1 John 3:3
And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.
Jump to: AlfordBarnesBengelBensonBICalvinCambridgeClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctExp GrkGaebeleinGSBGillGrayGuzikHaydockHastingsHomileticsICCJFBKellyKingLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWMeyerParkerPNTPoolePulpitSermonSCOTTBVWSWESTSK
1 John


1 John 3:3.

That is a very remarkable ‘and’ with which this verse begins. The Apostle has just been touching the very heights of devout contemplation, soaring away up into dim regions where it is very hard to follow,--’We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.’

And now, without a pause, and linking his thoughts together by a simple ‘and,’ he passes from the unimaginable splendours of the Beatific Vision to the plainest practical talk. Mysticism has often soared so high above the earth that it has forgotten to preach righteousness, and therein has been its weak point. But here is the most mystical teacher of the New Testament insisting on plain morality as vehemently as his friend James could have done.

The combination is very remarkable. Like the eagle he rises, and like the eagle, with the impetus gained from his height, he drops right down on the earth beneath!

And that is not only a characteristic of St. John’s teaching, but it is a characteristic of all the New Testament morality--its highest revelations are intensely practical. Its light is at once set to work, like the sunshine that comes ninety millions of miles in order to make the little daisies open their crimson-tipped petals; so the profoundest things that the Bible has to say are said to you and me, not that we may know only, but that knowing we may do, and do because we are.

So John, here: ‘We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.’ ‘And’--a simple coupling-iron for two such thoughts--’every man that hath this hope in Him’--that is, in Christ, not in himself, as we sometimes read it--’every man that hath this hope,’ founded on Christ, ‘purifies himself even as He is pure.’

The thought is a very simple one, though sometimes it is somewhat mistakenly apprehended. Put into its general form it is just this:--If you expect, and expecting, hope to be like Jesus Christ yonder, you will be trying your best to be like Him here. It is not the mere purifying influence of hope that is talked about, but it is the specific influence of this one hope, the hope of ultimate assimilation to Christ leading to strenuous efforts, each a partial resemblance of Him, here and now. And that is the subject I want to say a word or two about now.

I. First, then, notice the principle that is here, which is the main thing to be insisted upon, namely, If we are to be pure, we must purify ourselves.

There are two ways of getting like Christ, spoken about in the context. One is the blessed way, that is more appropriate for the higher Heaven, the way of assimilation and transformation by beholding--’If we see Him’ we shall be ‘like Him.’ That is the blessed method of the Heavens. Yes, but even here on earth it may to some extent be realised! Love always breeds likeness. And there is such a thing, here on earth and now, as gazing upon Christ with an intensity of affection, and simplicity of trust, and rapture of aspiration, and ardour of desire which shall transform us in some measure into His own likeness. John is an example of that for us. It was a true instinct that made the old painters always represent him as like the Master that he sat beside, even in face. Where did John get his style from? He got it by much meditating upon Christ’s words. The disciple caught the method of the Master’s speech, and to some extent the manner of the Master’s vision.

And so he himself stands before us as an instance of the possibility, even on earth, of this calm, almost passive process, and most blessed and holiest method of getting like the Master, by simple gazing, which is the gaze of love and longing.

But, dear brethren, the law of our lives forbids that that should be the only way in which we grow like Christ. ‘First the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear,’ was never meant to be the exhaustive, all-comprehensive statement of the method of Christian progress. You and I are not vegetables; and the Parable of the Seed is only one side of the truth about the method of Christian growth. The very word ‘purify’ speaks to us of another condition; it implies impurity, it implies a process which is more than contemplation, it implies the reversal of existing conditions, and not merely the growth upwards to unattained conditions.

And so growth is not all that Christian men need; they need excision, they need casting out of what is in them; they need change as well as growth. ‘Purifying’ they need because they are impure, and growth is only half the secret of Christian progress.

Then there is the other consideration, viz., if there is to be this purifying it must be done by myself. ‘Ah!’ you say, ‘done by yourself? That is not evangelical teaching.’ Well, let us see. Take two or three verses out of this Epistle which at first sight seem to be contradictory of this. Take the very first that bears on the subject:--’The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin’ {1 John 1:7}. ‘If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’ {1. 9}. ‘He that abideth in Him sinneth not’ {1 John 3:6}. ‘This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith’ {1 John 5:4}.

Now if you put all these passages together, and think about the general effect of them, it comes to this: that our best way of cleansing ourselves is by keeping firm hold of Jesus Christ and of the cleansing powers that lie in Him. To take a very homely illustration--soap and water wash your hands clean, and what you have to do is simply to rub the soap and water on to the hand, and bring them into contact with the foulness. You cleanse yourselves. Yes! because without the friction there would not be the cleansing. But is it you, or is it the soap, that does the work? Is it you or the water that makes your hands clean? And so when God comes and says, ‘Wash you, make you clean, put away the evil of your doings, your hands are full of blood,’ He says in effect, ‘Take the cleansing that I give you and rub it in, and apply it: and your flesh will become as the flesh of a little child, and you shall be clean.’

That is to say, the very deepest word about Christian effort of self-purifying is this--keep close to Jesus Christ. You cannot sin as long as you hold His hand. To have Him with you;--I mean by that to have the thoughts directed to Him, the love turning to Him, the will submitted to Him, Him consciously with us in the day’s work. To have communion with Jesus Christ is like bringing an atmosphere round about us in which all evil will die. If you take a fish out of water and bring it up into the upper air, it writhes and gasps, and is dead presently; and our evil tendencies and sins, drawn up out of the muddy depths in which they live, and brought up into that pure atmosphere of communion with Jesus Christ, are sure to shrivel and to die, and to disappear. We kill all evil by fellowship with the Master. His presence in our lives, by our communion with Him, is like the watchfire that the traveller lights at night--it keeps all the wild beasts of prey away from the fold.

Christ’s fellowship is our cleansing, and the first and main thing that we have to do in order to make ourselves pure is to keep ourselves in union with Him, in whom inhere and abide all the energies that cleanse men’s souls. Take the unbleached calico and spread it out on the green grass, and let the blessed sunshine come down upon it, and sprinkle it with fair water; and the grass and the moisture and the sunshine will do all the cleansing, and it will glitter in the light, ‘so as no fuller on earth can white it.’

So cleansing is keeping near Jesus Christ. But it is no use getting the mill-race from the stream into your works unless you put wheels in its way to drive. And our holding ourselves in fellowship with the Master in that fashion is not all that we have to do. There have to be distinct and specific efforts, constantly repeated, to subdue and suppress individual acts of transgression. We have to fight against evil, sin by sin. We have not the thing to do all at once; we have to do it in detail. It is a war of outposts, like the last agonies of that Franco-Prussian war, when the Emperor had abdicated, and the country was really conquered, and Paris had yielded, but yet all over the face of the land combats had to be carried on.

So it is with us. Holiness is not feeling; it is character. You do not get rid of your sins by the act of divine amnesty only. You are not perfect because you say you are, and feel as if you were, and think you are. God does not make any man pure in his sleep. His cleansing does not dispense with fighting, but makes victory possible.

Then, dear brethren, lay to heart this, as the upshot of the whole matter: First of all, let us turn to Him from whom all the cleansing comes; and then, moment by moment, remember that it is our work to purify ourselves by the strength and the power that is given to us by the Master.

II. The second thought here is this: This purifying of ourselves is the link or bridge between the present and the future.-

‘Now are we the sons of God,’ says John in the context. That is the pier upon the one side of the gulf. ‘It doth not yet appear what we shall be, but when He is made manifest we shall be like Him.’ That is the pier on the other. How are the two to be connected? There is only one way by which the present sonship will blossom and fruit into the future perfect likeness, and that is,--if we throw across the gulf, by God’s help day by day here, that bridge of our effort after growing likeness to Himself, and purity therefrom.

That is plain enough, I suppose. To speak in somewhat technical terms, the ‘law of continuity’ that we hear so much about, runs on between earth and Heaven; which, being translated into plain English, is but this--that the act of passing from the limitations and conditions of this transitory life into the solemnities and grandeurs of that future does not alter a man’s character, though it may intensify it. It does not make him different from what he was, though it may make him more of what he was, whether its direction be good or bad.

You take a stick and thrust it into water; and because the rays of light pass from one medium to another of a different density, they are refracted and the stick seems bent; but take the human life out of the thick, coarse medium of earth and lift it up into the pure rarefied air of Heaven, and there is no refraction; it runs straight on. Straight on! The given direction continues; and in whatever direction my face is turned when I die, thither my face will be turned when I live again.

Do not you fancy that there is any magic in coffins and graves and shrouds to make men different from their former selves. The continuity runs clean on, the rail goes without a break, though it goes through the Mont Cenis tunnel; and on the one side is the cold of the North, and on the other the sunny South. The man is the same man through death and beyond.

So the one link between sonship here and likeness to Christ hereafter is this link of present, strenuous effort to become like Him day by day in personal purity. For there is another reason, on which I need not dwell, viz., unless there be this daily effort on our part to become like Jesus Christ by personal purity, we shall not be able to ‘see Him as He is.’ Death will take a great many veils off men’s hearts. It will reveal to them a great deal that they do not know, but it will not give the faculty of beholding the glorified Christ in such fashion as that the beholding will mean transformation. ‘Every eye shall see Him,’ but it is conceivable that a spirit shall be so immersed in self-love and in godlessness that the vision of Christ shall be repellent and not attractive; shall have no transforming and no gladdening power. And I beseech you to remember that about that vision, as about the vision of God Himself, the principle stands true; it is ‘the pure in heart that shall see God’ in Christ. And the change from life to the life beyond will not necessarily transform into the image of His dear Son. You make a link between the present and the future by cleansing your hands and your hearts, through faith in the cleansing power of Christ, and direct effort at holiness.

III. Now I must briefly add finally: that this self-cleansing of which I have been speaking is the offspring and outcome of that ‘hope’ in my text.

It is the child of hope. Hope is by no means an active faculty generally. As the poets have it, she may ‘smile and wave her golden hair’; but she is not in the way of doing much work in the world. And it is not the mere fact of hope that generates this effort; it is, as I have been trying to show you, a certain kind of hope--the hope of being like Jesus Christ when ‘we see Him as He is.’

I have only two things to say about this matter, and one of them is this: of course, such strenuous effort of purity will only be the result of such a hope as that, because such a hope will fight against one of the greatest of all the enemies of our efforts after purity. There is nothing that makes a man so down-hearted in his work of self-improvement as the constant and bitter experience that it seems to be all of no use; that he is making so little progress; that with immense pains, like a snail creeping up a wall, he gets up, perhaps, an inch or two, and then all at once he drops down, and further down than he was before he started.

Slowly we manage some little, patient self-improvement; gradually, inch by inch and bit by bit, we may be growing better, and then there comes some gust and outburst of temptation; and the whole painfully reclaimed soil gets covered up by an avalanche of mud and stones, that we have to remove slowly, barrow-load by barrow-load. And then we feel that it is all of no use to strive, and we let circumstances shape us, and give up all thoughts of reformation.

To such moods then there comes, like an angel from Heaven, that holy, blessed message, ‘Cheer up, man! "We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is."‘ Every inch that you make now will tell then, and it is not all of no use. Set your heart to the work, it is a work that will be blessed and will prosper.

Again, here is a test for all you Christian people, who say that you look to Heaven with hope as to your home and rest.

A great deal of the religious contemplation of a future state is pure sentimentality, and like all pure sentimentality is either immoral or non-moral. But here the two things are brought into clear juxtaposition, the bright hope of Heaven and the hard work done here below. Now is that what the gleam and expectation of a future life does for you?

This is the only time in John’s Epistle that he speaks about hope. The good man, living so near Christ, finds that the present, with its ‘abiding in Him’ is enough for his heart. And though he was the Seer of the Apocalypse, he has scarcely a word to say about the future in this letter of his, and when he does it is for a simple and intensely practical purpose, in order that he may enforce on us the teaching of labouring earnestly in purifying ourselves.

My brother, is that your type of Christianity? Is that the kind of inspiration that comes to you from the hope that steals in upon you in your weary hours, when sorrows, and cares, and changes, and loss, and disappointments, and hard work weigh you down, and you say, ‘It would be blessed to pass hence’? Does it set you harder at work than anything else can do? Is it all utilised? Or if I might use such an illustration, is it like the electricity of the Aurora Borealis, that paints your winter sky with vanishing, useless splendours of crimson and blue? or have you got it harnessed to your tramcars, lighting your houses, driving sewing-machines, doing practical work in your daily life? Is the hope of Heaven, and of being like Christ, a thing that stimulates and stirs us every moment to heroisms of self-surrender and to strenuous martyrdom of self-cleansing?

All is gathered up into the one lesson. First, let us go to that dear Lord whose blood cleanseth from all sin, and let us say to Him, ‘Purge me and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.’ And then, receiving into our hearts the powers that purify, in His love and His sacrifice and His life, ‘having these promises’ and these possessions, ‘Dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord.’

1 John 3:3. And every man that hath this hope in him — An expectation of seeing Christ as he is, built on a solid foundation, namely, the foundation of being a child and heir of God; purifieth himself — By applying to, and confiding in, the purifying blood of Christ, with a penitent, believing heart; by earnestly praying for and receiving the purifying Spirit of God; by obeying the purifying word, (1 Peter 1:22,) and by exercising purifying faith in the truths and promises of the gospel, Acts 15:9 : even as he is pure — The person who is inspired with this well-grounded hope, will keep before his eyes the pure and holy character of Christ, as the mark to which he is to press, that he may be prepared to receive the prize of his high calling of God in Christ Jesus, (Php 3:14,) it being God’s will and pleasure that believers should be conformed to the image of his Son, in order to their having the high honour and great happiness of dwelling with him, Romans 8:29; and that they should not expect to enjoy the privilege of sitting down at the marriage-feast, unless they had previously put on the wedding-garment. Mark this, reader: and give up all hope of being admitted into heaven hereafter, without a conformity to Christ in holiness here.

3:3-10 The sons of God know that their Lord is of purer eyes than to allow any thing unholy and impure to dwell with him. It is the hope of hypocrites, not of the sons of God, that makes allowance for gratifying impure desires and lusts. May we be followers of him as his dear children, thus show our sense of his unspeakable mercy, and express that obedient, grateful, humble mind which becomes us. Sin is the rejecting the Divine law. In him, that is, in Christ, was no sin. All the sinless weaknesses that were consequences of the fall, he took; that is, all those infirmities of mind or body which subject man to suffering, and expose him to temptation. But our moral infirmities, our proneness to sin, he had not. He that abides in Christ, continues not in the practice of sin. Renouncing sin is the great proof of spiritual union with, continuance in, and saving knowledge of the Lord Christ. Beware of self-deceit. He that doeth righteousness is righteous, and to be a follower of Christ, shows an interest by faith in his obedience and sufferings. But a man cannot act like the devil, and at the same time be a disciple of Christ Jesus. Let us not serve or indulge what the Son of God came to destroy. To be born of God is to be inwardly renewed by the power of the Spirit of God. Renewing grace is an abiding principle. Religion is not an art, a matter of dexterity and skill, but a new nature. And the regenerate person cannot sin as he did before he was born of God, and as others do who are not born again. There is that light in his mind, which shows him the evil and malignity of sin. There is that bias upon his heart, which disposes him to loathe and hate sin. There is the spiritual principle that opposes sinful acts. And there is repentance for sin, if committed. It goes against him to sin with forethought. The children of God and the children of the devil have their distinct characters. The seed of the serpent are known by neglect of religion, and by their hating real Christians. He only is righteous before God, as a justified believer, who is taught and disposed to righteousness by the Holy Spirit. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil. May all professors of the gospel lay these truths to heart, and try themselves by them.And every man that hath this hope in him - This hope of seeing the Saviour, and of being made like him; that is, every true Christian. On the nature and influence of hope, see the notes at Romans 8:24-25.

Purifieth himself - Makes himself holy. That is, under the influence of this hope of being like the Saviour, he puts forth those efforts in struggling against sin, and in overcoming his evil propensities, which are necessary to make him pure. The apostle would not deny that for the success of these efforts we are dependent on divine aid; but he brings into view, as is often done in the sacred writings, the agency of man himself as essentially connected with success. Compare Philippians 2:12. The particular thought here is, that the hope of being like Christ, and of being permitted to dwell with him, will lead a man to earnest efforts to become holy, and will be actually followed by such a result.

Even as he is pure - The same kind of purity here, the same degree hereafter. That is, the tendency of such a hope is to make him holy now, though he may be imperfect; the effect will be to make him "perfectly" holy in the world to come. It cannot be shown from this passage that the apostle meant to teach that anyone actually becomes as pure in the present life as the Saviour is, that is, becomes perfectly holy; for all that is fairly implied in it is, that those who have this hope in them aim at the same purity, and will ultimately obtain it. But the apostle does not say that it is attained in this world. If the passage did teach this, it would teach it respecting everyone who has this hope, and then the doctrine would be that no one can be a Christian who does not become absolutely perfect on earth; that is, not that some Christians may become perfect here, but that all actually do. But none, it is presumed, will hold this to be a true doctrine. A true Christian does not, indeed, habitually and willfully sin; but no one can pretend that all Christians attain to a state of sinless perfection on earth, or are, in fact, as pure as the Saviour was. But unless the passage proves that every Christian becomes absolutely perfect in the present life, it does not prove that in fact any do. It proves:

(1) that the tendency, or the fair influence of this hope, is to make the Christian pure;

(2) that all who cherish it will, in fact, aim to become as holy as the Saviour was; and,

(3) that this object will, at some future period, be accomplished. There is a world where all who are redeemed shall be perfectly holy.

3. this hope—of being hereafter "like Him." Faith and love, as well as hope, occur in 1Jo 3:11, 23.

in—rather, "(resting) upon Him"; grounded on His promises.

purifieth himself—by Christ's Spirit in him (Joh 15:5, end). "Thou purifiest thyself, not of thyself, but of Him who comes that He may dwell in thee" [Augustine]. One's justification through faith is presupposed.

as he is pure—unsullied with any uncleanness. The Second Person, by whom both the Law and Gospel were given.

Purifieth himself; i.e. not only is obliged hereto, but by the efficacious influence of this hope, if it be of the same kind, (that lively hope, unto which Christians are said to be begotten, 1 Peter 1:3), is daily more and more transformed, through a continual intention of mind towards the holy God, upon whom that hope is set, (for it is said to be hope in him, or rather upon him, ep’ autw), into the image of the Divine purity; knowing also, (which must be a potent inducement to very earnest endeavour this way), that our future conformity to God in glory and blessedness hereafter, depends upon our present vigorous and effectual pursuit of conformity to him in holiness here, Matthew 5:8 Hebrews 12:14. And it is enforced by what follows.

And every man that hath this hope in him,.... Or on him, Jesus Christ; for a true hope of that eternal happiness, which lies in likeness to Christ, and in the vision of him, is only founded on his person, blood, righteousness, and sacrifice: and this hope every man has not, only he who is born again; for this grace is implanted in regeneration, when men are of abundant mercy begotten unto it, and have it bestowed upon them as a free grace gift; and which is of great service to them both in life and in death; and among the rest it has this influence and effect upon them, that every such person that has it,

purifieth himself even as he is pure; not that any man can purify or cleanse himself from sin, this is only owing to the grace of God and blood of Christ; nor that any man can be so pure and holy as Christ is, who is free from all sin, both original and actual; but this must be understood either of a man that has faith and hope in Christ, dealing by these with the blood of Christ for purity and cleansing, with whom and which these graces are conversant for such purposes; or of such a person's imitating of Christ in the holiness of his life and conversation, making him his pattern and example, studying to walk as he walked; to which he is the more excited and stimulated by the hope he has of being a Son of God, a dear child of his, and therefore ought to be a follower of him, and walk as Christ walked, in humility; love, patience, and in other acts of holiness; and by the hope he has of being like unto him, and with him in the other world to all eternity: but then this "as" is only expressive of some degree of likeness and similitude, and not perfect equality, which is not to be expected in this, or in the world to come; believers indeed, who have faith and hope in the justifying righteousness of Christ, may, and should consider themselves pure and righteous, and free from sin, as Christ is; being clothed upon with his robe of righteousness, in which they stand without fault before the throne, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but this does not seem to be the sense of the place here, the argument being to engage the saints to purity and holiness of life and conversation, from the consideration of the great love of God bestowed upon them in their adoption, and from their hope of eternal happiness, as the context shows; see 2 Corinthians 7:1; other arguments follow.

{4} And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even {e} as he is pure.

(4) Now he describes this adoption (the glory which as yet consists in hope) by the effect that is, because whoever is made the Son of God, endeavours to resemble the Father in purity.

(e) This word signifies a likeness, but not an equality.

1 John 3:3 shows the moral effect of the Christian hope; not the condition with which the fulfilment of it is connected, as Lücke thinks. The same combination of ideas, only in the form of exhortation, occurs in 2 Corinthians 6:18; 2 Corinthians 7:1; 2 Peter 3:13-14.

πᾶς ὁ ἔχων τὴν ἐλπίδα ταύτην ἐπʼ αὐτῷ] namely, the hope of one day being like God.[198] “In the case of πᾶς ὁ ἔχ. we can, as in 1 John 2:29, bring out the converse in the meaning of the apostle: every one … and only such” (Düsterdieck). The phrase ἔχειν ἐλπίδα ἐπί with dative only here; Acts 24:15 : ἔχ. ἐλπ. εἰς Θεόν; but ἐλπίζειν ἐπί with dative: Romans 15:12 and 1 Timothy 6:17.

αὐτῷ, i.e. Θεῷ] God is regarded as the basis on which the hope is founded. The idea of maintaining (Spener) is not contained in ἔχειν.

ἁγνίζει ἑαυτὸν καθὼς κ.τ.λ.] ἁγνίζειν (comp. on 1 Peter 1:22), not “to keep oneself pure” (à Mons, Bengel, Russmeyer, etc.), but “to purify oneself, i.e. to make oneself free of everything that is unholy;” in Jam 4:8 it is used synonymously with καθαρίζειν. This self-purification necessarily follows from the Christian’s hope, because the object of this is to be like God, and therefore also to be holy.

In reference to the opinion that this purification is described as an act of man, Augustine says: videte quemadmodum non abstulit liberum arbitrium, ut diceret: castificat semetipsum. Quis nos castificat nisi Deus? Sed Deus te nolentem non castificat. Castificas te, non de te; sed de illo, qui venit, ut habitet in te. The active impulse of this ἁγνίζειν ἑαυτόν does not lie in the natural liberum arbitrium of man, but in the hope, which the salvation work of God presupposes in man.

This purification takes place after the pattern (καθώς) of Christ (ἐκεῖνος, 1 John 3:4), who is ἁγνός, i.e. “pure from every sinful stain.” The want of harmony which exists in the juxtaposition of the ἁγνίζειν ἑαυτόν of the Christian and the ἁγνὸν εἶναι of Christ, must not induce us to take καθώς here otherwise than in 1 John 3:7; 1 John 2:6; 1 John 4:17, namely = quandoquidem, so that this clause would add a second motive for the ἁγνίζειν ἑαυτόν, as Ebrard thinks; the sense rather is, that the purity of Christ is the pattern for Christians, which the Christian by self-purification strives to copy in his life also.

ἐστί: “the ἀγνότης is a quality inherent in Christ” (Lücke); the present is not put for the preterite, but signifies the unbroken permanent state; chap. 1 John 2:29.

[198] Ebrard groundlessly would understand by ἐλπίς the treasure which is the object of the hope.

1 John 3:3. The duty which our destiny imposes. ἐπʼ αὐτῷ, “resting on Him,” i.e., on God as Father. Cf. Luke 5:5 : ἐπὶ τῷ ῥήματί σου, “relying on Thy word”. ἐκεῖνος, Christ; see note on 1 John 2:6. ἁγνός also proves that the reference is to Christ. As distinguished from ἅγιος, which implies absolute and essential purity, it denotes purity maintained with effort and fearfulness amid defilements and allurements, especially carnal. Cf. Plat. Def.: ἁγνεία εὐλάβεια τῶν πρὸς τοὺς θεούς ἁμαρτημάτων· τῆς θεοῦ τιμῆς κατὰ φύσιν θεραπεία. Suid.: ἐπίτασις σωφροσύνης. God is called ἅγιος but never ἁγνός. Christ is ἁγνός because of His human experience. The duty of every one in view of his appearing before God, his presentation to the King, is ἁγνίζειν ἑαυτόν, like the worshippers before the Feast (John 11:55), like the people before the Lord’s manifestation at Sinai (Exodus 19:10-11, LXX). It is his own work, not God’s, or rather it is his and God’s. Cf. Php 2:12-13. Aug.: “Videte quemadmodum non abstulit liberum arbitrium, ut diceret, castificat semetipsum. Quis nos castificat nisi Deus? Sed Deus te nolentem non castificat. Ergo quod adjungis voluntatem tuam Deo, castificas teipsum.”

3. that hath this hope in him] This is certainly wrong: the preposition is ‘on’, not ‘in’, and ‘Him’ is either the Father or Christ; probably the former. It is precisely the man who has the hope, based upon God, of one day being like Him, that purifies himself. For the construction ‘to have hope on’ a person comp. ‘On Him shall the Gentiles hope’ (Romans 15:12; comp. 1 Timothy 4:10; 1 Timothy 6:17).

purifieth himself] In LXX. this verb (ἁγνίζειν) is used chiefly in a technical sense of ceremonial purifications, e.g. of the priests for divine service: and so also even in N. T. (John 11:55; Acts 21:24; Acts 21:26; Acts 24:18). But we need not infer that, because the outward cleansing is the dominant idea in these passages, it is therefore the only one. Here, James 4:8, and 1 Peter 2:22, the inward purification and dedication become the dominant idea, though perhaps not to the entire exclusion of the other.

‘Purifieth himself’. See on 1 John 1:8 and 1 John 5:21. S. John once more boldly gives us an apparent contradiction, in order to bring out a real truth. In 1 John 1:7 it is ‘the blood of Jesus’ which ‘cleanseth us from all sin:’ here the Christian ‘purifieth himself’. Both are true, and neither cleansing will avail to salvation without the other. Christ cannot save us if we withhold our efforts: we cannot save ourselves without His merits and grace.

even as he is pure] As in 1 John 3:2, the ‘even as’ brings out the reality of the comparison: similarly in John 17:11; John 17:22 we have ‘that they may be one, even as we are’. It is not easy to determine with certainty whether ‘He’ means the Father or Christ. There is a change of pronoun in the Greek from ‘on Him’ (ἐπ' αὐτῷ) to ‘He’ (ἐκεῖνος), and this favours, though it does not prove, a change of meaning. Probably throughout this Epistle ἐκεῖνος means Christ (1 John 3:5; 1 John 3:7; 1 John 3:16, 1 John 2:6. 1 John 4:17). He who, relying on God, hopes to be like God hereafter, purifies himself now after the example of Christ. Christ conformed Himself to the Father, we do the like by conforming ourselves to Christ. This interpretation brings us once more in contact with Christ’s great prayer. ‘For their sakes I consecrate Myself, that they themselves may be consecrated in truth’ (John 17:19). Moreover, would S. John speak of God as ‘pure’? God is ‘holy’ (ἅγιος): Christ in His perfect sinlessness as man is ‘pure’ (ἁγνός). Note that S. John does not say ‘even as He purified Himself:’ that grace which the Christian has to seek diligently is the inherent attribute of Christ. The consecration of Christ for the work of redemption is very different from the purification of the Christian in order to be like Him and the Father. Comp. Hebrews 12:14.

1 John 3:3. Τὴν ἐλπίδα, hope) He has treated of faith, and he will treat of it again: in the next place, he will treat of love; now he speaks of hope.—ἐπʼ αὐτῷ, in Him) in God.—ἁγνίζει, purifieth) This mention of holiness is appropriate after speaking of sight, which is delighted with purity.—ἐκεῖνος, He) Jesus Christ: 1 John 3:5.

Verse 3. - Such being our hope, based upon God's promises ἐπ αὐτῷ, of becoming like him, we must keep this prospect ever in view, and live up to it. Commentators differ as to whether αὐτῷ refers to the Father or Christ, and so also with regard to ἐκεῖνος. The best way is to take αὐτῷ as God, and ἐκεῖνος as Christ: this agrees with αὐτόν in verse 2, with ἐκεῖνος in verse 5, and with the common use of the two pronouns. It is doubtless possible, especially in St. John, to take ἀκεῖνος as merely recalling the person already indicated by αὐτός or otherwise, and make both pronouns here refer to God. At first sight this seems to make a better sequence between verses 2 and 3: hereafter we shall be like God; therefore here we must strive to become pure as he is. Moreover, it is of the Father that it is written, "Be ye holy; for I am holy" (Leviticus 11:44; 1 Peter 1:15, 16); and again, "Ye shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). But the other is simpler grammatically, and preserves the logical sequence equally well. Hereafter we shall be like God. Every one who has such a hope as this will aim at becoming like God here; even as Jesus Christ has set us an example, a perfect realization of human conformity to God. 1 John 3:3Every man that hath (πᾶς ὁ ἔχων)

A characteristic form of expression with John, containing "a reference to some who had questioned the application of a general principle in particular cases." Here to some persons who had denied the practical obligation to moral purity involved in their hope. See 1 John 3:4, 1 John 3:6, 1 John 3:9, 1 John 3:10, 1 John 3:15, 1 John 3:23, 1 John 3:24; 1 John 4:7; 1 John 5:1, 1 John 5:4, 1 John 5:18; 2 John 1:9.


John's only reference to Christian hope. The phrase used here, to have the hope upon one, is unique in the New Testament. Compare ἐπ' αὐτῷ ἔθνη ἐλπιοῦσιν "on Him shall the Gentiles hope" (Romans 15:12): ἠλπίκαμεν ἐπὶ Θεῷ ζῶντι "we have hoped on the living God" (1 Timothy 4:10). On the force of ἔχων, see on John 16:22.

In Him (ἐπ' αὐτῷ)

Ambiguous. Better, as Rev., set on Him.

Purifieth himself (ἁγνίζει ἑαυτόν)

On the verb, see on 1 Peter 1:22; see on James 4:8. In the Septuagint used only of ceremonial purification, and so four out of the seven instances in which it occurs in the New Testament (John 11:55; Acts 21:24, Acts 21:26; Acts 24:18). In the remaining cases, of purifying the heart and the soul (James 4:8; 1 Peter 1:22). The kindred adjective ἁγνός pure, has a moral signification in every case, as has the noun ἁγότης pureness (only 2 Corinthians 6:6). Ἁγνισμός purification (only Acts 21:26), ceremonial.

He (ἐκεῖνος)

Christ, as always in the Epistle.

Pure (ἁγνός)

See above. Though marking moral and spiritual purity, and that of a very high grade, since it is applied to Christ here, yet it admits the thought of possible temptation or pollution, thus differing from ἅγιος, which means absolutely holy. Hence ἁγνός cannot properly be applied to God, who is ἅγιος; but both may be used of Christ, the latter in virtue of His human perfection.

1 John 3:3 Interlinear
1 John 3:3 Parallel Texts

1 John 3:3 NIV
1 John 3:3 NLT
1 John 3:3 ESV
1 John 3:3 NASB
1 John 3:3 KJV

1 John 3:3 Bible Apps
1 John 3:3 Parallel
1 John 3:3 Biblia Paralela
1 John 3:3 Chinese Bible
1 John 3:3 French Bible
1 John 3:3 German Bible

Bible Hub

1 John 3:2
Top of Page
Top of Page