1 John 3:13-18
13. Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.
13. Ne miremini, fratres mei, si vos mundus odit.
14. We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we
love the brethren: he that loveth not his brother abideth in death.
14. Nos scimus quod transierimus a morte in vitam, quia diligimus
fratres: qui non diligit fratrem, manet in morte.
15. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that
no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.
15. Omnis qui odit fratrem suum, homicida est; et nostis quod omnis
homicida, non habet vitam aeternam in se martentem.
16. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his
life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
16. In hoc cognoscimus charitatem, quod ille pro nobis animam suam
posuit: et nos debemus pro fratribus animas ponere.
17. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have
need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the
love of God in him?
17. Si quis habeat victum mundi, et videat fratrem suum egentem,
et claudat viscera sua ab eo, quomodo charitas Dei in ipso manet?
18. My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue;
but in deed, and in truth.
18. Filioli mei, ne diligamus sermone, neque lingua, sed opere et
14. We know. He commends love to us by a remarkable eulogy, because
it is an evidence of a transition from death to life. It hence follows
that if we love the brethren we are blessed, but that we are miserable
if we hate them. There is no one who does not wish to be freed and delivered
from death. Those then who by cherishing hatred willingly give themselves
up to death, must be extremely stupid and senseless. But when the Apostle
says, that it is known by love that we have passed into life, he does not
mean that man is his own deliverer, as though he could by loving the brethren
rescue himself from death, and procure life for himself; for he does not
here treat of the cause of salvation, but as love is the special fruit
of the Spirit, it is also a sure symbol of regeneration. Then the Apostle
draws an argument from the sign, and not from the cause. For as no one
sincerely loves his brethren, except he is regenerated by the Spirit of
God, he hence rightly concludes that the Spirit of God, who is life, dwells
in all who love the brethren. But it would be preposterous for ally one
to infer hence, that life is obtained by love, since love is in order of
time posterior to it.
The argument would be more plausible, were it said that love makes us
more certain of life: then confidence as to salvation would recumb on works.
But the answer to this is obvious; for though faith is confirmed by all
the graces of God as aids, yet it ceases not to have its foundation in
the mercy of God only. As for instance, when we enjoy the light, we are
certain that the sun shines; if the sun shines on the place in which we
are, we have a clearer view of it; but yet when the visible rays do not
come to us, we are satisfied that the sun diffuses its brightness for our
benefit. So when faith is founded on Christ, some things may happen to
assist it, still it rests on Christ’s grace alone.
15. Is a murderer. To stimulate us still more to love, he shews
how detestable before God is hatred. There is no one who dreads not a murderer;
nay, we all execrate the very name. But the Apostle declares that all who
hate their brethren are murderers. He could have said nothing more atrocious;
nor is what is said hyperbolical, for we wish him to perish whom we hate.
It does not matter if a man keeps his hands from mischief; for the very
desire to do harm, as well as the attempt, is condemned before God: nay,
when we do not ourselves seek to do an injury, yet if we wish an evil to
happen to our brother from some one else, we are murderers.
Then the Apostle defines the thing simply as it is, when he ascribes
murder to hatred. Hence is proved the folly of men, that though they abominate
the name, they yet make no account of the crime itself. Whence is this?
even because the external face of things engrosses our thoughts; but the
inward feeling comes to an account before God. Let no one therefore extenuate
any more so grievous an evil. Let us learn to refer our judgments to the
tribunal of God.
16. Hereby perceive we, or, By this we know. He now shews
what true love is; for it would not have been enough to commend it, unless
its power is understood. As an ill-stance of perfect love, he sets before
us the example of Christ; for he, by not sparing his own life, testified
how much he loved us. This then is the mark to which he bids them to advance.
The sum of what is said is, that our love is approved, when we transfer
the love of ourselves to our brethren, so that every one, in a manner forgetting
himself, should seek the good of others.
It is, indeed, certain, that we are far from being equal to Christ:
but the Apostle recommends to us the imitation of him; for though we do
not overtake him, it is yet meet, that we should follow his steps, though
at a distance. Doubtless, since it was the Apostle’s object to beat down
the vain boasting of hypocrites, who gloried that they had faith in Christ
though without brotherly love, he intimated by these words, that except
this feeling prevails in our hearts, we have no connection with Christ.
Nor does he yet, as I have said, set before us the love of Christ, so as
to require us to be equal to him; for what would this be but to drive us
all to despair? But he means that our feelings should be so formed and
regulated, that we may desire to devote our life and also our death, first
to God, and then to our neighbors.
There is another difference between us and Christ, — the virtue or benefit
of our death cannot be the same. For the wrath of God is not pacified by
our blood, nor is life procured by our death, nor is punishment due to
others suffered by us. But the Apostle, in this comparison, had not in
view the end or the effect of Christ’s death; but he meant only that our
life should be formed according to his example.
17. But whose hath this world’s good, or, If any one has the
world’s sustenance. He now speaks of the common duties of love, which
flow from that chief foundation, that is, when we are prepared to serve
our neighbors even to death. He, at the same time, seems to reason from
the greater to the less; for he who refuses to alleviate by his goods the
want of his brother, while his life is safe and secure, much less would
he expose for him his life to danger. Then he denies that there is love
in us, if we withhold help from our neighbors. But he so recommends this
external kindness, that at the same time he very fitly expresses the right
way of doing good, and what sort of feeling ought to be in us.
Let this, then, be the first proposition, that no one truly loves his
brethren, except he really shews this whenever an occasion occurs; the
second, that as far as any one has the means, he is bound so far to assist
his brethren, for the Lord thus supplies us with the opportunity to exercise
love; the third, that the necessity of every one ought to be seen to, for
as any one needs food and drink or other things of which we have abundance,
so he requires our aid; the fourth, that no act of kindness, except accompanied
with sympathy, is pleasing to God. There are many apparently liberal, who
yet do not feel for the miseries of their brethren. But the Apostle requires
that our bowels should be opened; which is done, when we are endued with
such a feeling as to sympathize with others in their evils, no otherwise
than as though they were our own.
The love of God. Here he speaks of loving the brethren; why then
does he mention the love of God? even because this principle is to be held,
that it cannot be but that the love of God will generate in us the love
of the brethren. And thus God tries our love to him, when he bids us to
love men from a regard to himself, according to what is said in Psalm 16:2,
“My goodness reaches not to thee, but towards the saints who are on
the earth is my will and my care.”
18. Let us not love in word. There is a concession in this first
clause; for we cannot love in tongue only; but as many falsely pretend
this, the Apostle concedes, according to what is often done, the name of
the thing to their dissimulation, though, in the second clause, he reproves
their vanity, when he denies that there is reality except in the deed.
For thus ought the words to be explained, — Let us not profess by the tongue
that we love, but prove it by the deed; for this is the only true way of
1 John 3:19-22
19. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure
our hearts before him.
19. Et in hoc cognoscimus quod ex veritate summs, et coram ipso
persuadebimus corda nostra.
20. For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart,
and knoweth all things.
20. Quod si accuset nos cor nostrum, certe major est Deus corde
nostro et novit omnia.
21. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence
21. Dilecti, si cor nostrum non accuset, fiduciam habemus erga Deum:
22. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his
commandments, and do those things that are pleasing ill his sight.
22. Et siquid petierimus, accipimus ab eo, quia praecepta ejus servamus,
et qute coram co placent facimus.
19. And hereby we know, or, by this we know. The word truth, he takes
now in a different sense; but there is a striking similarity in the words,
— If we, in truth, love our neighbors, we have an evidence that we are
born of God, who is truth, or that the truth of God dwells in us. But we
must ever remember, that we have not from love the knowledge which the
Apostle mentions, as though we were to seek from it the certainty of salvation.
And doubtless we know not otherwise that we are the children of God, than
as he seals his free adoption on our hearts by his own Spirit., and as
we receive by faith the sure pledge of it offered in Christ. Then love
is accessory or an inferior aid, a prop to our faith, not a foundation
on which it rests.
Why then does the Apostle say, We shall assure our hearts before God?
He reminds us by these words, that faith does not exist without a good
conscience; not that assurance arises from it or depends on it, but that
then only we are really and not falsely assured of our union with God,
when by the efficacy of his Holy Spirit he manifests himself in our love.
For it is ever meet and proper to consider what the Apostle handles; for
as he condemns reigned and false profession of faith, he says that a genuine
assurance before God we cannot have, except his Spirit produces in us the
fruit of love. Nevertheless, though a good conscience cannot be separated
from faith, yet no one should hence conclude that we must look to our works
in order that our assurance may be certain.
20. For if our heart condemn us. He proves, on the other hand,
that they hi vain possess the name and appearance of Christians, who have
not the testimony of a good conscience. For if any one is conscious of
guilt, and is condemned by his own heart, much less can he escape the judgment
of God. It hence follows, that faith is subverted by the disquiet of an
He says, that God is greater than our heart, with reference to judgment,
that. is, because he sees much more keenly than we do, and searches more
minutely and judges more severely. For this reason, Paul says, that though
he was not conscious of wrong himself, yet he was not therefore justified,
(1 Corinthians 4:4;) for he knew that however carefully attentive he was
to his office, he erred in many things, and through inadvertence was ignorant
of mistakes which God perceived. What then the Apostle means is, that he
who is harassed and condemned by his own conscience, cannot escape the
judgment of God.
To the same purpose is what immediately follows, that God knoweth or
seeth all things. For how can those things be hid from him which we, who
in comparison with him are dull and blind, are constrained to see? Then
take this explanation, “Since God sees all things, he is far superior to
our hearts.” For to render a copulative as a causal particle is no new
thing. The meaning is now clear, that since the knowledge of God penetrates
deeper than the perceptions of our conscience, no one can stand before
him except the integrity of his conscience sustains him.
But here a question may be raised. It is certain that the reprobate
are sometimes sunk by Satan into such stupor, that they are no longer conscious
of their own evils, and. without alarm or fear, as Paul says, rush headlong
into perdition; it is also certain, that hypocrites usually flatter themselves,
and proudly disregard the judgment of God, for, being inebriated by a false
conceit as to their own righteousness, they feel no convictions of sin.
The answer to these things is not difficult; hypocrites are deceived because
they shun the light; and the reprobate feel nothing, because they have
departed from God; and, indeed there is no security for an evil conscience
but in hiding-places.
But the Apostle speaks here of consciences which God draws forth to
the light, forces to his tribunal, and fills with an apprehension of his
judgment. Yet; it is at the same time generally true, that we cannot have
a calm peace except that which God’s Spirit gives to purified hearts; for
those who, as we have said, are stupefied, often feel secret compunctions,
and torment themselves in their lethargy.
21. If our heart condemns not. I have already explained that
this refers not to hypocrites nor to the gross despisers of God. For how
muchsoever the reprobate may approve of their own lives, yet the Lord,
as Solomon says, weigheth their hearts. (Proverbs 16:2.) This balance of
God, by which he tries men, is such, that no one can boast that he has
a clean heart. The meaning, then, of the Apostle’s words is, that then
only we come in calm confidence into God’s presence, when we bring with
us the testimony of a heart conscious of what is right and honest. That
saying of Paul is indeed true, that by faith, which relies on the grace
of Christ, an access to God with confidence is opened to us, (Ephesians
3:12;) and also, that peace is given us by faith, that our consciences
may stand peaceably before God. (Romans 5:1.) But there is not much difference
between these sentences; for Paul shews the cause of confidence, but John
mentions only an inseparable addition, which necessarily adheres to it,
though it be not the cause.
Here, however, arises a greater difficulty, which seems to leave no
confidence in the whole world; for who can be found whose heart reproves
him in nothing? To this I answer, that the godly are thus reproved, that
they may at the same time be absolved. For it is indeed necessary that
they should be seriously troubled inwardly for their sins, that terror
may lead them to humility and to a hatred of themselves; but they presently
flee to the sacrifice of Christ, where they have sure peace. Yet the Apostle
says, in another sense, that they are not condemned, because however deficient
they may confess themselves to be in many things, they are still relieved
by this testimony of conscience, that they truly and from the heart fear
God and desire to submit to his righteousness. All who possess this godly
feeling, and at the same time know that all their endeavors, how muchsoever
they come short of perfection, yet please God, are justly said to have
a calm or a peaceful heart, because there is no inward compunction to disturb
their calm cheerfulness.
22. And whatsoever we ask. These two things are connected, confidence
and prayer. As before he shewed that an evil conscience is inconsistent
with confidence, so now he declares that none can really pray to God but
those who with a pure heart, fear and rightly worship him. The latter follows
from the former. It is a general truth taught in Scripture, that the ungodly
are not heard by God, but that on the contrary, their sacrifices and prayers
are an abomination to him. Hence the door is here closed up against hypocrites,
lest they should in contempt of him rush into his presence.
He does not yet mean that a good conscience must be brought, as though
it obtained favor to our prayers. Woe to us if we look on worlds, which
have nothing in them but what is a cause of fear and trembling. The faithful,
then, cannot otherwise come to God’s tribunal than by relying on Christ
the Mediator. But as the love of God is ever connected with faith, the
Apostle, in order that he might the more severely reprove hypocrites, deprives
them of that singular privilege with which God favors his own children;
that is, lest they should think that their prayers have an access to God.
By saying, because we keep his commandments, he means not that confidence
in prayer is founded on our works; but he teaches this only, that true
religion and the sincere worship of God cannot be separated from faith.
Nor ought it to appear strange that he uses a causal particle, though he
does not speak of a cause; for an inseparable addition is sometimes mentioned
as a cause as when one says, Because the sun shines over us at midday,
there is more heat; but it does not follow that heat comes from light.
1 John 3:23-24
23. And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name
of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.
23. Et hoc est praeceptum ejus, ut eredamns riomini Filii ejus Jesu
Christi, et nos diligamus invicem, sicuti praeceptum dedit nobis.
24. And he that keepeth his commandment dwelleth in him, and he
in him: and hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he
hath given us.
24. Qui servat praecepta ejus, in ipso manet, et ipse in eo; atque
in hoc cognoscimus quod manet in noble, ex Spiritu quem noble dedit.
23. And this is his commandment. He again accommodates a general truth
to his own purpose. The meaning is, that such is the discord between us
and God, that we are kept off from an access to him, except we are united
by love to one another. At the same time he does not here commend love
alone, as before, but joins it as the companion and attendant of faith.
The Sophists by their glosses distort these words, as though liberty
to pray were obtained by us, partly by faith and partly by works. As John
requires us to keep God’s commandments that we may pray aright, and afterwards
teaches us that this keeping refers to faith and love, they conclude, that
from these two things ought we to derive confidence in prayer. But I have
already several times reminded you, that the subject here is not how or
by what means men may prepare themselves so that they may have confidence
to pray to God, for he speaks not here of the cause of ills or of any worthiness.
John only shews, that God favors none with the honor and privilege of intercourse
with himself but his own children, even those who have been regenerated
by his Spirit. The import, then, of what is said is, Where the fear and
love of God do not prevail, it cannot be that God will hear prayer.
But if it be our purpose to obey his commandments, let us see what he
commands. He does not, however, separate faith from love; but he requires
both together from us. And this is the reason why he uses the word commandment
in the singular number.
But this is a remarkable passage; for he defines briefly as well as
lucidly in what the whole perfection of a holy life consists. There is
then no reason that we should allege ally difficulty, since God does by
no means lead us about through long labyrinths, but simply and shortly
sets before us what is right and what he approves. Besides, in this brevity
there is no obscurity, for he shews to us clearly the beginning and the
end of a life rightly formed. But that a mention is here only made of brotherly
love, while the love of God is omitted, the reason is, as we have elsewhere
said, that as brotherly love flows from the love of God, so it is a sure
and real evidence of it.
On the name of his Son. The name refers to preaching; and this
connection deserves to be noticed, for few understand what it is to believe
on Christ; but from this mode of speaking, we may easily conclude that
the only right faith is that which embraces Christ as he is set forth in
the Gospel. Hence also it is, that there is no faith without teaching,
as Paul also shews to us in Romans 10:14. We must at the same time observe,
that the Apostle includes faith in the knowledge of Christ; for he is the
living image of the Father, and in him are laid up all the treasures of
wisdom and knowledge. As soon, then, as we turn aside from him, we cannot
do anything else but wander in error.
24. And he that keepeth his commandments. He confirms what. I
have already stated, that the union we have with God is evident when we
entertain mutual love: not that our union begins thereby, but that it cannot
be fruitless or without effect whenever it begins to exist. And he proves
this by adding a reason, because God does not abide in us, except his Spirit
dwells in us. But wherever the Spirit is, he necessarily manifests his
power and efficiency. We hence readily conclude, that none abide in God
and are united to him, but those who keep his commandments.
When, therefore, he says, and by this we know, the copulative, and,
as a reason is here given, is to be rendered, “for,” or, “because.” But
the character of the present reason ought to be considered; for though
the sentence in words agrees with that of Paul, when he says that the Spirit
testifies to our hearts that we are the children of God, and that we through
him cry to God, Abba, Father, yet there is some difference in the sense;
for Paul speaks of the certainty of gratuitous adoption, which the Spirit
of God seals on our hearts; but John here regards the effects which the
Spirit produces while dwelling in us, as Paul himself does, when he says,
that those are God’s children who are led by the Spirit of God; for there
also he is speaking of the mortification of the flesh and newness of life.
The sum of what is said is, that it hence appears that we are God’s
children, that is, when his Spirit rules and governs our life. John at
the same time teaches us, that whatever good works are done by us, proceed
from the grace of the Spirit, and that the Spirit is not obtained by our
righteousness, but is freely given to us.