posted on Jul, 28 2017 @ 05:01 PM
When John writes his first epistle, he is not, like Paul, addressing himself to a specific church under particular circumstances.
He writes, on behalf of himself and his fellow teachers, to anyone in the Christian body who will take his advice. Though his first readers were
probably in Ephesus and that region of Asia Minor.
His purpose is to teach these Christians, or remind them, that they are dwelling in God, through Christ, and to show them how this knowledge should be
affecting their conduct.
In the first two chapters, John has been establishing the importance of this relationship, warning his readers about the factors which might disrupt
our fellowship with God.
This brings up a question which John has raised once already; how can we know that we are abiding in God?
One part of the answer comes in terms of the doing of righteousness. That really harks back to John’s opening statement in this epistle, that “God
is light and in him is no darkness at all” (ch1 v5).
If they know that God is righteous (as they surely do), they should also know, by the same token, that everyone who “does right” has been born of
him (ch2 v29).
That is, they were “born of him” first, and are able to “do right” in consequence. What they do, therefore, is part of the evidence of that
This can be compared with the suggestion in James, that works are the evidence of faith, and with the injunction in Paul that those who live by the
Spirit should also walk by the Spirit.
In other words, they have established a new relationship with God, and what they do thereafter is based on the new relationship.
As those who have been begotten by God, they may be called, “and indeed we are”, the children of God (ch3 v1).
John invites them to reflect on what has made this possible. “See what love the Father has given us”; that is, he has shared with them his ability
to love. He has made them like himself.
For exactly that reason, the rest of the world cannot recognise them. The world is so unlike God that it cannot know God, and therefore it cannot know
his children either.
So while they are God’s children now, already, it is not yet “made manifest” what form this will take
when Christ appears (v2)
Two things can be known; “we shall be like him” and “we shall see him as he is”.
But the full statement is ambiguous, because the “for” which connects these two clauses can be taken in two different ways.
Either; “We shall become like him BECAUSE we see him as he is”. That is, the believer becomes like Christ by reflecting the glory which he
Or; “We shall see him as he is BECAUSE we have become like him”. That is, those aspects of us which are not of God will be ceasing to obscure our
view of him.
My commentator suggests there is truth in both interpretations.
In the meantime, everyone who has this hope needs to be trying to live up to it. (We should remember that there is no uncertainty in the New Testament
understanding of “hope”)
They should be striving to purify themselves and aiming to become like him, in advance of that final transformation when he appears (v3).
So there is a need to tackle the activity of sin, to bring it under control.
“Everyone who does sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness” (v4).
“Does sin” should be taken as referring to a positive commitment to the sinful life, rather than individual sinful actions.
“Lawlessness” [ANOMIA]; As long as the relation between God and his people was defined by the Law, this was a natural way of describing the
rejection of God’s will.
However, the Law of Moses has been found wanting as a way of understanding God’s will, so it is being replaced by a more spiritual understanding of
Therefore “doing sin” is now defined as the new meaning of the word “lawlessness”, and the negative associations of the word should be
As they know, Christ was manifested for the purpose of taking away sin.
Which was only possible because “in him there is no sin” (v5).
That explains why those who seek to be like him need to free themselves from active sin.
It also explains how they free themselves from active sin; that is, they free themselves by becoming like him.
Both angles are covered by the statement “No one who abides in him sins” (v6).
Conversely, anyone who sins (as a way of life), cannot claim that they have seen him or truly know him.
“Little children, let no one deceive you” (v7). They must not allow themselves to be led away from the understanding which he has just been
“He who does right is righteous, as [Christ] is righteous”.
That is, to the same degree that Christ is righteous- “Even as”.
So “doing right” is the way that his affinity with Christ is to be recognised.
On the other hand, “He who does sin is of the devil” (v8).
For the devil has been in sin “from the beginning”, just as the Son has been without sin “from the beginning”.
So if the Son was manifested to take away sin, he was also manifested to “destroy the works of the devil”, which means the same thing.
To recap, then;
“No one born of God commits sin” (v9).
No one who has been begotten by God, once for all, has the sinful character.
Because the character of God is already in him, taking its place.
In effect, he cannot sin. This is another version of what John has already said about those who “abide in him”.
And that is how we tell the difference between the children of God and the children of the devil (v10).
Those who do righteousness are of God, and those who do not do righteousness are not of God.
Then the final clause of that verse equates “not doing righteousness” with “not loving his brother”, which sets up the transition into
John’s next theme.