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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

1 John 3

 

 

Verse 1

1 John 3:1. Behold, what manner of love, &c.— The word behold, is made use of to excite new degrees of attention; and indeed is generally used in the scripture as a kind of hand, to point out what is peculiarly worthy our attention. The word ποταπος, rendered what manner, properly signifies quantity; when it denotes quality, it is some eminent sort or high degree of the kind. In either sense it will suit this place; but the latter seems preferable. The persons who in the last verse are said to have been born of God, are here called the sons or children of God. St. John was willing to make the Christians sensible of the happiness of being continued in the family of God. If the child of the poorest man upon earth was adopted by the greatest monarch, it would not be an honour, exaltation, and felicity, in any degree equal to that of being made one of the sons of God. See Hosea 1:10. Hence we are told, that when the Danish Missionaries appointed some of their Malabarian converts to translate a catechism, in which it was mentioned as the privilege of Christians to become the sons of God, one of the translators was startled at so bold a saying, as he thought it, and said, "It is too much; let me rather render it,—they shall be permitted to kiss his feet."

The two members of this argument in the latter clause of the verse are transposed; because the world knew him not, therefore it knows us not; or, the truth is first laid down, and then the reason of it assigned. True Christians are separated from the world to be holy unto the Lord; and they differ from the world in their principles, profession, and conversation: it is no wonder therefore that the world despises and hates them. See 1 John 3:13. 1 Peter 4:3-4. John 8:55; John 15:18; John 15:27; John 16:1; John 16:33.


Verse 2

1 John 3:2. Now are we the sons of God, &c.— In 1 John 3:1 the apostle says, the world knew them not. Here he intimates, that they themselves did not fully comprehend what glory and felicity was implied in their being sons of God, and heirs of his eternal inheritance. It is observable, that these are the words of John; of him who had not only so familiarly conversed with Christ on this sublime and delightful subject, but had seen his transfigurationwhen Moses and Elias appeared in such transfulgent glory. In our present state, we are not capable of forming an adequate idea of our future selves, or of the glorious scenes which will present themselves to the view of the faithful hereafter; but when our Saviour shall be revealed from heaven, arrayed in all his glories, we are assured that our frail bodies shall be transformed into the likeness of his glorious body. Seneca has some sublime passages in his 102nd Epistle, relating to that divine Light which good men shall behold in a future state, "The very thought of which (he says) will prohibit any thing sordid, base, or malevolentfrom settling in the mind that entertains it."


Verse 3

1 John 3:3. That hath this hope The phrase Ο εχων, signifies, he that keepeth, holdeth, or retaineth: he purifies himself; consequently he is not like a stone, or like a machine, which is entirely passive: God, it is true, gives him all the power by imparting his grace unto him; and this is the use which he is obliged to make of it. It is not said that he purifies himself, as Jesus Christ purifies himself; Jesus Christ was never polluted with any immorality, he therefore has no occasion to purify himself: he is absolutely pure, without spot or blemish, the standard of all moral excellence and perfection; and they who would see him, and be like him in immortal glory and felicity hereafter, must be like him in holiness here. This purifying ourselves, even as Jesus Christ is pure, denotes not an absolute equality to his purity, for that no man can attain unto, but a likeness or resemblance. We may finally observe, that the sacred scriptures do not propose to us a Mahometan paradise of sensual enjoyments as our eternal portion, (the very prospect of which is enough to encourage men in debauchery and sensuality;) but the seeing Christ, and being like that pure and infinitely holy personage: that is, the purest, most spiritual, and most refined enjoyments are proposed to us, as our everlasting reward. The hope of such things, which grace alone can bestow, has the most direct tendency to excite us to purity and holiness; and, in this view, how excellent must that religion be, which promises the promoting of holiness and the spiritual enjoyment of God, as its grand and ultimate reward!


Verse 4

1 John 3:4. Whosoever committeth sin St. John's design in this verse, was not to explain the meaning of the word sin, but to assure the Christians that sin exposed a man to punishment; and then the connection is clear and evident: 1 John 3:3. "He that hopes for the heavenly felicity, purifies himself even as Christ is pure: 1 John 3:4. He who defiles himself with vice or wickedness, must be miserable; for wickedness will expose a man to punishment: 1 John 3:5. For this great and gracious purpose was Jesus Christ manifested, that be who had no sin of his own, might take away our sin, and free us from the punishment of the wicked and impenitent." See ch. 1 John 5:17.


Verse 6

1 John 3:6. Whosoever abideth in him, "Hence it plainly follows, that whoever abides in him by vital and influential union and communion with him, like a branchin the vine (John 15:5.), does not commit sin: he that sinneth, has no realizing view of him by faith: his views and knowledge of him have been so superficial, as that they deserve not to be mentioned, since they have not conquered the love and prevalence of sin, and brought the man to a holy temper and life."


Verse 7

1 John 3:7. He that doeth righteousness, He who practiseth righteousness; and so 1 John 3:8-9 he who practiseth sin. The scriptures frequently represent him as the righteous man, who habitually and constantly, internally and externally, practiseth righteousness. The verse may be thus paraphrased: "My dear littlechildren, let no one deceive you on this important matter by vain words, with whatever pomp, or solemnity, or plausibility, they may be attended. A Being, himself immutably holy, can never dispense with the want of holiness in his reasonable creatures. He that practiseth righteousness is righteous, even as he himself is righteous: it is his own image, and hemust invariably love and delight in it; and must as invariably abhor sin, as utterly contrary to his nature." This is an obvious interpretation of the phrase; and is very necessary to avoid an indulgence of the most extravagant kind. For certainly it is not every one who performs some one just or righteous action, that can be denominated righteous; nor can any man be entitled to that character, who does not in the main course of hislife, practise universal righteousness. Aristotle has a passage much to the same purpose with this of St. John: "Then shall a man be righteous, first, if he does the things which are righteous, and knows what he does; secondly, if he does them freely, or out of choice;thirdly, if he continues firmly and constantly in that course of action." St. John, by introducing this verse with let no man deceive you, intimated that the matter was of vast importance, and there was danger of their bring deceived by the false teachers in this particular.


Verse 8

1 John 3:8. He that committeth sin, &c.— Or, who liveth in sin, says Heylin. The original is a Hebraism, importing a habit of sin. Limborch imagines the phase sinneth from the beginning, to refer to repeated acts of sin, and a continued course of it, which preceded Satan's expulsion from heaven. But it seems that the use of the present tense implies a continuance in a course of sin. See John 8:44-47; John 15:27. The word λυση, rendered, he might destroy, is expressive, and leads us to look on sin and misery as a fabric, of which Satan is the great architect, but which Christ is come to overthrow and demolish: accordingly, he has alreadybroken, as it were, the compages and strength of it, and we mayfully expect that it will be gradually levelled, and its very ruins removed. He has certainly done already what has a most powerful tendency to produce such an effect; and will, in his due time, accomplish all his designs against sin and the devil. The inference which St. John intended from this verse is, that Christians should not take part with the devil as all wicked men do; that theyshould not build up again what Jesus Christ came to destroy; but that they should, internally, externally, and perseveringly, practise righteousness; which is falling in with the great design of Christ's coming; and then they will finally be made glorious and happy by him.


Verse 9

1 John 3:9. Whosoever is born of God, &c.— "Whoever he be that is a partaker of the divine nature by the regenerating Spirit,is no longer a doer or practiser of iniquity; for that divine principle of grace, which is infused into him, has an abiding root and residence in him, to rule and govern him; and he has such a thorough hatred of all iniquity, that he cannot love or live in sin; because he, as a child of God, and born of the Spirit, has received a principle of grace, which wills and works in direct opposition to all sin: much less can he sin, upon the score, or by virtue of his being born of God, as though his new birth were a licence for it, or had any tendency towards it." The phrase, He cannot sin, because he is born of God, cannot signify an impossibility to sin: for, in that case, St. John, and the other apostles, needed not to have taken so much pains to guard real Christians against sinning; to have condemned, forbidden, and threatened; or to have exhorted, commanded, and promised. These things plainly suppose not only the possibility, but the danger there was of true Christians falling away: by cannot, therefore, we may here understand, that he will not, he does not choose to live wickedly; it is contrary to his principles and the settled bent and habit of his temper and life. So we say, "A wise man cannot do such a foolish thing; a good man cannot act such a base and wicked part." Certain it is, that the words must be taken in same qualifiedsense, or they would prove the impeccability of every child of God, or the impossibility of his sinning; which scarcely any have been wild enough to assert. It is evident that there are many passages of scripture, in which the word cannot must be taken in such a latitude; see Luke 13:33. Hebrews 9:5. Nehemiah 6:3. Numbers 22:18. And this phraseology is also used by the best classic writers.


Verse 10

1 John 3:10. In this the children of God are manifest, &c.— All men are either the children of God, or of the devil. Here is the rule to distinguish the one from the other; not by boasting that we are the elect people of God; not by a set of notions, or barren speculations; but by our own present and personal experience and practice of righteousness, and, as another mark of our adoption, by our cordial love to all Christians. These are the marks of a true Christian; by these the true are distinguished from the false professors. How excellent must that religion be, which so much promotes genuine benevolence and universal righteousness!


Verse 11

1 John 3:11. For this is the message In this verse we have St. John's first reason why Christians should love one another; namely, "It is the message or command of God in Christ."


Verse 12

1 John 3:12. Not as Cain, &c.— The original is expressive; Not like Cain! he was of the wicked one, and murdered his brother: God forbid therefore that we should be like him. To be of the wicked one, is the same thing as being a child of the devil. See 1 John 3:8. In this verse St. John assigns a second reason why Christians should love each other, namely, that otherwise they will be like Cain, and children of the devil. If, instead of evil, in the last clause, our translators had rendered it wicked, the apostle's sense would have appeared more plainly; and the connection between the wicked one, and wicked works, would have been set in a stronger light. Cain's brother being preferred to him, gave rise to jealousy,envy, and hatred, which, at length, settling into the most rancorous malice, hurried him on to fratricide. See on Genesis 4:4 and Hebrews 11:4.


Verse 13

1 John 3:13. If the world hate you By the world, understand the unbelieving Jews and Gentiles. See ch. 1 John 5:19. The world is here set in opposition to the Christian brethren. This verse contains an inference from what had been said in that preceding; "There has all along been enmity between the seed of the woman, and the seed of the serpent; or, bad men have envied, hated, and persecuted the good from the beginning:" therefore the Christians to whom St. John wrote, were notto be surprized at it, as a thing new and unusual, if the world hated them: the more the world hates them, the more should Christians unite and love one another.


Verse 14

1 John 3:14. We know that we have passed from death, &c.— This is said even of the best men; which implies, by a strong consequence, that they are, as it were, born in the land and territories of death; or that the gospel finds them in such a condition, as to be liable to condemnation and destruction; to the execution of a capital sentence. Oblique expressions of this sort speak such truths as these, in a manner peculiarly convincing and affecting. Here is a third reason assigned for loving the Christian brethren; namely, that a cordial love of genuine complacency to all Christians was a sure mark or evidence, that they were quickened from the death of sin to a life of righteousness, and entitled to immortal life. See John 13:35. It is added, he that loveth not his brother, abideth in death. Though he had been baptized, and visibly taken into the church, yet he was not a true Christian; and therefore no more translated into the kingdom and favour of God's dear Son, than a Heathen: but if he continued impenitently in that want of love to the brethren, he would be as much exposed to the second death, or the punishment of the future state, as the unbelieving and wicked world. This may be justly looked upon as a fourth reason for their loving the Christian brethren; namely, that without such love their Christianity was v


Verse 15

1 John 3:15. Whosoever hateth his brother, is a murderer: That is, in the temper and disposition of his mind; or, hatred is one step towards murder. See Matthew 5:21; Matthew 22:27; Matthew 28:20. Inthe 6th commandment murder is forbidden; but the commandments are so to be interpreted, that every tendency towards the crime condemned, is in its proportion forbidden, as one step towards the crime, or one degree of it. Murderers, and all sinners, are condemned to the second death: not but that upon deep humiliation and unfeigned repentance, murderers may obtainmercy; witness the case of David: but the impenitent murderer, yea, even he who only hates his brother, has not the heavenly temper and disposition of mind, nor any title to eternal life; hath not eternal life abiding in him. There is a fifth reason for their cultivating love to the Christian brethren; namely, that hatred of them, or want of love to them, was one degree of murder, or one step towards it: and who would not be shocked at the thought of being a murderer!


Verse 16

1 John 3:16. Hereby perceive we the love of God, This text, as it stands in our version, has generally been mentioned as equivalent to Acts 20:28. In which, as he who laid down his life for us, is God as well as man, God is said to have done that, which the man united to him did. The verse may be thus paraphrased: "How contrary is this unmerciful temper to that which God the Son has shewn towards us: we may conceive something of the greatness of his compassionate love, from the most transcendent instance that could be given of it; since he, who is the eternal Word, and was made flesh, and so was truly and properly God incarnate (John 1:14.), has loved us, and given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour (Ephesians 5:2.). And we ought to be so deeply affected with, and influenced by this unparalleled loveof Christ, as to stand ready after his example, and in imitation of his love, to expose or lay down our own lives, whenever he calls us to it, (as St. Paul did his, Philippians 2:17.) for encouraging the faith and hope of the brethren; and for the preservation and safety of those who are eminently serviceable to his church, as Aquila and Priscilla laid down their own necks for that great apostle's life. Romans 16:4." In what sense the primitive Christians understood this injunction of the apostle, may appear from what the world is said to have reported concerning them; "Behold, how they love one another, and how ready they are to die for one another!" We have here a sixth reason why Christians should love one another,—even the astonishing and unparalleled love of Christ in dying for them.


Verse 17

1 John 3:17. Whoso hath this world's good, &c.— The common signification of the word βιος,— rendered good, is life; but it is used also for riches, or worldly subsistence;—for that which is the support of life. The heart and bowels are put for human affections, because they are moved and affected when we are touched with love, pity, compassion, &c. and men are represented as opening or shutting their hand, or heart, or bowels, as they are merciful and liberal, or otherwise. The real Christian not only constantly desires to do good; but, as far as he has power, actually does good. As God has commanded us to love, and do good to our brethren, he cannot love God, who neglects to obey this command. See ch. 1 John 4:20-21, 1 John 5:1-2. Matthew 22:37-39.


Verse 18

1 John 3:18. Let us not love in word, &c.— All hypocritical pretences to love, where there is none in the heart, are very justly condemned and abhorred; but rough language, and an open profession of hatred or dislike, though sincere, are also abominable in the sightof God. St. John recommends sincerity, and does not prohibit our professing love to our fellow-christians, or speaking to them in kind and obliging words; but he does not forget to put us in mind, that much more is required of us. Some are for connecting this with 1 John 3:16 others with 1 John 3:17. It is most likely that St. John designed to connect it with both, and to intimate that kind words, and professions of love, are not all that are required of us; we must willingly lay down our lives, when the good of the Christian church so requires; and much more ought we cheerfullyto relieve our fellow-christians in indigent circumstances;for by such willing sufferings, and generous beneficent actions, we shall plainly manifest that we love not in word and in tongue only, but in deed and in truth.


Verse 19

1 John 3:19. And hereby we know, &c.— "And by a constant prevalence of this excellent temper and conduct, we may be well satisfied that we are begotten with the word of truth (James 1:18.), and are brought to understand, believe in, and live under, the government of the true principles of the gospel, as sincere Christians: and, in the consciousness of this, we shall assure our hearts before him, when we draw nigh in the exercises of devotion."


Verse 20

1 John 3:20. God is greater than our heart, That is, more powerful, say some, and consequently more able to condemn and punish: but greater in knowledge, say others; and the following words evidently favour this interpretation: a criminal may have some hopes of escaping, when he stands before an earthly judge, though his own conscience condemn him; but God knows us more exactly than we do ourselves; and thosewhoseconsciencescondemnthem,mustexpectthat God will ratify the sentence of conscience, and condemn them also.


Verse 21

1 John 3:21. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, Though the expression is negative in the text, it must imply somewhat positive; namely, that conscience should upon examination acquit us. St. John is speaking here notof Jews, Heathens, Infidels, hypocrites, or vicious persons; but of himself, and other real Christians, who were experimentallyacquainted with the pure gospel, and might easily examine their hearts and lives thereby. If such, upon a careful examination, find a divine conformity to the rules of the gospel in their tempers and lives, they may be satisfied that their present state is good, and may with pleasure expect Christ's second coming. The philosophers have disputed much about tranquillity of mind; nevertheless there is nothing which can truly render our minds quiet, easy, and satisfied, but a just persuasion of the love of God toward us.


Verse 22

1 John 3:22. Whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, There are four conditions on which men may expect to have their prayers heard: First, If they pray for things agreeable to the will of God; that is, for things in themselves truly good and proper. See ch. 1 John 5:14-15. Secondly, If they pray in a right manner, or with a right temper and disposition of mind; that is, with faith in the atoning Blood, and in the wisdom, goodness, power, and over-ruling providence of God; with humility and resignation to the Divine will, with importunity, patience, and perseverance: Thirdly, If they pray for a good end, or with a design to make a right use of mercies when bestowed: Fourthly, and above all, If they be real Christians, and of course keep the commandments of God, and do those things which are pleasing in his sight. In this verse, St. John assigns another reason forcultivating universal righteousness, and particularly mutual love; namely, that then their prayers would be heard, and God would grant them all proper blessings.


Verse 23

1 John 3:23. And this is his commandment, &c.— "And this is his great commandment, that we should endeavour to grow more in that blessed principle of faith in his dear Son Jesus Christ; and that we should unfeignedly and cordially love one another, as he has so strongly and affectionately charged us to do."


Verse 24

1 John 3:24. Dwelleth in him, That is, in God; and He, that is, God, in him. Neither this text, nor 1 Corinthians 6:17 will prove, (as some have absurdly averred,) that a good man is the Deity himself, or a part of God, or of the same essence or substance. The apostle intended only to say, "Whoever is brought to yield a conscientious obedience to all God's commandments, from a principle of faith as working by love, which counts none of them grievous,—he really does, and hereby makes it evident that he does, live in a state of vital union with Christ, and with the Father through him, and Christ dwells in his heart by faith, who is a habitation of God through the Spirit (Ephesians 2:22; Ephesians 3:17.). And we who stand in this near and happy relation to Christ, and to the Father through him, are assured that he lives with abiding influencein us, by the light, energy, and witness of his Holy Spirit, which he has freely given us, to produce, excite, and assist a constant exercise of faith and love, and every other grace in our souls." Comp. John 14:23.

Inferences.—How inestimable a privilege is it to be born of God! What infinite reason have those that possess it, to rejoice and be exceeding glad! With what astonishment should we reflect upon the Divine condescension, in admitting us to such an endearing relation! Let us behold with admiration and joy, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we sinful wretched mortals should be called the sons of God! Let us behold how high it rises, how wide it diffuses its effects! How glorious the inheritance, to which in consequence of this we are entitled! The world indeed knows it not; nor do we ourselves completely know it. Even John, the beloved disciple, who lay in the bosom of our Lord, and drank so deep out of the Fountain-head of knowledge and holiness, even he says, it doth not yet appear what we shall be. But let us, in sweet tranquillity of soul, depend on our heavenly Father, that he will do whatever is becoming his perfect wisdom and goodness, in respect to the advancement and felicity of his own faithful children. During our state of minority, let us be contented to be at his allowance, and rejoice, that we are in the general told, that when Christ, the first-born of the family, shall make his second triumphant appearance, we shall also appear with him in glory, yea, all his saints, new dressed from the grave, to adorn his train, and transformed into his illustrious image, not only with respect to the glories of the body, but the brighter glories of the immortal spirit. With him, if faithful, we shall have an abundant entrance into his everlasting kingdom, and for ever experience the efficacy of that near and intimate vision of him, which we shall there enjoy, to transform us into the same likeness from glory to glory. O, that, in the mean time, we may all feel the energy of this blessed hope to purify our soils, that our hearts and dispositions may correspond to our expectations! When Christ came in human flesh, it was with this important purpose, that he might take away sin, that he might destroy the works of the devil, and reduce to order and harmony that confusion and ruin, which Satan, by his malicious insinuations, had introduced into the world. Blessed Jesus! may this thy benevolent design be more and more effectual! May the empire of sin and corruption, which is the empire of hell, be entirely subdued, and thy celestial kingdom of grace and holiness advanced. And may none deceive themselves, nor forget, that he alone is righteous, who practiseth righteousness. By this let us judge of ourselves, whether we are the children of God, or of the devil. And instead of falsely flattering ourselves, that though we do commit sin with allowance, yet there may be some secret seed of God still concealed in our hearts; let us judge of our having received this regenerating seed, by its tendency to preserve us from sin, and the victories which it enables us to gain over its destructive wiles and insufferable tyranny.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The apostle,

1. Breaks forth with admiration in the view of the love of God toward his believing people. Behold with wonder and amaze, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, in Jesus Christ, that we, who have been by nature and practice so vile, corrupt, and sinful, should, notwithstanding, be adopted into his family, and be called the sons of God, advanced to that dignity and honour: therefore the world, who have their minds wholly engrossed with sensible objects, and have no discernment of spiritual things, knoweth us not; far from esteeming and valuing us, they deride and persecute us for that image which we bear; because it knew him not, they are ignorant of God; and when his only-begotten Son appeared incarnate, they nailed him to the tree. Note; (1.) The meanest child of God has a dignity infinitely greater than the first-born of princes. (2.) If we be treated with derision and contempt by this wicked world, we should remember the cross which Jesus bore, and be ashamed to murmur.

2. He declares the high expectations of God's children. Beloved, now are we the sons of God; this is our present honour; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; greater blessedness is in store for the faithful, than eye hath seen, or ear heard, or it hath entered into the heart of man to conceive: but we know that when he shall appear, who is our Head, even Christ, we shall be like him, admitted to his presence, and partakers of all his glory, if faithful unto death; for we shall see him as he is, and our bodies as well as our souls shall be fashioned after his bright image. Note; The day of judgment will be a day of glorious triumph to every faithful soul.

3. Such a hope cannot but have the most powerful influence upon our conduct. And every man that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself, even as he is pure, setteth Christ's glorious pattern before him, and earnestly endeavours to obtain a holy conformity to him in all things. Note; The hope which does not lead us to holiness, is but the hope of the hypocrite, which perisheth.

2nd, Nothing can more strongly urge the believer to strive against sin, than the arguments which the apostle proceeds to press upon him.

1. Sin is the breach of God's holy law. Whosoever committeth sin, transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. Every deviation from that perfect rule, needs the atoning Blood; but where sin is the allowed practice, there all hope towards God must be delusion.

2. The very end of Christ's redemption was to cleanse us from all iniquity. And ye know that he was manifested in the flesh, on purpose to take away our sins, both the guilt of them from our conscience, and the power and nature of them from our hearts: and in him is no sin: all, therefore, who belong to him, must shew that the design of his incarnation is answered respecting them, in their deliverance from the bondage of corruption, and in their growing conformity to his blessed image.

3. An allowed course of sin is utterly contradictory to real union with Christ. Whosoever abideth in him, as the branch in the vine, deriving constant supplies of grace out of his fulness, sinneth not, does not wilfully commit any sin, but hateth sin as the greatest evil, and endeavours to keep at the greatest distance from it: whosoever sinneth, wilfully and determinately, hath not seen him, neither known him, but is an utter stranger to Christ, and his great salvation.

4. It is the most fatal deceit to imagine, that without the practice of righteousness, we can be ever like him or with him. Little children, let no man deceive you with any vain suggestions: he that doeth righteousness in the constant and habitual course of his temper and conduct, and conscientiously towards God and man endeavours to be found without offence, he is righteous, even as he is righteous, and thus resembles, in a measure, the Holy One of God.

5. The allowed practice of sin is a virtual compact with the devil, and renunciation of Jesus Christ. He that committeth sin, as his delight and choice, is of the devil, bears his image, and is completely under his influence; for the devil sinneth from the beginning, was the author of evil, and continues to spread the dreadful poison: having tempted angels from their allegiance, and seduced man in paradise, he persists with unrelenting malice in labouring for man's eternal ruin. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil, and rescue his faithful people from Satan's hateful power, breaking his yoke from off their neck, and destroying the very being of sin in them: all therefore who are his people, experience his power, and are delivered from the bonds of the wicked one, in respect at least to the dominion of sin.

6. Every regenerate person cannot but renounce his connection with iniquity. Whosoever is born of God, doth not commit sin, does not commit it wilfully; because it is contrary to that divine nature which he has received: for his seed remaineth in him; he has that principle of grace implanted in his heart, which makes sin odious and hateful to him: and he cannot sin; not that he is literally impeccable, but that the new nature he has received, is utterly averse to it, and successfully opposes the carnal mind, because he is born of God.

7. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil; their works always evidence what spirit is in them: whosoever doth not righteousness, is not of God, has no part or lot in his kingdom; neither he that loveth not his brother; these two things, neglect of godliness, and an uncharitable spirit, are the sure brands of Satan's slaves.

3rdly, The apostle, having mentioned the want of brotherly love as the sure evidence of exclusion from God's favour, enforces the practice of that most excellent of graces, Love. For,

1. This is the message that ye heard from the beginning, and one of the chief precepts of the Redeemer, that we should love one another.

2. He mentions the dire example of the wicked Cain, to shew the hatefulness of such a spirit as he possessed. Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, a child of the devil, and slew his brother: And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous, and he could not bear the rebukes of his pious example, and the approbation which God testified of Abel's sacrifice, when his own was rejected. And if this was the case so early, and the enmity between the Seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent appeared then so malignant, marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you; the same diabolical nature will produce exactly similar effects. Note; (1.) Envy or hatred in heart, is murder begun. (2.) We need not wonder at the world's enmity: such is, more or less, the lot of all the saints.

3. Brotherly love is a proof of our spiritual life. We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren; to love them as children of God, and for the sake of him whose image they bear, evidences the life of God in our own souls.

4. The contrary is a sure sign of the power of spiritual death over the soul. He that loveth not his brother, abideth in death, in a state of nature, and of wrath, under the curse of the law. For whosoever hateth his brother, is, in the eye of the law of God, a murderer: and ye know that no murderer, who continues under the power of this malignant spirit, hath eternal life abiding in him, nor the least prospect of attaining it: eternal death is the wages of his sin.

5. The love of Jesus to us, should engage our love to our brethren. Hereby perceive we the love of God the Son toward us, because he laid down his life for us on the accursed tree; an instance of love so stupendous, as passes all understanding: and we, animated by such an example, ought, if duty so require, to lay down our lives for the brethren; and if our lives must readily be offered for their service, how much more our substance, when their necessities call for our relief? But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? Such a conduct must necessarily shew the absence of that divine principle, and prove the hypocrisy of every pretension to the high relation of children of God. My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, merely, but give the more substantial evidences thereof in deed, and in truth, acting according to our professions, with an open hand and open heart towards every Christian brother, for his sake whose love we in common share.

6. And hereby we know that we are of the truth; such a conversation demonstrates the reality of our interest in the redemption which is in Jesus Christ, and shall assure our hearts before him, bearing witness to our simplicity and godly sincerity, and giving us rejoicing in the testimony of our conscience. For if our heart condemn us of allowed hypocrisy, and we cannot stand before our own tribunal within, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things, and must therefore much more condemn us, as his piercing eye can discover hidden iniquities which we pass by unregarded. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, not the stupified hearts and seared consciences of the unregenerate, but the enlightened of the faithful, where, though many infirmities may be seen and lamented, allowed guile is not harboured, this consciousness of our simplicity gives a humble boldness to the soul; and then have we confidence toward God, a holy freedom and liberty of soul in our approaches to a throne of grace. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight, asking always according to his will, and aiming at his glory in all our conversation.

4thly, We have,

1. The great commandments of the gospel. And this is his commandment, (1.) That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, as the only and all-sufficient Saviour of lost sinners, renouncing every other hope or dependance, and, with satisfaction, resting our souls on him for pardon and acceptance with God; and, (2.) That we should, in consequence of faith in him, love one another, as he gave us commandment, exercising the most enlarged, unfeigned, and cordial affection towards all the members of his body mystical in particular, and shewing a general benevolence to mankind.

2. Great will be the blessedness resulting hence. And he that keepeth his commandments, from this principle of faith, which worketh by love, dwelleth in him, and he in him, abideth in a state of vital union with the exalted Jesus: and hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us, whose mighty energy effectually influences our hearts and conduct, and who bears witness to his own work to our increasing comfort and joy.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 John 3:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/1-john-3.html. 1801-1803.

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