1 John


Argument Proper

vi] The family of God


In 3:1-3, John reminds his readers that they are children of God, which, when it comes to the world, isolates the believer. He then picks up on two ideas raised in 2:28-29, namely, the hope of Christ's return and the necessary purity of those who do the hoping. John then goes on to explain that it is purity of life which sets the children of God apart from the children of the evil one.


i] Context: See 2:18-29. Those who give weight to the spiral structure of John's argument proper, argue that we begin the second spiral at this point in the letter, 3:1-4:6, although possibly 2:29 commences the unit, with v28 serving a transitional function. John's proposition that "God is light" is developed with respect to "living as God's children", Smalley, the focus being on "right living, and love, and true belief", Love. Smalley argues that John now lists a number of required elements for "living as God's children", the first of these being the necessity to renounce sin, v4-9/10.


ii] Background: See 1:1-5.


iii] Structure: Confidence in the family of God:

God is life-giving light, let us walk in the light of his love

Argument #6, v1-10:

Confidence in the family of God.

A statement about the nature / character of God as Father, v1-3.

The necessity to renounce sin, v4-10:

no one can abide in Christ and also live in lawlessness, v4-6;

victory through the indwelling Christ, v7-10.



iv] Interpretation:

John continues to develop his argument guided by the proposition that God is light / God is love, 1:5. On the basis of this proposition John addresses two separate groups which claim allegiance to God. One group, "the children of God", v1, is lavished with the love of God; they purify themselves as God is pure, v3. The other group is found in habitual rebellion against God, in lawlessness. The difference between these two groups is one of orientation; for one, an orientation toward Christ, for the other, an orientation toward rebellion.

Focusing on the issue of right living, 3:4-10, John addresses the necessity to renounce sin. First, in v4-6, John explains that Christ is not only without sin, but died to overcome sin, and so it is not possible to claim union with Christ and then live in defiant rebellion against God. In v7-10, John will go on to draw out the necessity of renouncing sin by examining the victory a believer possesses through the indwelling Christ.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 3:1

Arguments in support of the proposition, #6,- Confidence in the family of God, v1-10: i] The character of God as Father, v1-3. The opening remark, "How great", is an expression of amazement. God has acted with self-giving love to bring us into an intimate relationship with himself; he has made us his children. We do not deserve his love and so this makes his self-giving toward us even more wonderful. Three consequences flow from this truth:

a) "The world does not know us." The world does not know us in the same sense as it does not know God. The child of God is not recognised by secular society; we are ignored, even condemned.

b) "What we will be has not yet been made known". Our standing in Christ enables us to deal with our present limitations, cf., Deut.29:29. So, we live with our limited understanding, knowing that one day we will stand before the Father and see him as he is, and as he is, so shall we be. In that day, we will know even as we are known.

c) "Everyone who has this hope, purifies themselves." Holiness, or Christ likeness, is our hope; it is our destiny. In fact, as far as God is concerned, we are already perfect. So, we strive to purify ourselves, strive to be what we are. Our destiny is purity, perfection, so we strive to be pure. This is a natural response to our being in a relationship with the divine. "Everyone who has this hope" seeks to live in purity. God "is pure" and so it is only natural that His children should push themselves toward purity. It is often suggested that the example of Christ's life is what motivates us in this quest for perfection. His goodness, his purity, drives us toward purity. Yet, it is more likely that the motivating force is the same motivating power that stood with Christ in his life's journey. Only the Holy Spirit can sanctify and we need only cooperate with his work of renewale.

idete (oJraw) potaphn aor. imp. "How great is" - see what manner of [love]. The construction serves to express a sense of astonishment and invites the reader to identify with the truth being expressed.

dedwken (didwmi) perf. "lavished on" - [the father] has given. The opening words emphasise the gift and so "lavish" rather than just "has given" is a better translation.

hJmin dat. pro. "us" - to us. Dative of indirect object.

iJna + subj. "that" - Introducing either a final clause expressing purpose, or a consecutive clause expressing result. Consequence seems best, "with result that ..."; "he loves us so much that he lets us be called children of God", CEV.

klhqwmen (kalew) aor. pas. subj. "we should be called" - we should be called. Probably in the sense of "named", "classed as", "designated as"; "given the title and standing of children of God."

qeou (oV) gen. "of God" - [children] of god [and we are]. The genitive is adjectival, relational. The child possesses the nature of the father and therefore, as we are designated the children of God, by grace through faith, we can expect to be treated as Christ is treated and expect to see our lives oriented toward godliness.

dia touto "the reason" - because of this = therefore. Often used to introduce an important proposition, so inferential rather than causal; "therefore."

oJti "that" - [the world did not know us] because [it did not know]. Here introducing a causal clause explaining why the world does not know us, "because it has not known him", Culy.

auton "him" - him. Although we would assume John means "Christ", the context implies "God".


agaphtoi adj. "Dear friends" - beloved. The adjective serves as a substantive; "Dearly-loved ones", Cassirer.

nun adv. "now" - Temporal adverb; "at the present time."

qeou (oV) gen. "of God" - [we are children] of god. The genitive is adjectival, relational.

kai "and" - Possibly slightly adversative here; "but what we will be has not yet been manifested."

oupw aor. pas. "not yet" - [it was] not yet [revealed, manifested what will be]. "What we shall be has not yet been revealed", Barclay.

oJti " that" - [we know] that. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what "we know."

ean + subj. "when" - if. Grammatically introducing a conditional clause 3rd class, where the condition has the possibility of coming true; "if, as may be the case, he is manifested, then we will be like him." Sometimes when ean is used instead of an, a temporal oJtan is intended, so here a conditional temporal clause; "when he shall appear", AV.

fanerwqh/ (fanerow) aor. pas. subj. "he / Christ appears" - he is manifested. The translation depends on the subject. The NIV takes the subject as Jesus / God, but it could well be "what we will be", in which case the translation would be "when it does become evident."

oJmoioi adj. "like" - [we will be] like. Reflecting the glory of the Creator. "We only know that if reality were to break through, we should reflect his likeness", Phillips.

autw/ dat. pro. "him" - him. Dative of the thing compared. Like Jesus? Again, the context implies God, therefore we will take on divinity.

oJti "for" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why we will be like him, "because ...."

kaqwV "as" - [we will see him] as [he is]. Comparative. John is making the point that "a coming glimpse of Jesus will complete the redemptive work that the incarnation inaugurated", Yarbrough.


paV adj. "all" - [and] all. The adjective serves as a substantive; "everyone" = "every child of God", v2.

oJ exwn (ecw) pres. part. "who have" - the ones having. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "everyone".

elpida (iV, idoV) "[hope" - [this] hope. A confident expectation in the promises of God. Note, the hope is "on him", not on some imagined intention, or desire.

ep (epi) + dat. "in" - upon [him]. Spacial, metaphorical; "on, upon, in, ..."

aJgnizei (aJgnizw) pres. "purifies" - purifies [himself]. The subject of this verb is the participial construction "all who have this hope in him." The word is used for both devotional purity and ethical purity; "ethical uprightness", Yarbrough. "This hope makes us keep ourselves holy", CEV.

kaqwV "just as" - even as. Comparative.

ekeinoV "he" - that one [is pure]. Referring to God. Bultmann argues that "he" refers to Jesus, while on the other hand, commentators like Pink argue it refers to God.


ii] The necessity to renounce sin, v4-9, a) Christ is without sin and has come to take away sin and therefore "no one can abide in him and at the same time commit sin", Love, v4-6. John's argument continues as follows: Everyone who sins finds themselves in rebellion against God, in lawless. Jesus came to deal with this state of loss. He, the perfect Son of God, took upon himself the punishment for our state of rebellion, Jn.1:29, 10:15. Thus, as a consequence, those who are in a relationship with Jesus press toward perfection rather than corruption. John is simply making the point that you can't be in fellowship with a sinless saviour and continue to push toward corruption. John's words may seem to imply, on the surface at least, that a disciple of Christ should be sinless. Yet, this is not what he is saying. In 1:8 and 10 John lays the groundwork for his argument by stating that we cannot claim to be without sin. So, he is not speaking about personal perfection, because "sinning", "lawlessness", remains part of our daily experience. John is dealing with the issue of orientation, not personal purity. The issue here is that believers are assured of their standing in Christ because of their natural orientation toward the perfection that they already possess in Christ.

paV adj. "everyone" - all. The adjective serves as a substantive; "everyone".

oJ poiwn pres. part. "who [sins]" - the ones doing. Participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "everyone". "Everyone who commits sin", NRSV; "to commit sin is to break God's law", Barclay.

thn aJmartian (a) "sins" - the sin. This "sin" refers to something stronger than failing to comply wholly with God's law. This sin is "lawlessness" and "refers to those who have resolutely turned away from God", Yarbrough.

kai "-" - and = also. Adjunctive; "also does lawlessness."

poiei (poiew) "breaks [the law]" - does [lawlessness]. "Is guilty of lawlessness", NRSV.

kai "in fact, [sin is lawlessness]" - and [sin is lawlessness]. Epexegetic, as NIV, but possibly causal, "for."


oidate (oida) perf. "you know" - [and] you know. Obviously, know by means of communication, from both divine revelation and Christian teachers. The knowledge of Christ's incarnation and atonement is not something that can be worked out through human reasoning.

oJti "that" - Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what "you know."

efanerwqh (fanerow) aor. pas. "he appeared" - [that one] was revealed, manifested. He appeared on the scene; presumably a reference to the incarnation.

iJna + subj. "so that" - that. Introducing a final clause expressing purpose.

arh/ (airw) aor. subj. "might take away" - he might bear, carry, remove, take away [sins]. "Christ appeared to remove sin altogether", Barclay.

kai "and" - Here coordinative; "and you know likewise that no sin whatever is to be found in him", Cassirer.

en + dat. "in [him]" - "Locative in a metaphysical sense", Culy. Again Christ is obviously intended here.

estin "is [no sin]" - [sin] is [not]. Smalley makes a point of the durative nature of the present tense; Christ is alive and without sin continually, "He isn't sinful", CEV. Cully agrees with the doctrinal point, but argues that it cannot be drawn from the use of a present tense here.


oJ ... menwn (menw) pres. part. "[No one] who lives" - [all] the ones abiding, remaining, continuing. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting the substantive adjective, paV, "all" = "everyone"; "everyone who abides in him is not sinning." Given that Christ has come to take away sin and is himself without sin, v5, then obviously a person cannot be in union with Christ and at the same time live in sin / lawlessness (v4, "sin" in the sense of being resolutely opposed to God / Christ). A person in a relationship with Christ does not live in sin / lawlessness.

en + dat. "in" - in [him]. Local, expressing sphere / incorporative union.

ouc aJmartanei (aJmartanw) pres. ind. act. "continues to sin" - is not sinning. The present tense implies continued action and therefore "continue in sin", as NIV. John is not implying that a believer has the potential of victory over sin (so Smalley), nor that a true Christian doesn't sin, cf., 1:8,9. John is simply making the point that a believer in Christ cannot live in sin, in the sense of habitually in rebellion against God.

oJ aJmartanwn (aJmartanw) pres. part. "who continues to sin" - [all] the ones sinning. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting the substantive adjective paV, "all" = "everyone". The present tense is durative, as NIV.

eJwraken (oJraw) perf. "has [either] seen" - has [not] seen [him]. "Seen" here does not mean visibly seen in the same way as "know" does not mean know by observation. Both "see" and "know" are used with the same meaning of "spiritually entered into a relationship with God through faith in Christ."

egnwken (ginwskw) perf. "known [him]" - [neither] has known [him]. "If they keep on sinning they don't know Christ", CEV.


1 John Introduction.



[Pumpkin Cottage]