First John: 1 John 3:21-The Believer Who Obeys the Command to Love One Another Will Experience Confidence in the Presence of the Father Lesson # 135
1 John 3:21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God. (ESV)
This verse is composed of the following: (1) vocative masculine singular form of the adjective agapētos (ἀγαπητός), “beloved” (2) conditional particle ean (ἐάν), “if” (3) articular nominative feminine singular form of the noun kardia (καρδία), “heart” (4) genitive first person plural form of the personal pronoun ego (ἐγώ), “our” (5) negative particle me (μή), “not” (6) third person singular present active subjunctive form of the verb kataginōskō (καταγινώσκω), “does condemn” (7) accusative feminine singular form of the noun parrēsia (παρρησία), “confidence” (8) first person plural present active indicative form of the verb echō (ἒχω), “we have” (9) preposition pros (πρός), “before” (10) articular accusative masculine singular form of the noun theos (θεός), “God.”
The adjective agapētos employed here as a substantive and means “beloved” indicating the close personal relationship that existed between the recipients of this epistle who were believers residing in the Roman province of Asia and the apostle John.
This adjective agapētos also speaks of the relationship the recipients of this epistle possessed with the Trinity and expresses the fact that they were the recipients and beneficiary of God’s love.
The conditional particle ean introduces the protasis of a fifth class conditional statement which is presenting an eternal spiritual principle which asserts that if the heart and specifically that aspect of the heart which is called the conscience does not convict the child of God, they are possessing confidence in God’s presence.
As was the case in 1 John 3:19-20, the noun kardia here in 1 John 3:21 means “heart” referring specifically to that aspect of the heart, which is the conscience.
The personal pronoun ego, “our” is referring to John and the recipients of First John and is used in a distributive sense emphasizing no exceptions indicating that this principle is applicable to everyone in the body of Christ including the apostles such as John.
The verb kataginōskō means “to convict” since it pertains to finding or proving someone as guilty or to convince of error or sin and its meaning is negated by the negative particle me, “not” which denies the idea of the believer’s conscience convicting them.
Therefore, they express the idea of the child of God’s conscience not convicting them of the sin of failing to love their fellow-believer because they refused to provide them food, shelter or clothing when they were in need of such things because they obeyed the command to love one another.
The present tense of this verb kataginōskō is a gnomic present which expresses the idea that if their hearts “at any time” do not convict them, then they are experiencing confidence in God’s presence.
The verb echō means “to experience” a particular state or condition, which is identified by the noun parrēsia, which pertains to a state of boldness and confidence and the absence of fear the faithful believer will possess when they enter into the presence of the Father.
The first person plural form of this verb refers to the apostle John and the recipients of First John and is used in a distributive sense emphasizing no exceptions.
The present tense of this verb echō is a gnomic present which indicates that if the child of God’s heart is not convicted then they are “as an eternal spiritual truth” experiencing confidence in the presence of the Father.
The noun theos refers to the Father which is indicated by the word’s articular construction which in the New Testament commonly signifies the first member of the Trinity unless otherwise indicated by the context.
This word is the object of the preposition pros which means “face to face with” or “in the presence of” since the word functions as a marker of association.
Together, they are expressing the idea of the child of God experiencing fellowship with the Father because they are obeying the command to love their fellow-believer.
1 John 3:21 Beloved, if any of our hearts are not being convicted, then each one of us are experiencing confidence in the presence of God (the Father). (My translation)
The apostle John in 1 John 3:21 is employing a fifth class condition in order to communicate to the recipients of First John an eternal spiritual principle which is related to obedience to the command to love one another which he discusses in detail in 1 John 3:11-20.
It is applicable to every person in the Christian community without exception.
John solemnly asserts in this fifth class conditional statement that if the heart of the believer is not convicted, then they are experiencing confidence in the presence of God the Father.
When he speaks of not being convicted, he means that the believer is not being convicted of the sin of not loving their fellow-believer when they are in need of food, shelter, and clothing, which is indicated by his statements in 1 John 3:17-18.
When the believer’s conscience is not convicting them of this sin of not loving their fellow-believer, but is instead experiencing confidence in the presence of God, this is the direct result of obeying the command to love one another.
This obedience manifests itself in providing food, shelter and clothing for a fellow-believer in need of such things and this interpretation indicated by John’s teaching in 1 John 3:19-20, which is connected to his thought in 1 John 3:16-18.
Now, here in verse 21, John asserts that if the child of God’s heart is not convicting them, then they are experiencing confidence in the presence of God the Father and which confidence according to his teaching in 1 John 3:16-20 is the direct result of obeying the command to love one another.
Therefore, he is teaching here in verse 21 that one of the benefits of obeying the command to love one another is that the believer who obeys this command will experience confidence in the presence of God the Father when they are making request of Him in prayer.
Notice, in 1 John 3:21, that the apostle John addresses the recipients of First John with the adjective agapētos, “beloved” which serves as a reminder to the Christian community in the Roman province of Asia that they are the beneficiaries and objects of the Father’s love, the Son’s and the Spirit’s.
The Father expressed His love for the Christian community: (1) Election: He elected the believer to the privilege of an eternal relationship and fellowship with the Trinity (Ephesians 1:3-14). (2) Predestination: He predestinated the believer to be conformed into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29; Ephesians 1:5). (3) Eternal inheritance and rewards: He will bestow an eternal inheritance and rewards if the believer does His will (1 Corinthians 9:25; Ephesians 1:11; James 1:12; Revelation 2:10).
God the Son expressed His love for the believer: (1) Redemption: He redeemed the believer through His death on the Cross (Ephesians 1:7). (2) Propitiation: He propitiated or satisfied the Father’s holiness, which demanded that sin be judged (1 John 2:2; 4:10). (3) Reconciliation: He reconciled the believer to the Father through His death (Colossians 1:22).
The Holy Spirit expressed His love for the believer: (1) Efficacious grace: He made the believer’s faith in Christ effective for salvation (2 Cor. 6:1-2). (2) Regeneration: He regenerated the believer by giving them a spirit and eternal life (John 3:1-7; Titus 3:5). (3) Baptism: He placed the believer in union with Christ and identified them with Christ in His death, burial, resurrection and session (1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 4:5). (4) Indwelling: He permanently indwells the believer (Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 3:16). (5) Filling: He influences the believer who is obedient to the Word of God (Ephesians 5:18). (6) Sealing: He puts His stamp on the believer guaranteeing their salvation (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13). (7) Spiritual gifts: He gives the believer a spiritual gift to serve God and their fellow believer (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). (8) Mentorship: He functions as the believer’s mentor and teacher (John 14:26; 1 John 2:20). (9) Fruit bearing: He reproduces the character of Christ in the believer who is obedient to the Word of God (Galatians 5:21-22). (10) Convicts of sin: He convicts the believer of sin (Romans 8:4-11; Ephesians 4:30).
The adjective agapētos would be a reminder to the recipients of First John that they were obligated to obey the command to love one another since they were recipients and beneficiaries of the Trinity’s love for them before their justification and after their justification.
Now, when John speaks of the believer experiencing confidence in the presence of God, he is not speaking of confidence when they stand before Jesus Christ at the Bema Seat Evaluation of the church as he does in 1 John 2:28, but rather when they are making a request of the Father in prayer.
In fact, when he speaks of the believer experiencing assurance in 1 John 3:19, he is not speaking of assurance of one’s eternal salvation since this is never stated as a purpose in First John.
Rather, when he is speaking of confidence in verse 21 and assurance in verse 19, he is speaking of these things in the context of prayer, which is indicated by his statements to follow in 1 John 3:21-23.
In 1 John 3:22, he teaches that the believer will possess confidence that they will receive their requests in prayer to God because they keep His commandments and do what pleases Him.
A comparison of this verse and verse 21 reveals that John is associating the believer having confidence before God with prayer.
In 1 John 3:23, John defines what he means by commandments.
The first is related to justification since it refers to the commandment the sinner must obey in order to be declared justified by the Father, namely the command to believe in Jesus Christ as one’s Savior.
The second is related to experiencing fellowship with God after justification since it refers to the commandment to love one another as Jesus loved the believer.
Consequently, the prepositional phrase “before Him” at the end of 1 John 3:19 and “in the presence of God” in 1 John 3:20 are not a reference to the believer appearing before Jesus Christ at the Bema Seat which is taught in 2 Corinthians 5:10.
But rather, it is better to interpret these prepositional phrases as a reference to being in the presence of the Father while in prayer, which as we noted is indicated by John statements in 1 John 3:21-23.