I John Chapter Three

I John 4:17 explains that God’s election (love) is “perfected with us, so that we have confidence in the day of judgment, because as He is so also are we in the world.”

Legal justification is the only way the elect can be as He is in the world. (Check out your commentaries on this: even commentators who deny that the “fine linen” of the saints (John’s Revelation) is by imputation, even most of these commentators agree that I John 4 is about God’s love resulting in legal union with Christ and His obedience.) .

I John 3 is about the difference between a Nicodemus and a prodigal publican, about the difference between a religious Cain and a religious Abel. Think of the context. This is not about Abel having a better inside than another person! The religion of Cain is nothing but evil deeds.

The reason Cain hated Abel was that Cain wanted to glory in/ rejoice in (Phil 3:3) the deeds done by his false god IN himself. Cain refused to put to death (not count) those deeds (Rom 8:13) but instead wanted to worship a god who would accept Cain’s credit for producing life in Cain.

To pass over from death to life is to be put into the new man, to be given a new legal state, in which one’s confidence is not in what God does in you but rather in what God has done in Christ outside you. Only in this way can we be in the world as Christ was in the world.

The Cains of this world are ready for a self-examination and contrast in terms of their morality. They are Pharisees who contrast well with alcoholics and people who watch the Simpsons on TV. But these Cains “do not practice righteousness” (I John 3;10). These Cains will not come to the light, because they love darkness and the light of the gospel (God forgives sinners by Christ’s death) keeps telling these Cains that their deeds are evil. All their deeds, both moral and religious. (John 3:19).

These Cains want to thank their god not only for the deeds they do but also for putting “life in their souls”. But the true God won’t accept their thanks. And those like Abel who worship in truth won’t fellowship with that self-righteous religion. That’s why Cain hated Abel.

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5 Comments on “I John Chapter Three”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    critic—“We should dismiss the reality of justification by Christ’s blood without seeing a life of moral improvement. Despite your rather convoluted attempts to mangle 1st John 3 into conformity with your permissiveness, there is no such thing as a justification that does not provide new life in Christ. There is then no such thing as new life in Christ that nobody can see forever.
    Look man. Take a piece of brotherly advice. Turn your computer off, get a bible and lock yourself away with the Lord and His word. Confess this craving for the recognition of men to him and don’t come out until you can leave it at His feet. I am being serious. When you know who you are in Christ, you will be able to use his obvious gifts to His glory and rest confident that He will give you the audience you were born for. It will probably be far smaller than you presently wish, but the knowledge of His pleasure upon your service to Him will infinitely more than compensate. I promise. And far more importantly, so does He.

    Mark Mcculley—
    How can I take brotherly advise, when you don’t know if I am morally improved enough to be your brother, and when I don’t know if you know and believe the gospel yet?
    God’s commandments are not burdensome for the justified elect because those joined to Jesus Christ are united with His death to the law because Jesus Christ’s death has satisfied God’s judgment for those God has justified. The new life lived by the justified does not (even in part) satisfy God’s law. To gain assurance by one’s morality is not to trust Christ’s atonement.

    Romans 6 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Let NOT SIN THEREFORE REIGN in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 DO NOT present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who HAVE BEEN BROUGHT from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT UNDER LAW but under grace.

    I John 4: 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

    If you think that you are in the world as Christ is in the world because of improved morality then you do not yet know the gospel which is about the punishment of Christ by death is for the elect the end of religious fear based on the need for constant moral improvement.

    I John 5: 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

    Faith in what? Faith in our moral improvement? Continual believing in our continual moral improvement? Or is it the faith that results from the new birth which trusts in the propitiation made by Christ? Or is it faith in Christ’s death PLUS faith that your faith is working so that you are morally improved?

    I John 4:10 0 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

  2. markmcculley Says:

    p 110, “What’s At Stake in Current Debates Over Justification?”, professor Bruce McCormack, Princeton Theological Seminary

    “I do not participate in the historical humanity of Christ Rather, I participate in the kind of humanity which Jesus embodies. That is why I John 3:2 says that WHEN WE SEE HIM as He is, we shall be LIKE him… we are suffering from ‘creeping perichoresis’, that is, the overly expansive use of terms which have their homes in purely spiritual relations between humans who do NOT participate in a common ‘substance”’ and who therefore remain distinct individuals. This surely has to be the relation of the human believer to the human Jesus as well.”

    • markmcculley Says:

      p 110, “What’s At Stake in Current Debates Over Justification?”, Bruce McCormack, Princeton Seminary—“The early church thought of an ontological union of a ‘person” in whom being is mixed with non-being (that’s us) with a ‘person’ in whom being is pure from non-being (Jesus). Where that occurs, the life communicated from the vine to the branches flows organically…But the difference between the relation between a vine and a branch and the relation between Christ and the believer is that the first relation is impersonal and the second is personal. The flow of nutrients from the vine to the branches take place automatically.But in the case of Christ and the individual believer,the ‘bearing of fruit’ takes place on the foundation of justification.” That Paul in Romans 11 would preface his use of the horticultural image with the affirmation that the adoption belonged to the Israelites before the Gentiles suggests that the image of ‘ingrafting’ is used as a synonym for adoption. The horticultural image is subordinated to the legal.”

  3. markmcculley Says:

    I Peter 1: 23 since you have been born again—not of perishable seed but of imperishable—through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For All flesh is like grass,

    and all its glory like a flower of the grass.
    The grass withers, and the flower falls,
    25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.
    And this is the word that was proclaimed as the gospel to you

  4. markmcculley Says:


    Many English translations interpret the Greek present tense as saying no Christian habitually sins, as in 1 John 3:6. However the Greek present tense does not always indicate habitual action, as pointed out previously. [Note: Marshall, p. 180; Dodd, p. 79.] Frequently it describes absolute action. The New King James Version takes the Greek present tense this way and renders the clause, “Whoever had been born of God does not sin.” Since earlier John wrote that the Christian does sin habitually (1 John 1:6-10; cf. 1 John 2:1) the idea that the Christian does not sin habitually is unacceptable.

    “. . . the ‘tense solution’ in 1 John 1:9 is in the process of imploding in the current literature. It was shrewdly questioned by C. H. Dodd in his commentary in 1946 and dealt a major blow by S. Kubo in an article entitled, “1 John 3:9 : Absolute or Habitual?” published in 1969.

    It has since been given up by the three major critical commentaries published since Kubo’s article; namely, I. Howard Marshall (1978), Raymond E. Brown (1982); and Stephen S. Smalley (1984). It seems quite clear that the ‘tense solution’ as applied to 1 John 1:9 is an idea whose time has come-and gone!”

    Yarbrough writes regarding I John 3:6, “Nor is it advisable to resort to the understandable but unsatisfactory expedient of stressing the alleged continual nature of the sinning John has in mind ‘No one who live in him keeps on sinning’). ‘Keeps on sinning’ overreads the verb tense



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