WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson LIV) 09/27/21

3:10 So now we can tell who is a child of God and who belongs to Satan. Whoever lives a sinful life and doesn’t love their brother or sister shows that they are not part of God’s family.

William Loader (1944) says that the Apostle John focuses on a believer’s ongoing attitude and behavior rather than a single incident. We are not called to show our love for a fellow believer just with a hug or embrace and a few kind words. No, John says, it must involve practical caring at the level of helping to meet one another’s basic necessities. In other words, it’s not just telling some member of the congregation that you heard about their needs and will be praying for them. It involves finding out what they lack to see which one you can help them with. That is how we love our Christian brother and sister. Our sanctified lifestyle must be holistic because it embraces the entire connection from God to the Christian community.[1]

David Jackman (1945) says that membership in the family of God is not a cold and clinical relationship. God’s children are inseparable from love. Love is an honest connection with others – not an emotion, but an act of the will. Love as a feeling is useless. We must express our love by caring and sharing, hard work and loyalty, generosity, and long-suffering. That’s the love we need in order to claim the right to be called a child of God. God’s love does not grow naturally. It is a gift from our heavenly Father.[2]

Robert W. Yarbrough (1948) writes that the Apostle John reaffirms that God’s offspring do not sin: No one born of God sins due to their divine parentage. John’s assertion has points of contact with previous verses, but makes its claim in slightly different ways. Thus, 1 John 3:9, taken together with 3:10, lays the foundation for the summons to love that is the central theme of 3:9-18. The passive forms of the Greek gennaō (to birth) infer that God is the active agent. The word appeared earlier[3] and persisted in later discussions.[4] It enables believers to be called “children of God.”[5] They have been “birthed” through the Holy Spirit, which harmonizes with the concept that they are not products of human procreation.[6] No wonder John will go on to make ambitious demands of them: they are a unique reality, divinely fathered and therefore graced with a higher ethic than those of natural birth.

Yarbrough then notes that verses nine and ten lay the foundation for loving by affirming the visible nature of the distinction between divine and demonic origins. Based on divine parentage, John is confident that God’s true children, like the devil’s brood, ultimately cannot conceal their true identity. The nature of their inner distinctiveness will be “evident” (Greek: phanera) from their actions. This Greek word repeatedly occurs in the Final Covenant (though only here in John’s writings) to describe the laying bare of the inner truth about deeds, [[7] whether they are characteristics of God’s[8] or Jesus.[9]

A third-way verses nine and ten lay the foundation for a love call to love, says Yarbrough, is by affirming the ethical nature that distinguishes between the two groups. In particular, some fail to obey God and then to love others. By touching on not doing the right thing, [10] John restates the moral dimension of knowing.[11] It foreshadows relating to moral and ethical instruction in later verses of this section.[12]

Colin G. Kruse (1950) observes that verse ten brings this section to a conclusion (1 John 2:29-3:10) and does so by restating (3:7-8) the criterion by which we distinguish the children of God from the devil’s brood. This is how we know who God’s children are and who the offspring of the devil are. Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God. Therefore, doing what is right and not doing what is right (both understood as ongoing actions) become important identifying marks of the children of God and the devil’s vipers. However, these are not the only identifying marks, as John’s concluding remark in this verse clarifies: neither is anyone who loves their Christian brother and sister. Other important identifying marks of God’s children and those from the devil’s nest are not loving fellow believers, respectively. By saying this, John introduces a new element into his argument and foretells the subject of the letter’s upcoming section.[13]

Judith Lieu (1951) makes a good point. She says that when we talk about someone being born of God, it no longer concerns identifying people by their actions and drawing conclusions. Instead, we must consider what we will be when we meet Jesus in the air. That is something for which we are not yet responsible. Just like offspring have no choice in who their parents were and can take no credit or blame for it, society considers them accountable for every thought or deed influenced by their upbringing. But God’s children are unique; the indwelling Spirit is their source for instruction on godly behavior. Nevertheless, it is up to them whether or not they obey.[14]

Marianne M. Thompson (1954) points out that this tenth verse takes us back to verses one through three and contrasts the seen and unseen, the known and unknown. As of now, we are known in the world as God’s children, but we still must wait until God reveals everything about us to the world. At this time, the world recognizes us for our right living and loving. These are both characteristics of our Father God and His Son Jesus, our brother. Moreover, they conform to God’s standard and the pattern set by Jesus. The Apostle John emphasizes this because those who left the congregation did not believe in Jesus as God’s Son nor practiced brotherly love, especially with those who disagreed with them. As far as John is concerned, this violates God’s Royal Law of Love and makes them sinners.[15]

Bruce B. Barton (1954) notes that the Apostle John spoke in absolutes – right or left, up or down, hot or cold; he offered no middle ground: a person either belongs to God or the devil. The matter concludes that believers can tell who God’s children apart from the devil’s brood. The way to spot the “pretenders” is to see whether they live righteously[16] and whether they love other believers[17] who are powerful witnesses to the reality of God’s Love. Believers must help to unify their congregations. They can also pray for other Christians, avoid gossip, build others up, work together in humility, give their time and money, exalt the Anointed One, and refuse to get entangled in troublesome disputes.[18]

Daniel L. Akin (1957) states that verse ten summarizes a discussion that began back in 1 John 2:3. It also prepares us for a more extended argument to follow on the importance of love. Two basic and straightforward tests are outlined in this text that distinguishes a child of God from the devil’s vipers. First, do you do what is right? Second, do you love others? John says it is that simple. In these verses, the Apostle John puts the issue in negative terms (not doing what is right and not loving others). But they are meant to be an appeal to believers: “Show yourselves to be true children of God! Practice these two virtues!” Those who hate sin have been set free from the devil’s clutches and born of God to do what is right and love others.[19]

Bruce G. Schuchard (1958) sees the Apostle John here shifting from the theme of living for the sake of righteousness to the theme of loving one’s fellow believer. Schuchard takes the Greek me agaponno loving” to mean “fails to love.” This is not a “sign of weakness” but an action that ultimately defines the person. It is more than just forgetting to love or consciously or unconsciously missing the opportunity to love. Instead, it is characteristic of someone who refuses to love;[20] they are traitors to the faith by failing to live either for the sake of the Father or the Son. They refuse to live right and embracing those who are their brothers and sisters in God’s family.[21]

David Guzik (1961) notes that the Apostle John doesn’t spend time trying to prove or explain the devil’s existence. He knows the reality of the devil is a biblical fact. Unfortunately, some today lack John’s wisdom and either deny that the devil is real or they are obsessed with the devil. Some might think John is far too harsh in saying some are the devil’s offspring, supposing perhaps that John did not love people as Jesus did. But Jesus also called certain people children of the devil.[22] In this passage, Jesus’ point was important, establishing the principle that our spiritual parentage determines our nature and our destiny. If we are born again and have God as our Father, it will show in our character and determine our fate. But whether our ancestor is Satan or Adam, it will also show in our personality and future – just as it showed in Jesus’ adversaries.[23]


[1] Loader, William, The First Epistle of John, op. cit., pp. 39-40

[2] Jackman, David, The Message of John’s Letters, op. cit., p. 96

[3] 1 John 2:29

[4] Ibid 4:7; 5:1x3, 4, 18x2

[5] See Ibid. 3:2

[6] Cf. ibid. 1:13

[7] Cf. Mark 4: 22; Luke 8: 17; Acts of the Apostles 4:16; 1 Corinthians 3:13; 11:19; Galatians 5:19

[8] Romans 1:19

[9] Matthew 12:16; Mark 3:12

[10] See 1 John 2:29

[11] Ibid. 2:1

[12] Yarbrough, Robert W., 1-3 John (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament), op. cit., pp. 194-196

[13] Kruse, Colin G., The Letters of John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, op. cit., Kindle Edition.

[14] Lieu, Judith, I. II, III John, op. cit., pp. 137-142

[15] Thompson, Marianne M., 1-3 John, op. cit., pp. 97-99

[16] See 1 John 2:3-5

[17] Ibid. 2:7-11

[18] Bruce B. Barton (1954) 1, 2, & 3 John (Life Application Bible Commentary), op. cit., p. 71

[19] Akin, Dr. Daniel L., Exalting Jesus in 1,2,3 John (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary), op. cit., Kindle Edition.

[20] See 1 John 2:9-11

[21] Schuchard, Bruce G., 1-3 John, Concordia, op. cit. pp. 338-339

[22] John 8:41-45

[23] Guzik, David – Enduring Word, op. cit., pp. 56-57

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s