Friday, May 7, 2010

Reflections on 1 John 3

    1 John 03 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Think how much the Father loves us. He loves us so much that he lets us be called his children, as we truly are. But since the people of this world did not know who Christ is, they don't know who we are.
  2. My dear friends, we are already God's children, though what we will be hasn't yet been seen. But we do know that when Christ returns, we will be like him, because we will see him as he truly is.
  3. This hope makes us keep ourselves holy, just as Christ is holy.
  4. Everyone who sins breaks God's law, because sin is the same as breaking God's law.
  5. You know that Christ came to take away sins. He isn't sinful,
  6. and people who stay one in their hearts with him won't keep on sinning. If they do keep on sinning, they don't know Christ, and they have never seen him.
  7. Children, don't be fooled. Anyone who does right is good, just like Christ himself.
  8. Anyone who keeps on sinning belongs to the devil. He has sinned from the beginning, but the Son of God came to destroy all that he has done.
  9. God's children cannot keep on being sinful. His life-giving power lives in them and makes them his children, so that they cannot keep on sinning.
  10. You can tell God's children from the devil's children, because those who belong to the devil refuse to do right or to love each other.
  11. From the beginning you were told that we must love each other.
  12. Don't be like Cain, who belonged to the devil and murdered his own brother. Why did he murder him? He did it because his brother was good, and he was evil.
  13. My friends, don't be surprised if the people of this world hate you.
  14. Our love for each other proves that we have gone from death to life. But if you don't love each other, you are still under the power of death.
  15. If you hate each other, you are murderers, and we know that murderers do not have eternal life.
  16. We know what love is because Jesus gave his life for us. That's why we must give our lives for each other.
  17. If we have all we need and see one of our own people in need, we must have pity on that person, or else we cannot say we love God.
  18. Children, you show love for others by truly helping them, and not merely by talking about it.
  19. When we love others, we know that we belong to the truth, and we feel at ease in the presence of God.
  20. But even if we don't feel at ease, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything.
  21. Dear friends, if we feel at ease in the presence of God, we will have the courage to come near him.
  22. He will give us whatever we ask, because we obey him and do what pleases him.
  23. God wants us to have faith in his Son Jesus Christ and to love each other. This is also what Jesus taught us to do.
  24. If we obey God's commandments, we will stay one in our hearts with him, and he will stay one with us. The Spirit that he has given us is proof that we are one with him.

From the beginning of this letter, John stated his purpose to be Fellowship with God and the joy that accompanies it. This fellowship results from abiding in Him through Christ. It is this abiding that John has in mind throughout and keeping this context in mind is helpful to the understanding of chapter 3.

After reminding his readers of the honor they have as God's children, he then speaks of purifying themselves and refraining from sin. Here the abiding reference enters the discussion. In verse 6 he says, "Everyone who remains (abides) in Him does not sin." The 'abides' in parenthesis is mine. John is telling us that our actions reveal in whom we are abiding. We cannot be abiding in Christ and yet sin. It is not possible. Therefore, it must be the Devil who is the source of the sin. This is a complex topic. Is John here saying that if a person sins he, therefore, is not a Christian? In light of his remarks in the first chapter, I don't think so:  "If we say, 'We have no sin,' we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1:8-9) I understand his comments in chapter 3 to be saying that sin in the life of the Christian reveals that he is not abiding in Christ, not that it is an indication that he is not a Christian. Based on the verses in chapter one we see that it is possible for a Christian to sin, but not if he abides in Christ. I realize portions of the text in this chapter are not fully explained by this explanation, however, I do feel it captures the essence of John's thought.

As John continues the discussion, he points to love for fellow Christians as a prominent indicator of our true nature. He says, "We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers. The one who does not love remains in death." (3:14) Here John's statement seems emphatic: if we have no love toward other Christians, then we must not be a Christian ourselves. Christ, Himself, said that love among Christians would be an indication that we belong to Him. Furthermore, our love for one another is not determined by what we say, but what we do, and in this, Christ is our model. He gave his life for us and therefore, "We should also lay down our lives for our brothers." (3:16) We don't have to be a Christian to show acts of kindness toward other people. This in itself is not an indication of love or of our status in Christ. It is the willingness to go so far as to give our life for another that love, and also our true nature, is revealed.

John sums up this section in the last two verses: "Now this is His command: that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another as He commanded us.  The one who keeps His commands remains in Him, and He in him. And the way we know that He remains in us is from the Spirit He has given us. (3:23-24)

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