First John: 1 John 3:18-Believers Must Love One Another By Means of Action Produced by Obedience to Truth Lesson # 129
1 John 3:18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (ESV)
“Let us not love” is composed of the following: (1) negative particle me (μή), “not” (2) first person plural present active subjunctive form of the verb agapaō (ἀγαπάω), “let us love.”
The verb agapaō means “to love” referring to the function of God’s love in the life of the believer since John is speaking of the love which is reproduced in the Christian by God the Holy Spirit when they obey the Lord’s command in John 13:34 to love one another.
The verb’s meaning is negated by the negative particle me, which denies any idea of John and the recipients of First divinely loving each other by means of talk produced by the tongue.
The first person plural form of this verb means “we” referring to John and each of the recipients of First John indicating that the apostle John is identifying with his readers that he is subject to this prohibition and command to love one another with action and truth rather than word or with tongue.
The subjunctive mood of this verb agapaō is a hortatory subjunctive which is used to urge or encourage the recipients of First John to unite with him in not loving one another by means of talk produced by the tongue but rather by means of action produced by obedience to truth.
The present tense of this verb agapaō is a gnomic present which is used in a generic statement to describe something that is true “any time” rather than a universal statement that is true “all the time.”
“In word or talk but in deed and in truth” is composed of the following: (1) dative masculine singular form of the noun logos (λόγος), “in word” (2) negative disjunctive particle mēde (μηδέ), “not” (3) articular dative feminine singular form of the noun glōssa (γλῶσσα), “talk” (4) conjunction alla (ἀλλά), “but” (5) preposition en (ἐν), “in” (6) dative neuter singular form of the noun ergon (ἒργον), “deed” (7) conjunction kai (καί), “and” (8) dative feminine singular form of the noun alētheia (ἀλήθεια), “in truth.”
The noun logos means “with talk” since the word pertains to verbal communication between individuals and it functions as a dative instrumental of means which is used to indicate the means by which the verbal action is accomplished.
The negative disjunctive particle mēde is used to extend and continue the idea expressed by the noun logos and to negate the meaning of the articular dative feminine singular form of the noun tē glōssē (τῇ γλώσσῃ), which modifies it.
It is thus connecting the idea of verbal communication between individuals and the tongue which produces such verbal communication.
The noun glōssa means “tongue” since the word pertains to the organ of speech in the human body and contains the figure of metonymy which means that the tongue is put for its use or function.
This word does not refer to human speech or verbal communication as logos does which is indicated by the fact that John is using the figure of hendiadys.
Here 1 John 3:18, the alētheia intensifies the meaning of the noun ergon and correspondingly glōssa intensifies the meaning logos, thus, these four words express two ideas.
The intensification between the two words is that the second noun in each pair produces the action expressed by the first noun in each pair and thus, the first pair indicates talk produced by the use of the tongue while the second pair indicates action produced by truth.
The strong adversative conjunction alla is marking two antithetical concepts, namely divinely loving one’s fellow-believer by means of talk produced by the use of the tongue with that of doing so by means of action produced by obedience to truth.
The noun ergon means “action” speaks of an action that is produced by the Holy Spirit through the believer when they exercise faith in the Lord Jesus Christ’s command in John 13:34 and 15:12 to love one another as He has loved them.
This faith results in obedience to the will of the Father, which is revealed by the Spirit in the Word of God.
Therefore, it speaks of an action that the Holy Spirit performs through the Christian as a result of the Christian’s obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ’s Spirit inspired command to love one another as He loves the Christian.
The noun alētheia means “truth” and refers to John’s apostolic teaching and specifically it refers to his apostolic teaching concerning fellowship with God.
This word contains the figure of metonymy meaning that truth is put for obedience to the truth since obedience to truth and in particular obedience to the command to love another will produce actions which manifest God’s attribute of love among individuals in the Christian community.
The nouns alētheia and ergon are the object of the preposition en, which is a marker of means indicating the means by which the verbal action is accomplished.
Therefore, this prepositional phrase indicates action produced by obedience to truth is the means by which John wants himself or the recipients of First John to love one another.
1 John 3:18 Dear children, let not any one of us at any time love one another by means of talk produced by the tongue but rather by means of action produced by obedience to truth. (My translation)
1 John 3:18 completes the sixth major section of First John, which began in 1 John 3:11.
Therefore, 1 John 3:18 completes the most important section in First John and deals with the command to love one another.
In this verse, the apostle John solemnly issues a prohibition followed by a command.
In the prohibition, he urges the recipients of First John to unite with him in not at any time loving one another by means of talk produced by the use of one’s tongue and in the command, he urges them to unite with him in loving one another by means of action produced by obedience to truth.
John employs the noun teknion, “dear children” which is a term of affection and endearment for the recipients of First John which indicates that he considered them his spiritual children and also expresses his care and nurture for them.
When John speaks of loving one another, he is referring to the function of God’s love in their lives since John wants this love reproduced in their lives by God the Holy Spirit when they obey the Lord’s command in John 13:34 to love one another.
John teaches that action produced by obedience to truth is to be the means by which John wants the recipients of First John to unite with him in loving one another.
He emphatically does not want them to merely say they love each other with their words but rather to do so with their actions.
Remember, God demonstrated His love by giving His Son to resolve the human race’s problem with sin and Satan and being under His wrath.
1 John 3:18 echoes James 2:1-26 and 1 Corinthians 13:1 in that both emphasize that God’s attribute of love does not manifest itself in the life of the believer by words only but rather by means of action on behalf of one’s fellow-believer or human being.
James teaches that the believer demonstrates his faith by his obedience and Paul teaches that the profession of love is meaningless and useless without actions that benefit one’s fellow-believer.
Also, 1 John 3:18 summarizes what John taught the recipients of First John in 1 John 3:16-17.
Therefore, since 1 John 3:18 summarizes verses 16-17, we can see that John is teaching the recipients of First John that God’s attribute of love was manifested in human history through the actions of Jesus Christ when He voluntarily laid down His life on behalf of each of them.
He also teaches that God’s attribute of love manifests itself in the life of the believer when they act to provide the essentials to sustain human life, which would be food, shelter and clothing for the fellow-believer who is in need of them.
We must keep in mind that John is not saying in 1 John 3:18 that a believer can never manifest God’s love in their life by the words.
His point is not that God’s love can never be expressed verbally by the believer but rather that their words are not enough.
His point is that one’s words must be backed by action when necessary.
This is indicated by the fact that Paul teaches in Ephesians 4:15 that the Ephesian Christian community must speak the truth to each other in love.
So therefore, in 1 John 3:16-18, John is warning the recipients of this epistle to not become involved with hypocrisy.
He wants them to be sincere in their love for each other.
Romans 12:9 Your divine-love must continue to be characterized as being without hypocrisy. All of you continue to make it your habit to detest that which is evil in character. All of you continue to make it your habit to be devoted to that which is good. (Author’s translation)
Therefore, in 1 John 3:16-18, John is challenging the recipients of this epistle to be sincere and genuine when it comes to the practice of God’s love in their lives.
He is also teaching that the practice of God’s attribute of love by one’s actions that benefit a believer in need is one of the distinguishing marks of a child of God.
It manifests that one is experiencing eternal life, their sanctification and salvation and that they are practicing divine righteousness in their life.