By William Y. Beasley
The book of 1 John was written that people living in the first century or in the twentieth century may know concerning eternal life. If in this series of studies you come to know that you have eternal life, keep the faith. If you learn or know you do not have eternal life, turn in obedience (“doeth righteousness”-1 John 2:29) and be saved.
Children of God (1 John 3:1-2)
The greatness of God’s love toward us is beyond full comprehension (John 3:16; 1 John 3:16). Perhaps we can get a glimpse of that love when we consider the exalted state to which we have been elevated: “. . . that we should be called children of God; and we are” (3:1). As children of God, we are to be an enigma to our neighbors (3:1, 13). This idea is presented not only by John (John 1:10; 16:3; 17:25) but also by Peter (1 Pet. 2:9; 4:3-4) and Paul (1 Cor. 2:14; 2 Cor. 6:9). I once read, I remember not where, that “the names of God’s greatest saints are not engraved on tablets of the world’s temple of fame.” This is true, but, beloved, God knows His own. We are children of God, but our glory is not yet complete. We shall be with Christ (John 17:24) and “be like him” (3:2).
“Purifieth Himself” (1 John 3:3-5)
The hope to “be like him” (3:2) causes each of us to `purifieth himself” (3:3). The word “purifieth” refers not to baptism (except it be as an initial step), but to the continual action (present tense) of obedience. “If this were perfectionalism,” R. C. H. Lenski says, “an aorist would be required: `did purify himself’ ” (Interpretation of Peter, John, Jude, pp. 453-454). The thought seems to be that when one stops purifying himself it indicates that he has lost the hope. The one who is purifying himself is the one who “doeth righteousness” (1 John 2:29; Psa. 119:172).
“Sin is lawlessness” (3:4) or a transgression of the law. Not necessarily the doing of that which is forbidden, but living where and doing that which law does not authorize (2 John 9). All sin is outside the protection of law. One commentator translated this (3:4): “Everyone who worketh sin . . .” and then explained its continual action by saying, “. . . he who worketh sin as one worketh a trade or occupation” (James Macknight, Macknight on the Epistles Vol. VI, p. 67). Christ came to “take away sin” (3:5) which is to “destroy the works of the devil” (3:8; see also John 1:29; 1 Pet. 2:24; Tit. 2:14). Jesus Christ in the flesh was sinless (1 Pet. 2:22) and in His spiritual body, the church, “Sin has no place” (3:5, TCNT).
“Sinneth Not” (I John 3:6-9)
The many expressions in this section, like “purifieth” (3:5) are present tense and denote continual action. This is not teaching that there is a state of total sanctification where it is impossible for a child of God to sin. Nor is it teaching that one sin shows that a person was not begotten of God-if it were the reverse (3:7) would of necessity also be true. It does teach that the one begotten of God cannot continue to live in sin-to do so is to be one who “hath not seen him, neither knoweth him” (3:6). The righteous individual is “he that doeth righteousness” (3:7; Psa. 119172). John tells us that the one begotten of God cannot continue in sin “because his seed abideth in him” (3:9). What does this mean? Whose seed? It is speaking not of the seed of man, but of the seed of God (see 1 Pet. 1:23; Psa. 119:11). Notice some other translations of this: (1) “. . . because the very nature of God dwells within him . . .” (TCNT), (2) “. . . for God’s nature abides in him” (RSV), (3) “A divine germ remains in him . . .” (Weymouth) and (4) “. . . because the God-given lifeprinciple continues to live in him. . .” (Williams).
The Divine Test (I John 3:10-12)
The one who does not continue in righteousness is not of God and neither is the one who “loveth not his brother” (3:10; John 13:34). God must have known that love of brethren was going to be a problem; He mentions it so often to warn us. Why do the unrighteous hate the righteous? Because they, like Cain, see themselves as they really are. Instead of changing their lives they try to destroy the contrast, the righteous.
“These things have I written unto you, that ye may know that Ye have eternal life, even unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:13). Do you know you have eternal life? Are you an enigma to your friends and neighbors, a peculiar person zealous of good works (Tit. 2:14)? Are you continually purifying self, continually doing righteousness? Are you walking under protection of law, doing only that which the law of Christ authorizes? Does the nature of God dwell in you to keep you from continuing in sin? Do you continually love your brothers and sisters in the Lord? By these you can know-yea or nay!
Truth Magazine XXII: 48, p. 770
December 7, 1978