Sunday, 19 April 2020
Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. 1 John 3:7
John now contrasts what he presented in the previous verses. In verse 4, he spoke of committing lawlessness, and that “sin is lawlessness.” He then noted that, “whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.” At that time, he used a present participle – whoever is sinning (actively and habitually).
With that in mind, he now says, “Little children.” Once again, he uses the endearing term teknia for “little children.” It is as if he is saying, “Take care little ones and listen to my instruction, for it will keep you from harm.” And the harm he wishes for them to avoid is explained by his next words, “let no one deceive you.”
The word he uses for deceive is planaó. It signifies “to cause to wander.” Thus, one is led astray. It is the basis for our word “planet.” Just as the planets appear to wander in the night sky, so is a person who is led astray. They have no sure footing and are easily led down unhealthy paths of unrighteousness. With that in mind, John continues with, “He who practices righteousness is righteous.”
In the Greek, there is an article before “righteousness.” It literally says, “He who practices the righteousness.” This isn’t simply someone who goes out and does a good thing, or good things. Rather, it is a person who is complete in his righteousness. His acts are combined with the heart and attitude behind his conduct.
The verb “practices” is a present participle, and it indicates one who habitually practices. But Paul says, “there is none righteous.” As this is so, then it must be speaking of someone who has been converted from that fallen state.
How can one do “the righteousness” and yet be unrighteous? It is not possible unless he is first made righteous. And that can only come from a Source which is righteous. Thus, John’s words speak of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. This was explained in the previous verse to some extent, and it will continue to be explained in the verses ahead. However, it is confirmed (even if not fully explained) in his final words of this verse, which say, “just as He is righteous.”
“He” refers to Christ Jesus. It is a person whose deeds are aligned with his conversion in Christ who is properly demonstrating righteousness. Christ is the standard, and we are to be the emulators. Christ is righteous in and of Himself, and we are endeavoring by continual practice to be molded into His image.
In other words, John is not saying that in Christ we are righteous to the same measure, but that we bear the same state of righteousness. This is why the term “in Christ” is used in the epistles. Believers are clothed in Him and in His righteousness, and that which is done in Him bears His state of righteousness when we conduct our affairs in the manner that we are expected to do.
Life application: John’s words to the “little children” are similar to the words used in the first chapters of Proverbs when the father admonishes his son. Notice the similar language used in Proverbs verses 1 and 9 of Chapter 2 –
“My son, if you receive my words,
And treasure my commands within you,” (Proverbs 2:1)
“Then you will understand righteousness and justice,
Equity and every good path.” (Proverbs 2:9)
Also, as noted above, the word John uses for “deceive” means “to lead astray.” Again, in the proverb (just cited) Solomon said that by following sound advice the son would understand “every good path.” John may have been thinking of this particular proverb. Rather than being led astray, one will tread upon the path of righteousness when he is in Christ and follows Him according to His word.
So, what will keep us from wandering? John says here that in practicing righteousness one is righteous. Don’t be deceived by those with an agenda contrary to the biblical model and the Role Model – who is Jesus. We are to live in God’s presence, always pursuing holiness and righteousness.
When we fall short, let us make every effort to acknowledge our shortcomings and ask for forgiveness that we may again be pure. Though we are forgiven already in Christ, acknowledging our failures as we commit them keeps the lines of communication between us and our Creator uncluttered with our misdeeds.
Lord God, how wonderfully glorious to know that because of Your Holy Spirit we have the ability to act righteously and to please You. Now Lord, fill us with the wisdom to follow that path and to bring honor to You through careful attention to our lives, our conduct, our deeds, and our words. To Your beautiful honor we pray. Amen.