MARKS OF THE
GOD AND THE
CHILDREN OF THE
1. Behold--calling attention, as to some wonderful exhibition,
little as the world sees to admire. This verse is connected with the
thus: All our doing of righteousness is a mere sign that God, of
His matchless love, has adopted us as children; it does not save us,
but is a proof that we are saved of His grace.
what manner of--of what surpassing excellence, how gracious on
His part, how precious to us.
love . . . bestowed--He does not say that God hath
given us some gift, but love itself and the fountain of all
honors, the heart itself, and that not for our works or efforts, but of
His grace [LUTHER].
that--"what manner of love"; resulting in, proved by, our being,
&c. The immediate effect aimed at in the bestowal of this love
is, "that we should be called children of God."
should be called--should have received the privilege of such a
glorious title (though seeming so imaginary to the world), along
with the glorious reality. With God to call is to make
really to be. Who so great as God? What nearer relationship than
that of sons? The oldest manuscripts add, "And we ARE SO" really.
therefore--"on this account," because "we are (really) so."
us--the children, like the Father.
it knew him not--namely, the Father. "If they who regard not
God, hold thee in any account, feel alarmed about thy state" [BENGEL]. Contrast
The world's whole course is one great act of non-recognition of
2. Beloved--by the Father, and therefore by me.
now--in contrast to "not yet." We now already are really
sons, though not recognized as such by the world, and (as the
consequence) we look for the visible manifestation of our sonship,
which not yet has taken place.
doth not yet appear--Greek, "it hath not yet ('at any
time,' Greek aorist) been visibly manifested what we shall
be"--what further glory we shall attain by virtue of this our sonship.
The "what" suggests a something inconceivably glorious.
but--omitted in the oldest manuscripts. Its insertion in
English Version gives a wrong antithesis. It is not, "We do
not yet know manifestly what . . . but we know," &c.
Believers have some degree of the manifestation already, though
the world has not. The connection is, The manifestation to
the world of what we shall be, has not yet taken place; we
know (in general; as a matter of well-assured knowledge; so
the Greek) that when (literally, "if"; expressing no doubt as to
the fact, but only as to the time; also implying the coming preliminary
fact, on which the consequence follows,
He (not "it," namely, that which is not yet manifested
[ALFORD]) shall be manifested
(1Jo 3:5; 2:28),
we shall be like Him (Christ; all sons have a substantial resemblance
to their father, and Christ, whom we shall be like, is "the express
image of the Father's person," so that in resembling Christ, we shall
resemble the Father). We wait for the manifestation (literally,
the "apocalypse"; the same term as is applied to Christ's own
manifestation) of the sons of God. After our natural birth, the
new birth into the life of grace is needed, which is to be followed by
the new birth into the life of glory; the two latter alike are termed
The resurrection of our bodies is a kind of coming out of the womb of
the earth, and being born into another life. Our first temptation was
that we should be like God in knowledge, and by that we fell; but being
raised by Christ, we become truly like Him, by knowing Him as we are
known, and by seeing Him as He is [PEARSON,
Exposition of the Creed]. As the first immortality which Adam
lost was to be able not to die, so the last shall be not to be able to
die. As man's first free choice or will was to be able not to sin, so
our last shall be not to be able to sin [AUGUSTINE, The City of God, 22.30]. The devil
fell by aspiring to God's power; man, by aspiring to his
knowledge; but aspiring after God's goodness, we shall
ever grow in His likeness. The transition from God the Father to
"He," "Him," referring to Christ (who alone is ever said in Scripture
to be manifested; not the Father,
implies the entire unity of the Father and the Son.
for, &c.--Continual beholding generates likeness
as the face of the moon being always turned towards the sun, reflects
its light and glory.
see him--not in His innermost Godhead, but as manifested in
Christ. None but the pure can see the infinitely Pure One. In all
these passages the Greek is the same verb opsomai; not
denoting the action of seeing, but the state of him to whose eye or
mind the object is presented; hence the Greek verb is always in
the middle or reflexive voice, to perceive and inwardly
appreciate [TITTMANN]. Our spiritual bodies
will appreciate and recognize spiritual beings hereafter, as our
natural bodies now do natural objects.
3. this hope--of being hereafter "like Him." Faith and
love, as well as hope, occur in
1Jo 3:11, 23.
in--rather, "(resting) upon Him"; grounded on His
purifieth himself--by Christ's Spirit in him
end). "Thou purifiest thyself, not of thyself, but of Him who comes
that He may dwell in thee" [AUGUSTINE]. One's
justification through faith is presupposed.
as he is pure--unsullied with any uncleanness. The Second
Person, by whom both the Law and Gospel were given.
4. Sin is incompatible with birth from God
John often sets forth the same truth negatively, which he had
before set forth positively. He had shown, birth from God
involves self-purification; he now shows where sin, that is, the want
of self-purification, is, there is no birth from God.
Whosoever--Greek, "Every one who."
committeth sin--in contrast to
"Every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself"; and
"He that doeth righteousness."
transgresseth . . . the law--Greek, "committeth
transgression of law." God's law of purity; and so shows he has no such
hope of being hereafter pure as God is pure, and, therefore, that he is
not born of God.
sin is . . . transgression of . . .
law--definition of sin in general. The Greek having
the article to both, implies that they are convertible terms. The
Greek "sin" (hamartia) is literally, "a missing of the
mark." God's will being that mark to be ever aimed at. "By the law is
the knowledge of sin." The crookedness of a line is shown by being
brought into juxtaposition with a straight ruler.
5. Additional proof of the incompatibility of sin and sonship;
the very object of Christ's manifestation in the flesh was to take
away (by one act, and entirely, aorist) all sins, as the scapegoat
and--another proof of the same.
in him is no sin--not "was," but "is," as in
"He is righteous," and
"He is pure." Therefore we are to be so.
6. He reasons from Christ's own entire separation from sin, that
those in him must also be separate from it.
abideth in him--as the branch in the vine, by vital union living
by His life.
sinneth not--In so far as he abides in Christ, so far is he free
from all sin. The ideal of the Christian. The life of sin and the life
of God mutually exclude one another, just as darkness and light. In
matter of fact, believers do fall into sins
(1Jo 1:8-10; 2:1, 2);
but all such sins are alien from the life of God, and need Christ's
cleansing blood, without application to which the life of God could not
be maintained. He sinneth not so long as he abideth in Christ.
whosoever sinneth hath not seen him--Greek perfect, "has
not seen, and does not see Him." Again the ideal of Christian
intuition and knowledge is presented
All sin as such is at variance with the notion of one regenerated. Not
that "whosoever is betrayed into sins has never seen nor known God";
but in so far as sin exists, in that degree the spiritual
intuition and knowledge of God do not exist in him.
neither--"not even." To see spiritually is a further step
than to know; for by knowing we come to seeing by
vivid realization and experimentally.
7, 8. The same truth stated, with the addition that he who sins
is, so far as he sins, "of the devil."
let no man deceive you--as Antinomians try to mislead men.
righteousness--Greek, "the righteousness," namely,
of Christ or God.
he that doeth . . . is righteous--Not his doing
makes him righteous, but his being righteous (justified
by the righteousness of God in Christ,
makes him to do righteousness: an inversion common in familiar
language, logical in reality, though not in form, as in
Works do not justify, but the justified man works. We infer from his
doing righteousness that he is already righteous (that
is, has the true and only principle of doing righteousness,
namely, faith), and is therefore born of God
just as we might say, The tree that bears good fruit is a good tree,
and has a living root; not that the fruit makes the tree and its
root to be good, but it shows that they are so.
8. He that committeth sin is of the devil--in contrast to "He
that doeth righteousness,"
He is a son of the devil
John does not, however, say, "born of the devil." as he does "born of
God," for "the devil begets none, nor does he create any; but whoever
imitates the devil becomes a child of the devil by imitating him, not
by proper birth" [AUGUSTINE, Ten Homilies on
the First Epistle of John, Homily 4.10]. From the devil there is
not generation, but corruption [BENGEL].
sinneth from the beginning--from the time that any began to sin
[ALFORD]: from the time that he became what he is,
the devil. He seems to have kept his first estate only a very short
time after his creation [BENGEL]. Since the
fall of man [at the beginning of our world] the devil
is (ever) sinning (this is the force of "sinneth"; he
has sinned from the beginning, is the cause of all sins, and still goes
on sinning; present). As the author of sin, and prince of this world,
he has never ceased to seduce man to sin [LUECKE].
destroy--break up and do away with; bruising and crushing the
works of the devil--sin, and all its awful consequences. John
argues, Christians cannot do that which Christ came to destroy.
9. Whosoever is born of God--literally, "Everyone that is
begotten of God."
doth not commit sin--His higher nature, as one born or begotten
of God, doth not sin. To be begotten of God and to sin,
are states mutually excluding one another. In so far as one sins, he
makes it doubtful whether he be born of God.