corner graphic

Bible Commentaries

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

1 John 3

 

 

Verse 1

1 John 3:1. From the ἐξ αὐτοῦ γεγέννηται (chap. 1 John 2:29) the apostle goes on to the thought that he and his readers are children of God, whence he deduces the necessity that exists for them of ποιεῖν τὴν δικαιοσύνην. First, however, he points his readers to the love of God, through which they have become children of God, inviting them to the consideration of it by ἴδετε.

ποταπὴν ἀγάπην δέδωκεν ἡμῖν πατήρ] what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us. ποταπός (later form for ποδαπός, properly = from whence?) in the N. T., never in the direct question, is strictly, it is true, not = quantus, but = qualis (comp. Luke 1:29; 2 Peter 3:11), but is frequently used as an expression of admiration at anything especially wonderful (comp. Matthew 8:27; Mark 13:1; Luke 7:39), so that the meaning of qualis passes over into that of quantus; and so it is to be taken here also.

ἀγάπην διδόναι only here; διδόναι is more significant than ἐνδεικνύναι or a similar expression; it means: “to give, to bestow.” God has made His love our property (so also Braune). It is quite incorrect to take διδόναι = destinare, and, weakening the thought, ἀγάπην as metonymous for “love-token” (Grotius), or for effectum charitatis (Socinus).(190) The reference which Calvin finds in the word, when he says: quod dicit datam esse caritatem, significat: hoc merac esse liberalitatis, quod nos Deus pro filiis habet, is not indicated by John.

On ἡμῖ ν a Lapide remarks: indignis, inimicis, peccatoribus.

The name πατήρ points to the following τέκνα θεοῦ.

ἵνα τέκνα θεοῦ κληθῶ΄εν] Paulus, de Wette, Lüke, etc., retain ἵνα in its original meaning; “the greatness of the divine love,” says Lücke, “lies in the sending of the Son” (chap. 1 John 4:10). This thought is correct in itself; but the apostle is not here thinking of the sending Christ; it is therefore arbitrary to supply it; here there is in his mind only the fact that we—as believers—are called the children of God: “This is the proof and the result of love” (Spener); ἵνα is accordingly used here in modified signification, synonymous with ἐν τούτῳ ὅτι, only that by ἵνα the τέκνα θ. κληθ. is more definitely described as the purpose (not, however, as the object of an act distinguished from it) of the love of the Father; Ebrard unsuitably gives the meaning by the explanation ποτ. ἀγ. δέδωκεν ἡ΄. πατὴρ ἐν τῷ βούλεσθαι ἵνα κ. τ. λ., inasmuch as the love of God is bestowed on us, not in His will, but in the act which is the outcome of it.

καλεῖσθαι is erroneously explained by Baumgarten-Crusius = ἐξουσίαν ἔχειν γενέσθαι, John 1:12, so that the sense would be: “that we have the right to dare to call ourselves God’s children” (Neander); it is very common to take καλεῖσθαι = εἶναι, Augustin: hic non est discrimen inter dici et esse; this is so far correct as the name, which is here spoken of, inanis esse titulus non potest (Calvin), for: “where God gives a name, He always gives the nature itself along with it” (Besser); the εἶναι is included in the καλεῖσθαι; yet the very fact of being called is significant, for it is only in the name that the being is revealed, and it is through that giving of a name that the separation of believers from the world is actually accomplished. ἵνακληθῶμε ν is usually translated: “that we should be called.” Ewald adds: “at the day of judgment,” but it is not the future, but the present, that is here spoken of; κληθῶμεν is therefore not to be taken as the subj. fut., but as the subj. aor.: “that we were named, and therefore are called.” Braune would explain the apostle’s expression in this way, that being children of God is “a work only gradually accomplished, an operation;” incorrectly, for “being the children of God” is certainly “a simply stated fact;” comp. the καὶ ἐσ΄έν and 1 John 3:2. Instead of τέκνα αὐτοῦ, John says τ. θεοῦ, because he wants to state the full name itself. The view of Baumgarten-Crusius has less in its favour, that the apostle contrasted πατήρ and θεοῦ in order to indicate: “He bestowed it on us lovingly, that we should be connected with the Godhead, inasmuch as the former describes the divine will, the latter the divine nature.”

καὶ ἐσμέν, which according to the majority of authorities is scarcely a mere gloss (see the critical notes), says John in an independent form, not depending on ἵνα (the Vulgate erroneously = simus),(191) in order still more specially to bring out the element of being, which was certainly contained already in κληθῶμεν.

Not in order to comfort believers in regard to the persecutions which they have to suffer from the world (de Wette, Lücke, etc.), but to specify the contrast in which believers as τέκνα θεοῦ stand to the world, and the greatness of the love of the Father who has given them that name, the apostle continues: διὰ τοῦτο κόσμος οὐ γινώσκει ἡμᾶς] διὰ τοῦτο refers back to the preceding thought (Bengel, de Wette, Brückner, Braune); thus: therefore, because we are children of God; the following ὅτι then serves to confirm the reason why the world does not know us as children of God. It is true, διὰ τοῦτο might be also directly referred to ὅτι (Baumgarten-Crusius, also perhaps Lücke, Ewald); but with this reference the sentence would come in too disconnectedly.

With κόσμος comp. chap. 1 John 2:15.

οὐ γινώσκει means: “does not know us,” i.e. our inner nature, which we as τέκνα θεοῦ possess, is to the world something incomprehensible; to it, alienated from God, what is godly is strange and inconceivable; comp. John 14:17. Many commentators unnecessarily deviate from this proper meaning of the word; thus Grotius, who interprets it = non agnoscit pro suis; Semler = nos rejicit, reprobat; Baumgarten-Crusius = μισεῖ (“therefore the world cannot endure us, because it cannot endure Him

God”).

ὅτι οὐκ ἔγνω αὐτόν] “for it did not know Him” (namely, God or the Father); S. Schmid erroneously explains ἔγνω by: credere in Deum; Episcopius by: jussa Dei observare; John’s idea of knowledge is to be retained, as in the case of γινώσκει, so also in ἔγνω (Düsterdieck, Ebrard, Braune).


Verse 2

1 John 3:2. After emphatic resumption of ἐσμέν, the apostle indicates the yet concealed glory of the τέκνα θεοῦ. He begins with the address ἀγαπητοί, which occurs to him here the more readily as he feels himself most closely connected with his readers in the common fellowship with God (so also Düsterdieck).

νῦν τέκνα θεοῦ ἐσμέν] νῦν is used in reference to the future ( οὔπω); it is here a particle of time, not = “now, in consequence of that decree” (de Wette); a contrast with what immediately precedes (Lücke: “amidst all mistake on the part of the world, we are nevertheless really now the children of God;” so also Düsterdieck and Braune) is not suggested by it. Hereby the present glory of the believing Christian is described;(192) before the apostle mentions the future glory, he observes that this is yet concealed: καὶ οὔπω ἐφανερώθη τί ἐσόμεθα] φανεροῦσθαι may, as Ebrard remarks, mean both: “to be actually revealed,” or: “for the knowledge to be revealed;” most commentators rightly take the word here in the first meaning; it is true, Ebrard maintains that this explanation is grammatically impossible, because φανερόω, as governing a question, can only have the meaning of theoretical revelation; but this assertion is unfounded, for in the N. T. usus loquendi (nay, even in the classics) the interrogative τίς, sometimes τί, confessedly appears where, according to the rule, the relative should properly be used; comp. Winer, p. 152; VII. p. 158 f.; Al. Buttmann, p. 216; and especially if the thought involves an assumed question, as is the case here.(193) That φανεροῦσθαι cannot here be understood of the theoretical revelation is clear—(1) from the fact that no ἡμῖν is put with it, which Ebrard arbitrarily inserts when he interprets: “it has not yet been revealed to us, no information about it has yet been communicated to us;” (2) from the fact that the apostle himself immediately afterwards says what Christians will be in the future; (3) from the fact that a confession of present ignorance is at variance with the natural connection; from the fact that with this view a very artificial thought results for the following words: οἴδαμεν κ. τ. λ.; see below.

By οὔπω ἐφανερώθη κ. τ. λ. the apostle accordingly states that the future condition of those who at present are τέκνα θεοῦ is still concealed, has not yet come to light (comp. Colossians 3:3; Romans 8:18).(194) This future state is, it is true, something different from the present, yet it is not absolutely new, but is that “which is latent and established in the present” (Düsterdieck, Braune).

οἴδαμεν ὅτι ἐὰν φανερωθῇ κ. τ. λ.] By οἴδα΄εν the apostle expresses his own and his readers’ consciousness of that which, as τέκνα θεοῦ, they will be in the future.

With φανερωθῇ we must supply τί ἐσό΄εθα, the meaning is the same as it previously has; so it is correctly explained by Didymus, Augustin, Socinus, Grotius, Paulus, Baumgarten-Crusius, de Wette, Semler, Lücke, Düsterdieck, Erdmann, Braune, etc. As Ebrard similarly supplies τί ἐσό΄εθα, but understands φανερωθῇ here also of the knowledge, there results for him this thought: “we know rather that when it shall be made known to us, we shall even already be like Him,” in which “the emphasis is made to rest on the contemporaneousness of the theoretical φανεροῦσθαι with the actual ὅ΄οιοι ἔσεσθαι;” but in this interpretation, which suffers from unjustifiable supplements, a reference is brought out as the chief element of the thought which is in no way indicated, and is foreign to the context.

Some critics supply with φανερωθῇ as subject χριστός, as in chap. 1 John 2:28, so Syrus, Calvin, Beza, Hornejus, Calov, Semler, etc. (Myrberg at least thinks that this is not omnino improbabile); this is, however, erroneous, as in this φανερωθῇ what immediately precedes is clearly resumed. It is self-evident that this revelation will take place ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ χριστοῦ; comp. 1 John 2:28.

ὅ΄οιοι αὐτῷ ἐσό΄εθα] αὐτῷ, i.e. Deo, cujus sumus filii (Bengel); the idea remains, indeed, essentially the same if αὐτῷ is taken = χριστῷ (Storr), but the context decides in favour of the first explanation. The apostle says: we shall be to God ὅ΄οιοι, not ἴσοι, because likeness to God will not be unconditioned, but conditioned by the nature of the creature, as a creature; in so far ὅ΄οιος may be translated by “like,” only this idea has something indefinite in it, and therefore Sander not unjustly says “that thereby the point of the thought is lost.” As John himself does not more particularly define this future ὁ΄οιότης of man with God, the commentator must not arbitrarily restrict the general idea on the one side or the other, as, for instance, by the reference to the “light-nature of God” (Ebrard), or the δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ (Düsterdieck), or the δόξα θεοῦ (de Wette(195)).

ὅτι ὀψό΄εθα αὐτόν, καθώς ἐστι] This sentence states the logical ground of the foregoing; Calvin correctly: ratio haec ab effectu sumta est, non a causa; so that the sense is: “because we shall see Him as He is, we therefore know that we shall be like Him” (Rickli; so also Socinus, S. Schmidt, Erdmann, Myrberg, etc.). It is a different thought in 2 Corinthians 3:18, according to which Bengel explains: ex aspectu, similitudo (similarly Irenaeus, adv. haer. iv. 38, says: ὅρασις θεοῦ περιποιητικὴ ἀφθαρσίας), according to which the sense is: “the beholding is the cause of the likeness” (Spener; similarly Baumgarten-Crusius, de Wette, Neander, Köstlin, Düsterdieck, Ebrard, Braune, Weiss, etc.). But John does not here want to explain whence the ὅ΄οιον εἶναι τῷ θεῷ comes to the believer, but on what the οἴδα΄εν is based. The certain hope of the Christian is that he shall see God. In that hope there lies for him the certainty that he will one day be like God; for God can only be seen by him who is like Him.(196) When Rickli remarks on ὀψό΄εθα: “not a bodily vision of Him who is Spirit; it is the spiritual beholding, the knowledge of God in His infinite divine nature” (similarly Frommann, p. 217), or when others interpret this ὁρᾷν simply by “to know aright,” and similarly, this is contrary to the sense of the apostle; for as the word itself indeed shows, an actual seeing is meant. For man in his earthly body, God is certainly invisible; but it is different with the glorified man in his σῶμα πνευματικόν (1 Corinthians 15:44); he will not merely know (the believer has knowledge already here), but see God; and, moreover, no longer διʼ ἐσόπτρου ἐν αἰνίγματι, but πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον, 1 Corinthians 13:12. Compare on the seeing of God, Matthew 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:7; Revelation 22:4.

By καθώς ἐστι the entire reality of the nature of God: “as He is, not merely in a copy, etc., but in Himself and in His nature, His perfect majesty and glory” (Spener), is described.(197) The relation of the single parts of this verse is usually regarded by the commentators as adversative; certainly νῦν and οὔπω form an antithesis, but the connecting καί shows that the apostle considered the first two thoughts less in their antithesis to one another than in their co-ordination, inasmuch as it occurred to him to emphasize them both equally: both that believers are now really τέκνα θεοῦ, and also that a glory as yet concealed—namely, likeness to God—awaits them. Between the third and fourth parts also a sort of antithesis occurs (hence the Recepta δέ), but here also the apostle is not anxious to bring out this contrast, but rather to add to the negatively-expressed thought, for its confirmation, the positive substance of Christian consciousness; comp. de Wette-Brückner, Braune.


Verse 3

1 John 3:3 shows the moral effect of the Christian hope; not the condition with which the fulfilment of it is connected, as Lücke thinks. The same combination of ideas, only in the form of exhortation, occurs in 2 Corinthians 6:18; 2 Corinthians 7:1; 2 Peter 3:13-14.

πᾶς ἔχων τὴν ἐλπίδα ταύτην ἐπʼ αὐτῷ] namely, the hope of one day being like God.(198) “In the case of πᾶς ἔχ. we can, as in 1 John 2:29, bring out the converse in the meaning of the apostle: every one … and only such” (Düsterdieck). The phrase ἔχειν ἐλπίδα ἐπί with dative only here; Acts 24:15 : ἔχ. ἐλπ. εἰς θεόν; but ἐλπίζειν ἐπί with dative: Romans 15:12 and 1 Timothy 6:17.

αὐτῷ, i.e. θεῷ] God is regarded as the basis on which the hope is founded. The idea of maintaining (Spener) is not contained in ἔχειν.

ἁγνίζει ἑαυτὸν καθὼς κ. τ. λ.] ἁγνίζειν (comp. on 1 Peter 1:22), not “to keep oneself pure” (à Mons, Bengel, Russmeyer, etc.), but “to purify oneself, i.e. to make oneself free of everything that is unholy;” in James 4:8 it is used synonymously with καθαρίζειν. This self-purification necessarily follows from the Christian’s hope, because the object of this is to be like God, and therefore also to be holy.

In reference to the opinion that this purification is described as an act of man, Augustine says: videte quemadmodum non abstulit liberum arbitrium, ut diceret: castificat semetipsum. Quis nos castificat nisi Deus? Sed Deus te nolentem non castificat. Castificas te, non de te; sed de illo, qui venit, ut habitet in te. The active impulse of this ἁγνίζειν ἑαυτόν does not lie in the natural liberum arbitrium of man, but in the hope, which the salvation work of God presupposes in man.

This purification takes place after the pattern ( καθώς) of Christ ( ἐκεῖνος, 1 John 3:4), who is ἁγνός, i.e. “pure from every sinful stain.” The want of harmony which exists in the juxtaposition of the ἁγνίζειν ἑαυτόν of the Christian and the ἁγνὸν εἶναι of Christ, must not induce us to take καθώς here otherwise than in 1 John 3:7; 1 John 2:6; 1 John 4:17, namely = quandoquidem, so that this clause would add a second motive for the ἁγνίζειν ἑαυτόν, as Ebrard thinks; the sense rather is, that the purity of Christ is the pattern for Christians, which the Christian by self-purification strives to copy in his life also.

ἐστί: “the ἀγνότης is a quality inherent in Christ” (Lücke); the present is not put for the preterite, but signifies the unbroken permanent state; chap. 1 John 2:29.


Verse 4

1 John 3:4. The believer is so much the more bound to holiness, as all sin is ἀνομία.

πᾶς ποιῶν κ. τ. λ.] corresponding to the beginning of 1 John 3:3, πᾶς ἔχων κ. τ. λ. The apostle is anxious to emphasize the truth of the thought as being without exception. ποιεῖν τὴν ἁμαρτίαν, as the antithesis of ποιεῖν τὴν δικαιοσύνην, chap. 1 John 2:29, is contrasted with ἁγνίζειν ἑαυτόν, 1 John 3:3; as the apostle “wants to contrast with the positive sentence 1 John 3:3 its negative counterpart,” “he begins with the antithesis of that idea which formed the predicate in 1 John 3:3, and makes it the subject” (Ebrard). The definite article shows that the idea, according to its complete extent, is intended as definite, as forming the concrete antithesis to δικαιοσύνη;(199) both the interpretation of Socinus: “to remain in sin,” and that of Baumgarten-Crusius: “to receive sin into oneself, to let it exist in oneself,” are alike arbitrary; even the very common definition: “to sin knowingly and wilfully,” is out of place here, as the subject here is not the way in which sin is done, but the actual doing of sin itself. According to Brückner,(200) by ποιεῖν τὴν ἁμαρτίαν “an actual moral tendency of life” is indicated; this explanation is apparently justified by 1 John 3:6; 1 John 3:8-9, but even in these passages the apostle’s meaning goes beyond the restricted idea of “tendency of life,” inasmuch as he certainly has sinning in view.

καὶ τὴν ἁμαρτίαν ποιεῖ] “ καί accentuates the idea that the very doing of ἁμαρτία is as such equally the doing of ἀνομία” (Düsterdieck); by ἀνομία we are to understand, according to the constant usus loquendi, never the mere non-possession of the law (differently ἄνομος, 1 Corinthians 9:21), but always the violation of the law, namely, of the divine law, of the divine order according to which man should regulate his life,—lawlessness (Lücke).(201) The sense therefore is: he who practises sin (in whatever way it may be) thereby makes himself guilty of the violation of divine order, he acts contrary to the θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ, chap. 1 John 2:17. According to Ebrard, τὴν ἀνομίαν ποιεῖν expresses the antithesis of ἔχειν τὴν ἐλπίδα ταύτην, 1 John 3:3; but it is more correct to perceive in that sentence—instead of a conclusion—the introduction of a new element, by which the sharp contrast with τὴν δικαιοσύνην (1 John 2:29) is indicated.

The following words: καὶ ἁμαρτία ἐστὶν ἀνομία, are added, partly to confirm the previous thought, partly to mark emphatically the identity of ἁμαρτία and ἀνομία which is expressed in it. The apostle does not want to give an exact definition of the idea ἁμαρτία (contrary to Sander), but to indicate its nature from the side “on which its absolute antagonism to any fellowship with God appears most unrestrictedly” (Brückner). The apostle could not more sharply express the antithesis between the character of the believer, who is a τέκνον θεοῦ, and will be ὅμοιος θεῷ, and the ἁμαρτία, than by showing ἁμαρτία to be ἀνομία, whereby he most distinctly opposes the moral indifferentism, against which the first section of the Epistle is also directed. Violence is done to the thought, both by limiting the idea ἁμαρτία to a particular kind of sin (a Lapide: loquitur proprie de peccato perfecto, puta mortifero), and by making ἀνομία the subject and ἁμαρτία, the predicate;(202) so also by mixing up references which are foreign to the context.(203) The καί by which the two sentences are connected with one another, Bengel translates and explains by: immo (so also Brückner by “nay”), with the remark: non solum conjuncta est notio peccati et iniquitatis, sed eadem; this is incorrect, for even the first sentence expresses, not a mere connection, but identity. The apostle could have written instead of καί the confirmatory particle ὅτι, or the like, but by means of καί the thought of the second clause obtains a more independent position (so also Braune).


Verse 5

1 John 3:5 contains a new proof of the incompatibility of the Christian life with sin; this exists in Christ, to whose example the apostle has already pointed in 1 John 3:3. Of Christ John states two things, while he appeals to the consciousness of his readers ( οἴδατε; the same is the case with the reading of א : οἴδαμεν)—(1) that His manifestation ( ἐφανερώθη, an expression which refers to the previously unrevealed existence of Christ in heaven) had this purpose: ἵνα τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἄρῃ; and (2) that He is without sin.

τὰς ἁμαρτίας αἴρειν may, of course, mean in itself “to bear our sins,” i.e. as the atoning sacrifice, in order thereby to procure their forgiveness, but here it means “to take away, to remove our sins;” for even although the Hebrew expression נָשָׂא עָוֹן signifies both, yet the LXX. translates this in the second sense only by αἴρειν, but in the first sense by φέρειν (comp. Meyer on John 1:29, and my comm. on 1 Peter 2:24); moreover, αἴρειν with John constantly means “to take away;” comp. John 11:48, John 15:2, John 17:15, John 19:31; John 19:38; and the context is also decisive in favour of this meaning, for even though in the thought that Christ bore our sins, inasmuch as He suffered for them, there lies a mighty impulse to avoid sins, yet the antagonism of the Christian life to sin appears more directly and more strongly if the taking away of sins is described as the purpose of the manifestation of Christ. Köstlin (p. 180) rightly says: “the expression signifies to take away the sins themselves, but not their guilt or their punishment, for it is added: καὶ ἁμ. ἐν αὐτῷ οὐκ ἔστιν, and in 1 John 3:8 : ἔργα τοῦ διαβόλου.” This interpretation in Calvin, Luther, Russmeyer, Paulus, Baumgarten-Crusius, Neander, Frommann (p. 449), Düsterdieck, Myrberg, Ebrard, Braune, etc., contrary to which Lücke, de Wette, Erdmann, etc., explain αἴρειν = “to bear;” Lücke: “the object of the manifestation of Christ is the bearing of sins as a holy offering in His death;” while others, as Bede (“tollit et dimittendo quae facta sunt et adjuvando ne fiant et perducendo ad vitam, ubi fieri omnino non possint”), Socinus, a Lapide, Spener, Sander, Besser (also Lücke in his 1st ed.(204)), combine both meanings. Weiss, it is true, interprets αἴρειν correctly, but thinks that the plural ἁ΄αρτίας “can only signify actually existing sins” which Christ takes away, “inasmuch as His blood cleanses us from their guilt;” but in the whole context the subject is not the guilt of sins, but the sins themselves. The plural, however, by no means renders that interpretation compulsory.

The pronoun ἡμῶν after τὰς ἁ΄αρτίας (see the critical notes) is regarded by Lücke and de Wette as genuine; Lücke: “because John would otherwise have written τὴν ἁ΄αρτίαν;” de Wette: “because its omission appears to be occasioned by the interpretation of αἴρειν = to remove;” Düsterdieck remarks against ἡμῶν, that in the whole section 1 John 3:4-10 there is no direct application expressed; from internal grounds it cannot be decided, inasmuch as τὰς ἁ΄αρτ. ἡ΄ῶν can be taken quite as generally as the simple τὰς ἁ΄αρτίας. In regard to the plural τὰς ἁ΄αρτίας, Düsterdieck rightly says that “thereby the form of representation is made so much the more vivid, as the whole mass of all individual sins is taken into view.” It is to be observed that John does not regard Christ, according to the Pelagian mode of thought, only as the motive for the free self-determination of man, but as the active living cause of sanctification determining the will of man. It is His crucifixion especially from which proceeds, not only the forgiveness of sins, but also (in and with this) the new life, in which the believer purifies himself ( ἁγνίζει), even as He is pure ( ἁγνός).

The second thing which John states of Christ is: καὶ ἁ΄αρτία ἐν αὐτῷ οὐκ ἔστι. The meaning of these words is not that in those who are in Christ there is no sin (Calvin, Paulus), but that Christ Himself is without sin; comp. 1 John 3:3; 1 John 2:29. This clause is not meant to confirm the preceding one (a Lapide: ideo Christus potens fuit tollere peccatum, quia carebat omni peccato, imo potestate peccandi; so also Oecumenius, Lorinus, Baumgarten-Crusius, Sander, Neander); but it is co-ordinate with it (Lücke, de Wette-Brückner, Düsterdieck, Braune), in order to serve as a basis for the following statement.

The present ἐστί is not used instead of the preterite (Grotius), nor is it to be explained in this way, with Winer (p. 239, VII. 251), that “the sinlessness of Jesus is considered as still present in faith;” but it rather denotes, as in 1 John 3:3, the character of Christ in its eternal existence.


Verse 6

1 John 3:6. πᾶς ἐν αὐτᾷ (i.e. χριστῷ) μένων] refers back to the exhortation in 1 John 2:27; μένειν, not merely = inesse, expresses close fellowship.

οὐχ ἁμαρτάνει] John hereby states the abiding in Christ and sinning as irreconcilable opposites; still it is not his meaning that the believing Christian does not sin any more at all, or that he who still sins is not in Christ, for in 1 John 1:8-10, 1 John 2:1-2, 1 John 3:3, he clearly enough expresses that sin still clings to the Christian, and that he therefore needs constantly both the forgiving and saving grace of God and the intercession of Christ, as well as self-purification. The solution of the apparent contradiction must not be sought by giving the word ἁμαρτάνειν here a meaning different from what it has elsewhere (e.g. = persistere in peccato; or with Capellus = sceleratum esse, or = to commit peccata mortalia); nor even by appealing to the apostle’s ideal mode of conception (de Wette, Düsterdieck; substantially also Weiss and Brückner(205)), for “John has here to do with real cases, and wants to indicate to us the marks by which it may be known whether a man loves the Lord or not, whether he is a child of God or of the wicked one” (Sander), as is clear from φανερά ἐστι, 1 John 3:10; but only in the fact that the Christian, who is a τέκνον θεοῦ, bears the contradiction in himself that he, on the one hand, it is true, still actually sins, but, on the other hand, is also actually free from sin—so free from it that he cannot sin (1 John 3:9); he has actually broken with sin, so that in his most inner nature he is in the most decided opposition to it; yet at the same time he finds it in himself, and indeed in such a way that he still actually sins (chap. 1 John 1:10), but inasmuch as he confesses it, and experiences the forgiving and saving love of the faithful God towards him (chap. 1 John 1:9), and with all earnestness practises the ἁγνίζειν ἑαυτόν, it ever loses more and more its power over him, and thus it results that it is no longer sin, but opposition to it (as something foreign to his nature), that determines his conduct of life; and hence the apostle may with perfect justice say, that he who abides in Christ does not sin (so also Braune(206)), which is quite the same as when Paul says: εἴ τις ἐν χριστῷ, καινὴ κτίσις· τὰ ἀρχαῖα παρῆλθεν, ἰδού, γέγονε καινὰ τὰ πάντα (2 Corinthians 5:17).

The antithesis expressed in the first clause is even more sharply brought out in the second, inasmuch as John does not say: πᾶς ἁ΄αρτάνων οὐ ΄ένει ἐν αὐτῷ, but: οὐχ ἑώρακεν αὐτόν, οὐδὲ ἔγνωκεν αὐτόν.

πᾶς ἁ΄αρτάνων is every one who leads a life in ἁ΄αρτία, and therefore has not come out of the κόσ΄ος into the number of God’s children;(207) such an one, says John, hath not seen, neither known αὐτόν, i.e. Christ. Lücke takes the perfects ἑώρακεν and ἔγνωκεν in present signification, the former in the meaning of “the present possession of the experience,” the latter in the meaning of “the present possession of previously obtained knowledge;” but this is not rendered necessary by the context, and hence the perfects are to be retained as such, although it must be admitted that John is considering the result as one that continues into the present. The meaning of the two verbs in their relation to one another is very differently explained; according to some commentators, ἑώρακεν signifies something inferior (Semler, Baumgarten-Crusius, Lücke in his 1st ed.), according to others, something superior (Socinus, Neander, Frommann, p. 223), to ἔγνωκεν; with the former view οὐδέ is taken as = “and still less,” with the latter as = “and not as much as;” both are incorrect, for a difference of degree is in no way suggested; yet the two expressions are not to be regarded as synonymous, so that ἔγνωκε would only be added to bring out the spiritual meaning of ἑώρακεν (Düsterdieck), for although οὐδέ can neither be necessarily “disjunctive” (Lücke, 1st ed.) nor “conjunctive” (Lücke, 2d ed.), yet the form of the clauses shows, inasmuch as the object is put along with each verb, that οὐδέ here has a stronger emphasis, and that John wanted to express by the two verbs two distinct ideas. In order to determine these, the original signification of the words must be retained; ὁρᾷν signifies neither “the mere historical knowledge of Christ” (Lücke), nor the perseverantia communionis cum Christo (Erdmann), and γινώσκειν signifies neither “the experience of the heart,” nor even “love,” but even here ὁρᾷν means to see, and γινώσκειν to know; but the seeing of Christ takes place when the immediate consciousness of the glory of Christ has dawned upon us, so that the eye of our soul beholds Him as He is in the totality of His nature; the knowing of Him when by means of inquiring consideration the right understanding of Him has come to us, so that we are clearly conscious not only of His nature, but also of His relation to us.(208)


Verse 7

1 John 3:7. While the apostle would reduce the specified antithesis to the last cause, and thereby bring it out in all its sharpness, he begins the new train of thought, connected, however, with the preceding, after the impressive address τεκνία (or παιδία), with the warning directed against moral indifferentism: μηδεὶς πλανάτω ὑμᾶς, which, as Düsterdieck rightly observes, is not necessarily founded on a polemic against false teachers (Antinomians, for instance); comp. chap. 1 John 1:8.

ποιῶν τὴν δικαιοσύνην, δίκαιός ἐστι καθὼς κ. τ. λ.] with ποιεῖν τὴν δικ., comp. chap. 1 John 2:29. From the connection with the foregoing we would expect as predicate either: ἑώρακεν αὐτὸν κ. τ. λ. (1 John 3:6), or ἐν αὐτῷ μένει (1 John 3:5); but it is peculiar to John to introduce new thoughts and references in antithetical sentences. By the subordinate clause καθὼς ἐκεῖνος (i.e. χριστὸς) δίκαιός ἐστι he puts the idea δίκαιος in direct reference to Christ, so that the thought of this verse includes in it this, that only he who practises δικαιοσύνη has known Christ and abides in Him; for he only can be exactly καθὼς χριστός (i.e. in a way corresponding to the pattern of Christ) who stands in a real fellowship of life with Him. It is incorrect, both to interpret, with Baumgarten-Crusius: “he who is righteous follows the example of Christ,” and also to take δίκαιος = “justified,” and to define the meaning of the verse thus: “only he who has been justified by Christ does righteousness.”(209)

There is this difference between the two ideas: ποιεῖν τὴν δικ. and δίκαιον εἶναι, that the first signifies the action, the second the state. The reality of the latter is proved in the former. He who does not do righteousness shows thereby that he is not righteous.(210)


Verse 8

1 John 3:8. ποιῶν τὴν ἁμαρτίαν] forms the diametrical opposite of ποιῶν τὴν δικαιοσύνην, inasmuch as it signifies the man whose life is a service of sin, “who lives in sin as his element” (Sander). While the former belongs to Christ, and is a τέκνον θεοῦ, the latter is ἐκ τοῦ διαβόλου; ἐκ does not signify here either merely connection (de Wette), or similarity (Paulus), or imitation (Semler), but, as the expression τέκνον τοῦ διαβόλου (1 John 3:10) shows, origin (so also Ebrard): the life that animates the sinner emanates from the devil; “not as if the devil created him, but that he introduced the evil into him” (Russmeyer). The apostle confirms the truth of this statement by the following words: ὅτι ἀπ ̓ ἀρχῆς διάβολος ἁμαρτάνει. The words ἀπ ̓ ἀρχῆς are put first, because the chief emphasis rests on them, inasmuch as those who commit sin are ἐκ τοῦ διαβόλου, not because he sins, but because it is he who sinneth ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς. From this expression it must not, with Frommann and Hilgenfeld, be inferred that John was considering the devil as an originally evil being,—in dualistic fashion (comp. Köstlin, p. 127, and Weiss, p. 132 ff.),—for John is not here speaking of the being, but of the action of the devil. In order not to accuse John of the Manichaean dualism, the attempt has been made to define ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς more particularly, either by referring it to the creation of the world (Calvin, S. G. Lange; also Hofmann, Schriftbew. 2d ed. I. 429: “since the beginning of the world,” or: “from the beginning of history, in the course of which the sin of men has begun”), or to res humanae (Semler), or to the time of the devil’s fall (Bengel: ex quo diabolus est diabolus); but all these supplements are purely arbitrary. Many modern commentators take the expression in reference to the sin of man, and find this idea expressed in it, that “the devil is related to all the sins of men as the first and seductive originator” (Nitzsch, Syst. der christlichen Lchre, 6th ed. p. 244 f.); thus Lücke, Düsterdieck, Ebrard, Weiss, Braune, and previously in this commentary; but this thought, while it no doubt lies in the preceding ἐκ τοῦ διαβόλου and in the following τέκνον τοῦ διαβόλου, and hence in the thesis to be established, does not lie in this confirmatory clause, apart from the fact that in ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς ἁμαρτάνει no reference is indicated to the sin of man. It is otherwise in John 8:44, where the more particular definition of the relation of the devil to men is supplied with ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς from the context (“since he has put himself in connection with men”); here, on the contrary, John does not say: “what the devil is to men, but what is his relationship to God” (Hofmann as above); but as he describes his relationship by ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς ἁμαρτάνει, as a sinning which has continued from the beginning, this can only mean that the devil’s first action was sin, and that he has remained and remains in that action. Likewise in the interpretation which Brückner gives of ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς: “i.e. so long as there is sin,” ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς does not receive its full force.(211)

The present ἁ΄αρτάνει describes the sinning of the devil as uninterruptedly continuous.

εἰς τοῦτο ἐφανερώθη κ. τ. λ.] As 1 John 3:6-7 refer to the second part of 1 John 3:5, these words refer to the first part of that verse; they not only express the antithesis between Christ and the devil, but they bring out the fact that the appearance of Christ has for its object the destruction of the ἔργα τοῦ διαβόλου, i.e. of the ἁμαρτίαι which are wrought by him (not “the reward of sin,” Calov, Spener; nor “the agency that seduces to sin,” de Wette). λύειν is used here as in John 2:19 (similarly 2 Peter 3:10-12), in the meaning of “to destroy;” less naturally some commentators (a Lapide, Lorinus, Spener, Besser, etc.) maintain the meaning “to undo,” sins being regarded as the snares of the devil.


Verse 9

1 John 3:9. Antithesis of the preceding verse; yet what was there the subject is here—in its opposite—the predicate, and what was there the predicate is here the subject.

πᾶς γεγεννημένος ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ] Antithesis to him who is ἐκ τοῦ διαβόλου (1 John 3:8); “by πᾶς the general signification of the clause is indicated” (Braune); ἁμαρτίαν οὐ ποιεῖ] is used in the same sense as οὐχ ἁμαρτάνει, 1 John 3:6. To be born of God and to commit sin are mutually exclusive contraries; for θεὸς φῶς ἐστι, καὶ σκοτία ἐν αὐτῷ οὐκ ἔστιν οὐδεμία, chap. 1 John 1:5; comp. also chap. 1 John 2:29; the child is of the same nature with him of whom he is born. For confirmation of the thought, John adds: ὅτι σπέρμα αὐτοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ μένει. Both the deeper context and the expression itself are opposed to the interpretation of these words, according to which σπέρμα is explained = τέκνον, and ἐν αὐτῷ = ἐν θεῷ (Bengel, Lauge, Sander, Steinhofer); for if the apostle meant to say that “a child of God remains in God,” he would certainly not have exchanged the word τέκνον, which so naturally would suggest itself just here, for another word, unusual in this sense. By σπέρμα θεοῦ is rather to be understood the divine element of which the new man is produced(212) (comp. Gospel of John 1:13), and which, as the essence of his being, keeps him from sin. According to many commentators (Clemens Al., Augustin, Bede, Luther I.,(213) Spener, Grotius, Besser, Weiss, Ewald, etc.), this is the word of God, in favour of which appeal is made not only to the parable of the sower (Matthew 13), but also to 1 Peter 1:23 and James 1:18. But that parable can here so much the less be adduced, as in it the reference is to the seed of plants; but here, as the allusion to the idea γεγεννημένος shows, “the comparison is made to the seed of human birth, as in John 1:13” (Neander); and in the two other passages the word is not represented so much as the seed, but as the means of producing the new life.(214) It is scarcely to be doubted that the apostle was here thinking of the Holy Spirit; the only question is whether he means the Spirit Himself, the πνεῦ΄α ἅγιον in His divine personality (so Beza: sic vocatur Spiritus sanctus, quod ejus virtute tanquam ex semine quodam novi homines efficiamur; Düsterdieck, and Myrberg; also, perhaps, Lücke and de Wette), or the Spirit infused by Him into the heart of man, the germ of life communicated to his nature (Hornejus: nativitatis novae indoles; Semler: nova quaedam et sanctior natura; so also Ebrard, Braune, and others). The figurative expression is more in favour of the second view than of the first, only this germ of life must not, on the one hand, be regarded as something separate from the Holy Spirit Himself,(215) nor, on the other hand, as love (a Lapide, Lorinus), for this is the life which has proceeded from the σπέρμα, but not the σπέρ΄α itself.

The thought that he who is born of God does not commit sin is still further emphasized by the words καὶ οὐ δύναται ἁ΄αρτάνειν, whereby, of course, not the physical, but no doubt the moral impossibility of sinning is described; both ideas, ἁ΄αρτάνειν as well as οὐ δύναται, are to be retained in their proper meaning, and not to be arbitrarily perverted; ἁ΄αρτάνειν must here, just as little as in 1 John 3:6, be restricted to mortal sins (a Lapide, Gagnejus), or to “sinning in the way in which they who are of the devil sin” (Besser), or “to sinning knowingly and wilfully” (Ebrard), or even merely to the violatio charitatis (Augustin, Bede); but just as little is the pointedness and definiteness of οὐ δύναται to be weakened and to be explained = aegre, difficulter potest, or similarly,(216) for the apostle here wants to bring out the absolute antagonism which exists in general between being born of God and committing sin (so also Braune); comp. on 1 John 3:6. With regard to the question as to the relationship of the thought expressed here to Hebrews 6:4 ff., comp. the remark on chap. 1 John 2:19.

As in the case of the first thought of this verse, so here to this second one a confirmatory clause is added, namely: ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ γεγέννηται; it is true, the idea of the subject seems to be here repeated (similarly John 3:31 : ὢν ἐκ τῆς γῆς, ἐκ τῆς γῆς ἐστι), but here ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ is put first, whereas in the subject it follows γεγεννη΄ένος, by which that idea is strongly accentuated; Bengel: priora verba: ex Deo, majorem habent in pronunciando accentum, quod ubi observatur, patet, non idem per idem probari, collato initio verso. The sense therefore is: Because he is born of God (comp. chap. 1 John 1:5), he who is born of God, i.e. the believer, cannot sin.


Verse 10

1 John 3:10 b. Transition to the section on brotherly love.

πᾶς μὴ ποιῶν δικαιοσύνην] refers to 1 John 3:7, and further to chap. 1 John 2:29; the meaning of ποιεῖν δικαιοσύνην is here the same as there; only that the idea δικαιοσύνη is indicated by the article as definite and restricted; comp. 1 John 3:8 : τὴν ἁμαρτίαν; 1 John 3:9 : ἁμαρτίαν.

οὐκ ἔστιν ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ] = οὐκ ἔστιν τέκνον τοῦ θεοῦ.

καὶ μὴ ἀγαπῶν τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὑτοῦ] Calvin correctly says: hoc membrum vice expositions additum est. The ἀγάπη is not a part of the δικαιοσύνη (Bengel, Spener, Lange, Neander, Gerlach), still less something different from the δικαιοσύνη, which must be connected with it (Rickli), or even forms an antithesis to it (Socinus(217)); but it is the essence and nature of the δικαιοσύνη (so also Braune(218)), or rather the δικαιοσύνη itself in reference to the brethren; comp. Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:14; Colossians 3:14; 1 Timothy 1:5; John 14:15. Besser: “brotherly love is the essence of all righteous life;” it is related to δικαιοσύνη just as to the περιπατεῖν καθὼς ἐκεῖνος περιεπάτησε, chap. 1 John 2:6. Ebrard erroneously tries to prove from the αὑτοῦ which is added that ἀδελφός = πλησίον, Luke 10:36, and is therefore used differently from 1 John 2:9-11, 1 John 4:20-21, for that John in this relative sentence passes on to the love of Christians towards one another is quite clear from 1 John 3:11; the αὑτοῦ only shows that, though in the foregoing the antithesis between the regenerate and the unregenerate is quite generally stated, this is for the special consideration of Christians. It is incomprehensible that the view, according to which John in this section speaks of Christian brotherly love (i.e. the love of Christians towards one another), is in antagonism with Matthew 5:44; 1 Corinthians 4:12 (according to Ebrard). The coordinating καί is epexegetical = “namely;” it is unnecessary to supply οὐκ ἔστιν ἐκ τ. θ.


Verses 10-22

1 John 3:10-22. This seetion treats of brotherly love as the substance of δικαιοσύνη, and is therefore most closely connected with the foregoing; it is the commandment of Christ (1 John 3:11), instead of which hatred reigns in the world (1 John 3:12-13); with love, life is connected; with hatred, death (1 John 3:14-15); in Christ we possess the ideal and example of love (1 John 3:16). True love consists not in word, but in deed (1 John 3:17-18); it produces firm confidence towards God, and obtains an answer to prayer (1 John 3:19-22).


Verse 11

1 John 3:11. ὅτι confirms the thought expressed in the foregoing, that he who does not love his brother is not of God.

αὕτη ἐστὶν ἀγγελία] αὕτη refers to the following ἵνα, with a retrospective allusion to ἀγαπῶν τ. ἀδ. αὑτοῦ. The word ἀγγελία = “message,” is here to be taken in the meaning of “commission,” “commandment.” With the reading ἐπαγγελία, comp. 1 John 1:5. By the words ἥνἀπ ̓ ἀρχῆς, which do not refer to the Old Testament period (Grotius: etiam sub lege), or to “the beginning of history” (Ebrard), the commandment of brotherly love is characterized as the ἀγγελία which is necessarily connected with the preaching of the gospel; comp. chap. 1 John 2:7.

ἵνα κ. τ. λ.] states, not the purpose for which the ἀγγελία is given, but the import of it, as frequently with words of wishing, commanding, etc.; comp. Buttm. p. 203 ff.(219) The ἀγαπῶ΄εν ἀλλήλους shows that the apostle is in this section treating of the love of Christians towards one another; it is self-evident that the Christian has to fulfil 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; it is only on the ground of this antithesis that it can be said: ΄ὴ ἀγαπᾶτε τὸν κόσ΄ον, 1 John 2:15.


Verse 12

1 John 3:12. The converse of Christian brotherly love is the hatred of the world, which has its example in Cain.

οὐ καθὼς κάϊν κ. τ. λ.] Contrary to the opinion of Grotius, with which Lücke agrees, that before καθώς we must supply “ οὐκ ᾦμεν ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ” dependent on ἵνα, de Wette has shown the clumsiness of speech that would result with this construction; it is unjustifiable, however, on the side of the thought also, for it is impossible that John would say that to Christians the commandment has been given from the beginning, not to be ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῖ. Most commentators supply after οὐ the thought “we should be disposed,” and after κάϊν the relative ὅς. Thus there certainly results a good sense; but if the apostle had thought thus, he would also have expressed himself thus; at least he would not have left out the ὅς. De Wette rightly finds here “an inexact comparison of contrast, as John 6:58, only still more difficult to supply, and just on that account not to be supplied,” i.e. by a definitely formulated sentence (so also Braune). Christians are (and therefore should also show themselves as) the opposite of Cain; they are ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ, Cain was ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ; τοῦ πονηροῦ is not neuter, but masculine; πονηρός = διάβολος; comp. especially Matthew 13:38.(220)

καὶ ἔσφαξεν τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῖ] This murder of his brother is the evidence that Cain was ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ. The verb σφάζειν (besides here, only in the Apocalypse), strictly used of slaughter, indicates the violence of the action;(221) the diabolical character of it is brought out by the following: καὶ χάριν τίνος κ. τ. λ.; the form of the sentence in question and answer serves to bring out emphatically the thought contained in it, that the hatred of Cain towards his brother was founded in his hatred towards the good, i.e. that which is of God, for it is just in this that the hatred of the world towards believing Christians is also founded.(222) The correspondence between ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ and τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ πονηρά, which J. Lange and Düsterdieck have already noticed, is to be observed.


Verse 13

1 John 3:13. If Cain is the type of the world, it is not to be wondered at that the children of God are hated by it; accordingly the apostle says: μὴ θαυμάζετε κ. τ. λ.; comp. 1 John 3:1; not exactly to comfort his readers about it, but rather to bring out the antithesis clearly; 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 particle εἰ expresses here neither a doubt nor even merely possibility; for that the world hates the children of God is not merely possible, but in the nature of the case necessary; it is only the form of the sentence, and not the thought of it, that is hypothetical;(223) comp. John 15:18, also Mark 15:44.


Verse 14

1 John 3:14. The contrast of love and hatred is at the same time one of life and death.

ἡμεῖς οἴδαμεν] ἡμεῖς forms the antithesis of κόσμος. Though the world hate us and persecute us to death, as Cain killed his brother, we know, etc.

ὅτι μεταβεβήκαμεν ἐκ τοῦ θανάτου εἰς τὴν ζωήν] comp. Gospel of John 5:24; the perfect shows that the subject is a present and not merely a future state; moreover, the apostle does not say that the Christian has received the title to eternal life (Grotius: juri ad rem saepe datur nomen rei ipsius), but that the believer has already passed from death into life, and therefore no longer is in a state of death, but in life. By ζωή is to be understood not merely the knowledge of God (Weiss), but holy life in truth and righteousness; by θάνατος, not merely the want of the knowledge of God (Weiss), but unholy life in lying and sin. The natural man is fallen in lies and unrighteousness, and hence wretched ἐν θανάτῳ: by the salvation of Christ he enters from this state into the other, the essence of which is happiness in truth and righteousness.(224) That the Christian, as such, is in a state of ζωή, he knows from the fact that he loves the brethren; brotherly love is the sign of the ζωή; therefore the apostle continues: ὅτι ἀγαπῶ΄εν τοὺς ἀδελφούς.

ὅτι refers, as most commentators rightly interpret, to οἴδα΄εν and not to ΄εταβεβήκα΄εν (Baumgarten-Crusius, Köstlin); the relation between ζωή and ἀγάπη is, namely, not this, that the latter is the originating cause of the former (Lyra: opera ex caritate facta sunt meritoria), but both are one in their cause, and are only distinguished in this way, that ζωή is the state, ἀγάπη the action of the believer: out of the happy life, love grows, and love again produces happiness; therefore John says: μὴ ἀγαπῶν (sc. τὸν ἀδελφόν, see the critical notes) ΄ένει ἐν τῷ θανάτῳ, by which the identity of not loving and of abiding in death is directly brought out.(225)

It is not without a purpose that the apostle contents himself here, where he has only to do with the simple antithesis to the preceding, with the negative idea: ΄ὴ ἀγαπᾷν, with which the ἐν τῷ θανάτῳ ΄ένει also corresponds; it is only in the following verse that the negation reaches the form of a positive antithesis.

΄ένει expresses here also the firm, sure being (so also Myrberg); it is therefore used neither merely in reference to the past, nor merely in reference to the future.


Verse 15

1 John 3:15. πᾶς μισῶν] instead of the preceding: μὴ ἀγαπῶν; not loving and hating are one and the same thing:(226) for pure indifference is not possible to the living human soul.

ἀνθρωποκτόνος ἐστί] This word (except only in John 8:44, used of the devil) does not signify the murderer of the soul, whether one’s own or one’s brother’s, but the murderer in the strict sense. Every one who hates his brother is a murderer, not merely inasmuch as hatred sometimes leads to murder, but because by his nature he is inclined to the destruction of his brother, and if he does not attain this object is only hindered from it by other opposing forces. As in the moral life it is not the outward act in itself, but the intention, that is of consequence, every one who lives in hatred towards his brother must by the moral consciousness (or by God, Drusius, Hornejus) be regarded as a murderer; comp. Matthew 5:21 ff., Matthew 5:27-28.

Hence it is clear that the real thought of the apostle is missed when μισεῖν is here limited to the odium perfectum (Hornejus). Baumgarten-Crusius erroneously denies that ἀνθρωποκτόνος refers to Cain, 1 John 3:12; this reference is clearly patent.

καὶ οἴδατε] de Wette: “whence? from the Christian consciousness in general.”

ὅτι πᾶς ἀνθρωποκτόνος κ. τ. λ.] He who takes his brother’s life cannot and must not retain life himself, his life decays in death; that is the order appointed by God; comp. Genesis 9:6. Accordingly he who in his heart murders his brother, cannot be in possession of the life which dwells in the heart, i.e. of “eternal life.” By ζωὴ αἰώνιος we are to understand the same thing as in 1 John 3:14 was described by the simple word ζωή; and ἔχει is to be retained as the actual present; erroneously a Lapide: non habebit gloriam vitae.

The adjective ΄ένουσαν Lücke, with whom Sander agrees, appealing to the parable of the unmerciful servant, explains by the fact that John is speaking to Christians who already had some part in eternal life. But the expression πᾶς ΄ισῶν shows that John is here speaking quite generally, and, indeed, in order to confirm the preceding thought: ΄ὴ ἀγαπῶν ΄ένει ἐν τῷ θανάτῳ; it must therefore be the condition of those who form the κόσ΄ος (to whom also the mere nominal Christians belong), of those accordingly who have no part in the ζωὴ αἰώνιος, that is stated. By ΄ένουσαν is therefore not suggested the loss of a previously possessed good; just as little as in the corresponding passage, Gospel of John 5:38 : τὸν λόγον αὐτοῦ οὐκ ἔχετε ἐν ὑμῖν μένοντα, where also the meaning is not that those addressed have previously had the word of God, for this is distinctly denied in John 5:37. The ΄ένουσαν is rather explained by the fact that he alone really has the ζωὴ αἰώνιος in whom it abides (comp. chap. 1 John 2:19); ΄ένειν expresses here also, according to John’s usus loquendi, the idea of being in a strengthened degree, and may accordingly be used quite apart from any reference to the previous state; μένουσαν is to be connected with ἐν αὐτῷ; he has not the life abiding, i.e. surely and firmly existing, in him.(227)


Verse 16

1 John 3:16. Whilst he who belongs to the world hates his brother and is therefore an ἀνθρωποκτόνος, Christians, on the contrary, are by the example of Christ to lay down their life for their brethren.

ἐν τούτῳ refers to the following ὅτι.

ἐγνώκαμεν τὴν ἀγάπην] “we have known the love, i.e. the character or the nature of the love” (Bengel, de Wette, Baumgarten-Crusius, Lücke, Sander); some commentators (Carpzov, Paulus, etc.) erroneously supply with τὴν ἀγάπην as a more particular definition: τοῦ χριστοῦ; others (Grotius, Spener, etc.): τοῦ θεοῦ. In Christ’s self-devotion to death, love itself became concrete. Without adequate reason Ebrard supplies with ἐν τούτῳ an οὖσαν, so that ἐν τούτῳ forms the predicate of τὴν ἀγάπην; thus: “we have known love as consisting in this;” and ἐγνώκαμεν is only used as an accessory.

ὅτι ἐκεῖνος] i.e. Christ; comp. 1 John 3:7, chap. 1 John 2:6. “He, says the apostle, without mentioning him by name, for He is to every believer the well-known,” Rickli.

The phrase: τὴν ψυχὴν τιθέναι, besides here and frequently in the Gospel of John, never appears elsewhere either in the N. T. or in the classics. Meyer on John 10:11 explains it by the “representation of the sacrificial death as a ransom paid: to lay down, to pay; according to the classical usage of τιθέναι, according to which it is used of payment; “Hengstenberg (on the same passage) explains it by Isaiah 53:10; but it is unsuitable to supply the idea “ransom” or “an offering for sin,” for the τιθέναι τὴν ψυχήν is not merely ascribed to Christ, but is also made the duty of Christians; besides, in that case ὑπέρ could not be wanting, as is the case in the Gospel of John 10:17-18. The derivation of it from the Hebrew שִׂים נֶפֶשׁ בְּכַף (Ebrard) is equally unsuitable, because “here the בְּכַף is essential” (Meyer). According to John 13:4, τίθημι may in this phrase also be interpreted = deponere (so most commentators), which is so much the more appropriate as in John 10. ἵνα πάλιν λάβω αὐτήν is conjoined with τίθημι τὴν ψυχήν μου, just as in John 13:12 it runs: καὶ ἔλαβεν τὰ ἱμάτια αὐτοῦ; “comp. animam ponere in Propert. II. 10, 43, and animam deponere in Corn. Nep. vita Hannib. I. 3” (Brückner). Perhaps τίθημι might also be taken in the meaning of “to give up” (Il. xxiii. 704: θεῖναι εἰς μέσσον, τιθέναι εἰς τὸ κοινόν, in Pape see τίθημι).

ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν is: “for our good” i.e. to save us from destruction; for the idea, comp. chap. 1 John 2:2.

καὶ ἡμεῖς κ. τ. λ.] comp. chap. 1 John 2:6. By this the climax is stated (John 15:13); but even every self-denying sacrifice for our brethren belongs to the τιθέναι τὴν ψυχήν, to which we are bound by the example of Christ by virtue of our fellowship with Him.

The reading θεῖναι is just as conformable to the N. T. usus loquendi as the Rec. τιθέναι, for ὀφείλειν is sometimes connected with the pres. inf., and sometimes with the aor. inf. For the idea, comp. Romans 16:4.(228)


Verses 16-18

1 John 3:16-18. Description of true love.


Verse 17

1 John 3:17. As the apostle wants to bring out that love must show itself by action, he turns his attention to the most direct evidence of it, namely, compassion towards the needy brother. “By the adversative connection ( δέ) with 1 John 3:16, John marks the progress from the greater, which is justly demanded, to the less, the non-performance of which seems, therefore, a grosser transgression of the rule just stated” (Düsterdieck). According to Ebrard, the δέ is meant to express the opposition to the delusion “that love can only show itself in great actions and sacrifices;” but there is no suggestion in the context of anything like this.

τὸν βίον τοῦ κόσμου: “the life of the world,” i.e. that which serves to support the earthly, worldly life; comp. Luke 8:43; Luke 15:12; Luke 21:4.(229) The expression forms here a significant contrast to ζωὴ αἰώνιος (1 John 3:15).

θεωρεῖν, stronger than ὁρᾶν, strictly “to be a spectator,” hence = to look at; “it expresses the active beholding” (Ebrard, similarly Myrberg: oculis immotis).

With χρεῖαν ἔχειν, comp. Mark 2:25; Ephesians 4:28.

The expression: κλείειν τὰ σπλάγχνα, is only found here; τὰ σπγάγχνα as a translation of רַחֲמַיִם appears both in the LXX. as well as often in the N. T. = καρδία; “to close the heart,” is as much as: “to forbid to compassion towards the needy brother entrance into one’s heart;” the additional ἀπʼ αὐτοῦ is used in pregnant sense = “turning away from him” (Lücke, de Wette, Düsterdieck). The first two clauses might have had (not, as Baumgarten-Crusius says, “must have had”) the form of subordinate clauses; but by the fact that the form of principal clauses is given to them, the statement gains in vividness. The conclusion, which according to the sense is negative, appears as a question with πῶς (comp. chap. 1 John 4:20), whereby the negation is emphatically brought out. ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ is love to God, not the love of God to us (Calov).(230) Here also ΄ένειν has the meaning noticed on 1 John 3:15 (Myrberg); incorrectly Lücke: “as John is speaking of the probable absence of the previously-existing Christian life, it is put ΄ένει and not ἐστί.” The apostle does not want to say that the pitiless person loses again his love to God, but that it never is really in him at all. Pitilessness cannot be combined with love to God; the reason of this John states in chap. 1 John 4:20.


Verse 18

1 John 3:18. True love proves itself by deed. The exhortation contained in this verse is, on the one hand, a deduction from the foregoing (especially from 1 John 3:16-17); but, on the other hand, it forms the basis of the further development.

τεκνία] Impressive address before the exhortation.

μὴ ἀγαπῶμεν λόγῳ μηδὲ τῇ γλώσσῃ] i.e. “let us not so love that the proof of our love is the outward word or the tongue;” μηδὲ τῇ γλώσσῃ is epexegetically added, in order to mark the externality of the love indicated by λόγῳ ἀγαπᾷν, inasmuch as it points out that by λόγος here only the outward word is meant; it is erroneous to regard γλῶσσα as a climax in so far as “one may love with words (without deeds), but in such a way that the words are nevertheless really and sincerely meant” (Ebrard), for John would not in the very least consider as truly and sincerely meant words of love which remain without corresponding deed. The article serves “to vivify the expression” (Lücke): the tongue as the particular member for expression of the word. It is unnecessary, nay, “contrary to the text” (Düsterdieck), with Beza, Lange, Sander, etc., to supply “ μόνον” with ἀγαπῶμεν κ. τ. λ.; for ἀγαπᾷν λόγῳ κ. τ. λ. in itself expresses the mere apparent love.

ἀλλʼ ἐν ἔργῳ καὶ ἀληθεία] Instead of the Rec. ἔργῳ, we must read ἐν ἔργῳ; according to de Wette, the two readings are synonymous; according to Lücke, ἐν ἔργῳ κ. ἀλ. has more of “adverbial nature” than ἔργῳ καὶ ἀληθείᾳ; “in τῷ λόγῳ the apostle is considering more the way in which love expresses itself, in ἐν ἔργῳ κ. ἀλ. he is considering more the form and fashion of it;” the preposition suggested itself to the apostle because the work, as being the realization of love, stands in an inner relationship to it, “is the element in which love moves” (Düsterdieck).(231) λόγος and ἔργον are frequently in the N. T. connected with one another, so Luke 24:19; Acts 7:22, and many other passages; in order to bring out the insufficiency of λόγος in 1 Corinthians 4:19-20, 1 Thessalonians 1:5, δύναμις is contrasted with it. By καὶ ἀληθείᾳ the apostle does not mean to add a second element of love, but to characterize the ἀγαπᾷν ἐν ἔργῳ as the true love (so also Myrberg); a love which does not show itself ἐν ἔργῳ is only an apparent love.(232) The relationship of ( ἐν) ἀληθείᾳ to ἐν ἔργῳ is just the same as that of τῇ γλώσσῃ to λόγῳ. The two words of each clause express together one idea, and these two ideas are contrasted with one another, so that it is not to be asked whether λόγῳ corresponds with ἔργῳ, and γλώσσῃ with ἀληθείᾳ, or γλώσσῃ with ἔργῳ, and λόγῳ with ἀληθείᾳ (against Düsterdieck and Braune). With the thought of this verse compare especially James 2:15-16; only here the thought is more comprehensive than there.(233)


Verse 19-20

1 John 3:19-20. Blessed result of true love.

καὶ ἐν τούτῳ] καί: simple copula.

ἐν τούτῳ does not refer here, as in chap. 1 John 2:3, 1 John 3:16; 1 John 3:24, 1 John 4:2, to the following thought, but to the foregoing ἀγαπᾷν ἐν ἔργῳ κ. ἀλ. The future γνωσόμεθα, which, according to the authorities, is to be read instead of γινώσκομεν (see the critical notes), “is used as in John 7:17; John 8:31-32; John 13:35, where the subject is the possibility of an event which may with justice be expected” (Braune): it is the more natural here, as the form of thought is the cohortative; the sense is: If we love ἐν ἔργῳ καὶ ἀληθείᾳ, we shall thereby know that, etc.

ὅτι ἐκ τῆς ἀληθείας ἐσμέν] weakening and partly erroneous explanations of the phrase: ἐκ τῆς ἀλ. εἶναι, are those of Socinus: verc talem esse ut quis se esse profitetur; of Grotius: congruere evangelio; of Semler: ἀληθεύειν ἐν ἀγάπῃ; of Baumgarten-Crusius: “to be as we ought to be;” of de Wette: “to belong to the truth; to live in it.” Bengel, on the other hand, rightly interprets the preposition ἐκ of the principium or ortus; so also Lücke, Düsterdieck, Braune, etc.; comp. John 18:37, and Meyer on this passage. The truth is the source of life in love. It is indeed in its deepest nature God Himself; but ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ must not I be put instead of ἐκ τῆς ἀληθείας, for the apostle here, with reference to the preceding ἀληθείᾳ, arrives at the idea of truth. Love ἐν ἀληθείᾳ is the evidence of being born ἐκ τῆς ἀληθείας.

καὶ ἔμπροσθεν αὐτοῦ πείσομεν τὰς καρδίας ἡμῶν] This sentence is not governed by ὅτι, but it is independently connected with the preceding, either depending or not depending on ἐν τούτῳ; if the former is the case, “we must take ἐν τούτῳ combined with πείσομεν somewhat differently than when connected with γινώσκομεν ( γνωσόμεθα); with the latter it would be more therein, with the former more thereby” (Lücke; so also Braune); if the latter be the case, the thought: ἐν τούτῳ γνωσόμεθα ὅτι κ. τ. λ., serves as the presupposition of the following ἔμπροσθεν αὐτοῦ κ. τ. λ. in this sense: if we truly love our brethren, we shall therein know, etc., and thus (in this consciousness of being of the truth) we shall assure our hearts, etc.(234) The idea that with καὶ ἔ΄προσθεν an entirely new thought appears, which stands in no intimate connection with the preceding (Ebrard), is contradicted by the καί, which closely connects the two thoughts with one another. What, then, is the meaning of πείσο΄εν τὰς καρδίας ἡ΄ῶν? Plainly πείσο΄εν expresses a truth which we (the subject contained in πείσομεν) impress upon our hearts, so that they are thereby determined to something, which presupposes at least a relative contrast between us and our hearts. The verb πείθειν means either to persuade a person to something, so that he thinks or acts as we wish, or to convince him of something so that he agrees with our opinion. Some ancient commentators have interpreted in accordance with the first signification: suadebimus corda nostra, ut studeant proficere in melius; the more particular definition which is added is here clearly quite arbitrary; it is not much better with the explanation of Fritzsche (Comment. III. de nonnullis Pauli ad Gal. cp. locis): animos nostros flectemus, nempe ad amorem vita factisque ostendendum, or even with the more recent one: anim. n. flectemus sc. ut veram Christi doctrinam tueamur (see Erdmann, p. 129 ff.(235)). It is very common to explain πείθειν here by placare, to calm, to compose; this, it is true, is in so far inaccurate as πείθειν has not this meaning in itself, but certainly the verb is sometimes used in such a connection that the purpose of the persuasion is the calming of anger or of a similar passion;(236) hence the original meaning of the word passes into the above. This may be the case here also, for the following καταγινώσκῃ shows that the apostle regards our heart as affected with a passion directed against us; then the following ὅτι, 1 John 3:20 (at least the second, for the first may also be the pronoun τι), is the causal particle = “because, since.” Taking this view, the sense is: In the consciousness that we are of the truth, we shall silence the accusation which our heart makes against us, because God is greater than our heart.

If, on the other hand, we take πείθειν in the meaning of to convince, ὅτι (at least the second) is = “that;” and the sentence μείζων ἐστὶν θεὸς τῆς καρδίας ἡμῶν is the object belonging to πείσομεν; so that the sense is: If our heart accuses us, we shall bring it to the conviction that God is greater than it.

The words ἔμπροσθεν αὐτοῦ, i.e. τοῦ θεοῦ, do not point to the “future judgment” (Lücke, de Wette), but to the representation of God in the devotion of the soul, which is peculiar to the Christian. By putting them first, it is brought out that the πείσομεν only occurs in this representation of God (Düsterdieck, Ewald, Brückner, Braune).—1 John 3:20. By far the most of the commentators take the ὅτι with which this verse begins as the particle, either = “because” or “that,” and explain the second ὅτι as epanalepsis of the first. The supposition of the epanalepsis of a particle has, considered in itself, nothing against it, although it very seldom appears in the N. T., but it is only suitable if ὅτι is the objective particle (comp. Ephesians 2:11-12);(237) from this it follows that if πείθομεν has the meaning “to calm,” the first ὅτι is not to be regarded as the particle. Sander, it is true, translates: “we can calm our heart, that

God is greater,” etc., but this has only sense if before “that” is supplied “with this,” or “inasmuch as we reflect;” such a supplement, however, is arbitrary. Several commentators (Hoogewen, Bengel, Morus, Baumgarten-Crusius, Ewald) regard the first ὅτι as the pronoun, as also Lachmann (in his large ed.) reads τι ἐάν. Düsterdieck erroneously asserts (as even Bertheau in the 3d ed. of Lücke’s Comm. p. 339, Ebrard, and now even Brückner and Braune, have acknowledged) that this form is never found in the N. T.; it is true that in Colossians 3:23 it is probably not , τι ἐάν, but ἐάν that is to be read, although D*** E J K have the former, but in Acts 3:23 Tisch. reads ἥτις ἐάν (so also א ), and in Colossians 3:17, according to the overwhelming authorities, it is not τι ἄν, but τι ἐάν, that must be read (which is admitted by Lachm. Tisch. and Buttm.), and similarly in Galatians 5:10, not ὅστις ἄν, but ὅστις ἐάν (also accepted by Lachm. Tisch. 7, and Buttm.); moreover, there is nothing syntactically against reading here , τι ἐάν, for καταγινώσκειν is frequently construed with the accusative of the thing. Ebrard, however, thinks that this view is “improbable,” nay, “absolutely impossible;” “improbable,” because in 1 John 3:22 ἐάν is used, but in the 1st ed. of this comm. it was shown that ἐάν is by no means the constant form with John, but that in the Gospel, John 2:5, John 14:13, John 15:16, , τι ἄν also appears,(238) and that the sudden change of forms is found elsewhere also in the N. T., as in Matthew 5:19, first ὃς ἐάν, and afterwards ὃς δʼ ἄν is used, and. in Matthew 16:19, in some codd. (Lachm.), first ἄν, and then ἐάν is read; “absolutely impossible,” “on account of the mutual relationship of the two conditional clauses, 1 John 3:20 and 1 John 3:21;” certainly the ἐάν in 1 John 3:21 seems to form a sharp antithesis to the ἐάν in 1 John 3:20, but it must not be unnoticed that, similar though the two clauses are to one another, they nevertheless have not the pure form of antithesis, inasmuch as in 1 John 3:21 there is no antithetical particle, in the clauses the succession of the particular words is different, and the first conditional clause only forms an inserted intermediate clause.(239) In favour of the explanation: “before Him shall we calm our heart, whatever it may accuse us of, because,” etc. (or convince … that, etc.), is the fact that not only is the idea καταγινώσκῃ thereby more closely connected with πείσομεν, but also the certainly strange epanalepsis of the ὅτι is avoided.(240)

The verb καταγινώσκειν, according to Lücke, does not signify condemnation, but only accusation; in the inner life of the heart, however, the two are not distinctly separated from one another, but the accusation of conscience rather includes the condemnation; the special κατάκρισις is certainly the work of God.(241) The object of the καταγινώσκειν of the heart is variously defined by the commentators, some understanding by it, with reference to the preceding thought, the “want of love,” others more generally the sinfulness which still adheres to believers even with all the consciousness of loving the brethren (chap. 1 John 1:8). The decision as to which is the correct interpretation depends on the explanation of the following sentence: ὅτι ΄είζων ἐστὶν θεὸς τῆς καρδίας ἡ΄ῶν καὶ γινώσκει πάντα.

The old controversy is, whether God is called greater than our heart as forgiving or as judging; the former is the view of Thomas Angl., Luther, Bengel, Morus, Russmeyer, Spener, Noesselt, Steinhofer, Rickli, Baumgarten-Crusius, Sander, Besser, Düsterdieck, Erdmann, Myrberg, Ewald, Brückner, Braune, etc.; the latter is the view of Calvin, Beza, Socinus, Grotius, a Lapide, Castalio, Hornejus, Estius, Calovius, Semler, Lücke, Neander, Gerlach, de Wette, Ebrard, etc.

If πείθειν is = “to calm,” then μείζων must refer to the forgiving love of God; Lücke, indeed, gives the following explanation: “after John has said that only if we are, in active brotherly love, conscious that we are of the truth, shall we calm our hearts in the judgment he adds: for if the contrary is the case, if our conscience accuses us of the want of genuine love, then God is greater than our heart, and before His holiness and omniscience there is no calm for the accusing conscience.” But the assumption of such a declaratio e contrario, which is in no way hinted at, is only an artificial expedient for reconciling contraries. μείζων can only be referred to God as judging, if πείθειν has the meaning “to persuade.” As Ebrard regards this as the right view, and would begin “a perfectly independent new sentence” with καὶ ἔμπροσθεν αὐτοῦ, he states the meaning as follows: “In the sight of God we shall convince our hearts of this, that if (even) our heart (so prone to self-deception and self-excuse, and therefore small) accuses us (namely, of not practising love), God, the all-knowing, is greater than our heart, and we shall therefore so much the less be able to stand before Him.” This interpretation is contradicted, in the first place, by the fact that it separates the second part of the 19th verse from the first, nay, even places it in antithesis to it,(242) whereas such an independence is not only not suggested as belonging to it, but is refuted by the connecting καί, and in the second place, by the fact that the thought is in itself inadmissible. According to the representation of the apostle, we and our heart are regarded as contrasted with one another, inasmuch as our heart brings a condemning accusation against us, which plainly refers to the fact that we by our sins have made ourselves liable to the judgment of God; it is not we therefore that hold out to our heart, but our heart that holds out to us, the judgment of God; how, then, shall we after this bring our heart to the conviction that God will condemn us, nay, will condemn us even more than our heart does already? From this it follows that—whatever be the meaning of πείθειν

μείζων cannot refer to the judicial activity of God. As God is called ΄είζων in comparison with our heart that condemns us, the comparison expresses an opposition; Erdmann: Notioni cordis condemnantis magnitudo Dei comparatur et opponitur; the heart, inasmuch as it condemns us, is like the “hostis, qui nos aggreditur, sed Deus ΄είζων h. e. fortior est, ut hostem illum devincere possit” (comp. 1 John 4:4). As this greatness of God, which surpasses the heart, proves itself in this, that in those who are ἐκ τῆς ἀληθείας it overcomes the accusations of the heart, those commentators are right who assign to this verse a comforting tendency, and therefore refer ΄είζων to the forgiving love; no doubt, it is objected that the thought of God’s omniscience ( γινώσκει πάντα(243)) is not able to comfort the man whom conscience accuses, but this can only hold good in reference to those who are not yet ἐκ τῆς ἀληθείας, and not in reference to those of whom John is here speaking, namely, those who in their sincere love to the brethren have the evidence that they are ἐκ τῆς ἀληθείας.(244) If this is the right interpretation, then it is clear that καταγινώσκειν does not refer to the want of love, but to sin in general, from which even the τέκνον τοῦ θεοῦ is not yet free (1 John 1:8 ff.); and this is also indicated by the apostle’s very form of expression, if πείσο΄εν is directly connected with καταγινώσκει, and if, accordingly, , τι ἐάν is to be read (see above), in which case ὅτι ΄είζων ἐστι κ. τ. λ. states the objective ground of the πείθειν: “because God is greater than our heart, we therefore (in the consciousness that we are of the truth) shall calm our hearts before God, however much our heart may accuse us.” This interpretation deserves the preference before that, according to which πείσομεν is = “to convince,” and ὅτι μείζων κ. τ. λ. the object governed by it, because not only does the purpose of the verse thereby appear, more clearly, but it is not easy to perceive how the conviction of the greatness of God which overcomes the heart should result from the consciousness ὅτι ἐκ τῆς ἀληθείας ἐσ΄έν.(245)

It is further to be observed that de Wette makes the first ὅτι as causal particle dependent on πείσο΄εν (= to calm), the second, on the other hand, on καταγινώσκῃ: “for, if our heart accuses us because God is greater than our heart, He also knows all things;” but this construction is opposed not only by the fact that the καί is more naturally taken as copula (Baumgarten-Crusius), but also by the fact that the thought, that our heart condemns us because God is greater than our heart, is incorrect.(246)

Without adequate ground, Erdmann thinks that καρδία in 1 John 3:19 is used in a wider sense than in 1 John 3:20 (“vertimus πείσο΄εν τὰς καρδίας: nobis ipsis persuadebimus”), because there the plural, and here the singular, is used; this change of the number has no influence on the meaning of the word, but the apostle speaks of the καρδία as the object of πείθειν, and as the subject of καταγινώσκειν, inasmuch as the heart is the seat or the union of the affections; the Greek commentators explain καρδία here as synonymous with συνείδησις.

καταγινώσκειν means: to pronounce against a person that he is guilty; κατακρίνειν, on the other hand: to pronounce the merited punishment on a person.


Verse 21

1 John 3:21. In this verse the apostle states the case of our heart not accusing (or condemning) us. We can understand it thus, that what he previously observed has happened, namely, that in the consciousness that we are of the truth, we have induced our heart to refrain from its accusation against us. Then this thought does not stand to the preceding one in the relation of antithesis (as if in this verse a different case was contrasted with the case stated in 1 John 3:20), but in that of continuation;(247) but it is more correct to suppose that the apostle is here speaking of a relationship which is different from that indicated in 1 John 3:20, and that he is not regarding the question whether the non-condemnation has never taken place at all, or has been only brought about by persuasion. That two sentences may stand to one another in the relation of antithesis even without the antithetical particle, is proved by chap. 1 John 1:8-9.

παῤῥησίαν ἔχομεν πρὸς τὸν θεόν] states what occurs when the case exists which is mentioned by ἐάν; it is erroneous to explain παῤῥησίαν ἔχομεν = πείσομεν τὰς καρδίας ἡμῶν; the same expression in chap. 1 John 2:28 and 1 John 4:17, and construed with πρός, chap. 1 John 5:14; the same construction in Romans 5:1 : εἰρήνην ἔχ. πρὸς τὸν θεόν. As the calming of the heart, so also confidence toward God, which is the subject here, is based on the fact that God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.


Verse 22

1 John 3:22. By καί the following is closely connected with the preceding, inasmuch as it states what further happens when, in consequence of non-condemnation on the part of the heart, the παῤῥησία πρὸς τὸν θεόν exists; it is not merely the consciousness of the hearing of our prayers, but it is this hearing itself.

ἐὰν αἰτῶμεν] is to be taken quite generally, and must not be spoiled by arbitrary limitations; the necessary limitation lies, on the one hand, in the subject itself: the child of God asks for nothing which is contrary to his Father’s will, comp. 1 John 5:14; and, on the other hand, in the παῤῥησία with which he prays; comp. Matthew 21:22; the contrary in James 1:6-7.

λαμβάνομεν ἀπʼ αὐτοῦ] i.e. τοῦ θεοῦ. The present is not used instead of the future (Grotius); the subject is here not something future, but what constantly occurs in the life of believers. Augustine suitably says: Charitas ipsa gemit, charitas ipsa orat, contra hanc aures claudere non novit, qui illam dedit.

ὅτι τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ κ. τ. λ.] ὅτι is connected with the immediately preceding λαμβάνομεν, and states the ground of God’s manifestation of love in the hearing of prayer; this ground, which, however, is not to be regarded as the causa meritoria, is the childlike obedience of him who prays, wherein God recognises him as His child; the idea of obedience is expressed in two mutually co-ordinate sentences (similar to the Hebrew parallelism): τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ and τὰ ἀρεστὰ ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ are synonymous;(248) by ποιεῖν the obedience is specified as active; the second clause indicates that it consists, not in a slavish subjection to the commandment, but in a childlike fulfilment of that which is pleasing to God. In John 8:29, ἀρεστόν is construed with the dative; only in Acts 6:2; Acts 12:3 is the word besides found; similar is the expression: ἀπόδεκτον ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ (1 Timothy 5:4).


Verse 23

1 John 3:23. With this verse, which—as the statement of the substance of God’s commandments—is most closely connected with the preceding, begins a new leading section, indeed the last in the Epistle, inasmuch as in ἵνα πιστεύσωμεν τῷ ὀνόματι κ. τ. λ. a new element of the development of ideas appears, by which the sequel is not merely “prepared for” (Ebrard), but is dominated.

καί is not explicative, but simply copulative.

αὕτη refers to the following ἵνα, which here also does not merely state the purpose (Braune), but the substance.

ἐντολὴ αὐτοῦ] The singular is used, because the manifold commandments in their inner nature form one unity: this is especially true of the two commandments of faith and love, here mentioned. From the fact that faith is described as an ἐντολή, it must not be inferred that it is not a work of God in man, but it certainly follows that neither can it be accomplished without the self-activity of man.

The phrase πιστεύειν τῷ ὀνόματι τοῦ υἱοῦ κ. τ. λ. only appears here; in chap. 1 John 5:13 the preposition εἰς is used instead of the dative; so also in John 1:12; John 2:23; John 3:18, etc.; by the dative the ὄνομα of Christ is indicated as the object of devoted, believing trust;(249) “to believe on the name of Christ” is, however, identical with “to believe on Christ,” inasmuch as in the name the nature of Him who is spoken of is expressed; comp. Meyer on John 1:12. Grotius quite erroneously: propter Christum sive Christo auctore Deo credere.

While faith is the fundamental condition of the Christian life, brotherly love is the active proof of the living character of the faith; the two things cannot be separated from one another; hence it follows here: καὶ ἀγαπῶ΄εν ἀλλήλους,(250) which as the effect is distinguished from πιστεύειν as the cause; καί is therefore copulative and not epexegetical (as Frommann thinks, p. 591).

The subordinate clause: καθὼς ἔδωκεν ἐντολὴν ἡ΄ῖν, is best referred to ἀγαπῶ΄εν ἀλλήλους, inasmuch as it is not God (Estius, Bengel, Sander) but Christ that is to be regarded as the subject; by καθώς (“in proportion as”) the quality of love is indicated: it must correspond to the commandment of Christ; Myrberg: Non modo amandum est, sed etiam vere et recte amandum.


Verse 24

1 John 3:24. After the apostle has mentioned the substance of the divine commandment, he describes the keeping of it as the condition of fellowship with God, and states the mark whereby the Christian knows that God is in him.

καί is the simple copula, not = itaque; τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ is a resumption of the ἐντολὴ αὐτοῦ of 1 John 3:23; the plural is used because the commandment is described as containing two elements; αὐτοῦ = τοῦ θεοῦ, not χριστοῦ (Sander, Neander, Besser).

ἐν αὐτῷ μένει κ. τ. λ.] The mention of fellowship with God, which consists in this, that we abide in God and God abides in us,(251) is explained by the purpose of the Epistle.

καὶ ἐν τούτῳ γινώσκο΄εν] ἐν τούτῳ is referred by Lücke and Ebrard to the preceding, namely to τηρεῖν τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ; but thus there results a superfluous thought, for with the connection which according to the apostle exists between the keeping of God’s commandments and God’s abiding in us, and which he has expressed in the first half of the verse, it is plainly superfluous to say once more that we know the latter by the former; it is, besides, contradicted by the following ἐκ τοῦ πνεύ΄ατος, which has induced Lücke to assume a combination of two trains of thought and an ambiguity of ἐν τούτῳ,(252) and Ebrard arbitrarily to supply with ἐκ τ. πνεύματος the words “we know;” Düsterdieck, de Wette, Erdmann, Braune, etc., refer ἐν τούτῳ to ἐκ τοῦ πνεύματος, so that according to the apostle it is from the πνεῦμα which is given to us that we know that God is in us if we keep His commandments; comp. 1 John 4:12-13, where the same connection of ideas occurs. The change of the prepositions ἐν and ἐκ is certainly strange, but does not render this interpretation “impossible” (Ebrard); for, on the one hand, the form: “ ἐν τούτῳ γινώσκομεν,” is too familiar to the apostle not to have suggested itself to him here; and, on the other hand, by ἐκ the πνεῦμα is indicated as the source from which that γινώσκειν flows; besides, the construction with ἐκ appears also in chap. 1 John 4:6.

By πνεῦμα is here to be understood, just as by χρῖσμα in chap. 1 John 2:20, “the Holy Ghost,” who lives and works in the believer, but not, with Socinus, the disposition or the love produced by Him; or, with de Wette, “first of all the true knowledge and doctrine of the person of Jesus.” With this verse the apostle makes the transition to the following section, in which, with reference to the false teachers, the distinction is made between the πνεῦμα τοῦ θεοῦ and the πνεῦμα which is not ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ.

 


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on 1 John 3:4". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/1-john-3.html. 1832.

Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology