17 January 2017

1 John 3:7-24

“This is the commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another.” (v. 23)

Psalm: Psalm 87


Throughout this letter the writer is arguing against those who claim that if we are in a right relationship with God ("born of God" (v. 9)) behaviour does not matter. On the contrary, how we live, especially how we treat those in need around us (verse 17), is the test of whether we are truly right with God. This leads to some extreme statements that we may find disturbing, for example, "those who have been born of God do not sin" (v. 9). It is surely contradicted by the call to love in verse 18. But the writer is not thinking of momentary lapses that we are sorry for - this has been dealt with in the opening chapter (1 John 1:8-10) - but of the attitude of mind that considers behaviour does not matter and persists in wrongdoing. Characteristically throughout the letter points are made in sharp, challenging sentences.

No writing in the New Testament lays greater emphasis on love as the characteristic of Christian behaviour. Here the point is illustrated by the story of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1-16). We are reminded, by contrast, that the supreme example of love for others is to be seen in Jesus' self-giving for the world on the cross (verse 16).

To Ponder

  • What, in practical terms, will verse 18 mean for you today?
  • Is the devil for you a real being or a metaphorical way of speaking about the power of evil? What difference does your answer make?

Bible notes author

The Revd Brian Beck

Brian Beck is a Methodist minister, now retired, and a former president and secretary of the Methodist Conference. A large part of his ministry has been spent in theological education, both in Limuru, Kenya, and in Cambridge, England..