7/02/21 – 1 John 3:18-24
Today’s passage has to be read in the context of loving our Christian brethren (our “brothers”) – 1 John 3:10-17. This has to include all those who claim to be our brethren unless we are certain they are not!
1 John 3:18 – My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.
word – logos (speech; discourse; doctrine; teaching; narration; reasoning)
tongue – glossa (tongue; language; dialect)
deed – ergon (work; business; that which is accomplished; deed; undertaking)
truth – aletheia (truly; in truth; according to truth; truth; free from deceit)
This is clearly referring to the practical loving of our brethren by sharing our worldly goods (necessities of life) with those who had desperate need of them (1 John 3:17).
(a) Do not love your brother by word alone. Do not be a talker about loving your brother if talking is all you are going to do about it. Some people are talkers; a lot fewer are doers as well. You might mean every word you say but just can’t seem to get around to doing anything about it. You have good intentions but lack incentive to act upon them. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. As the saying goes, talking is cheap; it’s doing that costs!
This person has the worldly goods to help others, and does a lot of talking about helping others, but it is usually someone else who has to do the actual work.
(b) Do not love your brother with your tongue. That is, do not say things for the sake of saying them with no intention of ever doing them in the first place. Such a person would make a good politician: make your election promises sound as plausible as possible, yet you know that, if elected, you do not intend acting upon those promises.
Such a person is good at sounding like they love their brethren, but the talk is all show. These people are usually good talkers, yet, when asked to do things, they will fade into the background; talk – yes, but work – no! They are deceivers, with most of their promises turning out to be lies.
(c) Love your brother instead with practical works. It is really only acceptable to talk about what you can and will do if you actually do what you say you will do. Talking about what you can do won’t help them live any better. And saying nice “comforting” words might sound nice but if you do not intend doing anything, then don’t waste their time by your empty talk. If your brother needs food, then discussing his need for food doesn’t satisfy his hunger like a box full of food will. If he needs clothing, then it’s clothing that he should get, not good intentions and empty promises.
(d) And love your brother with the truth, not lies and deceptions. Don’t try to dictate their needs to them; instead determine what their needs truly are and satisfy them accordingly. Some people think that because they have some old clothes that they no longer need, they can then just hand them over to their needy brethren. Or food that isn’t as good as they might like it, so why not give it to those needy ones who should be grateful to get some food. But, if you do not think your goods are good enough for you, don’t use those in need to offload your less-than-suitable throw-aways. Op shops often complain how their donation bins are regularly used as dumping grounds for people’s rubbish. So, if it’s not good enough for you to use anymore, then why offload it onto others, telling them to put up with it or stop complaining?
James 2:15-16 – 15If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be [ye] warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what [doth it] profit?
Romans 12:9a – [Let] love be without dissimulation (without hypocrisy).
1 Peter 1:22 – Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, [see that ye] love one another with a pure heart fervently:
1 John 3:19 – And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.
heart – kardia (heart; centre of physical and spiritual life; soul or mind regarding thoughts, passions, desires, affections; of the will and character; conscience)
Here it could refer to feelings and emotions, particularly as they relate to our conscience. A number of translations use “conscience” rather than “heart”. Our consciences often rely upon our feelings and emotions.
hereby – or “By this” That is, by what has just been said, we may know whether or not we are of the truth.
the truth – aletheia (as per Vs 18 above) While Vs 18 above appears to refer to us being truthful (without deceit) in our love for the brethren, it seems now to relate to the truth of God’s word (“thy word is truth” – John 17:17). Loving our Christian brethren as noted in Vs 18 above should indicate that we are genuine Christians and not the false variety. John is merely continuing with his checklist of our attributes to demonstrate which group we would belong to. If we love our brethren as biblical truth tells us to, then we are born again of the truth of the word (God’s truth); if we do not love as we should, then we are not of that truth. That is, a genuine Christian would love his brethren by sharing of our necessities of life with those brethren in need of such.
shall assure – peitho (persuade; gain one’s good will; be persuaded; be convinced; have confidence that) We should be assured (in our hearts, or, more correctly, in our consciences) that we are acting according to the way genuine Christians should act. Our consciences (or feelings and emotions) should not condemn us for behaving in a way that is in line with God’s truth.
If we love in truth and in deed (Vs 18 above), then this should cause us to know that we are of the truth (of God), and this knowledge should assure us that our consciences are acceptable before Him. It is possible for our feelings to dictate to us whether or not we are guilty, yet it is God, and not our feelings, who is the true measure of our conscience.
Psalm 139:23-24 – 23Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: 24And see if [there be any] wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
The heart here represents the conscience, more than just the emotions.
Acts 2:37 – Now when they heard [this], they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men [and] brethren, what shall we do?
So, putting this in the current context of loving our brethren (1 John 3:10-17), we should be assured of being of the truth if we tick the boxes that demonstrate that we are genuine Christians. In particular, John makes it clear that it is ultra-important that we tick the “loving our brothers” box in order to be approved as a genuine Christian. It’s easy to be a good Christian when you can do nice or popular things to tick the boxes. However, loving our Christian brethren is not always a pleasant task. For one thing, whatever you share with them is not likely to be paid back, especially in full. You are helping them because they cannot help themselves! And not every Christian is going to be overly happy if you help them, so do not expect thanks from everyone you help. And if you only help those who can pay you back, or will demonstrate undying gratitude for your help, then who will help the unlovable in your fellowship?
Peter wrote about this very aspect of being a Christian. He noted that servants (or slaves) were to be subject to not only the good masters, but also the froward (perverse; wicked; unfair) masters. And suffering for doing good was more acceptable to God than suffering for your own bad behaviour. Because Christ suffered unfairly on our behalf, we should be prepared to suffer unfairly for the sake of others. This applied even if those others deserved their suffering, just as Christ suffered for those who brought their suffering upon themselves.
1 Peter 2:18-21 – 18Servants, [be] subject to [your] masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. 19For this [is] thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. 20For what glory [is it], if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer [for it], ye take it patiently, this [is] acceptable with God. 21For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:
Sometimes it is hard to help some people. You may be looking for “feel-good” feelings after helping someone, yet that person may instead be overly critical of your efforts to help. But, you may be merely doing what the truth of God’s word tells you concerning your brethren. This may lead to feelings of guilt when you are criticised. However, if you are loving your brethren as the Bible requires, then you should be assured that your consciences are clear before God.
1 John 3:20 – For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.
heart – rather “conscience” here
condemn – to find fault with; blame; accuse; condemn.
This is not a straight-forward verse to explain. One explanation is that our consciences can condemn us (that is, we have a guilty conscience), often because of our feelings and emotions, but God is greater than our consciences (can overrule the conclusions of our consciences) because He knows all things.
Our consciences can mislead us at times; we can make mistakes. But God does not make mistakes because He knows all things without exception. Our consciences can mislead us, but it is God’s truth that should rule our consciences. God knows all things and cannot/will not make any mistakes or misjudgements.
Condemnation here could then refer to our consciences finding fault with us, giving us incorrect information that could cause us to feel guilty when we are not.
However, we could take this explanation a step further, noting that we can dwell on our sins of the past to the extent that we cannot feel forgiven even when God’s word assures us that we are indeed forgiven. Thus, if our consciences condemn us in spite of there being no more condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1), the truth of God’s word should overrule our consciences, because God knows all things, including that He has already forgiven us all our sins and will continue to forgive all future sins as we, as genuine Christians, repent and confess those sins. It is because God through Jesus Christ has already paid the law’s penalty for all sins for all time. And our salvation remains intact from when we called upon the name of the Lord to be saved (Romans 10:13). God does not remove our salvation or put it on hold every time we commit a sin against Him. This can be a problem for some people who can feel as though they could never be forgiven and wonder if they might have lost their salvation or even possibly have never been saved in the first place. Even if they have called upon the name of the Lord to be saved, they can question whether God really saved them, because they do not feel saved at times. But Christians can and do sin (1 John 1:8, 10), and should not feel kicked out of their eternal life every time they fall. Of course, we must repent and confess our sins as per 1 John 1:9 for cleansing from those sins, but this does not equate to loss of salvation. It is those who claim that they do not sin (1 John 1:8) who do not have the truth in them yet and still remain to be saved.
More specifically, being treated unfairly when loving our Christian brethren could make us feel guilty, that we perhaps could have done more or maybe differently. This may be especially so if those brethren are less than thankful for the help they are given. We then end up with guilty consciences concerning our help for others. Yet, we should not feel guilty for trying to be obedient to the requirement that we love our brethren. In spite of our feelings of guilt, if God (who is greater than our consciences and knows all things) declares us to be without condemnation, then that should overrule our feelings of guilt.
Thus it is that assurance of our conscience before God (Vs 19 above) that ticks the “love your brother” box and therefore assures us that we are of the truth that we should be listening to, and not our feelings which may condemn us because we may feel that we are not doing enough.
1 John 3:21 – Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, [then] have we confidence toward God.
However, if our consciences do not condemn us (probably because we have loved our brethren, even the unlovable, as required by God), then we may have confidence (boldness) toward God. This should never be an excuse for arrogance toward God, though. Our confidence toward God is therefore based upon our knowledge that He knows all things and that our conscience is dependent upon our reliance upon God’s truth to assess our standing before Him. Our confidence is therefore based on knowing that we are of the truth (Vs 19 above) which, according to John, is in turn based on loving our brother (Vs 18 above). Our consciences therefore are subject to God’s truth.
Thus, if our consciences do not condemn us (in truth), then we may have confidence (boldness) in approaching God. We are forgiven, no matter what we may feel about it.
Hebrews 4:15-16 – 15For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as [we are, yet] without sin. 16Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
1 John 3:22 – And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.
those things that are pleasing – arestos (pleasing; agreeable)
John 8:29 – And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please (arestos) him.
sight – or “presence”
All the verbs here (ask, receive, keep, do) are present tense, suggesting that the receiving is as present as the asking.
This appears to be related to the confidence (or boldness) toward God in Vs 21 above. If our heart (conscience) does not condemn us because our consciences have been assured (persuaded; made confident) by the word of God, then we may approach God with boldness in prayer (Hebrews 4:16).
Prayer is a contentious issue for many Christians. Does God really answer all our prayers? The answer has to be a guarded “Yes!” We are to place our requests before God.
Philippians 4:6 – Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
If it is according to His will, then He hears and answers us.
1 John 5:14-15 – 14And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: 15And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.
We don’t get if we don’t ask, and we don’t get what we ask for if it is for selfish reasons.
James 4:2-3 – 2Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. 3Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume [it] upon your lusts.
We have to be mindful that sometimes God says “Yes” and sometimes He says “No”. We sometimes think that all answered prayer must be as we asked, but often we can get a different answer to the one we were expecting. This does not mean it wasn’t answered. Even if God says “No”, it is still answered prayer. We have to assume that prayer properly made by a genuine Christian will be answered and then assume the type of answer from that: Yes, no or something different, or even not yet!
Also note that answered prayer is often associated with obedience to God’s word.
John 15:7 – If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
It may well be that the more we abide in Him, the more our prayers will be answered!
Also note that others for whom we might pray do have freedom of will to choose many things for themselves.
1 John 3:23 – And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.
In particular, the keeping of His commandments (Vs 22 above) focuses upon one special commandment (which is really two commandments): “That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another.” A major theme of 1 John focuses on the new commandment of Jesus to love one another, especially our Christian brethren (1 John 2:7-8 and again in 1 John 4:21).
It is clear that Christians who do not tick the “love your brother / love one another” checklist box will probably fail John’s assessment on whether or not they are genuine Christians. Note that Paul said similar in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 – noting “and have not charity (agape love)” three times – if you do not have love, then nothing else really counts at all! Note also that God’s love (agape) can only be experienced by those in whom God dwells (1 John 4:12-16).
Jesus stated it very clearly too. Love (agape) was the measure of a good disciple.
John 13:34-35 – 34A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35By this shall all [men] know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ – This is an absolute essential for salvation. If you do not tick this box, you are lost!
1 John 5:13 – These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.
“he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” (1 John 5:12)
1 John 3:24 – And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth (meno) in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth (meno) in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.
dwelleth / abideth – meno (dwell; remain; abide; continue)
“his commandments” refers to the keeping of “his commandments” in Vs 22 above. In particular, John is referring to “love” which goes hand in hand with obeying His commandments.
John 14:15 – If ye love (agapao) me, keep my commandments.
If we dwell (meno – abide) in Him, we must live our lives as He lived.
1 John 2:6 – He that saith he abideth (meno) in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.
We cannot claim to know Him if we do not keep His commandments.
1 John 2:3 – And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.
We are in God and God is in us.
John 14:20-21 – 20At that day ye shall know that I [am] in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. 21He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
John 17:21 – That they all may be one; as thou, Father, [art] in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
The indwelling of God depends on us loving one another. (“love” here is agape love)
1 John 4:12-16 – 12No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth (meno) in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13Hereby know we that we dwell (meno) in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. 14And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son [to be] the Saviour of the world. 15Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth (meno) in him, and he in God. 16And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth (meno) in love dwelleth (meno) in God, and God in him.
The Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth; therefore we may know that God abides in us by the witness of the Holy Spirit.
John 16:13-14 – 13Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, [that] shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. 14He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew [it] unto you.
Romans 8:16 – The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: