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Love-Enhanced Prayer (1 John 3:19-23)
Sermon Notes
Sunday, 22 September 2013 00:00

As an experienced shepherd of God’s people, John would have known that the theme of Christian love, modeled after the Savior’s own love, could produce feelings of guilt and self-reproach. The issue involved is NOT the assurance of salvation, but whether one is participating in the truth with respect to Christian love.
The believer in Christ can easily ask, “Can I love as He loved? Am I really doing that?”.

19a And by this we know that we are of the truth,
The words of the truth are an obvious echo of the exhortation of v. 18 that we are to love in deed and truth: 18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.
The introductory words And by this should be referred backward to the exhortation in verse 18. In other words, John is saying: And by doing this (by loving in deed and truth), by acting in love with deeds that reflect the truth about love as revealed in Christ, we can know that we are of the truth.
As we have seen when considering 3:8 (of the devil) and 3:10a (of God), phrases like “of the devil” and “of God” are to be handled in a supple fashion, since they involve an extremely common idiom that is very malleable in context.
So also the phrase “of the truth” must be understood in context.
If the Christian doubts that he is able to express Christian love to his brethren, essentially he is doubting whether he can relate to, or participate in, the truth revealed in Christ about that kind of love.
He may feel guilty for past failures or he may have a strong sense of inadequacy, but by acting in love as v. 18 directs, he can actually know that by such actions he is participating in the truth – that is, he is of the truth.
Another way of saying this is, that by so loving one can know that his actions have their source in the truth.
The words that follow in verse 19b, and shall assure our hearts before Him, are best taken with the words of the next verse. The NKJV treats v. 20 as a separate sentence, but this is almost certainly wrong because the NKJV glides over and omits, a repetition of the first word in the Greek sentence. This Greek word is hoti, translated “For” by NKJV.
But in the Greek text, that word hoti is repeated in front of the clause beginning (in the English) with the words, God is greater, and is left untranslated in the NKJV.
20 For if our heart condemns us, [for] God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.
The most natural way to understand the second hoti is to take it as resumptive of the first one, but in that case, the Greek word hoti in both instances would not be a causal conjunction meaning “for” or “because.”
Even if the second hoti is left out in English (as is done in the NKJV), the first hoti (translated by the word For in NKJV) ought to be taken in the sense of “that,” which is its common meaning after the verb for “assure” (peisomai) as here in v. 19.
It is used that way in the following verses:
Romans 8:38 ~ For (gar) I have been persuaded that (hoti) neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 15:14 ~ Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that (hoti) you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.
2 Corinthians 2:3 ~ And I wrote this very thing to you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow over those from whom I ought to have joy, having confidence in you all that (hoti) my joy is the joy of you all.
Galatians 5:10 ~ I have confidence in you, in the Lord, that (hoti) you will no other mind; but he who trouble you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is.

The translation will then be linked with the last clause of v. 19 and would be as follows, “…19band we shall assure [or, persuade] our hearts before Him 20that, if our heart condemns us, that God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.”
Here’s what John means in vv. 19-20: By acting with deeds of love (“by this” in v. 19), we can know we are “of the truth.”
But also, by so acting (with deeds of love), we can quiet our condemning heart if our heart accuses us of failure in the expression of Christian love.
Every sincere Christian knows what is involved in this experience. Whatever we try to do in love, a sensitive conscience often condemns us for having done too little, or for not making up for past failures, or for any number of things.
Our instincts, in our sinful flesh, are so selfish that we may even in the midst of acting in Christian love suspect ourselves of impure or unworthy motives.
Our heart thus does not take account of our actions and continues to accuse us.
But as he says in v. 20, God is greater than our heart and what the heart refuses to take into account, God, who knows all things does take into account.
When we have loved “in deed and truth” God is very much aware of that, even when our hearts tend to ignore it.
Sensitivity of conscience to the scriptural demand for Christlike love is a natural reaction in the believer.
At times like that, we should assure (ie, persuade 3:19 – peisomai) our hearts that God is greater than our heart in that He knows perfectly well the love we have expressed by our actions. Nothing escapes God’s eye!

Now here is something very important: In the statement in v. 19, “we shall assure our hearts before Him,” the words “before Him” are emphatic in the Greek text.
As the following verses make clear, John is thinking about our experience before God in prayer.
It is when we kneel before God in prayer that we are most likely to struggle with the reality of our own failure to love in contrast to His own measureless love to us in Christ.
Such self-condemnation can reduce to almost zero our expectation that our prayer will be answered. So John’s advice here is that when we approach the throne of grace, we should count on God knowing (even if our heart does not!) what we have actually done in love.
Zane Hodges paraphrases 1 John 3:18-20 to serve as a summary of these verses:
My little children, let’s not love with words only or with our speech, but in action and in reality. That, you see, is how we recognize our participation in the truth and that’s how we can convince our heart – if our heart makes us feel guilty – that God is greater than our heart and He takes account of all we have done.
(Epistles of John, p. 165)

21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God.
As we come before God in prayer, perhaps our heart does not condemn us for failure to express Christian love.
This could be because (1st) our heart readily accepts the fact that God takes cognizance of our love manifested “in deed and in truth” [v.18], or because (2nd) we have “persuaded” it to do so [v.19]. In any case, the result is “confidence toward God.”

The word confidence (parresia) is the same one used in 2:28, and John’s theme of confidence before Christ at the Judgment Seat of Christ will climax at 4:17.
But obviously, if we don’t have confidence before God when we kneel before Him in prayer, it is even less likely that we will have confidence before Him at His coming.
Yet even here and now our confidence before Him can be real if it is based on our obedience to His commands (as we will see in v. 22).
This is such a wonderful spiritual state to be in that, in expressing it, John addresses his readers as Beloved.
Only the great love of God could give us the status of children who can pray boldly to their heavenly Father (3:1).
Clearly John is holding forth the hope of such present boldness before God in prayer and that such present boldness can lead to future boldness before Christ at His coming!

22 And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.
As indicated by the emphatic words “before Him” in v. 19, John has been focusing in this immediate context on “confidence” toward God in prayer.
(He will return to this subject again in 5:14-17)
The result of “confidence” toward God in prayer is, of course, answered prayer.
Thus, v. 22 says, whatever we ask we receive from Him.
There is a twofold reason for this kind of answered prayer:
(1) because we keep His commandments
(2) because we do those things that are pleasing in His sight
Yet these two things are not likely to be two separate conditions since obviously to obey God’s commandments is to do something that is pleasing in His sight.
No doubt John adds the phrase and do those things that are pleasing in His sight to remind us that God is pleased with our obedience. Thus, God’s pleasure in our obedience becomes a motive for His response to the prayers we offer.
Christians sometimes forget the simple truth that God is pleased when we obey Him.
He never takes our obedience for granted, or fails to appreciate it.
But just as an earthly father is happy over an obedient son or daughter, so also is our heavenly Father as well (Malachi 3:16 ~ Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another,
And the LORD listened and heard them;
So a book of remembrance was written before Him
For those who fear the LORD
And who meditate on His name.).
The realization of this should augment our “confidence” in His presence as we pray.

It is also true that the Christian who is actively seeking to please God will not ask for things that are not pleasing in His sight!
As John will state later in this letter (5:14-15), we can expect answers to our prayers when we ask “according to His will.”
Since the obedient, abiding, Christian is seeking to do God’s “will” by keeping His commands, he will naturally make all his prayers subject to that will when he is in doubt about what God wishes to do in a particular, specific situation.
The best example of a prayer request made subject to God’s will is the prayer of our Lord Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).

When prayer rises to God from the heart of someone in whose life the will of God is first and foremost, then whatever he asks of God will be received from Him precisely because he is asking “according to His will” (5:14).
Like our Lord, the man or woman or prayer will always seek that will first; in our Lord’s case, the actual answer was not in the removal of the cup of suffering (Jesus drank that!) but in the accomplishment of His request, “Not My will, but Yours, be done”!
Prayer for the will of God to be accomplished is thus one of the primary ways in which obedient Christians can pray.
Acts 21:14 ~ So when he (Paul) would not be persuaded (to go to Jerusalem), we ceased, saying, “The will of the Lord be done.”
But when the Scriptures make God’s will clear in a matter, the Christian may pray directly for that. (We’ll have an example of such a specific request in 5:16-17)
Finally, John concludes this subunit of thought (3:19-23 ~ about what love does for believers) as well as concluding the larger unit of thought (3:10b-23) with a summary of what it means to “keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” ~ 3:22.
23 And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.
That v. 23 is indeed a summary is seen by the transparent shift from the plural “commandments” (v. 22) to the singular commandment here in v. 23.

The commandment has TWO aspects:
(1) that we should believe [on] the name of His Son Jesus Christ
There is no word for “on” in the Greek text. Instead, we have a construction in which the name functions as the object of the word believe.
(2) and love one another,
Clearly, John here links faith and love together as a single commandment for Christian people. They are properly indivisible in Christian experience.
It is precisely the knowledge that faith in the name of His Son Jesus Christ imparts life to all believers and constitutes them our brothers and sisters, that gives us the proper object for our love when we are told to love one another.
If we did not know this truth, we would not know whom to love.
Believing the name of God’s Son is a prerequisite , and an essential component, of love for one another.
Thus John speaks here in v. 23 of one commandment.
The closing words of the verse, as He gave [us] commandment, are not at all redundant, but they should not have been set off by a comma as in the NKJV.
The reference is to Jesus Himself from whom the commandment to love one another directly came (John 13:34).
Let me read you 1 John 3:23 with the proper differentiation of the pronouns:
And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His [God’s] Son Jesus Christ and love one another as He [His Son] gave [us] commandment.
([us] is found in only 25 mss; the majority don’t have it)
God’s will, therefore, can be summarized as faith in His Son’s name and obedience to His Son’s commandment.

With these words, John concludes the unit on love that comprises 3:10b-23, in which we have seen what love is not (3:10b-15), what love is (3:16-18) and what love does for believers (3:19-23).
John has much more to say about loving one another but he has made plain in these verses the parameters within which any discussion of Christian love must operate.
* The Christian who hates his brother is utterly out of touch with God (3:10b).
* The Christian who hates his brother exemplifies the murderous spirit of Cain (3:12).
* The Christian who hates his brother is “abiding” in the sphere of death (3:14-15).
By contrast, the loving Christian takes Christ’s own self-sacrificing love as the model by which he himself should love in actual deeds and in accord with the truth (3:16-18).
* Christian love gives sacrificially (3:16).
* Christian love sees compassionately (3:17).
* Christian love is demonstrated in action (3:18).
If a Christian loves in this way, he
* can quiet a guilt-ridden heart (3:19b-20)
* can achieve a superb confidence before God in prayer (3:21-22)
* can expect answers to his prayers precisely because he is pleasing God (3:19-23).

This boldness in God’s presence in prayer at the throne of grace is a lofty spiritual summit for a Christian to experience. It requires taking one step at a time in obedience to God’s commandment (3:23) which is the only way it can be reached.






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