Go On Living as Children of God
“Everyone who does not carry on righteousness does not originate with God, neither does he who does not love his brother.”—1 JOHN 3:10.
1, 2. As we continue our study of First John, what counsel of the apostle will we consider?
JEHOVAH has a universal family, and some humans now are part of it. They are God’s children. But how do they differ from others?
2 In his first divinely inspired letter, the apostle John identifies these highly favored humans. He also provides counsel that assists them to go on living as children of God. And what he says will benefit all dedicated witnesses of Jehovah.
How Great God’s Love!
3. How have some been made “children of God,” and how does the world view them?
3 John cites the hope of anointed Christians. (Read 1 John 3:1-3.) What great love Jehovah has shown by adopting them as spiritual sons, making them “children of God”! (Romans 5:8-10) Their godly spirit, objectives, and hopes are not shared by the “world”—unrighteous human society. Such worldly society hates Christ and his followers and thus the Father also. (John 15:17-25) So the world may know anointed ones as individuals but not as God’s children because “it has not come to know” Jehovah.—1 Corinthians 2:14.
4. Everyone having the hope of heavenly life should do what?
4 Right now, anointed ones are God’s children. “But,” says John, “as yet it has not been made manifest what we shall be” after dying in faithfulness and being resurrected to heavenly life with spirit bodies. (Philippians 3:20, 21) However, when God is “made manifest,” they will be “like him” and will “see him just as he is,” as “Jehovah the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:17, 18) Everyone having “this hope” of heavenly life should be moved to purify himself “just as that one [Jehovah] is pure.” Although anointed ones are now imperfect, they should be living clean lives that harmonize with their hope of seeing the pure, holy God in the heavenly realm.—Psalm 99:5, 9; 2 Corinthians 7:1.
5, 6. Everyone practicing sin is doing what from God’s standpoint, but in this regard, what is true of those remaining “in union with” Jesus Christ?
5 Living as God’s children also means doing what is righteous. (Read 1 John 3:4, 5.) “Everyone who practices sin is also practicing lawlessness” from the standpoint of Jehovah, whose laws the sinner violates. (Isaiah 33:22; James 4:12) All “sin is lawlessness,” a transgressing of God’s laws. Practicing sin is contrary to the Christian spirit, and we are grateful that Jesus Christ “was made manifest” as a human “to take away our sins.” Since “there is no sin in him,” he was able to present to God the one completely satisfactory sin-atoning sacrifice.—Isaiah 53:11, 12; Hebrews 7:26-28; 1 Peter 2:22-25.
6 “Everyone remaining in union with him [the Son] does not practice sin.” (Read 1 John 3:6.) Being imperfect, we may commit an act of sin at times. But sinning is not a practice with those who remain in union with the Son and, hence, in union with the Father. Practicers of sin have not “seen” Jesus with the eye of faith; nor do such habitual sinners as the apostates “know” and appreciate Christ as the sin-atoning “Lamb of God.”—John 1:36.
7, 8. According to 1 John 3:7, 8, the deliberate practicer of sin originates with whom, but God’s Son “was made manifest” to do what in this regard?
7 John warns against being misled. (Read 1 John 3:7, 8.) “Let no one mislead you,” says the apostle, adding: “He who carries on righteousness [by keeping God’s law] is righteous, just as that one [Jesus Christ] is righteous.” Our sinfulness prevents us from being righteous to the same degree as the Great Exemplar. But by Jehovah’s undeserved kindness, Jesus’ anointed followers can now go on living as children of God.
8 The deliberate practicer of sin “originates with the Devil,” who has been sinning “from the beginning” of his career of rebellion against Jehovah. But God’s Son “was made manifest” to “break up” Satan’s “works” of promoting sin and evil. This includes undoing the effects of Adamic death by sin atonement through Christ and the resurrecting of those in Sheol (Hades), as well as the crushing of Satan’s head. (Genesis 3:15; 1 Corinthians 15:26) Meanwhile, let us, the anointed remnant and the “great crowd,” guard against practicing sin and unrighteousness.
Keep God’s Law
9. In what sense is it that the spirit-begotten Christian “cannot practice sin,” and why is this so?
9 John next distinguishes between God’s children and those of the Devil. (Read 1 John 3:9-12.) Everyone “born from God does not carry on sin,” or make it a practice. Jehovah’s “reproductive seed,” or holy spirit that gives one “a new birth” to a heavenly hope, remains in the individual unless he resists and thus ‘grieves’ the spirit, so that God withdraws it. (1 Peter 1:3, 4, 18, 19, 23; Ephesians 4:30) To remain one of God’s children, the spirit-begotten Christian “cannot practice sin.” As a “new creation” with the “new personality,” he strives against sin. He has “escaped from the corruption that is in the world through lust,” and it is not in his heart to be a habitual wrongdoer.—2 Corinthians 5:16, 17; Colossians 3:5-11; 2 Peter 1:4.
10. What is one way to distinguish between God’s children and those of the Devil?
10 One way to distinguish between God’s children and those of the Devil is this: “Everyone who does not carry on righteousness does not originate with God.” Unrighteousness is so characteristic of the Devil’s children that they “do not sleep unless they do badness, and their sleep has been snatched away unless they cause someone to stumble,” which is what apostates would like to do to loyal Christians.—Proverbs 4:14-16.
11. (a) What is another way to identify those who are not God’s children? (b) Reflecting on Cain’s course should move us to do what?
11 Furthermore, “neither does he [originate with God] who does not love his brother.” In fact, the “message” we have heard “from the beginning” of our lives as Jehovah’s Witnesses is that “we should have love for one another.” (John 13:34) So we are “not like Cain,” who showed that he “originated with the wicked one” by ‘slaughtering his brother’ in a violent manner characteristic of the manslayer Satan. (Genesis 4:2-10; John 8:44) Cain slaughtered Abel “because his own works were wicked, but those of his brother were righteous.” Surely, reflecting on Cain’s course should move us to guard against similar hatred of our spiritual brothers.
Love “in Deed and Truth”
12. How do “we know we have passed over from death to life,” and what does this mean?
12 If we were to copy Cain, we would be spiritually dead. (Read 1 John 3:13-15.) He hated his brother so much that he killed him, and we are not surprised that the world similarly hates us, for Jesus foretold this. (Mark 13:13) But “we know [or, are confident that] we have passed over from [spiritual] death to life [eternal], because we love the brothers,” our fellow witnesses of Jehovah. Because of that brotherly love, coupled with faith in Christ, no longer are we ‘dead’ in trespasses and sins, but God has lifted from us His condemnation, and we have been raised out of spiritual death, being given the hope of everlasting life. (John 5:24; Ephesians 2:1-7) Loveless apostates have no such hope, for “he who does not love remains in [spiritual] death.”
13. If we hate our brother, why should we make this a matter of prayer?
13 Really, “everyone who hates his brother is a manslayer.” Physical murder may not be committed (as when Cain killed Abel out of envy and hatred), but the hater would prefer that his spiritual brother not be alive. Since Jehovah reads the heart, the hater stands condemned. (Proverbs 21:2; compare Matthew 5:21, 22.) No such unrepentant “manslayer,” or hater of a fellow believer, “has everlasting life remaining in him.” So if we hate any fellow Witness secretly, should we not pray for Jehovah’s help in changing our spirit to one of brotherly love?
14. To what extent are we called upon to show brotherly love?
14 If we are to go on living as children of God, we must show brotherly love in word and deed. (Read 1 John 3:16-18.) This should be possible, for “we have come to know love, because that one [Jesus Christ] surrendered his soul [or, “life”] for us.” Since Jesus showed love to that extent, we should display similar principled love (Greek, a·gaʹpe) for fellow believers. In times of persecution, for example, “we are under obligation to surrender our souls for our brothers,” even as Prisca and Aquila “risked their own necks for [the apostle Paul’s] soul.”—Romans 16:3, 4; John 15:12, 13.
15. If a brother is in need and we have “this world’s means for supporting life,” what does love require of us?
15 If we would give our lives for our brothers, we should be willing to do less demanding things in their behalf. Suppose we have “this world’s means for supporting life”—money, food, clothing, and the like, made possible by the world. We may ‘behold’ a brother in need, not just casually seeing this but gazing upon the situation. His plight may cause “the door” of our “tender compassions,” or deepest feelings, to be opened. But what if we slam that “door” shut by allowing selfishness to thwart our intention to help him? Then “in what way does the love of God” remain in us? It is not enough merely to talk about brotherly love. As God’s children, we must manifest it “in deed and truth.” For example, if a brother is famished, he needs food, not mere words.—James 2:14-17.
Hearts That Do Not Condemn Us
16. (a) How is God “greater than our hearts”? (b) According to John, why does Jehovah answer our prayers?
16 John next points to assurances that we are Jehovah’s children. (Read 1 John 3:19-24.) “We shall know that we originate with the truth” and are not victims of apostate delusion “by this”—the fact that we display brotherly love. Thus we “assure our hearts” before God. (Psalm 119:11) If our hearts do condemn us, perhaps because we feel that we have not shown fellow worshipers enough love, remember that “God is greater than our hearts and knows all things.” He is merciful because he is aware of our “unhypocritical brotherly affection,” our fight against sin, and our efforts to live in a way pleasing to him. (1 Peter 1:22; Psalm 103:10-14) “If our hearts do not condemn us” because there are deeds proving our brotherly love, and we are not guilty of concealed sins, “we have freeness of speech toward God” in prayer. (Psalm 19:12) And he answers our prayers “because we are observing his commandments and are doing the things that are pleasing in his eyes.”
17. God’s “commandment” involves what two requirements?
17 If we expect to have our prayers answered, we must keep God’s “commandment” involving these two requirements: (1) We must have faith in Jesus’ “name,” accepting the ransom and acknowledging his God-given authority. (Philippians 2:9-11) (2) We must also “be loving one another” just as Jesus commanded. (John 15:12, 17) Surely, anyone with faith in Christ’s name should love all others exercising such faith.
18. How do we know that Jehovah is “remaining in union with us”?
18 A person observing God’s commandments “remains in union with him,” at unity with Jehovah. (Compare John 17:20, 21.) But how do “we gain the knowledge” that God is “remaining in union with us”? We know this “owing to the [holy] spirit which he gave us.” Possession of God’s holy spirit and the ability to display its fruitage, including brotherly love, proves that we are in union with Jehovah.—Galatians 5:22, 23.
Be on Guard!
19, 20. Why “test the inspired expressions,” and what help does John provide in this regard?
19 John next shows how we must be on guard. (Read 1 John 4:1.) We must not believe every spirit, or “inspired expression,” but we should “test the inspired expressions to see whether they originate with God.” Why? “Because many false prophets have gone forth into the world.” At least some of these deceptive teachers were then traveling about, associating with various congregations, and seeking to “draw away the disciples after themselves.” (Acts 20:29, 30; 2 John 7) So the faithful needed to be on guard.
20 Some first-century Christians had “discernment of inspired utterances,” a miraculous gift of God’s active force evidently enabling them to determine whether inspired expressions originated with Jehovah. (1 Corinthians 12:4, 10) But John’s warning seems applicable to Christians in general and is helpful today when apostates try to subvert the faith of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Although the spirit’s gift of ‘discerning inspired utterances’ has passed away, John’s words provide the means of determining whether teachers are moved by God’s spirit or by demonic influences.
21. What was one means of testing “inspired expressions”?
21 Note one means of testing. (Read 1 John 4:2, 3.) “Every inspired expression that confesses Jesus Christ as having come in the flesh originates with God.” We acknowledge that Jesus once lived as a human and is God’s Son, and our faith moves us to teach others such truths. (Matthew 3:16, 17; 17:5; 20:28; 28:19, 20) “But every inspired expression that does not confess Jesus does not originate with God.” Rather, “this is the antichrist’s inspired expression” against Christ and against Scriptural teachings about him. Evidently, John and other apostles had warned that “the antichrist’s inspired expression” was coming. (2 Corinthians 11:3, 4; 2 Peter 2:1) Since false teachers then threatened true Christians, John could say, “It is already in the world.”
22. What is another way to test “inspired expressions”?
22 Another way to test “inspired expressions” is to note who listens to them. (Read 1 John 4:4-6.) As Jehovah’s servants, we have “conquered,” or overcome, the false teachers, triumphing over their attempts to draw us away from God’s truth. This spiritual victory has been possible because God, who is “in union with” loyal Christians, “is greater than he [the Devil] that is in union with the world,” or unrighteous human society. (2 Corinthians 4:4) Because apostates “originate with the world” and have its wicked spirit, “they speak what proceeds from the world and the world listens to them.” Since we have Jehovah’s spirit, we can detect the unspiritual nature of their “inspired expressions” and therefore we reject them.
23. Who listen to us and recognize that we are led by God’s spirit?
23 But we know that “we originate with God” because “he that gains the knowledge of God listens to us.” Sheeplike ones realize that we teach the truth based on God’s Word. (Compare John 10:4, 5, 16, 26, 27.) Of course, “he that does not originate with God does not listen to us.” The false prophets, or teachers, did not listen to John or to others who ‘originated with God’ and imparted spiritually sound instruction. So “this is how we take note of the inspired expression of truth and the inspired expression of error.” We who comprise the family of Jehovah’s worshipers speak the “pure language” of Scriptural truth provided through God’s organization. (Zephaniah 3:9) And from what we say, it is evident to sheeplike ones that we are led by God’s holy spirit.
24. What will John next point out?
24 To this point, John has set forth some basic requirements we must meet if we are to go on living as God’s children. Next he will show why we must always display love and faith.
What Is Your Reply?
□ How are some made “children of God”?
□ How can we distinguish between God’s children and those of the Devil?
□ Reflecting on Cain’s course should move us to do what?
□ To what extent should we show brotherly love?
□ How can “inspired expressions” be tested?
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Reflecting on Cain’s course should move us to guard against hating any of our brothers
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Jehovah’s worshipers speak the “pure language” of Scriptural truth provided through God’s organization