Chapter 3 of 1st John starts off with saying how great is the love of God that we should be called his people! The world doesn’t know us because it knows not Him. We know our eternal destiny and when he comes again, we shall be like him and see him as he is. If you think about it, the world really doesn’t know us still. We just barely reached over 15 million members in the LDS church (as of this writing). That’s less than 5% of the population of the U.S.! We are trying to be known. We want the gospel to go forth to everyone.
Continue in Righteousness
The Joseph Smith Translation (JST) for verse 6 is really good. Whosoever continueth in sin hath not seen him nor knows him. I think the JST accounts for the fact that we all sin and that is why it says, those that continue in sin don’t know him. It also leaves open room for repentance. You can stop continuing in sin whenever you want through repentance. You can come to see him and know him at any time.
Same for verse 8. Same JST as above. The devil wants us to continue in sin. The devil thinks it’s good that you sinned, but what he is more concerned with is perpetuating that sinning. Literally controlling you through your disobedience. With repentance and the Savior, the fact that you sinned is understandable. Everyone will sin. What the Savior doesn’t want is for you to continue sinning. The opposite of what Satan wants. The entire purpose of repentance is to learn how to make a change. How to learn how not to continue in sin. When you thin of it like that, repentance becomes easier.
We Came to Earth to Succeed
This is the purpose of Christ in coming to Earth. That is, atoning for our sins and overcoming death. The purpose of God is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. We aren’t put here to fail. The video game setting hasn’t been adjusted to extremely difficult. We are put on Earth to marvelously succeed. Think of Earth life like Godhood 101. Yes, it is a test to see who will prove themselves in their desires, but we are meant to learn, grow, and understand. Yes, people will fail and mess up, but just because that happens, doesn’t mean that’s the end, time is up. We have a bazillion late homework passes labeled repentance. Not to mention we have textbooks, teachers, mentors, friends, family, apps, and the internet all to help us succeed. It’s an open book test! Again, we weren’t put on Earth to fail, but to succeed.
Verse 9 JST says that when you are born of God, you have that spirit with you and you do not continue in sin. We have a change of heart. We no longer have a desire to do bad, but to do good continually and help our fellow brothers. Sometimes we lose that desire when we sin, but I know through repentance, we are able to gain that desire back for ourselves. I have felt it myself.
A Love of God Keeps Us in the Path of Righteousness
Verse 10. In this, the children of God are made manifest (Greek translation says “apparent”) as well as the children of the Devil. If you are righteous, you are of God and you have that spirit about you. Likewise in the negative sense if you are unrighteous. People always say there is something different about Mormons. They seem to have a glow about them. I have noticed this many times before. I also think they start to look more fair and beautiful. People who are righteous end up looking really good. It’s weird.
Cross reference the Great and Terrible Series (one of my favorites). The angels who follow Satan start out looking pretty much the same but by the end of the series, are ugly and hateful. Having consumed so much evil. The same goes with the people in the book. You have bad feelings around them. Their faces become hardened and lose the glow that it had when they were babies. Having the chains of Satan and being exposed to and giving in to so many temptations and bad feelings, destroys you not only spiritually, but also physically.
John is not only talking about loving God in this verse but also loving your brother. The two greatest commandments. Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, might, mind and strength. Love thy neighbor as thyself. The loving God one I think is easy. Sometimes our neighbor and other people we know aren’t too nice. But what this commandment entails is that however you want to treat yourself, or would want to treat yourself, you should treat your neighbor the same way. I don’t think this is saying do everything for your neighbor and neglect yourself but rather take care of yourself and watch over your neighbor. Do stuff for them that you yourself would want to be done to you.
He says not to marvel if the world hates you. As missionaries, we are often hated. Not only because of the fact we are white guys but also because we invoke a remembrance of guilt in people. For lots of people, that is not a comfortable feeling. I’ve had less active members hide from us. It’s sad. They’ve felt the spirit of the missionaries, seen the changes that come from living the gospel, been baptized, now they don’t want to be a part of that again. Either because they got swayed by anti-Mormon nonsense or their testimony wasn’t kept up and life got too hard. So when the missionaries show up again, they remember they haven’t lived up to what they know they should have. They don’t want to deal with that because it’s hard and requires change. When I talked to people out of the blue about the gospel on my mission, most didn’t want to listen. The only who did were prepared by the Lord, not because of anything I did. Everyone else just thinks we’re salesmen.
Love Your Neighbor
John continues talking on the importance of loving God and your neighbor. At the end, he says that whatsoever we ask of Him, we shall receive because we have kept the commandments and done the pleasing things in his sight.
He that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God is love. I think that is why the gospel is very effective when introduced during a prominent life experience. Such events as the birth of a child, death of a loved one, a move in home location etc…When stuff like this happens, people feel things a lot more. If for example, a baby is born, a new father might feel an overwhelming love and gratitude for the opportunity of being a father. So when missionaries can connect the fact that we have a Heavenly Father who loves us, with his own new fatherhood, the gospel is very powerful.
No man, at any time hath seen God except those who believe. If we love one another, the love of God is in us, and we are perfected and his love is perfected in us. Two parts to this. You don’t see God unless you believe. I have talked about this before but when you believe that God created all things and look for God in all things, what you learn at school, and in the world surrounding you, you will find him. And, as I said before, when you make those connections, the world and the gospel become more real and full to you. You see him through all his creations. Second, when you have that love of god in you, you want to do right. As you let that love of God grow, you become more perfect and help your neighbor in his desires to become perfect until everyone reaches perfection.
Love Results in Faith and Overcomes All
There is no fear in love. Perfect love casteth out all fear. Beautiful. Cross reference Faith in the Bible Dictionary. If you don’t have faith, you don’t have hope. Just the same as with love. When you have love, you have confidence in a person, you have hope, you have faith, you have no fear because you know in whom your trust is placed. Perfect love casteth out fear and Jesus Christ is perfect. Since he is perfect, he can cast out fear. The Atonement casts out all fears. Prayer casteth out all fear, scriptures cast out fears. Everything given to us on this Earth is given in perfect love. Do not doubt, only believe, doubt not, fear now, for I the Lord am with thee withersoever thou goest.
If you are born of God, you overcome the world through faith. You obtain a victory. Faith has moved mountains, faith has freed slaves, faith has healed the sick and afflicted. It is through our faith, our willingness to believe and show confidence in the Lord that we overcome temptations. Selfish desires are of the world.
That’s it for 1st John. I hope you like it. Some of the main messages in this epistle were the contrast between darkness and light and how we should always be walking in the light. The epistle also talked a lot about love and how we need to keep the love of God in us and treat those around us the way God would have us treat them. I hope you stick around because next time we’ll be starting 2nd John!