1 John iii.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1. Behold what manner of charity (or of love) the Father hath bestowed upon us. St. John had said in the last verse of the foregoing chapter that every one who doth justice, is born of him; i.e. is the son of God by adoption. But the world knoweth us not, nor esteems and values us as such: and no wonder, because they have not known, nor acknowledged, nor reverenced God as they ought. We indeed are the sons of God; we believe it, because God has assured us of it; but it hath not yet appeared what we shall be, (ver. 2) to what glory or happiness we shall thereby be exalted hereafter, for neither the eye hath seen, nor the ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for those who love him. (1 Corinthians ix. 2.) We only know this, that his elect shall be like to him, because they shall see him as he is, when they shall enjoy him in heaven. (Witham)

Ver. 4. Committeth also iniquity.[1] By the Greek text, iniquity is here taken for a transgression or prevarication of the law, which makes the sense clearer. (Witham) — Iniquity; (anomia) transgression of the law. (Challoner)

Ver. 6. Whosoever abideth in him, complying with his law, sinneth not; and whosoever sinneth, hath not seen him, nor known him; that is, with such a knowledge as is joined with love. (Witham) — Sinneth not; viz. mortally. See Chap. i. 8. (Challoner)

Ver. 8. The devil sinneth from the beginning: not that he was created in sin, but sined soon after he was created. (Witham)

Ver. 9. Doth not commit sin. That is, as long as he keepeth in himself this seed of grace, and this divine generation, by which he is born of God. But then he may fall from this happy state by the abuse of his free-will, as appears from Romans xi. 20, 21, 22.; 1 Corinthians ix. 27. and x. 12.; Philippians ii. 12.; Apocalypse iii. 11. (Challoner) — He cannot sin, because he is born of God. The meaning of this can be no more, than that he cannot sin as long as the seed of grace remaineth in him, and as long as he is the adoptive son of God. But it is evident he may fall from this happy condition, and from the grace of God, otherwise St. John would not so often in this epistle have exhorted them not to sin. (Witham)

Ver. 14-15. We know that we have passed from death to life; i.e. from the death of sin to the life of grace: we know it by a moral certainty, when we experience in our heart a love of our neighbour. — He that loveth not God and his neighbour, abideth in death. He that hateth his brother with a mortal hatred, or to a considerable degree, is a murderer. (Witham)

Ver. 16. The charity of God,[2] because he hath laid down his life for us. Jesus Christ, therefore, who laid down his life for us, was God. It is true at present the words of God are wanting in most Greek manuscripts: yet the Protestant translation has them. (Witham)

Ver. 19-20. And in his sight we shall persuade our hearts. That is, if we love God and our neighbour in deed, as he said before, we may rest satisfied in conscience that we follow the ways of truth, and may have a well-grounded confidence in God. — But if our hearts reprehend us, for not complying with this duty and precept of charity, God is still greater than our heart; i.e. he sees and knows the interior dispositions of our heart, even better than we know ourselves, and therefore we have more reason to fear him, especially when even our heart and conscience reprehend us. (Witham)

Ver. 24. We know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us. These words may be either referred to the body of the Church in general or to the apostles, or to every one in particular. It is certain that God gave his Spirit to his Church and to the apostles, by the coming of the Holy Ghost in a visible manner, and by the miraculous gifts bestowed upon the apostles; but every one in particular has only a moral certainty that he has the Spirit of God, and his sanctifying grace in his soul. (Witham)


[1] Ver. 4. Et peccatum est iniquitas, kai e amartia estin e anomia, transgressio.

[2] Ver. 16. Charitatem Dei, tou Theou: scarce in any manuscripts nor read by St. Augustine in his commentary on this verse.

Bible Text & Cross-references:

Of the love of God to us: how we may distinguish the children of God, and those of the devil. Of loving one another, and of purity of conscience.

1 Behold what manner of charity the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called, and should be the sons of God. Therefore the world knoweth us not, because it hath not known him.

2 Dearly beloved, we are now the sons of God: and it hath not yet appeared what we shall be. We know, that when he shall appear, we shall be like to him: because we shall see him as he is.

3 And every one that hath this hope in him, sanctifieth himself, as he also is holy.

4 Every one who committeth sin, committeth also iniquity: and sin is iniquity.

5 And you know that he appeared to take away our sins: *and in him there is no sin.

6 Whosoever abideth in him, sinneth not: and whosoever sinneth, hath not seen him, nor known him.

7 Little children, let no one deceive you. He that doth justice, is just: as he also is just.

8 *He that committeth sin is of the devil: for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God appeared, that he might destroy the works of the devil.

9 Every one that is born of God, doth not commit sin: for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

10 In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil. Every one who is not just, is not of God, and he that loveth not his brother:

11 For this is the declaration, which you have heard from the beginning, *that you should love one another.

12 Not *as Cain, who was the wicked one, and killed his brother. And for what cause did he kill him? Because his own works were evil: and his brother’s just.

13 Wonder not, brethren, if the world hate you.

14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. *He that loveth not abideth in death:

15 Whosoever hateth his brother, is a murderer. And you know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in himself.

16 *In this we have known the charity of God, because he hath laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

17 *He that hath the substance of this world, and shall see his brother in need, and shall shut up his bowels from him: how doth the charity of God abide in him?

18 My little children, let us not love in word, nor in tongue, but in deed, and in truth.

19 In this we know that we are of the truth: and in his sight we shall persuade our hearts.

20 For if our heart reprehend us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.

21 Dearly beloved, if our heart do not reprehend us, we have confidence towards God:

22 *And whatsoever we shall ask, we shall receive of 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, as he hath given commandment unto us.

24 *And he that keepeth his commandments, abideth in him, and he in him: and in this we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.



5: Isaias liii. 9.; 1 Peter ii. 22.

8: John viii. 44.

11: John xiii. 34. and xv. 12.

12: Genesis iv. 8.

14: Leviticus xix. 17.; 1 John ii. 10.

16: John xv. 13.

17: Luke iii. 11.; James ii. 15.

22: Matthew xxi. 22.

23: John vi. 29. and xvii. 2.

24: John xiii. 34. and xv. 12.