God's Word For You is a free Bible Study site committed to bringing you studies firmly grounded in the Bible – the Word of God. Holding a reformed, conservative, evangelical perspective this site affirms that God has provided in Jesus Christ his eternal Son, a way of salvation in which we can live in his presence guilt free, acquitted and at peace.



© Rosemary Bardsley 2022

John now turns from the theological error of the false teachers (the ‘antichrists’) - their denial of Jesus Christ - to their life-application errors. The true truth about Jesus Christ requires of its followers a life that reflects that truth – a high standard of obedience, righteousness and love. The twisted and watered-down version of ‘truth’ promoted by the antichrists appeared to have no such standard. John has already begun to address this issue in 2:3 – 11 and 15 – 17.

Neither John nor the other New Testament writers taught salvation by works, but they all stressed the importance of our attitudes, words and actions as essential expressions of true faith in Jesus Christ. If we have indeed understood and acknowledged that Jesus Christ is everything he claimed to be, then that understanding and that acknowledgement will inevitably be expressed and evident in how we live.


A.1 Believers are commanded to remain (that is, to live, to continue) in Christ
John repeats his command ‘continue in him’ (2:28), which is identical to ‘remain in him’ in 2:27. Both are the same verb (meno), and both are in the present tense. The on-going stance/attitude of our lives as children of God is that we are ‘in him’, that is, ‘in Christ’. This is not a departure point from which we move on to something else, but our present and permanent position in the presence of God: we live in the presence of the Father always, ever and only in the Son – trusting in his atoning sacrifice (2:2) and his advocacy (2:1) for our life with God and our acceptance with God. We ‘live’ – we ‘remain’, we ‘continue’ – in Christ. As Jesus stated in John 15:5: ‘If a man remains in me, and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.’

This relationship that every child of God has with the Father is referred to by Jesus in John 15:1 – 8, where he described himself as ‘the vine’ and those who believe in him as ‘the branches’ – with a mutual inter-connectedness: we in him and he in us. Jesus referred to this in terms of us remaining in him and he remaining in us. It is not that some Christians ‘remain’ in Christ, and some Christians don’t: all who are genuine Christians remain, that is, live, in Christ. A person who is not ‘in him’ is simply not a Christian. The Christian lives only in Christ: apart from Christ they have no spiritual life, they have no relationship with God, they can do nothing.

This parallels Jesus’ other ‘I AM’ claims that John reported:

‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty’ (John 6:35). The coming and the believing are essential; without them Jesus can do nothing for a person.

‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’ (John 8:12). The following is essential; without it the person is in darkness and does not have the light of life.

‘I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved’ (John 10:9). The entering is essential; without it there is no salvation.

‘I am the good shepherd ... my sheep know me’ (John 10:14). The knowing is essential; without it a person will not follow the shepherd.

‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies’ (John 11:25). The believing is essential; without it a person has no spiritual life.

‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’ (John 14:6). The coming is essential; without it a person cannot come to the Father.

Then in John 15 Jesus speaks of remaining in him:

‘I am the vine ... If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5). The remaining – the living in Christ – is essential; without it a person is disconnected from Christ, the source of life, and can do nothing of any spiritual value.

This remaining (living, continuing) in Christ parallels the coming, believing, entering, following and knowing in the other ‘I AM’ claims. Each of these, including the ‘remaining’ are different ways of referring to the right response to Jesus Christ, without which a person cannot be saved.

There is, both in John’s gospel and his first letter, a close association between remaining, that is, living in Christ, and the word of Christ.

In John 15, where John uses meno nine times in the first ten verses, this association is expressed by Jesus in the phrases ‘You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you’ and ‘If you remain in me and my words remain in you ...’ and ‘if you obey my commands, you will remain in my love’ (verses 3, 7, 10).

In his first letter, John associates remaining and the word in 2:24 – ‘See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father’ and in 2:27 – ‘his anointing teaches you about all things ... just as it has taught you, remain in him.’

There is also a connection between remaining and obedience.

What connection do these verses make between ‘remaining’ (= continuing/living) and obedience?
John 15:9 – 10

1John 2:5, 6

1John 2:10

1John 2:17

1John 2:28, 29


Those who ‘remain’ (live, continue) in him, those who know the truth, also know that obedience to his commands is not optional.


A.2 Christ’s coming – a motivation for right living
John’s command to continue in Christ has the big picture in mind - he refers to the anticipated return of Jesus Christ as a motivation for right living. John’s confidence that Jesus would return was grounded on the words of Jesus himself.

What did Jesus say about his return?
Matthew 16:27

Matthew 24:30, 31

Matthew 25:31 – 32

Matthew 26:64

Mark 14:62

Luke 9:26

John 14:1 – 3

Revelation 22:7

Revelation 22:12

In addition to these verses, at the end of each of the letters to the seven churches (Revelation 2 and 3) Jesus makes promises to everyone who ‘overcomes’ (as we have seen in an earlier study.)

For John, the return of Jesus Christ, and all that that entails, is a strong motivation to continue/remain/live in Christ, and to be diligent in living the kind of life that is appropriate for those who claim to know Jesus Christ and to be in Christ.

Read 2:28 – 3:3. What does John command those who know Jesus is coming back?






Because Jesus is coming back, John tells his readers (whom he addresses as ‘dear children’):

[1] to continue in Christ so that when he appears ‘we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming’ (2:28);

[2] that those who have been ‘born of him’ do what is right, because ‘he is righteous’;

[3] that everyone who has the hope of Christ’s return purifies themselves, because Jesus is pure.

A.3 Additional truths – 2:28 – 3:3
In writing about the return of Christ as a motivation for godly living, John mentions other significant truths:

A.3.1 ‘born of him’ – 2:29
This is the first of several times in this letter that John refers to believers as being ‘born of God’.

The concept of being ‘born’ of God comes from John 3, where Jesus told Nicodemus ‘you must be born again’, referring to spiritual regeneration by the Spirit of God.

In 5:1 John wrote ‘Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God’. Apart from that, every other time that John uses the phrase he states the evidence that shows or proves that a person is indeed ‘born’ of God. So here in 2:29 he states ‘everyone who does what is right has been born of him’.

John’s point is that if we have been ‘born again’ – if indeed God has regenerated us, given us new life – then that regeneration, that new life in Christ, will be expressed and evidenced by our doing ‘what is right’.

A.3.2 ‘How great is the love the Father has lavished on us’ – 3:1
In language similar to Paul’s, John refers to the immeasurable love of God for us – ‘lavished on us’. And he sees the evidence of this great love in that fact that we are ‘called children of God’. This connects with the previous verse where John has stated that believers are ‘born of God’.

A.3.3 ‘children of God’ – 3:1, 2
About this truth that those who believe in Jesus Christ are ‘children of God’, John states further:

[1] ‘that is what we are’ – it is more than just words; we actually are ‘children of God’.

[2] but our identity as ‘children of God’ is not known or understood by ‘the world’. Just as ‘the world’ did not recognize Jesus, the Son of God, so it does not recognize Christians as ‘children of God’.

[3] we are ‘children of God’ right now; but ...

[4] we ourselves do not realize the full implications of being ‘children of God’ – ‘what we will be has not yet been made known’.

[5] But one thing we do know – that when Jesus returns we will be, instantly, ‘like him, for we shall see him as he is’.

Just as Paul wrote of the transformed bodies that Christians will receive at the return of Christ (1Corinthians 15:35 -54), John here writes of the inner transformation that will occur when we see him as he really is in all his power and glory: we will then reflect that glory, restored completely to the image of God. As Paul states: ‘Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully ...’ (1Corinthains 13:12). When Jesus returns, and we actually see him as he really is, then, and only then, will we cease to be sinners who sin.

It is in response to this glorious hope that John says ‘Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure’ (3:3). The sure and certain return of Christ, and the sure and certain ‘we shall be like him’, stimulate those who are ‘in him’ to a continual self-purification – an on-going, present tense, putting off of anything that defiles, of anything that is contrary to the nature of Jesus Christ.

This contrasts starkly with the attitude of the false teachers and their followers who appeared to minimize the seriousness of sin, and to not be concerned at all about disobedience and lack of love.



In this section John expands on what he said in 2:29 – ‘everyone who does what is right has been born of him’ – because ‘he is righteous’. In 3:4 -10 John writes quite strongly about the wrongness of sin and how sin ought not to characterize those who are children of God.

In these verses, why is sin wrong for those who claim to be Christians? (Every verse has more than one reason.)






Because the false teaching had a weak view of both sin and righteousness, teaching that sin and righteousness didn’t really matter, John in these verses, as elsewhere in this letter, writes of the utter wrongness of sin. As we saw in earlier studies, John knows that believers are still sinners who sin. He is not demanding sinless perfection. In fact he has stated that anyone who claims such sinlessness is deceived. He is not excluding us from salvation if we commit individual sinful actions. What he is writing against is a life of on-going, habitual sinfulness.

In these verses the tense of the verbs is instructive. All of the italicised words below are in the present tense in the Greek text, referring to on-going, continuity of action:

Verse 4: ‘everyone who sins’
Verse 6: ‘keeps on sinning ... continues to sin
Verse 7: ‘does what is righteous’
Verse 8: ‘does what is sinful’
Verse 9: ‘will continue to sin ... he cannot go on sinning
Verse 10: ‘Anyone who does not do what is right ... anyone who does not love his brother.’

The question is: what characterizes our life? Sin and lawlessness? Or righteousness and love?

In these verses, John looks at the wrongness of sin from a number of perspectives.

B.1 The person and work of Jesus Christ make it clear that sin is wrong
A life of on-going, habitual sin is totally out of sync with both the person of Jesus Christ, in whom we live and whom we confess as ‘Lord’, and the work of Jesus Christ, through which we are saved. On-going, habitual sinfulness simply does not fit with a claim to know Jesus Christ.

The following truths about Jesus Christ outlaw sin:

He is righteous – 2:29; 3:7.
He is pure – 3:3.
He appeared to take away our sins – 3:5.
In him is no sin – 3:5.
He appeared to destroy the devil’s work – 3:8.

Anyone who knows the real Christ knows also that sin is always wrong. Anyone who is ‘in him’ knows that sin does not fit ‘in him’. It is totally out of place, because Christ is the very opposite of sin. The two are antagonistic. Sin is the enemy he has defeated and disempowered.

B.2 The new identity of the believer makes it clear that sin is wrong
Sin is also exposed as wrong because of the new identity of those who believe in Jesus Christ, and the new relationship with God in which they live. John tells us that those who know Christ:

Have been born of God – 2:29; 3:9.
Are children of God – 3:1, 2, 10.
Have the sure expectation/hope of one day being like Jesus – 3:2.
Live in him – 3:6.
Have seen and known him – 3:6.
God’s seed remains in them – 3:9.

Sin is inconsistent with all of these truths about the believer. Believers owe their existence as children of God to God. Believers live in God. Believers know God. Believers are born of God. Sin is at loggerheads with both their new identity and the Source of their new identity.

B.3 The nature and source of sin and evil make it clear that sin is wrong
John puts sin in opposition to God. It is sin that Jesus came to ‘take away’ and to ‘destroy’. For a person who claims to know God to continue to embrace sin does not make any sense, for the two – God and sin – are diametrically opposed to each other. Sin is the devil’s work. Sin comes from God’s enemy. John points this out strongly:

Sin is lawlessness – 3:4.

Whoever does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning – 3:8.

It is the children of the devil who do not do what is right – 3:10.

It is the children of the devil who do not love – 3:10.

A life of habitual sinfulness and a claim to know and to belong to God simply don’t go together. The first denies the second. They cannot go together, because sin comes from the devil, not from God.

Answer these questions:
What is the difference between committing individual sinful acts and living a life of habitual sin?

Why does a life of habitual sin contradict a claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ?


For you, what is the most significant reason for not sinning in 1John 2:28 – 3:10?


Describe how 3:10 impacts you.


What do you need to change so that your life will demonstrate that you are truly a child of God?