Notes on 1 John 3:10-24

1 John 3:10‑24  •  13 min. read  •  grade level: 6
The way in which the Apostle brings out the contrast between the two families in the world is very striking-the children of God and the children of the devil. It is a great point for intelligence of the subject unfolded in this Epistle, and helps us greatly to understand it. The characters of these two families are given according to the nature of their birth. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." “He that is born of God cloth not commit sin." It is not a, question of.the two natures; Christ really becomes our life, just as Adam was our life. The Apostle does not speak of another life at all, nor here of modifying circumstances; it is not the point he is on. He insists that there is this nature; " he cannot Sin, he is born of God." Christ is our life; he does not look at another life. It is not duty or progress here, though both are right in their place; it is life, and a babe has life as much as an older person. " Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin." It is not he ought not to sin, nor that if you attain to a certain point you will stop sinning; no, it is the positive communication of nature, it is not his nature to do it. " His seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." That was the proof that he• had Christ's nature. " Therefore that holy thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." The flesh is not born of God, we are born of God; that which is born has that character. He is testing these two natures; what they are, and how they are shown.
The subject of the Epistle is this life in us. In the Gospel it is the life come into this world in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Coming into the world as a man, He was the light of men; light to show them the path, and light to lead them, adapted to them in that way, and so we read, " His delights were with the sons of men."
In 1 John 1:11That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (1 John 1:1) you get the word of life, the life in Him; in ch. 2 " which thing is true, in him and in you." It is now communicated to the believer; we have received it through faith. " In him and in you," that is the great subject of the Epistle; the divine life of Christ and in Christ, and Christ in us. "At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you" (John 14:2020At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. (John 14:20)), is our conscious condition. When He goes up on high He says, I am in my Father, then it is that we are in Him, and then He is • in us; it is that last fact which comes out here. The Holy Ghost is brought in at the end of the chapter, and we see the action and character of that life.
Christ was infinitely more than a man too-you could not talk of a man being in the Father, but in glory it is so. When He is in glory we are in Him, and He is in us. It is the life of Christ in us, the life of Jesus in our mortal body. The Son of God first, then children of God; for that is the word John uses for those who are of the family. His godhead always remains distinct. If I speak of His own person, He is "the first-begotten" and in resurrection with us He is " the first-born among many brethren."
In Matt. 3 heaven is opened, the Holy Ghost rests on Him, and the Father says, " This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." That place is for us, but after redemption; in John it is especially by the communication of life, that Christ has become our life-"Christ liveth in me." It is not here that I am crucified with Christ, though that is a fact; but it is a nature born of God-he is looking at a man as born of God; that is what you are, and nothing else. It is a real manifestation and communication Of life through, the Son: He becomes our life, and then it is in us, and then manifested to others.
" In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil" (v. 10). I do not know what they are till they are manifested. God may be working in their hearts, so I cannot call them children of the devil; but if I see open enmity, then I know a child of the devil is under the power of Satan. If I had God's mind of course I should know what would become of him, but I have not. The Jews were. Abraham's children, but not morally so. Jesus say's, "Why do ye not understand my speech? Even because ye cannot hear my word "-i.e. you must have the divine thought in order to understand the divine speech, which was but the utterance of it.
The traits of life are these-righteousness and love to the brethren (vv. 7, 10). I may be kind to a stranger-that is not family affection, nor relationship, which we find here. You never see it said that God so loved the church, nor that Christ loved the world. It is really so, only wrong verbiage. Christ loved the church, it is a specific relationship, and that is where love shows itself. I cannot have the same relationship to everybody as I have to my father and mother. Christ loves the church-His body and His bride. I have certain characteristics of affection which flow from relationship. Life shows itself in these two characteristics-obedience (righteousness) and love to the brethren. We see both in Christ. If His life is in me, these two things come out; many details come in, but these are the characteristic traits of God's children, and this is what we have here. " In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil; whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother " (v. 10).
In the beginning of the Epistle we are brought into the highest blessing, into a state in which we have common joys and feelings with the. Son. A. person may say, oh, that is too high for me-but if you are not in that state you are all wrong; if the Holy Ghost is in you He cannot give you other thoughts, for He is the spring of all. Of course, I have conflict to keep myself in that state, consistently in it. Fellowship must be according to God's nature -we walk in the light as God is in it. Why, people are-pretending to great love, and here they do not love the brethren! Satan can change himself to an angel of light. If it is not the Spirit of truth, it is not the Holy Ghost,. for the Holy Ghost is the Spirit of holiness, and if you are not walking holiness that will not do. And a man may be stern for the truth but not in the Spirit of Christ, just as he may talk of love, and not have the truth. You find. Christ sometimes severe, because it was necessary. There was no individual character in Christ, He is perfection. Man is always yielding or firm. We see in Christ perfect obedience to the Father, and He has given us His own will, and given us commandments-" Commandments," do not shrink from the word. It must be obedience to be righteous.
If it is a commandment, I do it as obedience. Supposing that you could have hindered Christ's obedience, it would have been hindering His perfection. Authority over one is the essence of obedience. Righteousness is displayed in obedience and love to the brethren. Now that we have a conscience we see the rightness of it, and we have a new nature-and we delight in it, we are sanctified unto obedience. It is called the "law of liberty," because my nature delights in the thing I am commanded to do. There are three laws in James-The whole law, the royal law, and the law of liberty. Though the divine nature makes it liberty, it still makes it obedience. Christ never had a nature that wanted to go its own way. God's will was the spring of His actions. A man who has no will exhibits real practical lowliness in walk-Christ was that. The character of this righteousness is not merely conscience, for a natural man has that. It is not law, that addressed itself to the nature which was lost, but the obedience of the Christian is of such a character that its delight is to obey, because it is in direct communication with God. The obedience of a Christian is a nature that delights to obey.
Christ takes His place as a Man in absolute obedience to His Father, and in positive love to those who were given Him out of the world. "Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you." The disciples are His friends, not' He His disciples' friend-" I have called you friends." I have relationship with Christ, and it is exceedingly important to know that there is a love that Christ has for His friends, and to be consciously in that place. " Put on, therefore, as the elect of God:" you are in that place, as in that place let us see the things that belong to it. Those two things are never separated; if. I am one of the family, love to the brethren and obedience to the Father all go together, all goes on within this circle. It is important to walk in the consciousness of this relationship. Those who are Christ's should, along with the preaching of forgiveness, understand that He brings us into this place, and that we walk according to it. We must behave like children in the father's house. If I love a person very much, I love his children; if I go with them where the father has forbidden them, that is not loving them as children who have to obey their father, but amusing myself. I cannot love my brethren for my Father's sake, if it is not in obedience.
The characteristic of Christ's love was service—selfishness likes to be served, love likes to serve. Christ took the lowest place-cc I am among you as one that serveth." Divine love delights to serve. Another thing, His was companionable love: look at Him going about among His disciples, (and how stupid they were I) He was affable in all His ways. Notice, too, that it is above all the evil that it has to go on with, but it is above it all in patience. Look at the Lord with His disciples-He is a servant, His love has its spring from a source -which does not depend on anything in us, so it goes on and abides; its spring is in God, and, therefore, it is thoughtful and considerate.
It is a great thing, when walking in the Church of God, if you cannot think with people, to think for them. The love will suit and adapt itself; because it is from above. You have that which is always in service unless in communion, and that is the highest thing, not sentiment, and there is danger lest it should be that. Paul picked out every bit of good he could in the saints to whom he wrote, and then he rebukes them-he opens their hearts to receive the rebuke of love. We cannot always go on without the anxiety of love, as Christ could. Anxiety draws out love, still "be careful for nothing," not even for the Church. Love must always have its anxieties, but it has the grace and love of Christ to resort to. If you separate obedience and love, one or the other is false-if I am a child, I have my brethren to love..
There is another mark of a child of God at the end of the chapter (v. 24). " And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us." We are made partakers of the divine nature, and these are the three tests:
" Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you" (v. 13). You are to expect that; there were many heretics at that time, and he is guarding them against them.
" 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" (v. 16). I have learned this love in Christ laying down His life-there is no limit to it. If you want to learn its measure, give up yourself. There is no measure short of what Christ did. ft is the same principle in Eph. 4 "Be ye kind one to another tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ hath forgiven you." You are God's children; now walk in love, as Christ did. I want a love above all the evil of the world, not loving my neighbor as myself, but giving myself up as Christ did. He gave Himself to God-there is perfectness of motive-the more unworthy the object, the greater the love. He gives Himself up for us, perfectly worthless ones, but to God, who is a worthy object. We have learned love in " He laid down his life for us," now we ought to do it for the brethren.
"And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him "-assurance of heart, not for us but God—it is intercourse and fellowship with the Father: you must have a good conscience and a free heart. It is the same with a child and his father; in order to have confidence in God, you must have your heart not condemning you. If my heart condemns me, I may be sure of His mercy and the advocacy of Christ, but my heart is not assured before Him; it will not do to say I am saved only-here is a person with relationships, and if my heart condemns me, there is no confidence; it is of all moment that our souls should have the distinct consciousness, and walk in the relationships in which' God has set us. May the Lord give us to be diligent in heart, to know what Christ was-to be before God, and serve Him as He did.