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1 John 3:10 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil. That is, this furnishes a test of their true character. The test is found in doing righteousness and in the love of the brethren. The former he had illustrated; the latter he now proceeds to illustrate. The general idea is that if a man is not truly a righteous man and does not love the brethren, he cannot be a child of God. Perhaps by the phrase ‘in this,’ using a pronoun in the singular number, he means to intimate that an important part of righteousness consists in brotherly love.
Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God. This is laid down as a great and undeniable principle in religion—a maxim which none could dispute, and as important as it is plain. And it is worthy of all the emphasis the apostle lies on it. The man who does righteousness, or leads an upright life, is a righteous man, and no other one is. No matter how anyone may claim that he is justified by faith; no matter how he may conform to the external duties and rites of religion; no matter how zealous he may be for orthodoxy or for the order of the church; regardless of what Bible wisdom he may have, or of what peace and joy in his soul he may boast; no matter how little he may fear death, or hope for heaven—unless he is in fact a righteous man, in the proper sense of the term (See below), he cannot be a child of God. Compare Matt. 7:16–23. If he is, in the proper sense of the word, a man who keeps the law of God and leads a holy life, he is righteous, for that is religion. Such a man, however, will always feel that his claim to be regarded as a righteous man is not to be traced to what he is in himself but to what he owes to the grace of God.
Righteous; upright; just: (צֶדֶק tsedeq; ) refers to one who is in a righteous standing before God, who is characterized by righteous actions and morals in accordance with God’s moral standards. What does this mean? The person adheres to God’s standards, His moral code. He does what is required according to this moral standard. (Ps 7:9) He is honest, fair, and truthful in his actions, which are correct according to God’s standards. He is not deviant in any way (Lev. 19:36). He is able to make a moral judgment when deciding what is right and wrong without prejudice.—Gen. 18:23-24; Deut. 16:20; Prov. 3:33; Zeph. 2:3; James 3:18.
Nor is the one who does not love his brother. The illustration of this point continues to 1 John 3:18. The general sense is that brotherly love is essential to the Christian character and that he who does not possess it cannot be a Christian. The nature and importance of brotherly love is evidence of holiness and faithfulness.
Brotherly love is a mark of discipleship, by which they might be known as his friends and followers and by which they might be distinguished from all others. There was no command before which required people to love their fellowman, for one great precept of the law was that they should love their neighbor as themselves Lev. 19:18, but it was new because it had never before been made that by which any class or body of people had been known and distinguished. The Jew was known by his external rites, by his uniqueness of dress, etc.; the philosopher by some other mark of distinction; the military man by another, etc. In none of these cases had love for each other been the distinguishing and unique mark by which they were known. But in the case of Christians, they were not to be known by distinctions of wealth, learning, or fame; they were not to aspire to earthly honors; they were not to adopt any special style of dress or badge, but they were to be distinguished by tender and constant attachment to each other.
This was to surmount all distinction of country, race, station in life, office, or sect. Here they were to feel that they were on a level, had common wants, were redeemed by the same sacred blood, and were going to heaven. They were to befriend each other in trials; be careful of each other’s feelings and reputation; deny themselves to promote each other’s welfare. See 1 John 3:23; 1 Thess. 4:9; 1 Pet. 1:22; 2 Thess. 1:3; Gal. 6:2; 2 Pet. 1:7. In all these places, the command of Jesus is repeated or referred to, and it shows that the first disciples considered this indeed as the special law of Christ.
Moreover, this command or law was new regarding the extent to which this love was to be carried, for he immediately adds, “As I have loved you, that you also love one another.” His love for them was strong, continued, unremitting, and he was now about to show his love for them in death. John 15:13; “greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” So, in 1 John 3:16, it is said that “we ought also to lay down our lives for the brothers.” This was a new expression of love, and it showed the strength of attachment that we ought to have for Christians and how ready we should be to endure hardships, encounter dangers, and practice self-denial to benefit those for whom the Son of God laid down his life.
By Albert Barnes and Edward D. Andrews