Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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1 JOHN - Chapter 3

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1 John 3

Supplemental Commentary:

II.  GOD IS JUSTICE  2, 28 -- 4, 6 (continued)

2, 28 -- 3, 6:  Children of God (continued).    3, 1.  The principal effect of God's love for us is that it makes us children of God, permitting us to live in the closest union with Him.  Our sonship remains adoptive, but vastly superior to human adoption.  Because it did not know him: the world rejects Christ, therefore also the knowledge of the Father, therefore also this divine sonship of the followers of Christ.    2.  This divine sonship which is really a fact here in this life, is but the germ and root of a more glorious condition.  When he appears: may apply either to God or the final coming of Christ.  In either case it refers to our condition after the life of this world, a condition that is described as being like to him, i.e., to God.  For we shall see him, etc.: cf. 2 Cor. 3, 18; Col. 3, 3 ff; 1 Cor. 13, 12 f.  This is the beatific vision in which the human mind, aided by the light of glory, will behold the entire Godhead, though not wholly or comprehensively.  All this we know: i.e., from the teachings of Christ (John 17, 24).    3.  Makes himself holy: by works of penance and justice.  As he also is holy: i.e., God, or Jesus Christ, the sinless, just and holy One (2, 6; 3, 5.7.16).

4.  Commits sin: the Greek term implies sin with full knowledge and deliberation.  Iniquity also: sin is lawlessness, impiety, a revolt against the will of God as expressed in His commandments.  It is always and entirely incompatible with the justice demanded of the Christian.    5.  The gravity of all sin is shown by two considerations: the Son of God became man in order to take our sins away; and sin is not in him, i.e., in Jesus Christ.    6.  The highest Christian ideal.  The more fully we know Christ's life, and dwell in Christ, the closer we come to the ideal of sinlessness after the pattern of Christ.

3, 7-15:  Children of the Devil.    7.  Let no one lead you astray: a warning against the errors of the gnostics.    8.  Is of the devil: the sinner is said to be the son of the devil because every sin is in some way dependent on, and inspired by him.  From the beginning: it was through him that sin entered the world (Wisd. 2, 24 f).  All moral evil in the last analysis is reducible to Satan, the leader of the forces of evil.  The works of the devil: i.e., sin.    9.  This does not mean that a Christian is impeccable; rather the impossibility is relative.  Grace can be lost through serious sin.    10.  In this: i.e,. in the avoidance of sin.

10 b.  The term brother refers primarily to the members of the Christian community; virtually its import is universal.    11.  Cf. 2, 7-11.    12.  Not like Cain: the spirit opposed to brotherly love is hatred, which finds its supreme expression in murder according to the example of Cain (Gen. 4, 5 ff).  Cain's works were wicked, and those of Abel just because of their dispositions (cf. Heb. 11, 4).    13.  The world, i.e., men not regenerated by grace, is filled with the spirit of Cain.  Our Lord had predicted this hatred of the world (John 15, 18-25).  Persecution was undoubtedly raging at the time these lines were written.    14.  We have passed from the death of sin to life in God.  True fraternal charity has its origin in the love of God, and hence it is a sign and proof that we possess divine fellowship.    15.  Hatred is put in the same class with murder.  Our Lord speaks similarly of anger (Matt. 5, 22).

3, 16-18:  True Charity.    16.  The example of Christ's love is the extreme opposite of Cain's hatred.  His example is set before us for our imitation.    17.  The aid envisaged here is primarily material, but it does not exclude spiritual aid which is governed by the same principle.    18.  This is the old proverb: actions speak louder than words (Jas. 1, 22; 2, 15 ff).

3, 19-24:  A Good Conscience.    19.  In this: i.e., in the practice of brotherly love.  We know, etc.: i.e., that we really enjoy the friendship of God.  The consciousness of practising charity both in word and in deed gives us this assurance.    20.  This verse is obscure because blames is without an object.  It may refer either to our past sins or to lack of brotherly love.  Further, its construction is not clear.  Going with the previous verse, it means that we can have confidence notwithstanding our past sins.  Construed with the following it means that God will not allow us to go unpunished for such want of brotherly love.    21.  The testimony of a good conscience engenders confidence and hope.  Cf. Acts 24, 16; 1 Cor. 4, 4; 9, 27.    24.  By the Spirit: i.e., the Holy Spirit who gives to the Christian assurance of this divine fellowship.

Confraternity Bible:

1 Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are.  This is why the world does not know us, because it did not know him.  2 Beloved, now we are the children of God, and it has not yet appeared what we shall be.  We know that, when he appears, we shall be like to him, for we shall see him just as he is.  3 And everyone who has this hope in him makes himself holy, just as he also is holy.

4 Everyone who commits sin commits iniquity also; and sin is iniquity.  5 And you know that he appeared to take our sins away, and sin is not in him.  6 No one who abides in him commits sin; and no one who sins has seen him, or has known him.

Children of the Devil  7 Dear children, let no one lead you astray.  He who does what is just is just, even as he is just.  8 He who commits sin is of the devil, because the devil sins from the beginning.  To this end the Son of God appeared, that he might destroy the works of the devil.  9* Whoever is born of God does not commit sin, because his seed abides in him and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.  10 In this the children of God and the children of the devil are made known.

Whoever is not just is not of God, nor is he just who does not love his brother.  11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; 12 not like Cain, who was of the evil one, and killed his brother.  And wherefore he kill him?  Because his own works were wicked, but his brother's just.  13 Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you.  14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren.  He who does not love abides in death.  15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murder.  And you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

True Charity  16 In this we come to know his love, that he laid down his life for us; and we likewise ought to lay down our life for the brethren.  17 He who has the goods of this world and sees his brother in need and closes his heart to him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 My dear children, let us not love in word, neither with the tongue, but in deed and in truth.

A Good Conscience  19 In this we  know that we are of the truth, and in his sight we set out hearts at rest.  20 Because if our heart blames us, God is greater than our heart and knows all things.  21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence towards God; 22 and whatever we ask, we shall receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.

23 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.  24 And he who keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him.  And in this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.


9: Does not commit sin: this does not mean that it is impossible for him who has been spiritually reborn in Baptism to commit sin, but simply that he will not sin as long as he keeps the seed of grace in himself.  This grace, however, can be lost through sin.