1 John, part 2

This is the second part of my “interpretive translation” of First John. The first part can be found here. There will be one more part, in which I will also post a link to the whole thing as a single document, should anyone like to have it.


John Sleeping at the Transfiguration (St John's Church, Bushey)

John Sleeping at the Transfiguration (St John’s Church, Bushey)

So, children, continue to stay obedient to the teaching. That way, should He return, we will be bold and not ashamed in His presence. If you have come to understand that Jesus is righteous then you should also understand that everyone who lives righteously has become His child. Now you can see the kind of love that the Father has given to us: We are called “children of God”—and we really are! This is why the world doesn’t understand us, for it did not understand Jesus either. Beloved, we already are children of God but it has yet to be revealed what we are going to be. However, we do know that when Jesus appears then we will be just like Him because then we will see Him as He truly is. Everyone who has this hope makes himself pure, just as Jesus is pure.

Everyone who sins is breaking the law—sin and lawlessness are the same thing—and you understand that He came to take away sin, and He himself has no sin. That is why no-one who belongs to Him sins, and why no-one who sins has seen or known Him. Children, let no-one deceive you: The person who sins is the devil’s, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. That is why the Son of God came, to destroy the devil’s works. No-one who has become a child of God sins, because he has God’s nature in him and that cannot sin, it is born of God. Thus this is the difference between the children of God and the children of the devil: No-one belongs to God who does not act right or who hates his brother.

Now, this is the message that you heard originally: We must love one another. We must not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and killed his own brother. Why did he kill him? Because his own works were evil while his brother’s were righteous. So don’t be amazed, brothers, if the world hates you. We know that we have moved from death to life because we love the brothers while those who don’t love the brothers are still dead (because everyone who hates his brother is a murderer and you know that no murderer has eternal life). Jesus laid down His life for us and so we know what love is. But that also means that we are obligated to lay down our own lives for the brothers. How can God’s love be in someone who has all that he needs and yet closes his heart when he sees his brother in need? Children, let us not love with words and talk but in action and truth.

If we do this then we will know that we are right and can quiet our hearts before Him. Even if our hearts do condemn us, God is greater than our hearts and He knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us then we can be very bold before God and, because we keep His commands and do what pleases Him, we receive from Him whatever we ask for. Once more I say that this is the command that He gave us: We should believe in His son’s name and love one another. Whoever keeps His commands remains in Jesus and Jesus remains in him. The Spirit that He gave us proves this to be true.



1) John continues to talk in very black-and-white terms. We either sin and thus do not know God, or we don’t sin and do know Him. This is, obviously, not exactly the way things are (John has already said the if a Christian should sin, there is a way out) but I am not sure that translating “sin” as “keep on sinning” as some do is the answer. Looking at John, the rest of the NT, and other early Christian writings, I am not convinced that the early church had such an all-encompassing definition of sin as we tend to. For instance, we often talk about “sins of omission” but I see no evidence of that in the NT (that is, unconscious omissions, deliberate omissions are called sin). Perhaps if we could recapture a more biblical definition of sin we would not be so uptight and condemnatory.

2) “No-one who has become a child of God sins, because he has God’s nature in him and that cannot sin, it is born of God.” This is, as far as I know, an unusual translation. J. B. Philips comes closest with “The man who is really God’s son does not practice sin, for God’s nature is in him, for good, and such a heredity is incapable of sin.” Most translations have something along the lines of “Whosoever is begotten of God doeth no sin, because his seed abideth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is begotten of God.” However, in the Greek there is no difference between “he” and “it” in this case, so the “born” and “cannot sin” could refer to either the person or God’s nature (seed), and it seems to me t hat the second makes more sense.



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One Response to “1 John, part 2”

  1. 1 John, part 3 « thoughtfulspirituality Says:

    […] Explorations of Christian Spirituality « 1 John, part 2 […]

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