Bible: What Does 1 John 3 Teach Us About Habitual Sin and Brotherly Love?
We Shall See Him As He Is
The Meaning of Hamartano
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The Believer's Sonship
Amazed (“Behold”), John contemplates the unfathomable love of the Father that confers the status of sonship on believers (v. 1a; cf. John 1:12).
Spiritual ignorance of the true God perfectly explains why the world system despises Christians (v. 1b).
Designating his readers as “Beloved” once more, the apostle first reiterates the teaching that they at present are children of God, but then admits that God has not yet revealed their future standing.
All he knows is that at the Rapture (“when He is revealed”), Christians will become conformed to the image of God’s Son.
As resurrected people, they will see Jesus in His glorified state and be like Him, apart from deity (v. 2; cf. Rom. 8:29).
By meditating upon the certainty that they will one day become holy, they will begin to live holier lives in the present (v. 3).
John states that sinners rebel against God’s holy standards, and therefore act lawlessly (v. 4).
He also asserts that his readers know that the Lord revealed Jesus, the impeccable One, to remove their sins from them (v. 5).
Those who consistently draw upon Christ’s power do not sin habitually; however, those who miss the mark habitually (hamartanon) do not have a saving relationship with Him (v. 6).
Cain and Abel
Addressing believers tenderly as little children, John expresses his desire that they permit no teacher to tell them otherwise.
Just as righteous people consistently perform good deeds as Jesus did, so people who sin “as a regular way of life” (Ryrie, New Testament Study Bible, 444) belong to Satan, following the example he set from the time of his creation (vv. 7-8a).
Not only did God reveal Jesus to take away believers’ sins, but He also manifested His Son to “destroy the works of the devil” (v. 8b).
John avers that the regenerate nature (“His seed remains in him”) prevents the Christian from sinning habitually (“Whoever has been born of God . . . cannot sin”) [v. 9].
One can distinguish true believers from unregenerate “children of the devil” by a simple test: the unsaved neither perform good deeds as a habit of life (“practice righteousness”), nor do they follow Christ’s commandment to love others in God’s family (vv. 10-11; cf. John 13:34).
[What does John mean by “brother”?
Is it a Christian, a male sibling, or any human being?]
John names Cain as an example of one whose evil works set him apart as belonging to Satan; not only did Cain offer an unsatisfactory sacrifice, but he also hated Abel to the point of actually murdering him (v. 12; cf. Gen. 4:8).
The apostle then reminds them not to be surprised at the world’s hatred of them (v. 13).
Their love of other Christian brethren indicates that they possess new spiritual life from God (“we have passed from death to life”; see Jesus’ statement in John 5:24) [v. 14a].
People who hate others remain in the spiritual realm of separation from God, qualifying them as murderers who are devoid of God’s quality of life (vv. 14b-15; cf. Matt. 5:21ff).
[Some believers (Moses, David, and Paul) have literally murdered others (or arranged for their murder), but they also repented from their sin and trusted God and Christ to forgive them.]
Self-Sacrifice for Others
Two Inseparable Attitudes/Actions
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From Christ’s vicarious self-sacrifice, believers learn that they ought to imitate that example and love one another in the same way (v. 16).
However, John questions how God’s love can reside in a heart that refuses to part with material necessities to help a needy Christian (v. 17; cf. James 2: 15-16).
He exhorts his “little children” to support their words purporting love of brethren with deeds that truly demonstrate it (v. 18).
By exemplifying such behavior, they will prove to themselves that they belong to Christ and that they have no need to fear a condemning heart, because God knows their heart perfectly and does not condemn them (vv. 19-20).
John also mentions the opposite heart condition: one that does not condemn.
Individuals who are persuaded that they are “of the truth” trust implicitly in God, and confidently expect God to answer prayer requests because of their obedience to His commandments and their performance of faith-filled work (vv. 21-22).
The apostle links two specific actions/attitudes in one of those commandments: trust in the person of Christ and love for the brethren (v. 23).
Commandment keepers draw their strength from their intimate personal relationship with Christ; they know that the Lord provides spiritual sustenance for them through the Holy Spirit who also communicates God’s truth to them (v. 24; cf. Rom. 8: 9, 14, 16).
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