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First John: 1 John 3:19-Five Interpretative Problems Lesson # 130

First John   •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  59:14
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First John: 1 John 3:19-Five Interpretative Problems

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1 John 3:19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him. (ESV)
Tonight, we will address five problems with regards to 1 John 3:19.
The first is the meaning of the prepositional phrase “by this.”
By this” is composed of the following: (1) preposition en (ἐν), “by” (2) dative neuter singular form of the demonstrative pronoun houtos (οὗτος), “this.”
Some interpret this prepositional phrase en toutō (ἐν τούτῳ), “by means of this” as kataphoric meaning that it is pointing to either one or both the hoti clauses in verse 20, which can be either interpreted as causal or declarative.
Neither the causal or declarative interpretation make any sense since the first hoti clause in verse 20 speaks of the believer’s conscience condemning them and the second explains the first and speaks of God being greater than the believer’s conscience.
How can the believer’s conscience condemning them help the believer to confirm that they are manifesting God’s attribute of love and which manifestation originates from obedience to the truth, i.e. the command to love one another?
How can God being greater than the believer’s conscience help them to confirm that they are manifesting God’s love in their lives?
Only when the believer is obeying the command to love one another can they can confirm that they are manifesting God’s love in their life and which command is truth.
Therefore, houtos is anaphoric since this would point back to 1 John 3:18, which speaks of loving one’s fellow-believer by means of action produced by obedience to the truth, which manifests itself in providing for a fellow-believer who is in need of the essentials to sustain life.
This is how the believer can lay down his life for his fellow-believer which is referred to in 1 John 3:16.
The second and third interpretative problems are found in the statement “we are of the truth.”
We are of the truth” is composed of the following: (1) first person plural present active indicative form of the verb eimi (εἰμί), “we are” (2) preposition ek (ἐκ), “of” (3) articular genitive feminine singular form of the noun alētheia (ἀλήθεια), “the truth.”
Many expositors and translations interpret the verb eimi here in 1 John 3:19 as expressing the idea of belonging to a particular group of people, which in this context, would be the children of God.
However, this word is expressing the idea of manifesting God’s attribute of love.
This is indicated by the context.
The prepositional phrase en toutō (ἐν τούτῳ), “by means of this” at the beginning of verse 19 is referring the exhortation in verse 18 which requests that the recipients of First John would unite with John in loving each other by means of action produced by obedience to truth.
Furthermore, in verse 17, which is summarized by this exhortation in verse 18 speaks of manifesting God’s love in one’s life by loving one’s fellow-believer by providing for them when they are in need of the essentials to sustain human life which would be food, shelter and clothing.
The reference to truth in verses 18-19 speak of the command to love one another.
Obedience to this command manifests God’s attribute of love since the Holy Spirit reproduces this divine-love in the believer when they obey the Lord Jesus Christ’s Spirit inspired to love one another.
Therefore, since John is emphasizing in verses 17-18 the need of the Christian community to manifest God’s love in their lives in visible, tangible ways, the verb eimi is expressing the idea of manifesting God’s love in one’s life here in verse 18.
Truth” in 1 John 3:18-19 refers to the Lord Jesus Christ’s command recorded in John 13:34 and 15:12 requiring each and every church believer loving their fellow-believer as He has loved them.
It contains the figure of metonymy as it did in 1 John 3:18 which means that truth is put for obedience to truth.
This is indicated by the fact that obedience to truth and in particular obedience to the command to love one another will produce actions in the life of the believer which manifest God’s attribute of love.
The believer will manifest God’s attribute of love in their life when they obey this command which will result in providing food, shelter and clothing when one’s fellow-believer is in need of such things.
The fourth and fifth interpretative problems are found in the statement “reassure our heart before him.”
Reassure our heart before him” is composed of the following: (1) preposition emprosthen (ἔμπροσθεν), “before” (2) genitive third person masculine singular form of the intensive personal pronoun autos (αὐτός), “him” (3) first person plural future active indicative form of the verb peithō (πείθω), “reassure” (4) articular accusative feminine singular form of the noun kardia (καρδία), “heart” (5) genitive first person plural form of the personal pronoun ego (ἐγώ), “our.”
The verb peithō has been a cause of great consternation among bible expositors throughout the church’s history.
Interestingly Louw and Nida believe that this verb peithō in 1 John 3:19 means “to assure” and BDAG thinks it means “conciliate, pacify, set at ease/rest.”
One must understand the meaning of the noun kardia to understand the meaning of this verb.
The NET Bible has the following excellent note regarding kardia here in 1 John 3:19, they write “Although it may be agreed that the term generally refers to the ‘center and source of the whole inner life, w. its thinking, feeling, and volition’ (BDAG 508 s.v. l.b), this may be further subdivided into references to (a) ‘the faculty of thought … as the organ of natural and spiritual enlightenment,’ that is, the mind; (b) ‘the will and its decisions’; (c) ‘the emotions, wishes, desires,’ i.e., the emotions or feelings; or (d) ‘moral decisions, the moral life,’ that is, the part of the individual where moral decisions are made, which is commonly called the conscience. Thus καρδία in 3:19 could refer to either the mind, the will, the emotions, or the conscience, and it is not transparently clear which concept the author has primarily in view. In light of the overall context, which seems to discuss the believer’s assurance of his or her standing before God (ἔμπροσθεν αὐτοῦ [emprosthen autou] in 3:19 and the mention of παρρησία [parrēsia, “boldness” or “confidence“] in 3:21) it seems probable that the conscience, that aspect of one’s καρδία which involves moral choices and the guilt or approval for having made them, is primarily in view here. Thus the meaning ‘convince’ is preferred for the verb πείθω (peithō), since the overall subject seems to be the believer’s assurance of his or her standing before God, especially in the case when (v. 20) the believer’s conscience attempts to condemn him on account of sin.”[1]
Although in agreement with the NET Bible regarding the idea expressed by the noun kardia, I disagree however with them regarding the meaning of the verb peithō.
However, I agree with them regarding their reason for their translation of this verb since the basis for translating this verb “to convince” can be used to support the meaning “to assure.”
Furthermore, what does convincing the conscience mean?
To “convince” in this context means “to bring (as by argument) to belief, consent, or a course of action.
The context does not support such an idea since John is teaching that loving one’s fellow-believer by means of action produced by obedience to truth is the means by which the believer can confirm that they are manifesting God’s attribute of love in their lives.
This does not result in bringing the believer’s conscience to a particular belief, consent or course of action.
However, it is easy to see that it does result in assuring one’s conscience before God the Father in prayer in the sense that it protects one from a guilty conscience.
This interpretation is indicated by the fact in 1 John 3:20 John speaks of the heart being condemned which speaks of the conscience being convicted.
The opposite of being convicted by one’s behavior would be the conscience being assured by one’s conduct.
Therefore, it is my view that the verb peithō in 1 John 3:19 means “to assure” since the word pertains to giving oneself confidence based upon a particular course of conduct.
Here it is used here with John and the recipients of First John as its subject and the word’s object is the hearts of these individuals.
The verb is also expressing the result of the previous assertion.
Therefore, the verb peithō is expressing the idea that any believer will assure their hearts before God as a result of loving their fellow-believer by means of action produced by obedience to truth.
The prepositional phrase “before Him” at the end of 1 John 3:19 could be interpreted as a reference to the believer appearing before Jesus Christ at the Bema Seat since every believer will have to give an account to the Son at the Bema Seat according to 2 Corinthians 5:10.
In fact, in 1 John 2:28, John asserts that the believer who makes it their habit of living in fellowship with Jesus Christ will possess confidence when He appears at the rapture of the church which is immediately followed by the Bema Seat.
However, it is better to interpret this prepositional phrase as being in the presence of the Father while in prayer, which is indicated by John statements in 1 John 3:21-23, which we just noted.
BDAG A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3d e.d.
s.v. under the word (from Latin sub verbo or sub voce)
[1] Biblical Studies Press. (2006). The NET Bible First Edition Notes (1 Jn 3:19). Biblical Studies Press.
BDAG A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3d e.d.
s.v. under the word (from Latin sub verbo or sub voce)
[1] Biblical Studies Press. (2006). The NET Bible First Edition Notes (1 Jn 3:19). Biblical Studies Press.
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