the regenerate are owing to the new life being suffered to lie dormant, and to the sword of the Spirit not being drawn instantly. Sin is ever active, but no longer reigns. The believer's normal direction is against sin; the law of God after the inward man is the ruling principle of his true self, though the old nature, not yet fully deadened, rebels. 
because he is born of God. Is inwardly and universally changed. 
This [inability to sin] must be taken not as implying a physical, but a moral impossibility. We constantly say of an honest man that he could not do such an act of fraud, or of a pure man that he cannot break the seventh commandment, and so John, looking at the new birth as proceeding from God, and making us partakers of the Divine Nature, says he cannot sin because he is born of God. 
WEB: In this the children of God are revealed, and the children of the devil. Whoever doesn't do righteousness is not of God, neither is he who doesn't love his brother.
Young’s: In this manifest are the children of God, and the children of the devil; every one who is not doing righteousness, is not of God, and he who is not loving his brother,
Conte (RC): In this way, the sons of God are made manifest, and also the sons of the devil. Everyone who is not just, is not of God, as also anyone who does not love his brother.
In this the children of God are manifest. That is, this furnishes a test of their true character. The test is found in doing righteousness, and in the love of the brethren. 
A man’s principles are invisible, but their results are visible: “By their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew -20). 
and the children of the devil. “The devil made no one, he begot no one, he created no one; but whosoever imitates the devil, is, as it were, a child of the devil, through imitating, not through being born of him” (Augustine). 
The expression occurs nowhere else in [the] N.T., but we have “son of the devil,” Acts : compare “children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3), and “ye are of your father the devil” (John ). All mankind are God’s children by creation: as regards this a creature can have no choice. But a creature endowed with free will can choose his own parent in the moral world. The Father offers him the “right to become a child of God” (John ); but he can refuse this and become a child of the devil instead. There is no third alternative. 
whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God. John's “teaching about the devil is not at all agreeable to those who dwell exclusively on the sunny aspects of the world and of life, and would shut their eyes to what is dark and terrible. They like to hear of a Being who is all-gracious and loving; the vision of one who is the enemy of all that is gracious and loving shocks them—they wish to suppose that it belongs to the world's infancy, and that it disappears as we know more” (Maurice). 
neither he that loveth not his brother. This forms the link with the next section (verses 13-24), on brotherly love. Of all failures in doing righteousness this is the most conspicuous—failing to love one's brother. And who is my brother? The answer is the same as to the question, “And who is my neighbor?” Mankind at large. The meaning cannot be limited to the children of God. 
However just as we owe a special degree—a superior degree, if you wish—of love to our family members when contrasted with the world at large, the same is true of that special / “superior” degree of love that we owe those who are fellow children of God—spiritual brothers and sisters of ours in the Lord. [rw]
And: The brother spoken of is not here the universal human race, but a brother in the household of God. The Christian is under a deeper obligation to a fellow-disciple than to one not of the household of faith (Galatians ). The latter part of this verse serves as an introduction to a further discussion of this subject. 
WEB: For this is the message which you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another;
Young’s: because this is the message that ye did hear from the beginning, that we may love one another,
Conte (RC): For this is the announcement that you heard from the beginning: that you should love one another.
For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning. “From the beginning” as in 1 John 2:7: it was one of the very first things conveyed to them in their instruction in Christianity and had been ceaselessly repeated, notably by the Apostle himself. 
Jerome, in his “Commentary on Galatians” ([on] Galatians ), tells us that when John became too infirm to preach, he used often to say no more than this, “Little children, love one another.” His hearers at last wearied of it, and said, “Master, why dost thou always say this?” “It is the Lord's command,” he replied; “and if this alone is done, it is enough.” 
that we should love one another. It is self-evident that the Christian has to fulfill the general commandment of love even to those who are not Christians. Yet John does not here enter on that, as it would be inappropriate, for he has here to do with the ethical antithesis between Christians as children of God and those who are opposed to them as children of the devil. 
WEB: unlike Cain, who was of the evil one, and killed his brother. Why did he kill him? Because his works were evil, and his brother's righteous.
Young’s: not as Cain -- of the evil one he was, and he did slay his brother, and wherefore did he slay him? because his works were evil, and those of his brother righteous.
Conte (RC): Do not be like Cain, who was of the evil one, and who killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because his own works were wicked, but his brother’s works were just.
Not as Cain. The opposite of brotherly love is hate, as represented by Cain. 
John has gone back to the earliest point in the history of sin. The instance of Cain showed how very soon sin took the form of hate, and fratricidal hate. 
Cain’s offering was evil because it was the offering of a proud man, choosing for himself what he would offer instead of humbly doing as God had bidden him. Hence he failed to win acceptance with God. Hence also sprang the jealousy and hatred towards Abel, which led to the murder. 
Or: A singular reason is given by many commentators for the mention of Cain, viz., that a sect of the Gnostics made Cain an important person in their religious system. The account of them given by Irenaeus is as follows (I.21): “They declare that Cain derived his being from the Supreme power, together with Esau, Korah, and the Sodomites. . . . They say that Judas the traitor had diligently studied the truth, and that it was because his knowledge of it was in advance of all others that he brought about the mystery of the betrayal.” 
who was of that wicked one. Of the devil; that is, he was under his influence, and acted from his instigation. 
Commentators quote the “strange Rabbinical view” that while Abel was the son of Adam, Cain was the son of the tempter. Of course John is not thinking of such wild imaginations: Cain is only morally “of the evil one.” Here, as elsewhere in the Epistle (1 John -14; -19), John uses “the evil one” as a term with which his readers are quite familiar. He gives no explanation. 
Was Cain born of the devil? It must be remembered that regeneration is a figurative term. When the power of the Spirit conforms us more or less to the image of God, we are said to be born of God, children of God; while conformed to the image of Satan, we are called children of the devil. 
and slew his brother. Cain's conduct typifies the attitude of the world towards Christians. σφάζειν in the New Testament occurs only here and in Revelation. In the LXX and the New Testament it seems to mean “slay” without necessarily implying the cutting the throat of a victim. That Cain's works were evil is not stated in Genesis, but is inferred from God's rejection of him. Compare carefully the remarkably parallel passage, Hebrews 11:4. The wicked envy the good the blessedness of their goodness, and try to destroy what they cannot share. The war between good and evil is one of extermination; but the wicked would destroy the righteous, while the righteous would destroy wickedness by converting the wicked. 
And wherefore slew he him? He acted under the influence of envy. He was dissatisfied that his own offering was not accepted, and that his brother‘s was. The apostle seems desirous to guard those to whom he wrote against the indulgence of any feelings that were the opposite of love; from anything like envy toward more highly favored brethren, by showing to what this would lead if fairly acted out, as in the case of Cain. A large part of the crimes of the earth have been caused, as in the murder of Abel, by the want of brotherly love. Nothing but love would be necessary to put an end to the crimes, and consequently to a large part of the misery, of the world. 
Because his own works were evil. Was Abel at all to blame? On the contrary, it was his righteousness which excited the murderous hate of Cain. Cain was jealous of the acceptance which Abel’s righteous offering found, and which his own evil offering did not find: and “who is able to stand before envy?” (Proverbs 27:4). 
Both were religious, manifesting their understanding of the appropriateness, needfulness, even essentiality of sacrifice to God. But recognizing that fact did not result in God automatically accepting the sacrifice as pleasing. It has to be the type of sacrifice authorized by God and it needed to be offered with the right frame of mind and desire to please God rather than as an “empty” religious ritual—such as many people practice by going to church and never thinking about what is being said and done. [rw]
and his brother's righteous. His behavior; his actions. His measured up to the highest standard; Cain’s collapsed to the lowest level. [rw]
WEB: Don't be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you.
Young’s: Do not wonder, my brethren, if the world doth hate you;
Conte (RC): If the world hates you, brothers, do not be surprised.
Marvel not. Do not think it so unusual, or so little to be expected, as to excite astonishment. 
my brethren. Here only does John use the address, “brethren,” which is appropriate to the subject of brotherly love. Elsewhere his readers are “children” or “beloved.” 
if the world hate you. If Cain is the type of the world, it is not to be wondered at that the children of God are hated by it. Neander: “it must not surprise Christians if they are hated by the world; this is to them the stamp of the divine life, in the possession of which they form the contrast to the world.” 
The fact is stated gently, but not doubtfully. The verse is another echo of Christ’s last discourses as recorded in the Gospel: “If the world hateth you (same construction as here), ye know that it hath hated Me before it hated you” (John ). 
WEB: We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. He who doesn't love his brother remains in death.
Young’s: we -- we have known that we have passed out of the death to the life, because we love the brethren; he who is not loving the brother doth remain in the death.
Conte (RC): We know that we have passed from death to life. For we love as brothers. Whoever does not love, abides in death.
We know. Not we think, we hope, &c. 
Or: As one of the tests. 
that we have passed from death unto life. From spiritual death (Ephesians 2:1) to spiritual life; that is, that we are true Christians. 
Better, have passed over out of death into life, have left an abode in the
one region for an
abode in the other: another reminiscence of the Gospel (John 5:24
[“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that
heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me,
hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from
death unto life”]). The Greek perfect here has the common meaning
of permanent result of past action: “we
have passed into a new home and abide there.”
The metaphor is perhaps taken from the passage of the
Death marks the state out of which they have come, the state of spiritual alienation from God. Not to have God's fellowship is to be dead (Ephesians 2:1; 1 Timothy 5:6). Life means far more than existence, it means a blessed life springing from God, in fellowship with God, finding its goal in God. Love for the brethren is not the cause of this passage from death to life, but the mark and proof of it. 
because we love the brethren. The ground, not of passing over out of death into life, but of our knowing that we have. Love is the evidence of our justification and regeneration, not the cause. “Let each go to his own heart: if he find there love to the brethren, let him feel assured he has passed from death unto life. Let him not mind that his glory is only hidden: when the Lord shall come he shall appear in glory. He has vital energy, but it is still winter: the root has vigor, but the branches are dry: within there is vigorous marrow, within are leaves, within fruits; but they must wait for summer” (Augustine). 
He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. [It] implies that death is the original condition of all. The believer passes out of this by becoming a child of God and thereby of necessity loving God’s other children. He who does not love them shows that he is still in the old state of death. 
[In other words:] He remains dead in sins; that is, he has never been converted.  This far overstates the case for John clearly treats them as if they were brethren just as much as those among them who were doing the right thing. Perhaps the situation is better described this way: such a person wants to enjoy the advantages of salvation without having to take upon the ethical obligations that go with it. Therefore they have fallen back into the negligence that was an ongoing spiritual death. Being “paper Jews” had no more gotten them out of that state than being “paper Christians.” God always knows what we really are. [rw]
Textual note on this section: “His brother” is commonly omitted on grounds of lack of inadequate supporting textual evidence: ESV, NASB, NET. However since this is the group of individuals just mentioned in the verse, this is clearly the point being made. [rw]
In depth: How do we reconcile this with natural human resentment at being mistreated by one’s co-religionists ? Many difficult questions arise respecting this [verse]. If a man has been ill-treated and he harbors resentment, does he abide in death? No, if he is willing to take [= accept] the proper means of reconciliation. All depends upon that—at least if we are to be guided by the words of the Lord in Matthew -18 and 22[:]
[15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. 18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. 21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? 22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.]
The implacable man, the bearer of hatred and malice, the man who out of revenge would do another an injury, such an one abides in death. “From envy, hatred, and malice, and from all uncharitableness, Good Lord deliver us.”
Again, look at the bitterness occasioned by parties and sects, both in politics and religion. Are these the signs of death? They seem very near it. Should we not pray that we may hold the truth in charity, that in meekness we may instruct “those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth” (1 Timothy -26)?
WEB: Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life remaining in him.
Young’s: Every one who is hating his brother -- a man-killer he is, and ye have known that no man-killer hath life age-during in him remaining,
Conte (RC): Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer. And you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding within him.
Whosoever hateth. Quite as a matter of course John passes from not loving to hating. The crisis caused in the world by the coming of the light leaves no neutral ground: all is either light or darkness, of God or of the evil one, of the Church or of the world, in love or in hate. A Christian cannot [simultaneously] be neither loving nor hating, any more than a plant can be neither growing nor dying. 
his brother. Of all places to find hatred, the most notorious and extreme—even to people of the world who have minimal moral considerations—is within the bonds of one’s family. If love is to be found anywhere this is the place we most naturally expect it and are most horrified when it is brazenly lacking. John applies this “logic of the emotions” from those of physical kin to those who are spiritual kin. [rw]
is a murderer. In the spirit and temper of his mind. 
This is only applying to the sixth commandment the principle which the Lord Himself applies to the seventh (Matthew ). 
The private malice, the secret grudge, the envy which is cherished in the heart, is murderous in its tendency, and were it not for the outward restraints of human laws, and the dread of punishment, it would often lead to the act of murder. The apostle does not say that he who hates his brother, though he does not in fact commit murder, is guilty to the same degree as if he had actually done it; but he evidently means to say that the spirit which would lead to murder is there, and that God will hold him responsible for it. Nothing is missing but the removal of outward restraints to lead to the commission of the open deed, and God judges people as he sees them to be “in their hearts.” 
and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. Here we have a reference to the Old Testament law, that a murderer must die, but the words of the law are spiritualized and applied to the true, higher life. In a murderer eternal life has no place. 
John, of course, does not mean that murder is an unpardonable sin; but he shows that hate and death go together, as love and life, and that the two pairs are mutually exclusive. How can life and the desire to extinguish life be compatible? It is very forced to interpret ἀνθρωποκτόνος as either “destroyer of his own soul,” or “destroyer of the hated man's soul,” by provoking him to return hate for hate. 
WEB: By this we know love, because he laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
Young’s: in this we have known the love, because he for us his life did lay down, and we ought for the brethren the lives to lay down;
Conte (RC): We know the love of God in this way: because he laid down his life for us. And so, we must lay down our lives for our brothers.
Hereby perceive we. We apprehend what true love is. 
We understand it, we grasp its meaning and how great and profound the very idea is. [rw]
the love of God. “Of God” is not in the original. 
Though we cannot, because of deficiency in MSS Authority, read “of God,” yet is clear that such is the meaning. No mere man, no angel could lay down his life to redeem his fellow creatures. The Church of God hath been purchased by the Blood of God (Acts 20:28) [“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood”]. 
because he laid down his life for us. It means a voluntary self-sacrifice. 
There can be no doubt that the Savior is here referred to, though His name is not mentioned particularly. There are several instances in the New Testament where He is mentioned under the general appellation “he,” as one who was well known, and about whom the writers were accustomed to speak. 
This is the echo of John 15:13, “This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” 
and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. For the good of our fellow Christians, if it be necessary. That is, circumstances may occur where it would be proper to do it, and we ought always to be ready to do it. The spirit which led the Savior to sacrifice his life for the good of the church, should lead us to do the same thing for our brethren if circumstances should require it. That this is a correct principle no one can doubt; for:
(1) The Savior did it, and we are bound to imitate his example, and to possess His spirit;
(2) The prophets, apostles, and martyrs did it, laying down their lives in the cause of truth, and for the good of the church and the world; and,
(3) It has always been held that it is right and proper, in certain circumstances, for a man to lay down his life for the good of others. So we speak of the patriot who sacrifices his life for the good of his country; so we feel in the case of a shipwreck, that it may be the duty of a captain to sacrifice his life for the good of his passengers and crew; so in case of a pestilential disease, a physician should not regard his own life, if he may save others; and so we always hold the man up to honor who is willing to jeopardy his own life on noble principles of self-denial for the good of his fellow-men. In what cases this should occur the apostle does not state; but the general principle would seem to be, that it is to be done when a greater good would result from our self-sacrifice than from carefully guarding our own lives.
In what way this injunction was understood by the primitive Christians, may be perceived from what the world is reported to have said of them, “Behold, how they love one another; they are ready to die for one another.” -- Tertullian, Apol. c. 39. So Eusebius (Eccl. His. vii. 22) says of Christians, that “in a time of plague they visited one another, and not only hazarded their lives, but actually lost them in their zeal to preserve the lives of others.” We are not indeed to throw away our lives; we are not to expose them in a rash, reckless, imprudent manner; but when, in the discharge of duty, we are placed in a situation where life is exposed to danger, we are not to shrink from the duty, or to run away from it. 
WEB: But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and closes his heart of compassion against him, how does the love of God remain in him?
Young’s: and whoever may have the goods of the world, and may view his brother having need, and may shut up his bowels from him -- how doth the love of God remain in him?
Conte (RC): Whoever possesses the goods of this world, and sees his brother to be in need, and yet closes his heart to him: in what way does the love of God abide in him?
But whoso hath this world's good. The necessities, comforts, and luxuries of material life. The word translated “goods” [= “good” in KJV] is rendered “living” in the parable of the Prodigal son, Luke 15:12: “He divided unto them his living.” Cf. . 
The general meaning of this verse, in connection with the previous verse, is, that if we ought to be willing to lay down our lives for others, we ought to be willing to make those comparatively smaller sacrifices which are necessary to relieve them in their distresses; and that if we are unwilling to do this, we can have no evidence that the love of God dwells in us. 
and seeth his brother have need. Need of food, of raiment, of shelter; or sick, and poor, and unable to provide for his own wants and those of his family. 
Better, and beholdeth his brother having need. The verb implies that he not only sees him (ἰδεῖν), but looks at him and considers him (θεωρεῖν). It is a word of which the contemplative Apostle is very fond; and outside the Synoptic Gospels and the Acts it occurs nowhere but in John’s writings and Hebrews 7:4. 
This does not mean sees with a hasty, passing glance, but contemplates his misery, regards his wretched condition, and hardens himself against all feelings of compassion. 
and shutteth up his bowels of compassion [heart, NKJV] from him. There is no “of compassion” in the Greek and we hardly need both substantives. The ancients believed the bowels to be the seat of the affections (Genesis 43:30; 1 Kings ; Jeremiah 31:20; Philippians 1:8, Philippians 2:1; Philemon verses 7, 12, 20) as well as the heart, whereas we take the latter only. 
There is in brotherly love the spirit of the Good Samaritan, helpfulness
to the needy. Jesus fed the multitude (Mathew
); Dorcas helped the needy (Acts9:36); Jesus makes
helpfulness, for His sake, a test of salvation (Matthew 25:35). The strong must help the weak, not only in
spiritual matters, but in counsel, in material aid. Jesus and the Twelve, in their poverty, helped
those who were poorer (John ). Notice also the sympathy of the Gentile Christians
for the poor saints in
how dwelleth the love of God in him? Our Lord in the most practical way connects the love of our brother with Himself, and so with His Father, when He says that He will say at the last day to those on His right hand, “Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it to one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” [Matthew 25:40]. 
Augustine on the concept: “Thy brother hungers, he is in necessity, belike he is in suspense, is distressed by his creditor: he is thy brother, alike ye are bought, one is the Price paid for you; ye are both redeemed by the Blood of Christ. See whether thou have mercy, if thou have the world’s means. Perchance thou sayest, ‘What concerns it me? Am I to give my money, that he may not suffer trouble?’ If this be the answer thy heart makes to thee, the love of the Father abideth not in thee.” 
WEB: My little children, let's not love in word only, neither with the tongue only, but in deed and truth.
Young’s: My little children, may we not love in word nor in tongue, but in work and in truth!
Conte (RC): My little sons, let us not love in words only, but in works and in truth.
My little children. John is like a father instructing his children in something that is so elementary that it is hard for him to understand how in the world they could possibly be missing the point. [rw]
let us not love in word, neither in tongue but in deed and in truth. Is there any difference between loving in word and loving with the tongue? And is there any difference between loving in deed and loving in truth? The answer must be the same to both questions. The oppositions between “word” and “deed” and between “tongue” and “truth” are so exact as to lead us to believe that there is a difference. To love in word is to have that affection which is genuine as far as it goes, but which is so weak that it never gets further than affectionate words: such love is opposed, not to truth, but to loving acts. To love with the tongue is to profess an affection which one does not feel, which is sheer hypocrisy: it is opposed, not to deeds, but to truth. It may show itself also in hypocritical acts, done (as Bede points out) not with the wish to do good, but to win praise, or to injure others. 
neither in tongue. I.e., the tongue alone as shown by the fact that this empty kind of “love” that never rises above empty rhetoric and is contrasted with the kind we should have—must have if we are to be faithful Christians rather than being a mere hollow shell with the label “Christian” on the outside. [rw]
but in deed. In behavior, in action. [rw]
and in truth. Demonstrating that love really is there; showing that our claim to love exists far beyond mere empty words. [rw]
WEB: And by this we know that we are of the truth, and persuade our hearts before him,
Young’s: and in this we know that of the truth we are, and before Him we shall assure our hearts,
Conte (RC): In this way, we will know that we are of the truth, and we will commend our hearts in his sight.
And hereby. Greek, “by this;” that is, by the fact that we have true love to others, and that we manifest it by a readiness to make sacrifices to do them good. 
we know that we are of the truth. That we are not deceived in what we profess to be; that is, that we are true Christians. To be of the truth stands opposed to cherishing false and delusive hopes. 
“We are of the truth,” of one nature with the truth, as if born of it. To be of the truth is more than to be truthful or true men. It is to be in a state of spiritual affinity with the truth of God as it is in Jesus, and including Him. It is to be of the light of God (sons of light, John ), the reflection of His own nature. Spiritual attainments do not come single. If we have brotherly love, we have much with it. It brings other experiences with it; and one of these is the consciousness that we are neither deceivers nor self-deceived, that we belong to the spiritual sphere, that we are true Christians. 
and shall assure our hearts before him. i.e. and in and by this same sign, shall still the questionings of our hearts before God, by the assurance that we are His true children. This meaning has been acquiesced in by almost all Commentators both ancient and modern. 
Shall enjoy the assurance of His favor, and the testimony of a good conscience toward God. The heart, in John's language, is the conscience. The word conscience is not found in his writings. 
The heart is here conceived of as the seat of the whole spiritual life as in James 5:8, 1 Peter 3:4, and as the seat of consciousness of the truth as in James 1:26. John here uses the word heart as including the conscience, for it is the conscience which excites and disquiets the heart, and which needs to be guided and pacified. 
Textual note: In the margin, as in the Greek, the word rendered “shall assure,” is “persuade.” The Greek word is used as meaning to “persuade,” e. g., to the reception and belief of truth; then to persuade anyone who has unkind or prejudiced feelings toward us, or to bring over to kind feelings, “to conciliate,” and thus to pacify or quiet. The meaning here seems to be, that we shall in this way allay the doubts and trouble of our minds, and produce a state of quiet and peace, to wit, by the evidence that we are of the truth. Our consciences are often restless and troubled in view of past guilt; but, in thus furnishing the evidence of true piety by love to others, we shall pacify an accusing mind, and conciliate our own hearts, and persuade or convince ourselves that we are truly the children of God. 
before him. Before God or the Savior. 
The judgment day does not seem to be referred to as the day of final revelation, but the present period of experience, as the preceding sentence and the following verse make most natural. 
WEB: because if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.
Young’s: because if our heart may condemn -- because greater is God than our heart, and He doth know all things.
Conte (RC): For even if our heart reproaches us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows all things.
For if our heart condemn us. We cannot hope for peace from any expectation that our own hearts will never accuse us, or that we ourselves can approve of all that we have done. The reference here is not so much to our past lives, as to our present conduct and deportment. The object is to induce Christians so to live that their hearts will not condemn them for any secret sins, while the outward deportment may be unsullied. The general sentiment is, that if they should so live that their own hearts would condemn them for present insincerity and hypocrisy, they could have no hope of peace, for God knows all that is in the heart. 
God is greater than our heart. Are these words meant to inspire awe or to afford consolation? Is God regarded as more exacting or more merciful than conscience? Opinion is much divided. The contrast in 1 John 3:21 suggests the former alternative, but the whole context rather favors the latter. “We shall then still our heart in whatsoever it may condemn us, because we are in fellowship with God, and that fact assures us of His sovereign mercy” (Westcott). 
If our conscience condemns us of want of sincerity in our love towards our brother, then our conscience is, in so far, the verdict of God within us. God knows the state of our interior souls or spirits better than we do ourselves, for He knoweth all things, and He has put conscience within us as His representative. If conscience, then, be His witness within us, its verdict against us is true if it condemns us. 
and knoweth all things. [This] explains the special character of God’s superiority when the soul stands before the judgment-seat of conscience. He knows all things; on the one hand the light and grace against which we have sinned, on the other the reality of our repentance and our love. It was to this infallible omniscience that Peter appealed, in humble distrust of his own feeling and judgment, “Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee” (John ). 
WEB: Beloved, if our hearts don't condemn us, we have boldness toward God;
Young’s: Beloved, if our heart may not condemn us, we have boldness toward God,
Conte (RC): Most beloved, if our heart does not reproach us, we can have confidence toward God;
Beloved. This appeal does not mark a change in the persons spoken of; it is John’s way of introducing a matter of deep importance. He is approaching the inmost sanctuary of religious privilege. 
if our heart
condemn us not. An argument à
fortiori: if before God we
can persuade conscience to acquit us, when it upbraids us, much more may we
have assurance before Him, when it does not do
so. It is not quite evident whether “condemn
us not” means “ceases to condemn us,” because we have
persuaded it, or “does not condemn us from the first,” because it has had no misgivings
about us. Either makes good sense. The same word for “condemn” occurs [in] Galatians 2:11 of Peter’s
then have we confidence [boldness, ASV, WEB] toward God. We feel the full assurance of sin forgiven, of divine acceptance, of blessed communion, of a “title clear to mansions in the skies.” 
Is conscience, then, an infallible guide? Practically it is on this matter of loving “in deed and in truth.” We can surely tell perfectly well the motives which lead us to assist our brethren, whether we do it to be seen of men, or from any selfish motive whatsoever, or because we love “in deed and in truth.” 
WEB: and whatever we ask, we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do the things that are pleasing in his sight.
Young’s: and whatever we may ask, we receive from Him, because His commands we keep, and the things pleasing before Him we do,
Conte (RC): and whatever we shall request of him, we shall receive from him. For we keep his commandments, and we do the things that are pleasing in his sight.
And whatsoever we ask. Conditional upon the obedience mentioned next in the verse. Our behavior inevitably affects God’s willingness to answer our prayers—just as any good and wise parent carefully avoids letting the children get the idea that they “can get away with just about anything and still get the special blessings they want.” [rw]
John speaks with the utmost confidence; he had tested the promise through many years. There are always limitations to the seemingly unlimited promises, as that there must be faith (Mark ); the thing desired must be in accord with the will of God (). 
we receive of him. The present is to be taken quite literally; not as the present for the future. It may be a long time before we see the results of our prayer; but it is granted at once. As Augustine says, “He who gave us love cannot close His ears against the groans and prayers of love.” 
because we keep his commandments. This is in harmony with the Gospel and with Scripture generally: “We know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and do His will, him He heareth” (John 9:31); “The Lord is far from the wicked, but He heareth the prayer of the righteous” (Proverbs 15:29; compare Psalms 66:18-19; Job 27:8-9; Isaiah 1:11-15). 
and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. As a parent is disposed to bestow favors on obedient, affectionate, and dutiful children, so God is on those who please Him by their obedience and submission to His will. We can have no hope that He will hear us unless we do so live as to please Him. 
In depth: Our behavior not the only factor in whether God answers our prayer . The keeping of God’s commandments is not the meritorious cause of the granting of our prayers, i.e., on strictly theological grounds; the grounds are, of course, the merits and intercession of Christ; but it stands to reason that, if we endeavor to please God, He will hear us more readily than if we take no pains to do so.
God constantly teaches us that He will do to us as we behave ourselves in His sight. Thus Psalms 18:25: “With the merciful thou wilt show thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt show thyself upright; with the pure thou wilt show thyself pure, and with the forward thou wilt show thyself forward.” And similarly: “If I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me” (Psalms 66:18).
There are at least four or five conditions of acceptable prayer laid down in God’s Word—
(1) Asking in the Name of Christ (John -14).
(2) Asking in faith, believing that we shall receive (Mark ).
(3) Asking in a forgiving spirit (Mark -26).
(4) Keeping God’s commandments.
(5) Asking perseveringly. If we ask once or twice, and then discontinue, it is because we have no real wish for the spiritual grace or benefit we ask for.
WEB: This is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, even as he commanded.
Young’s: and this is His command, that we may believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and may love one another, even as He did give command to us,
Conte (RC): And this is his commandment: that we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he has commanded us.
And this is his commandment. [This] is the true test of all emotionalism. A true “belief” and a true “love,” verified by actual performance, negative and positive, of “the commandment;” that is, of all duty. 
In this short verse we have the whole of Christianity embodied in one command—not in two, but in one—for the Apostle welds together in one command believing in the Son of God and loving one another.  This combination and linkage surely, at least in large part, grows out of the fact that the necessity of love played such a major role in the teaching of the Son. [rw]
That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ. What is the meaning of “believing the Name πιστεύειν τῷ ὀνόματι”? We can believe a document (John ; ), or a statement (John ; ), or a person (John -38); but how can we believe a name? By believing those truths which the name implies: in the present case by believing that Jesus is the Savior, is the Messiah, is the Son of God. To produce this belief and its consequence, eternal life, is the purpose of John's Gospel (John ); it is also the will of God (John ), and the command of His Son (John 14:1). This belief will inevitably produce as its fruit that we “love one another [present tense of what is habitual], even as Christ gave us commandment” (John ; , 17). Throughout the Epistle, and especially in this passage (verses 22-24), the references to Christ's farewell discourses in the Gospel are frequent. Here the main ideas of those discourses are represented—obedience to the Divine commands, particularly as to faith and love; promised answer to prayer, abiding in God; the gift of the Spirit. 
and love one another. Piety and morality cannot live without each other. 
This implies that we should be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven us; it implies that we should be very careful not in the least degree to set an evil example; that we should sympathize with our fellow members of Christ’s Body; that we should be conformed to all that law of charity [= love] which the Holy Spirit has enjoined upon us in the words of St. John’s brother Apostle, St. Paul (1 Corinthians 13). 
as he gave us commandment. Active love [is presented] as the necessary effect of living faith. 
If “he” were God, the present statement would only repeat practically the first words of the verse. But making it Christ, the writer adds the confirmation and pattern of a well known historical fact. 
WEB: He who keeps his commandments remains in him, and he in him. By this we know that he remains in us, by the Spirit which he gave us.
Young’s: and he who is keeping His commands, in Him he doth remain, and He in him; and in this we know that He doth remain in us, from the Spirit that He gave us.
Conte (RC): And those who keep his commandments abide in him, and he in them. And we know that he abides in us by this: by the Spirit, whom he has given to us.
And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in [abides in, ESV, NASB] him. Note the plural “commandments.” Though love is the central commandment John chooses to emphasize, he does not wish anyone to have the delusion that in some pretense of observing that necessity, that they can safely overlook and ignore the other instructions He has provided His people. [rw]
“Abiding in him” has been spoken of before in this letter (2:6, 27, 28; 3:6). The believer abides in him for safety, security, guidance, eternal life, joy, blessedness, peace. 
and he in him. In Christ Jesus, or in God the Father. This seems to be an allusion to our Lord’s words, John 14:23: If a man love me, he will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. That is, in this way we obtain fellowship with the Father, as well as with the Son; yea, the most intimate acquaintance, friendship, and communion with Him. 
And hereby we know that he abideth in us by the Spirit which he hath given us. He testifies to our spirit through the word He has inspired that this is the case—for it is the Spirit guiding what the apostle John writes in this epistle and the revelation of the Spirit is what we are to firmly embrace and hold to. [rw]
Spirit. The first mention of the Spirit in the Epistle. Never found with “Holy” in the Epistles or Revelation. 
BOOKS/COMMENTARIES UTILIZED IN THIS STUDY:
All commentaries are in the public domain; the copyright having expired or never been on them.
1 Marvin R. Vincent, D.D. Word Studies in the New Testament. 1886. Internet edition.
2 John Wesley. Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible. 1754-1765. Internet edition.
3 Barton Johnson. People’s New Testament. 1891. Internet edition.
4 Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, David Brown. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible. Unabridged edition. Internet edition.
5 Charles Simeon. Horae Homileticae. 1832. Internet edition.
6 James Gray. Concise Bible Commentary. 1897-1910. Internet edition.
7 John Dummelow, editor. Dummelow’s Commentary on the Bible. 1909. Internet edition.
8 Frank B. Hole. Old and New Testament Commentary. Internet edition.
9 E. M. Zerr. Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. Internet edition.
10 Arthur Peake. Commentary on the Bible. 1919. Internet edition.
11 John A. Bengel. Gnomon of the New Testament. 1897. Internet edition.
12 John S. C. Abbott. Illustrated New Testament. 1878. Internet edition.
13 Joseph Sutcliffe. Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835. Internet edition.
14 Matthew Poole. English Annotations on the Bible. 1685. Internet edition.
15 Paul E. Kretzmann. Popular Commentary. 1921-1922. Internet edition.
16 John Gill. Exposition of the Entire Bible. 1746-1763. Internet edition.
17 Adam Clarke. Commentary. 1832. Internet edition.
18 Albert Barnes. Notes on the New Testament. 1870. Internet edition.
19 Heinrich Meyer. Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. 1832. Internet edition.
20 Johann P. Lange. Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical. 1857-1884. Internet edition.
21 William R. Nicoll, editor. Expositor’s Greek Testament. 1897-1910. Internet edition.
22 Henry Alford. Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. 1863-1878. Internet edition.
23 Alfred Plummer.
24 The Pulpit Commentary. 1897. Internet edition.
25 John Trapp. Complete Commentary. Lived 1601-1669. 1865-1868 reprinting. Internet edition.
26 William Godbey. Commentary on the New Testament. Internet edition.
27 John Calvin. Commentary on the Bible. Internet edition.
28 Joseph C. Philpot (1802-1869). Commentary on Select Texts. Internet edition.
29 George Haydock (1774-1849). Catholic Bible Commentary. Internet edition.
30 H. A. Ironside. Ironside’s Notes on Selected Books. 1914. Internet edition
31 Lost source; rather than delete the material, I felt it better to simply list the unidentifiable volume and admit my error.
32 Charles J. Ellicott, editor. Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers. Internet edition.
33 Daniel D. Whedon. Commentary on the Bible. Internet edition.
34 Philip Schaff, editor. Schaff’s Popular Commentary on the New Testament. Internet edition.
35 Joseph Benson (born 1748). Commentary of the Old and New Testaments. Internet edition.
36 Thomas Coke (published 1801-1803). Commentary on the Holy Bible. Internet edition.
37 Robert S. Candlish. The First Epistle of John Expounded In A Series of Lectures. 1877 edition. Internet edition.
38 Arno C. Gaebelein. The Annotated Bible. Internet edition.
39 Joseph Parker. The People's Bible. Internet edition.
40 Thomas Scott. Commentary on the Bible. Volume Six. Fifth Edition. London: L. B. Seeley et al, 1822.
41 Bernhard Weiss. Commentary on the New
42 M. F. Sadler. The General Epistles of
SS James, Peter, John and Jude.
43 [Robert S. Hunt?] The
Cottage Commentary: The Epistle to the
Hebrews and the General Epistles.
44 Charles Erdman. The General Epistles: An Exposition.
45 W. H. Bennett. The Century Bible: The General Epistles—James, Peter, John, and
46 John B. Sumner. A Practical Exposition
of the General Epistles of James, Peter, John, and Jude.
47 James C. Gray. Biblical Museum: Hebrews to the End of the New Testament.
48 William G. Humphry. A Commentary on the
Revised Version of the New Testament.
49 Revere F. Weidner. The Lutheran Commentary: Annotations on the General Epistles of James,
Peter, Peter, John, and Jude.
50 A Short Protestant Commentary on the
New Testament. Volume
from the Third German Edition.
51 O. P. Eaches.
52 Henry A. Sawtelle. Commentary on the
Epistles of John.