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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

1 John 3:17

 

 

But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?

Adam Clarke Commentary

But whoso hath this worlds good - Here is a test of this love; if we do not divide our bread with the hungry, we certainly would not lay down our life for him. Whatever love we may pretend to mankind, if we are not charitable and benevolent, we give the lie to our profession. If we have not bowels of compassion, we have not the love of God in us; if we shut up our bowels against the poor, we shut Christ out of our hearts, and ourselves out of heaven.

This world's good. - Του βιον του κοσμου· The life of this world, i.e. the means of life; for so βιος is often used. See Mark 12:44; Luke 8:43; Luke 15:12, Luke 15:30; Luke 21:4, and other places.

How dwelleth the love of God in him? - That is, it cannot possibly dwell in such a person. Hardheartedness and God's love never meet together, much less can they be associated.


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Bibliography
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 John 3:17". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/1-john-3.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

But whoso hath this world‘s good - Has property - called “this world‘s good,” or a good pertaining to this world, because it is of value to us only as it meets our wants this side of the grave; and perhaps also because it is sought supremely by the people of the world. The general meaning of this verse, in connection with the previous verse, is, that if we ought to be willing to lay down our lives for others, we ought to be willing to make those comparatively smaller sacrifices which are necessary to relieve them in their distresses; and that if we are unwilling to do this, we can have no evidence that the love of God dwells in us.

And seeth his brother have need - Need of food, of raiment, of shelter; or sick, and poor, and unable to provide for his own wants and those of his family.

And shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him - The bowels, or “upper viscera,” embracing the heart, and the region of the chest generally, are in the Scriptures represented as the seat of mercy, piety, and compassion, because when the mind feels compassion it is that part which is affected. Compare the notes at Isaiah 16:11.

How dwelleth the love of God in him? - How can a man love God who does not love those who bear his image? See the notes at 1 John 4:20. On the general sentiment here, see the notes at James 2:14-16. The meaning is plain, that we cannot have evidence of piety unless we are ready to do good to others, especially to our Christian brethren. See the Matthew 25:45 note; Galatians 6:10 note.


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Bibliography
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 John 3:17". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/1-john-3.html. 1870.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

But whoso hath the world's goods, and beholdeth his brother in need, and shutteth up his compassion from him, how doth the love of God abide in him?

"This is a much more common and practical test, which all may be called upon to meet, Christian philanthropy."[38] A stingy Christian is a contradiction of terms. There is no use of one's imagining that he has the kind of love that would give up life for a brother, if the countless opportunities of aiding those in distress find no adequate response within him. In a sense, it is even more difficult to aid the poor and the needy than to suffer martyrdom. As Smith put it, "Martyrdom is heroic and exhilarating; the difficulty lies in doing the little things, making the petty sacrifices and self-denials which no one notices and no one applauds."[39] However, in a practical sense, no Christian can excuse himself from full compliance with the holy commandment in a matter like this.

Translators and commentators have devised all kinds of ways to tone down the import of a passage like this. Note the following:

"The well-to-do man who sees his brother in want, etc."[40]

Doesn't this let most of us off the hook?

In answer to the question of how far one should go in giving to the poor, although this is theoretical rather than practical, for the vast majority are in no danger at all of exceeding proper boundaries in the exercise of this grace, John Wesley wrote this:

"Give to him that asketh thee ..." Give and lend to any so far (but no farther, for God never contradicts himself) as is consistent with thy engagements to thy creditors, thy family, and the household of faith.[41]

Such a comment reveals the serious question of priorities which makes this one of the most difficult Christian commandments; and yet it is one that every child of God must receive and obey.

The very great difficulty of implicit obedience to such commands as those in these verses has been "solved" in a number of devious ways. There are some who talk a good game of loving others, but whose lives show no evidence of it. John will deal with that in the very next verse. There are others who are masters of the art of doing good with "other people's money." They organize enterprises and institutions which they propose to support with contributions from others, feeling that in this they have obeyed the Lord. However, it is the clear intention of the New Testament that the personal element in giving should be dominant. A great many of the charitable enterprises in any community are run exactly like hard-nosed business establishments.

[38] J. W. Roberts, op. cit., p. 93.

[39] David Smith, op. cit., p. 186.

[40] From the New English Bible in The New Testament in Four Versions (New York: Iverson-Ford Associates, 1963), p. 763.

[41] John Wesley, Explanatory Notes upon the New Testament (Naperville, Illinois: Alec R. Allensen, Inc., 1950), p. 34.


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 John 3:17". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/1-john-3.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

But whoso hath this world's good,.... The possessions of this world, worldly substance, the temporal good things of it; for there are some things in it, which are honestly, pleasantly, and profitably good, when used lawfully, and not abused, otherwise they are to the owner's hurt: or "the living of this world"; that which the men of the world give up themselves to, are bent upon, and pursue after; or on which men live, and by which life is maintained, and preserved, and made comfortable in the present state of things; such as meat, drink, apparel, money, houses, lands, &c. The Ethiopic version renders it, "he that hath the government of this world"; as if it pointed at a person that is in some high office of worldly honour and profit, and is both great and rich; but the words are not to be restrained to such an one only, but refer to any man that has any share of the outward enjoyments of life; that has not only a competency for himself and family, but something to spare, and especially that has an affluence of worldly substance; but of him that has not, it is not required; for what a man distributes ought to be his own, and not another's, and in proportion to what he has, or according to his ability:

and seeth his brother have need; meaning, not merely a brother in that strict and natural relation, or bond of consanguinity; though such an one in distress ought to be, in the first place, regarded, for no man should hide himself from, overlook and neglect his own flesh and blood; but any, and every man, "his neighbour", as the Ethiopic version reads, whom he ought to love as himself; and especially a brother in a spiritual relation, or one that is of the household of faith: if he has need; that is, is naked and destitute of daily food, has not the common supplies of life, and what nature requires; and also, whose circumstances are low and mean, though not reduced to the utmost extremity; and if he sees him in this distress with his own eyes, or if he knows it, hears of it, and is made acquainted with it, otherwise he cannot be blameworthy for not relieving him.

And shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him; hardens his heart, turns away his eyes, and shuts his hand; has no tenderness in him for, nor sympathy with his distressed brother, nor gives him any succour: and this shows, that when relief is given, it should be not in a morose and churlish manner, with reflection and reproach, but with affection and pity; and where there is neither one nor the other,

how dwelleth the love of God in him? neither the love with which God loves men; for if this was shed abroad in him, and had a place, and dwelt in him, and he was properly affected with it, it would warm his heart, and loosen his affections, and cause his bowels to move to his poor brother: nor the love with which God is loved; for if he does not love his brother whom he sees in distress, how should he love the invisible God? 1 John 4:20; nor that love which God requires of him, which is to love his neighbour as himself.


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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855

Bibliography
Gill, John. "Commentary on 1 John 3:17". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/1-john-3.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

17 But whoso hath this p world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and q shutteth up his bowels [of compassion] from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?

(17) He reasons by comparisons: for if we are bound even to give our life for our neighbours, how much more are we bound to help our brothers' needs with our goods and substance?

(p) Wherewith this life is sustained.

(q) Opens not his heart to him, nor helps him willingly and cheerfully.


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Bibliography
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on 1 John 3:17". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/1-john-3.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

this world‘s good — literally, “livelihood” or substance. If we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren (1 John 3:16), how much more ought we not to withhold our substance?

seeth — not merely casually, but deliberately contemplates as a spectator; Greek, “beholds.”

shutteth up his bowels of compassion - which had been momentarily opened by the spectacle of his brother‘s need. The “bowels” mean the heart, the seat of compassion.

howHow is it possible that “the love of (that is, ‹to‘) God dwelleth (Greek, ‹abideth‘) in him?” Our superfluities should yield to the necessities; our comforts, and even our necessaries in some measure, should yield to the extreme wants of our brethren. “Faith gives Christ to me; love flowing from faith gives me to my neighbor.”


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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 John 3:17". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/1-john-3.html. 1871-8.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Whoso hath (ος αν εχηιhos an echēi). Indefinite relative clause with modal ανan with οςhos and the present active subjunctive of εχωechō world‘s goods (τον βιον του κοσμουton bion tou kosmou). “The living or livelihood (not ζωηzōē the principle of life, and see 1 John 2:16 for βιοςbios) of the world” (not in the sense of evil or wicked, but simply this mundane sphere).

Beholdeth (τεωρειtheōrei). Present active subjunctive of τεωρεωtheōreō like εχειechei just before.

In need (χρειαν εχονταchreian echonta). “Having need” (present active predicate participle of εχωechō agreeing with αδελπονadelphon). See the vivid picture of a like case in James 2:15.

Shutteth up (κλεισηιkleisēi). First aorist (effective) active subjunctive of κλειωkleiō to close like the door, changed on purpose from present tense to aorist (graphic slamming the door of his compassion, σπλαγχναsplagchna common in lxx and N.T. for the nobler viscera, the seat of the emotions, as in Philemon 2:11; Colossians 3:12). Only here in John.

How (πωςpōs). Rhetorical question like that in James 2:16 (what is the use?). It is practical, not speculative, that counts in the hour of need.


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The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 1 John 3:17". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/1-john-3.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

This world's good ( τὸν βίον τοῦ κόσμου )

Rev., the worlds goods. Βίος meansthat by which life is sustained, resources, wealth.

Seeth ( θεωρῇ )

Deliberately contemplates. See on John 1:18. Rev., beholdeth. The only occurrence of the verb in John's Epistles.

Have need ( χρείαν ἔχοντα )

Lit., having need. Rev., in need.

Bowels of compassion ( τὰ σπλάγχνα )

See on pitiful, 1 Peter 3:8. Rev., much better, his compassion. The word only here in John.


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The text of this work is public domain.

Bibliography
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on 1 John 3:17". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/1-john-3.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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?

But whoso hath this world's good — Worldly substance, far less valuable than life.

And seeth his brother have need — The very sight of want knocks at the door of the spectator's heart.

And shutteth up — Whether asked or not.

His bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him — Certainly not at all, however he may talk, 1 John 3:18, of loving God.


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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.

Bibliography
Wesley, John. "Commentary on 1 John 3:17". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/1-john-3.html. 1765.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

17.] But (“by the adversative connexion of 1 John 3:17 with 1 John 3:16 the Apostle marks the passage from the greater, which is justly demanded of us, to the lesser, the violation of which is all the more a transgression of the law just prescribed.” Düsterd.) whosoever hath the world’s sustenance ( βίος, as in ch. 1 John 2:16, and in reff., for that whereon life is sustained. Grotius quotes the classical proverb, βίος βίου δεόμενος οὐκ ἔστι βίος. Œc. and some others have misunderstood τὸν βίον τοῦ κόσμου as if it meant excessive wealth: Œc. even making τοῦ κόσμου a gen. of apposition: οὐ τοὺς βίου σπανίζοντας λέγω, ἀλλὰ καὶ τοὺς ὅλον τὸν κόσμον σχεδὸν ὕπαρξιν ἔχοντας πλούτου. And Piscator makes it mean “victus, cui acquirendo mundus est deditus.” But there can be little doubt that most Commentators are right in explaining the expression to mean, with Beza, “mundanæ facultates,” “les biens de ce monde;” as E. V., “this world’s good”), and beholdeth ( θεωρῇ gives more than the casual sight: it is the standing and looking on as a spectator: so that it ever involves not the eye only, but the mind also, in the sight: it is contemplari, not simply videre. So Chrys. in Joh. Hom. lxxv. 1, vol. viii. p. 405, οἶδεν ἡ γραφὴ ἐπὶ ἀκριβοῦς γνώσεως θεωρίαν λέγειν· ἐπειδὰν γὰρ τῶν αἰσθήσεων τρανοτέρα ἡ ὄψις, διὰ ταύτης ἀεὶ τὸν ἀκριβῆ παρίστησι γνῶσιν. St. John is very fond of the word (reff.), and wherever it occurs, this its meaning may be more or less traced. There is then in this unmerciful man not merely the being aware of, but the deliberate contemplation of the distress of his brother) his brother having need, and shutteth up (by the slight addition of “up,” we faintly represent the force of the Greek aor. κλείσῃ, as implying that the shutting is then and there done, as the result of the contemplation: not a mere constitutional hardness of heart, but an act of exclusion from sympathy following deliberately on the beholding of his brother’s distress) his bowels (= his heart, the seat of compassion: as so often in the N. T. See reff., and Luke 1:78, 2 Corinthians 7:15, Philippians 1:8; Philippians 2:1, Philemon 1:7; Philemon 1:12) from him ( ἀπʼ αὐτοῦ is pregnant, as in ch. 1 John 2:28, “aversandi notionem habens.” There is no Hebraism: nor is any supply such as ἀποστρεφόμενος wanted. κλείειν ἀπό is just as good Greek as κρύπτειν ἀπό, John 12:36 al. As Düsterd. remarks, the fact that a man shuts up his heart against his brother, includes in it the fact that that brother is excluded from the heart thus shut up), how (can it be that; as in ch. 1 John 4:20, πῶς δύναται ἀγαπᾷν;) doth the love of God (i. e. from the very express filling out of the thought in ch. 1 John 4:20, “love to God;” not God’s love to us. See also ch. 1 John 2:5, where we have the same expression and reference to the love of God being in a man. The context indeed here might seem, as the mention of Christ’s love to us has so immediately preceded, to require the other meaning; or at least, that of “the love whereof God hath set us a pattern:” and accordingly both these have been held: the former by Luther, in his second exposition, and Calov., the latter by Socinus and Grotius. But I see not how we can escape the force of the passages above cited) abide in him (Lücke and Düsterd. are disposed to lay a stress on the μένει here, thereby opening a door for the view that the love of God may indeed be in him in some sense, but not as a firm abiding principle; that at all events at the moment when he thus shuts up his bowels of compassion, it is not abiding in him. But this would seem to violate the ideal strictness of the Apostle’s teaching, and the true sense rather to be, “How can we think of such an one as at all possessing the love of God in any proper sense?” giving thus much emphasis to μένει, but not putting it in opposition to ἐστίν, as Lücke does; for it is, in the root, equivalent to it.

Here again, many questions of casuistry have been raised as to the nature and extent of the duty of almsgiving, on which it is impossible to enter here, and for which I must refer my readers as before. The safest answers to them all will be found in the Christian conscience enlightened by the Holy Spirit, guiding the Christian heart warmed by the living presence of Christ)?


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Bibliography
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on 1 John 3:17". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/1-john-3.html. 1863-1878.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

17But whose hath this world’s good, or, If any one has the world’s sustenance. He now speaks of the common duties of love, which flow from that chief foundation, that is, when we are prepared to serve our neighbors even to death. He, at the same time, seems to reason from the greater to the less; for he who refuses to alleviate by his goods the want of his brother, while his life is safe and secure, much less would he expose for him his life to danger. Then he denies that there is love in us, if we withhold help from our neighbors. But he so recommends this external kindness, that at the same time he very fitly expresses the right way of doing good, and what sort of feeling ought to be in us.

Let this, then, be the first proposition, that no one truly loves his brethren, except he really shews this whenever an occasion occurs; the second, that as far as any one has the means, he is bound so far to assist his brethren, for the Lord thus supplies us with the opportunity to exercise love; the third, that the necessity of every one ought to be seen to, for as any one needs food and drink or other things of which we have abundance, so he requires our aid; the fourth, that no act of kindness, except accompanied with sympathy, is pleasing to God. There are many apparently liberal, who yet do not feel for the miseries of their brethren. But the Apostle requires that our bowels should be opened; which is done, when we are endued with such a feeling as to sympathize with others in their evils, no otherwise than as though they were our own.

The love of God Here he speaks of loving the brethren; why then does he mention the love of God? even because this principle is to be held, that it cannot be but that the love of God will generate in us the love of the brethren. (80) And thus God tries our love to him, when he bids us to love men from a regard to himself, according to what is said in Psalms 16:2,

“My goodness reaches not to thee, but towards the saints who are on the earth is my will and my care. ”


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Bibliography
Calvin, John. "Commentary on 1 John 3:17". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/1-john-3.html. 1840-57.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

17 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?

Ver. 17. This world’s goods] Gr. τον βιον, livelihood, which is all that the world looks after.

And shutteth up his bowels, &c.] Not drawing out unto him both his sheaf and his soul, Isaiah 58:9. But locking up as with a key (so the Greek κλειση here signifies) both his barn and his bowels; not considering his brother’s necessity and his own ability.


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Bibliography
Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 John 3:17". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/1-john-3.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

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.


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Bibliography
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 John 3:17". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/1-john-3.html. 1801-1803.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

Our apostle here draws an argument from the greater to the less, after this manner: "If, says he, we ought to be ready in some cases to part with our lives for the brethren, surely we much more ought to impart and communicate our worldly goods to them in the time of their necessity, and he that refuses so to do, can never think there is any thing of that love in him, which God requires of him towards his children."

Learn hence, that there certainly dwells no love of God in that man's heart, who having this world's goods, stretchest not out his hands to help the necessities of his brother.

Here note, 1. The fountain from which all charitable distributions are to proceed and flow, namely, from the compassion of the heart.

2. That the compassion of the heart must draw forth the help of the hand: He that is a Christian indeed will open both heart and hand to the distressed, and they shall partake of his purse as well as of his pity.

3. It is not said, He that has abundance of this world's goods, let him of his great superfluity give; but he that hath this world's goods: that is, in any measure, yea, though he has no more than he works for, yet is he required, Ephesians 4:28 that worketh with his hands, to give to him that needeth. The world is greatly deceived who thinks charity and almsgiving a duty that only concerns the rich; indeed it concerns them eminently, but not exclusively. And oh! the dreadful account that some rich men have to give, who expend more upon a lust in one day, than they give to the poor in a whole year. But yet, after all, every one that hath this world's goods, though he has but what he labours and sweats for, yet must he in in proportion to what he has, give to him that needeth.

Note, 4. The object of this our compassion and charity; a brother, a brother in need, and every brother in need; not only such as are cast down, but such as are falling, are the proper objects of our pity and help.

Note, 5. The circumstance of time when we must give, namely, when we see our brother in need. What a vanity is it to leave our alms till after our death, to be beholden to the justice of others for their distribution! Let us see our charity bestowed with our own eyes, and given out with our own hands, when the loins of the poor will bless us, but their prayers will do us no good when we are dead. Whoso seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?

From the whole learn, That when we are in a capacity, and enjoy an opportunity of expressing our charitable benevolence towards our poor and indigent brethren, the omission of it is a certain evidence that there is nothing of the love of God residing in us.


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Bibliography
Burkitt, William. "Commentary on 1 John 3:17". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/wbc/1-john-3.html. 1700-1703.

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

DISCOURSE: 2449

NO LOVE TO GOD WITHOUT LOVE TO MAN

1 John 3:17. 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?

UNDER the law there were two great commandments: the first was, to love God with all our heart, and mind, and soul, and strength, and the second was, to love our neighbour as ourselves. And under the Gospel they are still in force, or rather, I should say, are enjoined more emphatically than ever, being enforced with new motives, so as to bear the stamp and character of “a new commandment [Note: 1 John 2:7-8.].” They are on no account to be separated in our practice and regards; neither can one be obeyed without the other. True, indeed, many will flatter themselves that they obey the one, whilst they are notoriously regardless of the other. But they only deceive their own souls: and this so palpably, that the Apostle appeals to the offenders themselves, and makes them judges in their own cause: “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?” He may pretend to love God; but the love of God is not in him: for “if he does not love his brother whom he hath seen, he can never truly love God whom he hath not seen [Note: 1 John 4:20.];” and consequently he is destitute of all religion.

In confirmation of this truth, I shall shew,

I. That he can have no true piety, who is destitute of love to God—

The Apostle takes this truth for granted; and makes it the foundation of his appeal. But I lament to say, that it needs to be brought home to our consciences with more force than we are wont to assign to it in our own minds.

That God deserves our love, cannot be denied—

[View him in his works of creation. No sooner had he formed every thing, than he pronounced it “very good.” See man in his compound state both of body and soul: how fearfully and wonderfully are we formed in our corporeal frame! — — — and with what astonishing powers are our souls endued, insomuch that we are capable of appreciating in a measure all that we behold with our eyes, and can soar also to the contemplation of the invisible God himself, and are capable of knowing, loving, serving, and enjoying him.

Behold the earth and all that it contains; how formed for the service and the use of man! — — — Yea, and all the heavenly bodies also, how do they too in their orbits (for in all probability the whole solar system forms but a part of other systems, with which it moves) administer to the comfort and happiness of man!

And is not the Creator of all this worthy of our love? — — — View him in his works of providence. All this has God up-held, if not in its primeval grandeur, yet in its ministrations to the good of man; and that too notwithstanding all the provocations which he receives continually at our hands. All our faculties both of body and mind are continued to us — — — whilst the whole terraqueous globe affords us sustenance, and the heavenly bodies, according to their capacities, minister to our necessities and comforts. True, the world was once drowned with water; and the cities of the plain were consumed with fire: but this only shews us what might have been daily expected, if God had dealt with us in any respect according to our deserts.

Should not then such a long-suffering and gracious God be made an object of our most intense regard?

But view him in his great work, the work of redemption: and what shall we say of him there? View him as taking our very nature, and becoming in all things like unto us, sin only excepted. View him as dying upon the cross, and expiating our guilt by the sacrifice of himself — — — View him as sending down from heaven his Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts, and by his enlightening, quickening, transforming energies, to render the work of Christ effectual for the salvation of all who will believe in him — — — But here I seem to exceed the utmost bounds of credibility. Yet so it is; and this is the God who calls us to set our love on him. What then shall I say of the man who complies not with this reasonable demand? I appeal to you, my brethren, whether such a man, supposing such an one could be found, can have any true religion?

Perhaps you will say, It is impossible that such a monster should exist. Then let us submit the matter to a test, the test proposed to us by the Apostle himself.]

To do this, we affirm,

II. That he can have no true love to God, who is destitute of love to man—

Love to God must of necessity comprehend in it these three things: a regard for his authority; gratitude for his mercies; and zeal for his glory. Let us see then whether the man who “shuts up his bowels of compassion from his fellow-creatures,” has any one of these? Has he,

1. Any regard for God’s authority?

[God most solemnly enjoins under the Old Testament compassion for our indigent brother, and a willingness to relieve him [Note: Deuteronomy 15:7-11. Cite this at large.] — — — He requires the same under the New Testament [Note: 1 John 4:21.] — — — He informs us who the person is to whom we are to manifest this love, even every child of man [Note: Luke 10:29-37.] — — — He tells us from whom he expects this grace, even from the poor, who are constrained to get their own living by manual labour, as well as from the rich and great [Note: Ephesians 4:28. Acts 20:34-35.] — — — He has enforced this duty by every kind of argument: by promises the most engaging [Note: Isaiah 58:7-8.] — — — and by threatenings the most tremendous [Note: James 2:13.] — — — He has declared that it shall form his rule of judgment in the last day, and determine our eternal destinies [Note: Matthew 25:34; Matthew 25:41; Matthew 25:46.] — — —.

Now then what regard can he have to God’s authority who lives in the neglect of this duty? He says, in fact, My goods are my own, and I will dispose of them as I please: and, “as for God, I know him not; neither will I obey his voice.”]

2. Any gratitude for his mercies?

[Our blessed Lord, reminding us what temporal blessings his heavenly Father bestows upon us, calls us to an imitation of him in our conduct towards our fellow-men, that so we may approve ourselves as his children by our resemblance to him [Note: Matthew 5:44-45; Matthew 5:48.] — — — Still more particularly is his redeeming love proposed to us i,; this view both as a motive and a pattern; a motive which we should in no wise withstand [Note: 2 Corinthians 8:7-9.]; and a pattern which to the very utmost we should follow, even to “the laying down of our lives for the brethren [Note: ver. 16.].” To stimulate us to it the more, he tell: us, that he will receive every thing as done to himself [Note: Matthew 25:40.]; that he will account himself our debtor for it [Note: Proverbs 19:17.]; and that he will submit to be accounted “unrighteous” if he fail to acknowledge and reward it in the last day [Note: Hebrews 6:10.]. For our further encouragement he assures us, that, however light we may think of such a service, it is “a sacrifice with which he is well pleased [Note: Hebrews 13:16.].”

Now if all this do not prevail with us to shew kindness to our brethren, what shall we say? Have we any gratitude to God? No;, we are more stupid and senseless than the beasts themselves [Note: Isaiah 1:2-3.] — — —]

3. Any zeal for his glory?

[We are commanded to “make our light shine before men, that those who behold it may be constrained to glorify our Father which is in heaven [Note: Matthew 5:16.].” And our Lord assures us, that “herein is the Father glorified, when we bring forth much fruit [Note: John 15:8.],” yea, that “all our fruits of righteousness are by him to the glory of God the Father [Note: Philippians 1:11.].” But in a more particular manner is our liberality to the saints spoken of in this view, inasmuch as it calls forth “abundant thanksgivings to him” from the persons relieved, and causes them to glorify God for our professed subjection to the Gospel of Christ, the proper tendency of which is to generate these heavenly dispositions, and to augment the happiness of all mankind [Note: 2 Corinthians 9:12-14.] — — —

Now suppose a man to neglect this duty, what zeal can he have to promote the glory of his God? He may fancy himself religious; but he has no more love to God than Satan himself; for, if “faith without works is no better than the faith of devils,” the religion of such a man is no better than the religion of devils [Note: James 2:17-19.]. For so hath God said: “In this the children of God are manifest and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother [Note: 1 John 3:10.].”]

Let me now add,

1. A word of caution—

[It is easy to mistake alms-deeds for Christian liberality. But the Apostle cautions us against all such mistakes [Note: ver. 18. We should draw forth not our money only, but our soul, to the hungry. Isaiah 58:10-11.] — — — Nothing is truly Christian but what proceeds from love to God as reconciled to us in Christ Jesus, and is done for the advancement of his glory — — —]

2. A word of encouragement—

[Abound in this duty, and it shall bring a rich reward [Note: 1 Timothy 6:18-19.] — — —]


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Bibliography
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 1 John 3:17". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/1-john-3.html. 1832.

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

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.


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Bibliography
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on 1 John 3:17". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/1-john-3.html. 1832.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

1 John 3:17. τὸν βίον τοῦ κόσμου, the substance of the world) An instance of the figure Litotes: in antithesis to lives, 1 John 3:16.— κλείσῃ, shall shut) whether asked for aid, or not asked. The sight of the wretched at once knocks at the hearts of the spectators, or even opens them: then a man freely either closes his bowels of compassion, or opens them more fully. Comp. Deuteronomy 15:7.— τὰ σπλάγχνα, his bowels) Together with his bowels a man’s substance is also closed or opened.— ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ) that is, love towards God: ch. 1 John 4:20.— μένει, abides) He said that he loved God: but he does not now love: 1 John 3:18.


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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on 1 John 3:17". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/1-john-3.html. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

i.e. If the love of God in us should make us lay down our lives for the brethren, and we be not willing, in their necessity and our own ability, to relieve them, how plain is the case, that it is not in us!


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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 John 3:17". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/1-john-3.html. 1685.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

The possession of property involves high responsibilities, increases obligation, and multiplies duties. By the manner in which men use it they show their character.


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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on 1 John 3:17". "Family Bible New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/1-john-3.html. American Tract Society. 1851.

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

17. ὃς δ ̓ ἂν ἔχη. The phrase is as wide in its sweep as πᾶς ὁ ἔχων: comp. 1 John 2:5. The δέ is full of meaning. ‘Not many of us are ever called upon to die for others: but smaller sacrifices are often demanded of us; and what if we fail to respond?’ Si nondum es idoneus mori pro fratre, jam idoneus esto dare de tuis facultatibus fratri (Bede). τὸν βίον τ. κόσμου is to be rendered, as in R.V., the world’s goods: βίος, as in 1 John 2:16 (see note), signifies ‘means of life, subsistence,’ including all resources of wealth and ability. Τὸν βίον τ. κ., therefore, means all that supports and enriches the life of this world (1 John 2:15) in contrast to ζωὴ αἰώνιος (1 John 3:15).

θεωρῇ τ. ἀδ. αὐτ. χρείαν ἔχοντα. Beholdeth his brother having need. He not only sees him (ἰδεῖν), but looks at him and considers him (θεωρεῖν). It is a word of which the contemplative Apostle is very fond (John 2:23; John 7:3; John 12:45; John 14:19; John 16:16; &c.), and outside the Gospels and Acts it is found only in S. John’s writings and Hebrews 7:4. It is a pity to spoil the simple irony of the original by weakening χρείαν ἔχοντα into ‘in need’ (R.V.). So also Luther; siehet seinen Bruder darben. This misses the contrast between ἔχῃ τ. βίον and χρείαν ἔχοντα. The one has as his possession wealth, the other has as his possession-need. The New Vulgate has necessitatem habere, which is far better than necesse habere, as in 1 John 2:27 : the Old Vulgate has necesse habere in both places. Cyprian has desiderantem here twice.

κλείσῃ τ. σπλάγχνα αὐτ. ἀπ ̓ αὐτ. The ancients believed the bowels to be the seat of the affections (Genesis 43:30; 1 Kings 3:26; Jeremiah 31:20; Philippians 1:8; Philippians 2:1; Philemon 1:7; Philemon 1:12; Philemon 1:20) as well as the heart, whereas we take the latter only. Coverdale (here, as often, following Luther) alters Tyndale’s ‘shutteth up his compassion’ into ‘shutteth up his heart.’ And in fact, ‘shutteth up his bowels from him’ is the same as ‘closeth his heart against him.’ The phrase occurs nowhere else in N.T., but comp. 2 Corinthians 6:12. The ‘from him’ is picturesque, as in 1 John 2:28 it expresses the moving away and turning his back on his brother. Comp. οὐκ ἀποστρέψεις τὴν καρδίαν σου οὐδὲ μὴ συσφίγξεις τὴν χεῖρά σου ἀπὸ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ σου (Deuteronomy 15:7).

πῶς. For the abrupt argumentative interrogation comp. πῶς τοῖς ἐμοῖς. ῥήμασιν πιστεύσετε; (John 5:47). See also 1 Corinthians 14:7; 1 Corinthians 14:9; 1 Corinthians 14:16; 1 Corinthians 15:12. The order of the Greek is worth keeping, as in R.V., how doth the love of God abide in him? For μένειν ἐν, ‘to have a home in,’ see on 1 John 2:24. For ἡ ἀγάπη τ. Θ., which again means man’s love to God, see on 1 John 2:5. The idea that God is the source of that love which man feels towards Him may be included here. The question here (πῶς) is equivalent to the statement in 1 John 4:20 (οὐ), that to love God and hate one’s brother is morally impossible.


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"Commentary on 1 John 3:17". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/1-john-3.html. 1896.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

17. But—Introducing a contrast between this consummate love which would give life, and that want of love which would refuse even the alms that would supply a needed livelihood.

Bowels—The conceptual bodily seat of the compassionate affections.

How—Strong interrogative expression of the negative. For since our love of our brother and our love of God are one element and essence, the exclusion of one excludes the other.


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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 John 3:17". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/1-john-3.html. 1874-1909.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

‘But whoever has the world's goods, and observes his brother in need, and shuts up his compassion from him, how does the love of God abide in him?’

Yes, says one glibly. I am ready to lay down my life for the brethren, I am ready to take up the cross. Good, says John. But what about a brother in need? How do you behave towards him? If you have this world’s goods, and observe your brother in need, what do you do? Do you pass by on the other side? Do you have a closer look and do nothing? Or do you actually go up to him and help him in his need? If you do not do the last, if you stem the compassion that must surely spring up within you, without doing anything, and close your heart, how can you say that God’s love dwells in you? If you do not help him you are showing that His love does not dwell in you. For, if you have God’s love dwelling in you, you could not possibly behave in such a way to one beloved of God. How we behave towards His people demonstrates how we feel towards God.

‘Has the world’s goods.’ The word for goods is bios, usually translated ‘life’, and is so in 1 John 2:16 where loving the world is in mind. They are the means of life. Note that they are the world’s goods. The person who withholds such goods demonstrates that he loves the world more than he loves the needy brother. He deprives him, as it were, of the means of life because of his own love of possessions, because of his love for the world. How can one who loves the world like that, asks John, claim to have God’s love within him?

We note that all this relates to love between those who claim to be fellow-Christians. This is not because John is not concerned about the world outside, but because of the importance of love between Christian brothers. It is a vital test of true Christian faith. He no doubt recognised that those who fail to love their fellow-Christians will certainly not be concerned about the world outside. But that is outside his purview here. His concern here is actually with the subject of the action, not the object, with those who claim to be Christians. He is not talking about general attitude and behaviour, he is carrying out a stern examination of believers. He wants them to face up to what they are. In the case of fellow-Christians they should have a deep reason for compassion, for they are considering those who share with them in God. So if they do not help them their case is hopeless. Indeed they are revealing that they do not actually have God’s love dwelling within them. If they fail this test, they fail all.


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Bibliography
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 1 John 3:17". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/1-john-3.html. 2013.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

We may not have the opportunity to save a brother"s life by dying in his place. Nevertheless we can and should do the next best thing, namely, sustaining his life when he has needs. When I give to a brother in need what might keep me alive, I have followed the Lord Jesus" example of self-sacrificing love.


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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 John 3:17". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/1-john-3.html. 2012.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

1 John 3:17. Love must be practical. It is easy to “lay down one’s life”: martyrdom is heroic and exhilarating; the difficulty lies in doing the little things, facing day by day the petty sacrifices and self-denials which no one notices and no one applauds. τόν βίον τοῦ κόσμου, “the livelihood of the world”; see note on 1 John 2:16. θεωρῇ, of a moving spectacle; cf. Matthew 27:55. κλείσῃ, schliesst: the metaphor is locking the chamber of the heart instead of flinging it wide open and lavishing its treasures. σπλάγχνα, רַתְֽמִים, viscera, “the inward parts,” viewed by the ancients as the seat of the affections. Cf. Colossians 3:12 : σπλάγχνα οἰκτιρμοῦ. ἀγ. τ. θ., “love for God” (objective genitive), inspired by and answering to the love which God feels (subjective genitive). Cf. note on 1 John 2:5.


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Bibliography
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 1 John 3:17". The Expositor's Greek Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/1-john-3.html. 1897-1910.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

whoso = whoever.

good = goods, or living. App-170. Compare Luke 15:12, Luke 15:30.

seeth. App-133.

bowels. Greek. splanchna. See Philemon 1:7, Philemon 1:12, Philemon 1:20.

from. App-104. dwelleth. Same as "abide", 1 John 3:6.


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Bibliography
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on 1 John 3:17". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/1-john-3.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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?

This world's good , [ bion (Greek #979)] - 'livelihood' or substance. If we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren (1 John 3:16), how ranch more our substance?

Seeth - not casually, but deliberately contemplates as a spectator [ theooree (Greek #2334)].

Shutteth up his bowels of compassion - momentarily opened by the spectacle of his brother's need. 'The bowels' mean the inward parts, the seat of compassion.

How. How is it possible that "the love of (i:e., to) God dwelleth (abideth) in him?" Our superfluities should yield to the necessities-our comforts, and even necessaries, in some measure, to the extreme wants-of our brethren. 'Faith gives Christ to me; love flowing from faith gives me to my neighbour.'


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Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 John 3:17". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/1-john-3.html. 1871-8.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

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?
whoso
Deuteronomy 15:7-11; Proverbs 19:17; Isaiah 58:7-10; Luke 3:11; 2 Corinthians 8:9,14,15; 9:5-9; 1 Timothy 6:17,18; Hebrews 13:16
shutteth
Proverbs 12:10; *marg: ; Proverbs 28:9
how
4:20; 5:1

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 1 John 3:17". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/1-john-3.html.

The Bible Study New Testament

Yet closes his heart. "Let me show you this practical example, If we love as Christ loved us, how can we refuse to help others???" It is easy to be a martyr and die as a hero for Christ. The difficult part is the little things of day-to-day living, the trivial sacrifices and self-denials that no one sees and applauds.


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Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on 1 John 3:17". "The Bible Study New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/1-john-3.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

In this verse the apostle gives a simple example (on the negative side) of what it means to be devoted to the interests of others. Bowels is used figuratively because people in old times thought that was the seat of the finer sentiments of the mind. John uses it to mean that when a man closes his sentiments of compassion against such an unfortunate creature as this, he cannot truly claim the love of God.


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Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on 1 John 3:17". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/znt/1-john-3.html. 1952.

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