1 John 3:4-10, Jesus Abides

I John 3:4-10 Jesus Abides

Once there was a ship sailing into harbor. The pilot steered furiously through dense fog, for he knew that there were rocks, and other ships ahead. However, the passengers were totally clueless. They had no idea what danger they were in because of the fog. They were blinded to it. Suddenly they could see the ghostly outline of a ship directly in front of them. Screams and screeches ensued. Though they were at one moment clueless, and the next terrified. The pilot was all the while guiding them through to port.

Does your life in Christ suffer spiritual schizophrenia? At once you think that Jesus expects you to obey perfectly or he will destroy you. Yet at the same time He offers you free grace. Often you feel as if you wander around like that ship in fog. You have a lack of clarity on where obedience begins and grace ends.

The categories of works and grace are simple. The Bible tells you that justification is by faith alone, not by works. Works and grace are antithetical to one another with regards to justification. The problem is the NT authors very often to set works and grace parallel to one another when teaching about sanctification, also known as, the Christian life (Rom 3:31, Jas 2, I Jn 5). Confusing works and grace has led to any number of “Gospels” from easy-believism, to works salvation, to perfectionism, etc. These views all rise in order to answer the question, “How do works and grace relate in the Christian life?”

Christ is at the helm and he causes you to live the Christian life. John taught that there is a union between Jesus and his followers where Christians actually take on Jesus’ character, and are empowered by the Risen Lord.  The cause of obedience is rebirth into union with Jesus. Because Jesus abides in you, then you may obey him. Like the pilot of that ship, he is at the helm.

Today we have three points

  1. Be Not Deceived
  2. Be Righteous as He is Righteous
  3. Be Reborn into Union with Christ

 1. Be Not Deceived

Let us first look at the nature of the deception. In 3:7, John brings up this deception to rebel against your God on the basis of your position in Christ. Your heart is able to take the cause of obedience and turn it into the foundation for disobedience. The deception is a defective self image. The delusion is that Jesus died for your sins and thus you can sin on the basis of that sacrifice.  John counters this with three quick arguments:

  • 6, 7b, Union with Jesus, he contrasts this to being of the devil, or under the devil’s thumb.
  • 5, and 8b, Jesus’ purpose contradicts this. He came to destroy the work of the devil.
  • 10, the work of Christ is a cause and effect relationship which inevitably results in obedience.

He reminds the reader of the ideas which the Bible teaches. The net effect of this list is that you see that the Gospel provocatively holds out victory over sin as its logical effect. 

Look at the contrast in verse 4 and 6.  The difference between the Christian and the pagan is the kind of life that they live. The verb tenses change in verse 6 explain the nuanced idea here. He said that, “No one who sins has seen Him or has known Him.” The “one sinning” is a present reality. This is not a question of the hypothetical possibility of Christians committing sin. Rather, in this text, John makes it clear that this is a lifestyle of sin that makes it impossible to claim to be a Christian while living as such. Verse 6 could be paraphrased like this, “No one who is currently living a sinful [aka lawless] lifestyle has ever seen Him [with faith], or has ever known Him [with faith].”  In other words, these ones never tasted the grace of God in the first place.

This is important because it shows us what we are dealing with. John compares you to the pagan, not carnal Christians. Because of this stark distinction between the pagan and Christian, not carnal Christian and spiritual Christian, we can see that His point is to correct a temptation that is particular to Christians. The temptation is to disobey on the basis of grace. The temptation is to be a carnal Christian. John says that those people never tasted the grace of God in the first place.  

It is a temptation to use the grace of God as a ground for sin. This deception is a temptation particular to Christians. This is what happens when you say to yourself, “Oh well, God will forgive me.” Unlike the pagan who is under the thumb of the devil, the deception distinctly plagues you who believe.

2. Be Righteous as He is Righteous

Last we looked at the nature of the deception, now we look at the response to the deception. The logical conclusion of the last point is if Jesus is righteous then he bears fruit that is righteous. Because Jesus abides in you, then you may be righteous.

Joachim Douma illustrated the Christian’s relationship to righteous works as a fish in water or bird in the air. It would be absurd for a bird to walk on the ground where it is vulnerable to predators. It would be absurd for a fish to want to sit on the seashore. The natural habitat for these animals is in the sky or sea. Similarly, you are being conformed to the image of Christ. Your natural habitat, if you will, is obedience to God. Righteousness is the normal and natural response to the rebirth.

Look at verses 9-10. The evidence shows whether you are of the devil or of Christ. The idea here is that the obedience produced by the Gospel is the proof positive of those who are born of God. The NASB uses the word “obvious,” ESV “evident,” RV used “manifest.” (faneros). It is plain as the nose on your face.

You know the effects of the sun, yet you live 93 million miles away. This illustrates the law of cause and effect. The Sun causes to send out rays that have a certain effect. Think about a punter kicking a football. The ball goes in the direction which the kicker made it. The deciding factor is the cause, but if you were to see a football flying through the air, you would think that someone kicked it. When you feel hot during the day it is because of the sun. Each effect has a certain cause that has certain identifiable effects. Similarly here, those who belong to the devil and to Christ are evident by the works they perform. They are easily identifiable by the kind of life that they live.

The logical conclusion that he calls you to is righteousness, the opposite of lawlessness. The point is that the cause leads to the inevitable effect of obedience. The question is: what is that cause?

3. Be Reborn into Union with Christ

First we looked at the nature of the deception (to sin on basis of grace); the response is to be righteous as he is righteous. Now, think with me about the basis for obedience. Because Jesus abides in you, may be righteous.

This text teaches that works and grace relate as vine and fruit. Jesus’ grace is the energy source, the vine. And, obedience is the fruit which inevitably results from the work of God.

Rebirth: Look at verse 9. The word “seed”- sperma– only appears in John’s writings five times. All other uses in John’s writing refer to physical descendants, offspring. It can refer to the act of conceiving a child  as in Heb 11:11. This pictures Isaak being conceived. Likewise, here, God is the one creating a new man. John described this as “the one born of God.” The rebirth is being fathered by God.

Union: Why does he use the idea of a seed that abides, Vs 2:28-29, 3:6 and 9? What is so important about abiding? Why is it that the “seed’s” act of abiding results in righteousness?  

Turn over to John’s Gospel 15:4-6. Remember the parable of the vine. John 15:1-11. John reminds you that Jesus is the vine, the energy source, and you are the branches. He told his disciples to “abide in Him.” The usage here refers to the union between Christ and his Church. However, it does not stop there.

15:7 explains the resulting reality of abiding, that the “word [of Jesus] remains in you” (15:7). Jesus is empowering you to obey his Word. He told his Disciples, parables aside, obey my words on the basis of union, or you will bear no fruit at all! Apart from union with Christ you can do nothing! Apart from Jesus you are under the thumb of the devil.

The cause is the power of Jesus working in you, and the result is the fruit of obedience in your life. Jesus is the cause, and your obedience is the effect. You are fruit and vine. We saw this same thing in I John 3.

The question remains, “What is it to abide?” Look at Jesus’ words about his relationship to His Father, in John’s Gospel, 14:10. Jesus said that the “words” which He spoke were the Father doing “His work” in him. God the Father was the power behind Jesus’ human work. Mystery of mysteries, In His humanity, Jesus was moved upon by the power of the Divine Essence to do the work of the Father. This is the Father “abiding” in Him, look at verse 10 “The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.” Abide means to work in and through.

This is why this seed abiding results in your obedience, because the one abiding is righteous (I Jn 3:9)! As the Father is righteous and abides in the Son, so the Son abides in you and consequently that results in your obedience.  Jesus actively causes you to be righteous. That is the effect of the Gospel.


How does obedience co-exist with grace? Like the pilot of that ship that sailed through fog in the night. Jesus steers your life to righteousness. He abides in you. He is moving sovereignly upon you to cause good works to flow inevitably from you. On this basis and this alone, John calls you to obey.

Jesus abides in you. Therefore, the deception to lawlessness denies that there is real freedom from sin in this life. The deception whelms up in your heart and tells you, “Your flesh doesn’t matter, go ahead and indulge.” Or worse yet, “Jesus will forgive you, go ahead and partake.” The deception is a deception to sin on the basis of grace. It denies that Jesus abides in you. Your heart turns the grace of Christ into the foundation for disobedience.

For example, anyone who owns a dog knows that when they crave something they will satisfy themselves and that will be the end of it. What separates man and the animals is your guilt before your creator after you satisfy inordinate desires.  Sin is satisfying for the moment, but the deception is that the satisfaction is satisfying. Instead you are left guilt stricken.

For example, when you satisfy your need for praise by making a cruel joke at someone’s expense, you don’t feel satisfied, you feel guilty before God. Guilt is what sets you apart from a dog. Sin deceptively leaves you unsatisfied while you seek for satisfaction. Sin may satisfy your body for the moment, but it will not satisfy you body-and-soul.

This is what is so profound about Jesus’ abiding in you. He satisfies the deepest need that you have. He guides you to righteousness. This is the provocative nature of the gospel message. It means real deliverance from sin in this life by the power of God himself guiding you.

Works Consulted

E-Sword Bible Software

Gill, John Expositions of Scripture

Henry, Matthew, Commentary on the Whole Bible

Geneva Bible

Vincent, M.R. Word Studies in the New Testament

Jamison Faucett Brown