1 John 3:1-24 Comments by Stephen Ricker
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The Love of the Father
Comments for Study 4

1 John 3:1-24
Memory Verse: 1


I. The Love of the Father (1-10)

1. Why is it the great love of God that we should be called children of God? How did they come to be born of God? What are the privileges and blessings they received from God? (John 1:12)

2. In what way are the children of God contrasted to the children of the world? (1)

1 John 3:1 "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him."

* "great" -From Greek is "potapos". It is an interrogative meaning "whatever, i.e. of what possible sort". So it could say, as the King James' Version does, "...what manner of love..."

* "How great is the love of the Father" -John was thinking to himself in awe of the love of God the Father, but with intent for us to also behold this love, as the King James starts out "Behold, what manner of love..." "Love" here is the Greek word "agape" which is a word only used for God's love toward man in the Bible. It is the greatest love of all loves. Note that Greek has more words for love/like than English.

How great it is indeed for we were all wretched sinners, far from God, revolting, and at war with him by the sins we committed due to lack of control of the sinful nature. Yet, God accepted and cleansed us and gave us a new spirit. Sin and the sinful nature is gone. God did this when we accepted Jesus, the Son of God, as our Savior and Lord.

* "lavished" -Gives the impression of not holding back.

* "on us" -Meaning Christians only, which is spelled out in the rest of the sentence.

* "that we should be called" -not that we are called thus simply to say it, but that we hold the title with the full implications, and therefore are called by that title by another, namely God.

* "children of God" -In the societies of John's days families were different than in my days. Families meant more than offspring of. They held the social standard of their father's. His wealth was theirs, which they would inherit. His respect they would have.

* "And that is what we are!" -John wanted to emphasize that we are children of God, not servants of, not hired help of, not just those who are associated with God.

The Jewish and Moslem religions also claim this. Many cults also claim this, perhaps even quoting passages like this. One thing is common, they all stem from God's initial words to a person. But just because someone or some church quotes this does not mean that it is so to God.

How then can a person be assured of this? There are many things in this letter that tell me this. Several times in chapter 2 John wrote about the anointing of the Father. Most notable is verse 26, "As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit--just as it has taught you, remain in him." Also at the end of chapter 3 John says, "And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us." I, and all, must examine our hearts. Yes, I know that God exists. Yes, his Spirit testifies to me.

* The last sentence in this verse was to answer a question that perhaps came up a lot in John's day. But to me the logic of the statement is so apparent.

* Jesus said the world did not recognize and persecuted him, so it will happen to us.

3. What is the ultimate hope of the children of God? How does this also give children of God unshakable confidence concerning their future? What is the consistent inner life of those wo have such hope? (3)

1 John 3:2 "Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is."

* "we" -All Christians; No exceptions; this includes John and all others. It is not that some of the believers will be in the future state as the Jehovah Witnesses say. Rather all Christians will be in the future state.

* "now we are children of God" -John points out that we will not only be children of God in the future, but we already are children of God. Outwardly this is not apparent. Even my actions many of the times do not show this (although John wanted to stress in this letter that my actions should be as a child of God.) When I first truly and deeply accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior back in the summer of 1982 the Holy Spirit came on me powerfully and wonderfully. I experienced something that I never experienced before. The freedom of the healing, cleansing, and creating of one's spirit is exuberant. I decided to look in the mirror to see if my continuance had changed like my soul had. It had not.

* "what we will be" -The Christian life is not just in this world at the time "now". There is a future for us after the current physical body ceases to exist.

* "has not yet been made know" -The future state (existence of self) has not yet been made know. Thus, the logic of the sentence points out that the way I am now physically is not how I will be in the future. The future resurrection body will by physical, but not as it is now physical. Paul, in Corinthians 15 says the body we have now is a seed.

* "But we know"-It is not clear to me who John meant by "we" here. Perhaps he meant the apostles and all those they told. Definitely it is all that God chose to reveal this too.

* "he" and "him" -obviously Christ Jesus.

* "that when he appears" -Jesus will come again. It was certain to John and the first believers that Christ will come. This is because Jesus himself said that when he came the first time some two thousand years ago.

I do not know when Jesus will come. Many in my time say it is soon, for they say they see signs of the time all around us. Yes, the time is evil and there is much corruption of the soul. But, it still can get much worse so that it will equal the time of Noah.

* "we shall be like him" -There are many points to this phrase. First of all, Christians will not be changed until Jesus comes again. If I were to die before Jesus' second coming, I would not be changed into the state that I will be in until he comes to Earth again. "What will I be like than? Where will I be?" it could be asked. There are incitations of this elsewhere in the Bible. I go into this in great detail in my book The Believer's Future - Hope that Inspires. The book can be downloaded from my web site free of charge.

Secondly, we shall be like Jesus. This is amazing to believe. God will make us like Jesus. It does not says exactly like he, nor does it say we shall be him. Rather it says "like" him. We shall not be God, but we shall be like Jesus. In what way does this mean I do not know for I too do not know how we shall be. I only know I will be like Jesus.

* "for we shall see him like he is" -First, referring back to my comments on the previous phrase (the first point). John saw the resurrected Jesus. He ate with him and perhaps he touched him before he ascended into heaven. But here John says "we shall see him like he is" So how does Jesus look now (from the writing of this letter point of view)? John saw Jesus when he wrote the book of Revelation. In that book John described a glorious resurrected Jesus who shines greater than the sun. So I must now consider when John wrote this letter. Was is before or after he wrote Revelation? Most Biblical scholars believes John wrote this letter after he wrote Revelation, the Gospel of John, and the two letters that follow it. Most writing date of The Gospel of John in 85 A.D. and this letter after that, perhaps 95 A.D. There is a division amongst scholars at to when Revelation was written. They say either between 54-68 A.D. or between 81-96 A.D. because both were times of persecution to Christians). I accept that this letter was written after Revelation was written. Therefore, I believe that we will look like Jesus did in Revelation.

Second, the thought of seeing Jesus like he is. How great this will be! I remember a time when I deeply wanted to know if I would recognize Jesus when I die for John 10:4,5, and 14 records Jesus saying, "When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice." "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me." I prayed to God on this matter. That night God assured me in a dream that I would know Jesus when I get to heaven, and more importantly I did not have to worry because he already knows me. The day is coming when I will see Jesus as he is.

* We will rise from the dead and live with Jesus in a new resurrected body, in the New Jerusalem, a city God has prepared for his children. Considering this little that we know already, the things that is done to us in this life is worth living through.

1 John 3:3 "Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure."

* "hope" -Those who believe in Jesus look forward to the future. We do not have it now. But we have hope in the promises given us.

* "purifies" -without sin and the sinful nature. Hoping transforms our thoughts, emotions, and actions. Hope spurs us on. Hope in Jesus' promises compels us to endure the hardships and sufferings in this life. In fact we embrace that which Jesus calls us to because we know and hope that he rewards those who believes in him.

4. How does the author define "sin"? What are the reasons for "those who live in Christ" or "those who have seen or have known him" not to keep on sinning? How are the lives of the believers and the unbelievers each characterized?

1 John 3:4-6 "Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him."

* "he appeared so that he might take away our sins" -Jesus coming in the flesh as the second Adam is very important to the doctrine of salvation. Without him being flesh there is no suffering, no death, and no resurrection from the dead.

* God's seed will remain in us. God will not leave his children alone. Jesus said he will not leave us as orphans. He has sent us the Holy Spirit as his seed.

* "keep on sinning" -Refer to 2:1. This is habitual and uncontrolled sin. It is an unrepentant life. Its not caring if we sin or not.

5. What are the marks of the devil? Why? What is the standard by which one can be tested whether he is a child of God or a child of the devil? How do the children of God overcome the devil and his work?

1 John 3:7-10 "Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother."

* "in Jesus" -righteous

* "in Satan" -sinning

* "God's seed" -the Holy Spirit and the word of God

* Resist the devil and he will flee.

* Remember Jesus.

* Remain in Jesus by doing what is right.

II. Love One Another (11-24)

6. What is the heart of the Christian message? (11) In what way is the illustration of Cain its antithesis? (Matt. 5:21)

7. How does the motivation of Cain's murdering his brother give us a clue as to the human nature of those who belong to the evil one? (12) How does this explain the reason for the world's hating followers of Jesus for no reason? (13, Jn. 15:19)

1 John 3:11-12 "This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother's were righteous."

* "message" -taught, preached, discussed

* "heard" -Jesus often said, "He who has ears, let him hear."

* "from the beginning" -From the beginning of when they heard the gospel, the good news of salvation and freedom from sin and death. Being this was the message from the beginning means that it is an important one from Jesus and the apostles point of view.

* "Where then," it could be asked, "does the other commandments like the ten commandments come in." Matthew 22:37-40 records Jesus teaching, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

* Matthew 5:21-22 records Jesus saying, "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell."

* Cain did the opposite of love. His unkind words about his brother Able before and after he killed him shows the murder in his heart.

* Cain's problem was between him and God. Instead of submitting to God's counsel he blamed Able and took it out on him. In reality Able did nothing wrong. Able was righteous.

* John 8:44 records Jesus teaching about the religious leaders, "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies." They looked like good religious people on the outside, but inside they were worse than people who sin in public.

* John wrote this to believers in Jesus, Christians. He did not say, "Love your enemies," though we are to do that too. Rather, we should love those who are close to us. Often, practicing love to those who are close to us is hard to do.

* People who are like Cain, not mastering sin do not do what is right before God. They are jealous of those who do. Their evil heart leads the to speak evil words, leading them to commit evil acts. They try to wipe out everything and everybody, but they do no believe and accept that they are the ones who need to change. They are quick to take the speck out of others eyes, but they do not see the log in their own eyes. (Matt. 7:3-5)

* Emotions, a think of the heart, are harmless, but left untamed and cleansed by Jesus our emotions will drive us to commit evil acts. Uncontrolled emotions can make us have momentary madness.

* If I have a problem with someone I should confront it in my heart before God. If I am unable to overcome the problem, I should bring it to someone mature in the faith. It is wise to confess the sin to them and perhaps even the people I have the problem with. I should never let the problem alone hoping it will go away on its own.

8. What is the test by which a believer knows that he is in the spiritual state "having passed from death to life"? (14, Jn. 5:24) How does John emphatically declare the spiritual meaning of hate? Why do you think one who hates remains in the spiritual condition of death? (15, 2:11)

1 John 3:13-15 "Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him."

* Jesus said that the world will hate us without reason like they hated him without reason. (John 15:19) So we shouldn't be surprised.

* when we do what is right, that is Jesus' will, then our righteous acts convicts them of their sin. Then they will either have to repent. If they do not hate will grow in their hearts and bear fruit.

* A man who follows Jesus' command of love hates the sin we and others commits, but love the person. A mature believer in the Lord never hates a person even if they sin.

* Righteousness always exposes evil.

* "passed from death to life" -All those who put their faith in Jesus pass from death to life. (John 5:24) Therefore, all believers in Jesus will be hated.

* "because we love our brothers" -When we are hated we should return it with love. Jesus taught us that if we are hit we should turn the other cheek, and if someone steals our tunic we are to give him our cloak as well. (Matt. 5:34, 40)

* "hate" -wishing ill will, despising, no sympathy, judging, unforgiving, don't want to be around them. We don't have to murder someone to kill them.

* A good parent does a lot for a child that the child considers hateful and unfair. This is not so. The same is with our heavenly Father whose love is perfect. David said the Lord's rod and his staff comforted him.

9. How do Christians come to know what love is? What are the motivations and reasons why Christians ought to love their brothers? What does this teach us about the quality of Christian love?

1 John 3:16 "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers."

* Jesus is our perfect example of love. He is the standard by which we are to measure ourselves.

* "laid down" -put the other's needs and well being before our own comfort and needs

* 1 Thess. 2:8 "We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us."

* Christian love is a sacrificial expensive love. It is based on God's love for us.

10. What illustration does John give to teach us that brotherly love is a practical thing? How does this teach us that love demands action?

1 John 3:17-20 "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything."

* "actions and in truth" -In order for us to love like this we need to get involved in people's lives.

* Love is as practical and hate is.

* "love with words or tongue" -We can love with words and tongue. We should. However, we should not stop there.

* "truth" -fro the heart, that is the motivation that all actions should come from. Jesus loved in action and truth.

* When we hate we are uncomfortable and become a restless wanderer like Cain. When we love we rest in peace. Jesus taught that if we did something wrong to a brother in Christ we should seek his forgiveness before the sun goes down.

* "our hearts condemn us" -the conscience. At times we don't love our brothers and sisters in Christ in action and truth. This bothers us at first in our conscience. If ignored worse things can happen. Because it is in our hearts, the evil emotion has already brought sin to us. The conscience helps us deal with us before it bears fruit.

11. How does brotherly love bring rest and assurance in our hearts? Why are God's approval and condemnation more important that that of our own hearts?

12. What other confidence does one have before God as he obeys God's commands of love? What are the two most important commands? How do we know that we live in God and God in us?

1 John 3:21-24 "Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us."

* "and receive from him anything we ask" -because we are one with God, his will and passion.

* We should always seek what will please our heavenly Father.

* "commands" -only two are mentioned and needed because all the rest our come to life in the person who has these two in their hearts.

* "Spirit confirms" -God dwells in our hearts. Our body is a temple. He speaks to us. We should open our spiritual ears to heart him.

* Obey the Spirit.

* Rom. 8:14-15