In 1 John 3:4-24, the Apostle John says this:
“Every one that doeth sin doeth also lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. And ye know that he was manifested to take away sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither knoweth him. My little children, let no man lead you astray: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous: he that doeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. To this end was the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is begotten of God doeth no sin, because his seed abideth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is begotten of God. 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. For this is the message which ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another: not as Cain was of the evil one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.
Marvel not, brethren, if the world hateth you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. Hereby know we love, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 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? My little children, let us not love in word, neither with the tongue; but in deed and truth. Hereby shall we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our heart before him: because if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, we have boldness toward God; and whatsoever we ask we receive of him, because we keep his commandments and do the things that are pleasing in his sight. And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, even as he gave us commandment. And he that keepeth his commandments abideth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit . . . he gave us.”
The theme of this passage is the contrast between those who practice sin, and those who practice righteousness. John explains at least four main things in this passage: a contrast between the sinner and the righteous, consequences of sin and righteousness, confidence from sin and righteousness, and the commandment against sin for righteousness.
In verses 4-10, John contrasts the sinner and the righteous. He begins by saying that everyone who practices sin, or makes it their practice to sin, also practices lawlessness, which is this practice of sin. What is lawlessness? It is living as if God has not given us a law to obey, or disregard for the law. What is the law? It depends upon the person, but all laws of God are ultimately from His Word, the Bible, are made to be our personal laws by being made a part of our consciences, our knowledge of God’s law. However, His law boils down to these two: love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength, and love your fellow human as yourself. The one who practices sin makes it a practice to not love God, and to not love his fellow human as himself.
In verse 5, John explains Christ’s relationship to sins: He appeared on earth to take them away, and He has no sin in Him. Therefore, John continues, no one who makes his home in Christ sins, and no one who practices sin has seen Christ for who He truly is, nor does he know Him as Eldest Brother. Then, he commands his weak spiritual children to make sure that no one deceives them about this: the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as Christ is righteous, but the one who practices sin belongs to the devil because the devil has sinned from the beginning.
What does it mean to be righteous just as Christ is righteous? It certainly does not refer to perfection, since those who practice righteousness still sin. What it means is that those who practice righteousness have a righteous heart, just like Christ does. The human difference is that those who practice righteousness still possess an evil body, while Christ possesses a perfect body.
What does it mean that the devil has sinned from the beginning? Since this fact is included as the reason that those who belong to him practice sin, and since it would not make sense for “the beginning” to refer to anything else, I conclude that “the beginning” refers to the beginning of the universe. In concluding this, I am not implying that I think that God is sinful, nor that there is any sin in Him. Persons and actions are only sinful because they fail to meet a standard that God has imposed upon them; it is impossible for God to have any sin since He is the One who defines sin.
In the second sentence of verse 8, John goes on to say that the Son of God appeared for the purpose of destroying the works of the devil. What are his works? Works of sin and lawlessness. Thus, John says, no one who has been born from God practices sin because His seed, the source of spiritual life, makes its home in him, and he cannot practice sin because he has been born from God. Finally, John contrasts the children of God and the children of the devil — those who belong to him — by saying that they are obvious from the facts that anyone who does not practice righteousness is not from God, nor the one who does not love his brother or sister in Christ by giving of himself.
In verses 11-12, John gives consequences of sin and righteousness. He begins by giving the reason that the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious from there practice: the message that his audience heard from the beginning of their Christian lives was that they should love one another — not as Cain, one of the sons of Adam and Eve — who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother, Abel. He then asks for the reason that Cain murdered Abel, and gives the answer: because Cain’s deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous.
In verses 13-22, John explains confidence from sin and righteousness. He begins by applying Cain’s murder of Abel to his audience; he commands them to not be surprised, as his brethren, if the world, represented by Cain, hates them. Then, he gives the reason that they ought to not be surprised: they know that they have passed out of spiritual death into spiritual life because they truly love the brethren. On the other hand, he says, he who does not truly love the brethren makes his home in spiritual death. Furthermore, he adds, everyone who hates “his brother or sister in Christ” is a murderer, and he tells his brethren that they know that no murderer has eternal life making its home in him. Why? Because, John says, they know love by this: that Christ laid down His life for them, and they ought to lay down their lives for the brethren. In contrast, he asks, whoever has physical or material goods, and sees “his brother or sister in Christ” in need, and closes his heart against that brother or sister, how does the love of God make its home in him? The implied answer: it doesn’t. Consequently, John commands his weak spiritual children to not love with messages about love, or by speaking, but to love in deed and in truth. As a result, he says, they will know by that that they belong to the truth, and will assure their heart before God about whatever their heart condemns them about. Why? Because, John says, God is greater than their hearts and knows all things. On the other hand, he says to his beloved, if their hearts do not condemn them, then they have confidence before God, and whatever they ask from Him they receive from Him because they practice His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.
In verses 23-24, John finishes this passage with the commandment against sin for righteousness. He begins by giving the commandment to his audience: that they believe in the name, or trustworthy reputation of identity and deeds, of God’s Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as Christ commanded them. Applying this commandment to his audience, he says that the one who practices Christ’s commandments makes his home in Him, and He makes His home in him. By those facts, John concludes, he and his audience know that Christ makes His home in them, and they know this from the Spirit whom Christ gave to them.
So, do you practice sin, or do you practice righteousness?
Are you making sure that no one deceives you regarding the facts that the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as Christ is righteous, and that the one who practices sin belongs to the devil?
Are you surprised when the world hates you?
Do you know that you have passed out of spiritual death into spiritual life because you love the brethren in Christ, or do you not love the brethren?
Do you know that no murderer has eternal life making its home in him?
Do you know love by this, that Christ laid down His life for you?
Do you lay down your life for your brethren?
When you have material possessions, and see “your brother or sister in Christ” in need of them, do you close your heart against him or her?
Do you love with messages or with speech, or in deed and in truth?
Do you know that you belong to the truth, and assure your heart before God about whatever your heart condemns you about?
If your heart does not condemn you, do you have confidence before God, and receive whatever you ask from Him?
Do you practice God’s commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight?
Are you believing in the trustworthy reputation of the identity, death, and resurrection of God’s Son Jesus Christ, and loving your brethren in Christ, just as He commanded you?
Do you know that Christ is making His home in you?
Do you understand the name of Jesus Christ? The Apostle Paul wrote about it this way:
“. . . I make known unto you brethren, the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye received, wherein also ye stand, by which also ye are saved, if ye hold fast the word which I preached unto you, except ye believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried; and that he hath been raised on the third day according to the scriptures; and that he appeared to Cephas; then to the twelve; then he appeared to above five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain until now, but some are fallen asleep; then he appeared to James; then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to the child untimely born, he appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-9
This is what the Apostle John said about the gospel in John 1:1-18:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that hath been made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness apprehended it not. There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came that he might bear witness of the light. There was the true light, even the light which lighteth every man, coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and they that were his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth. John beareth witness of him, and crieth, saying, This was he of whom I said, He that cometh after me is become before me: for he was before me. For of his fulness we all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”
This is what Christ Himself said about the gospel:
“. . . God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” John 3:16-20
John the Baptist said this: “. . . he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on [stays directed toward] him.” – John 3:36
The Apostle Paul said this in Romans 2:4-16 and 1:18-32:
“. . . despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? but after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up for thyself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every man according to his works: to them that by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and incorruption, eternal life: but unto them that are factious, and obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness, shall be wrath and indignation, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that worketh evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Greek; but glory and honor and peace to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek: for there is no respect of persons with God. For as many as have sinned without the law shall also perish without the law: and as many as have sinned under the law shall be judged by the law; for not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified; (for when Gentiles that have not the law do by nature the things of the law, these, not having the law, are the law unto themselves; in that they show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness therewith, and their thoughts one with another accusing or else excusing them); in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men, according to my gospel, by Jesus Christ.”
“. . . the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hinder the truth in unrighteousness; because that which is known of God is manifest in them; for God manifested it unto them. For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse: because that, knowing God, they glorified him not as God, neither gave thanks; but became vain in their reasonings, and their senseless heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts unto uncleanness, that their bodies should be dishonored among themselves: for that they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile passions: for their women changed the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another, men with men working unseemliness, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was due. And even as they refused to have God in their knowledge, God gave them up unto a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, hateful to God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, unmerciful: who, knowing the ordinance of God, that they that practise such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but also consent with them that practise them.”
Speaking of those that practice sin, the Apostle Paul uses this quote:
“. . . There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none that understandeth, There is none that seeketh after God; They have all turned aside, they are together become unprofitable; There is none that doeth good, no, not so much as one: Their throat is an open sepulchre; With their tongues they have used deceit: The poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness . . .” – Romans 3:10-14
This is my appeal to you, as written by the Apostle Paul:
“. . . we beseech you on behalf of Christ, be ye reconciled to God. Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” – 2 Corinthians 5:20b-21
This is how you become reconciled to God:
“. . . if thou shalt confess [acknowledge] with thy mouth Jesus as Lord [Greek: kurios, or Supreme in Authority], and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved: for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be put to shame. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek: for the same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich unto all that call upon him [depend upon Him]: for, Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord [who He is, what He has done, and what He can do] shall be saved.” Romans 10:9-13