1 John 3:18
My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
1 John 3:18-20. My beloved children, let us not love merely in word or in tongue — Contenting ourselves with complimental expressions of regard, or with giving our Christian brethren nothing but fair speeches; but in deed and in truth — Let our actions approve the sincerity of our professions, and, by relieving them in their necessities and straits, let us show that we sincerely love them. And hereby — Εν τουτω, in this, by being compassionate, kind, and bountiful, according to our ability; we know — We have a satisfactory evidence by this real, operative love; that we are of the truth — That we have true faith, and are the genuine disciples of Christ and children of God; and shall assure our hearts before him — Shall enjoy an assurance of his favour, and the testimony of a good conscience toward God. The heart, in St. John’s language, is the conscience. The word conscience is not used in his writings. For if we have not this testimony; if in any thing our heart — Our conscience, condemn us, much more does God, who is greater than our heart — An infinitely more holy and impartial Judge; and knoweth all things — So that there is no hope of hiding it from him.3:16-21 Here is the condescension, the miracle, the mystery of Divine love, that God would redeem the church with his own blood. Surely we should love those whom God has loved, and so loved. The Holy Spirit, grieved at selfishness, will leave the selfish heart without comfort, and full of darkness and terror. By what can it be known that a man has a true sense of the love of Christ for perishing sinners, or that the love of God has been planted in his heart by the Holy Spirit, if the love of the world and its good overcomes the feelings of compassion to a perishing brother? Every instance of this selfishness must weaken the evidences of a man's conversion; when habitual and allowed, it must decide against him. If conscience condemn us in known sin, or the neglect of known duty, God does so too. Let conscience therefore be well-informed, be heard, and diligently attended to.My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue - By mere profession; by merely sayinG that we love each other. See 1 Peter 1:22.

But in deed and in truth - In such acts as shall show that our professed love is sincere and real. Let us do the deed of love, whether anything is said about it or not. See the notes at Matthew 6:3.

18. When the venerable John could no longer walk to the meetings of the Church but was borne thither by his disciples, he always uttered the same address to the Church; he reminded them of that one commandment which he had received from Christ Himself, as comprising all the rest, and forming the distinction of the new covenant, "My little children, love one another." When the brethren present, wearied of hearing the same thing so often, asked why he always repeated the same thing, he replied, "Because it is the commandment of the Lord, and if this one thing be attained, it is enough" [Jerome].

in word—Greek, "with word … with tongue, but in deed and truth."

q.d. It is a vain thing to make verbal pretences of love, without any real proof of it. My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue,.... Which though it holds good of love to God, and to Jesus Christ, yet here is to be understood of love to the brethren, as the context shows; and so the Syriac version reads, "let us not love one another in word", &c. that is, without the heart, or with a double heart; speaking one thing with the lip, and designing another thing in the heart; speaking peaceably with the mouth, and with the heart laying wait; or we should not love in this manner "only"; and so the Arabic version of De Dieu adds. It is very lawful, and right to express our love to one another, and to all men in words, to give good words, and use courteous language, and speak in a kind, tender, and affectionate manner, and especially to persons in distress; but this should not be all, it will be of no avail to say to such, be warmed and filled, and give them nothing but these good words, nothing to warm and fill them with; see James 2:15;

but in deed and in truth; for true love is a laborious and operative grace, hence we read of the work and labour of love; it shows itself by the saints serving one another, in spirituals; as by bearing one another's burdens, forbearing with, and forgiving one another, praying for each other, and building up one another on their most holy faith; exhorting each other to the duties of religion, and not suffering sins upon one another, but admonish in love, and restore with meekness; and in temporals, distributing to the necessities of the saints, ministering: to them of their worldly substance, and supplying their daily wants: and this is loving "in deed", or "in work"; this is actual love, love in fact, and what is apparent and evident: and it is "in truth", when it is in reality, and not in show only; and when it is cordially and heartily done, with cheerfulness, and without grudging.

{18} My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

(18) Christian charity stands not in word but in deed, and proceeds from a sincere affection.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 John 3:18. True love proves itself by deed. The exhortation contained in this verse is, on the one hand, a deduction from the foregoing (especially from 1 John 3:16-17); but, on the other hand, it forms the basis of the further development.

τεκνία] Impressive address before the exhortation.

μὴ ἀγαπῶμεν λόγῳ μηδὲ τῇ γλώσσῃ] i.e. “let us not so love that the proof of our love is the outward word or the tongue;” μηδὲ τῇ γλώσσῃ is epexegetically added, in order to mark the externality of the love indicated by λόγῳ ἀγαπᾷν, inasmuch as it points out that by λόγος here only the outward word is meant; it is erroneous to regard γλῶσσα as a climax in so far as “one may love with words (without deeds), but in such a way that the words are nevertheless really and sincerely meant” (Ebrard), for John would not in the very least consider as truly and sincerely meant words of love which remain without corresponding deed. The article serves “to vivify the expression” (Lücke): the tongue as the particular member for expression of the word. It is unnecessary, nay, “contrary to the text” (Düsterdieck), with Beza, Lange, Sander, etc., to supply “μόνον” with ἀγαπῶμεν κ.τ.λ.; for ἀγαπᾷν λόγῳ κ.τ.λ. in itself expresses the mere apparent love.

ἀλλʼ ἐν ἔργῳ καὶ ἀληθεία] Instead of the Rec. ἔργῳ, we must read ἐν ἔργῳ; according to de Wette, the two readings are synonymous; according to Lücke, ἐν ἔργῳ κ. ἀλ. has more of “adverbial nature” than ἔργῳ καὶ ἀληθείᾳ; “in τῷ λόγῳ the apostle is considering more the way in which love expresses itself, in ἐν ἔργῳ κ. ἀλ. he is considering more the form and fashion of it;” the preposition suggested itself to the apostle because the work, as being the realization of love, stands in an inner relationship to it, “is the element in which love moves” (Düsterdieck).[231] λόγος and ἔργον are frequently in the N. T. connected with one another, so Luke 24:19; Acts 7:22, and many other passages; in order to bring out the insufficiency of λόγος in 1 Corinthians 4:19-20, 1 Thessalonians 1:5, δύναμις is contrasted with it. By καὶ ἀληθείᾳ the apostle does not mean to add a second element of love, but to characterize the ἀγαπᾷν ἐν ἔργῳ as the true love (so also Myrberg); a love which does not show itself ἐν ἔργῳ is only an apparent love.[232] The relationship of (ἘΝ) ἈΛΗΘΕΊᾼ to ἘΝ ἜΡΓῼ is just the same as that of Τῇ ΓΛΏΣΣῌ to ΛΌΓῼ. The two words of each clause express together one idea, and these two ideas are contrasted with one another, so that it is not to be asked whether λόγῳ corresponds with ἜΡΓῼ, and ΓΛΏΣΣῌ with ἈΛΗΘΕΊᾼ, or ΓΛΏΣΣῌ with ἜΡΓῼ, and ΛΌΓῼ with ἈΛΗΘΕΊᾼ (against Düsterdieck and Braune). With the thought of this verse compare especially Jam 2:15-16; only here the thought is more comprehensive than there.[233]

[231] Braune: “It is to be observed that the first pair in the dative only states the means by which love operates; the preposition ἐν states the clement in which it moves.”

[232] Comp. John 4:24, where also “καὶ ἀληθείᾳ” is added to ἐν πνεύματι, not to bring out a second element of true worship (contrary to Meyer on this passage), but to describe the προσκυνεῖν ἐν πνεύματι as true worship in contrast to every apparent worship.

[233] Wolf quotes the corresponding statement of Picke, Avoth, chap. 1 John 5 : omnis dilectio, quae dependet a verbo, verbo cessante, ipsa quoque cessat: at quae non dependet a verbo, nunquam cessat.—In Theognis 979 it is put thus: μὴ μοι ἀσηρ εἴη γλώσσῃ φίλος, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἔργῳ.1 John 3:18. Observe the transition from instrumental dative to preposition ἐν: “not with word and the tongue but in the midst of deed and truth”—not in empty air but amid tangible realities. Cf. Bunyan, Good News: “Practical love is best. Many love Christ with nothing but the lick of the tongue.” Sheridan, Sch. for Scand. v. i.: “He appears to have as much speculative benevolence as any private gentleman in the kingdom, though he is seldom so sensual as to indulge himself in the exercise of it”.18. My little children, let us not love in word] S. John, as in 1 John 2:28, 1 John 3:13, 1 John 4:1; 1 John 4:7, hastens on to a practical application of what he has been stating as the principles of Christian Ethics; and in each case he prefaces his gentle exhortation with a word of tender address. ‘Dear children, do not think that I am giving you a series of philosophical truisms; I am telling of the principles which must govern your conduct and mine, if we are children of the God who is Light and Love.’

let us not love in word, neither in tongue] Or, as R. V., neither with the tongue. This is more accurate, for in the Greek ‘word’ has no article and ‘tongue’ has: both are datives of the instrument, and the article marks the tongue as the special instrument of the hypocritical love. Is there any difference between loving in word and loving with the tongue? And is there any difference between loving in deed and loving in truth? The answer must be the same to both questions. The oppositions between ‘word’ and ‘deed’ and between ‘tongue’ and ‘truth’ are so exact as to lead us to believe that there is a difference. To love in word is to have that affection which is genuine as far as it goes, but which is so weak that it never gets further than affectionate words: such love is opposed, not to truth, but to loving acts. To love with the tongue is to profess an affection which one does not feel, which is sheer hypocrisy: it is opposed, not to deeds, but to truth. It may shew itself also in hypocritical acts, done (as Bede points out) not with the wish to do good, but to win praise, or to injure others.

in deed and in truth] Omit the second ‘in’: the preposition is not repeated in the Greek. Tyndale and the Rhemish Version have no second ‘in’. Comp. James 2:15; Romans 12:9. What follows, though intimately connected with the first part of the section (see next note), almost amounts to a fresh departure. The subject of love and its opposite is transformed into the security and serenity of conscience which genuine and active love is able to produce.1 John 3:18. Λόγῳ) in idle word: it is opposed to in deed.—γλώσσῃ) by a pretending tongue: it is opposed to in truth.Verses 18-24. - As in chapter 1 John 2:28, St. John bursts out into personal exhortation (comp. verse 13; chapter 1 John 4:1, 7), based upon the preceding statements. He then restates the motive in a new form both positively and negatively. Verse 18. - Little children (τεκνία, the μου being spurious). This address, as in 1 John 2:28, introduces the summing up of the section. It may be doubted whether the absence of ἐν with the first pair λόγῳ μηδὲ τῇ γλώσσῃ and its presence with the second ἐν ἔργῳ καὶ ἀληθείᾳ indicates any marked difference, as if λόγῳ expressed the instrument, and ἐν ἔργῳ the element or sphere. This introduces a false antithesis, like "Do not dig with a stick, but dig in the earth." (For the Hebraic ἐν to express the instrument, comp. Revelation 13:10.) "Nor yet with the tongue" is not a tautological addition. One may love in word only, and yet the affectionate words may be quite sincere; and this is a common case. People say kind things which they mean at the moment, but afterwards they do not take the trouble to act kindly. But to love with the tongue only is far worse. This is to say kind things which one does not mean, and which one knows to be unreal. Deeds are needed to complete the kind word; truth is needed to correct the insincere tongue.
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