The Expository Files

Doing, The Test Of Being

1 John 3:7


"Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous." -1 John 3:7.

Notice the parental affection John had for his brethren. This is captured by the expression, "little children." This is the kind of attitude or feeling John had for his brethren. He wanted to teach them and warn them, like a parent would his children. He was an inspired apostle, yet he did not function in some sort of "professional, mechanical" way; he was more than a cold human teaching machine. He loved his brethren, and out of this intimate parental affection, there came this teaching and these warnings...

Like this one: "...let no one deceive you." This is expected! Parents who love their children as John loved his brethren will issue warnings against deception and danger. John was aware of the influence of false teachers. In fact, this was one of his purposes in writing. He told them: "These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you," (2:26). Just as parental affection will express itself in warnings, John's love for his brethren had such an expression. "Little children, let no one deceive you..." Specifically, he was concerned about the fabrication that you can be righteous without the practice, the behavior of what's right. So he told them...

"He who practices righteousness is righteous..." This is a plain statement of fact. John teaches, they would be led astray if they were to think that righteousness need not find its expression in right conduct (such as they saw in the life of Jesus). This means, in my daily life, if I'm not doing what's right I am not really righteous! And this means that anyone who attempts to persuade me otherwise is escorting me into error.

There is some evidence that John is answering the teachings of a false system of irreligious philosophy called Gnosticism. That suggestion would fit this statement in 1 John 3:7, because Gnostic doctrine placed supremacy on knowledge. The elite Gnostics claimed to have "special knowledge" of certain truths not available to "ordinary" people. With this exaggerated emphasis on this "higher knowledge," there were claims of knowledge, but often these claims were not accompanied by the practice of what's right. The stress was placed on knowing. What was absent in this approach was obedience, the practice of righteousness. So it may be, John is denying this aspect of Gnostic teaching. "Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous."

In any case, there is an application for us! You cannot be righteous, without doing what's right. Doing is the test of being! There cannot be righteousness without obedience. "Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous."

By Warren E. Berkley
The Front Page
From Expository Files 5.9; September 1998

 

 

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