These small group studies of 1 John contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
1 John 3:1-10 Inductive Bible Study Commentary and Questions
I. Our relationship with God (1-3)
a)He loves us (1)
b)We are His children and will meet Him one day (2)
c)Knowing that we will see Him purifies us (3)
II. Habitual sin and a relationship with God are incompatible (4-10)
d)Sin breaks God’s law (4)
e)He came so that we wouldn’t sin (5)
f)If we abide in Him we will not practice sin (6)
g)If we practice righteousness we are like Him (7)
h)If we practice sin we are like the devil (8)
i)The one born of God doesn’t practice sin (9)
j)Habitual sin is a test to determine someone’s relationship with God (10)
I. Our relationship with God (1-3)
How great a love did the Father bestow on us? Give examples in Scripture of how God loved believers.
In what ways has God shown love to you (go around the table one by one 2-3 times)?
Is every person in the world a child of God?
How can we become children of God?
What are the basics of the father/child relationship?
What does it mean that the world does not know us?
How do you feel when people around you think you are weird or a nut because of your belief in God?
What does John mean that we don’t know what we will be?
What do you know about what your life will be like when Jesus returns?
What effect does this hope have on our present lives?
Galatians 3:26 – So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.
Matthew 5:9 – Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Romans 8:16-17 – The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
John 1:12 – Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.
Hebrews 12:3-11 – A father has authority to discipline his children.
Luke 11:9-13 – Parable of the good father.
John 15:18 – If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.
1 Peter 4:3-5 – For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.
1 Corinthians 2:15-16 – The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. John calls his readers to look and consider how great God’s love for us is.
How great was it? People were strangers to God. We were sinners. We were His enemies by our choice, not His. He created humans and gave them the perfect life in paradise only to have them rebel and sin against Him at the first opportunity. God sent prophet after prophet, only to have most of them mocked, ridiculed, ignored, or even worse, beaten or killed. He did miracle after miracle saving the people of Israel again and again only to have them immediately rebel against Him and turn to follow idols. Finally He sent His own Son.
Jesus did hundreds of miracles and healed a large number of sick people in the country. He taught the people how they should live and encouraged them to turn back to God. Finally He was killed too. This was the greatest demonstration of God’s love.
And Jesus demonstrated this love in action when He forgave the very people who killed Him on the cross. God not only does not wipe out all sinners. He offers His enemies the opportunity of a lifetime, the opportunity to be adopted as part of the “noble family.”
My youngest sister was adopted from China. People will tell my parents they are very loving because they adopted a little Chinese girl. And they are. However, this girl was cute, adorable, and beautiful. God adopts us although we are none of the above.
Application: Whenever you are tempted to complain or get upset about your circumstances remember how God has loved you. Count your blessings one by one and soon you will not feel like complaining anymore.
2. To become children of God, we also give up something. What?
We give up our popularity in the world. This verse says that the world doesn’t know us if we belong to God. When Jesus came, did people accept Him? Did people understand Him? No. They thought He had a demon (Matthew 11:18, 9:34). Some thought He was Elijah and others John the Baptist. (Matthew 16:13-14). They thought He was crazy when He said they must eat his body like bread (John 6:50-53). Jesus Himself said they didn’t know where He came from or was going (John 8:14). If the world didn’t accept Jesus, who did so many miracles and taught so authoritatively, do you think they will understand or accept believers? No. They will reject us too.
What are some of the reasons why they won’t like us? They won’t like us because we point out their sin (John 3:20). They won’t understand us because they don’t see like we do. Basically they think we are crazy, fools, nuts, dreamers. Knowing this, we have a choice. We can be popular with God or popular with the world. It is generally incompatible to be popular with both. Who would you rather please? Pleasing God is far better since He has power over our soul.
So the next time a friend or relative thinks you are crazy or weird because of your belief in Christ, take it as a compliment.
3. John says it hasn’t appeared yet what we will be. I think he means that the exact nature of our life in heaven is unknown. When I share the gospel I often get many questions about what heaven will be like and what we will do there. While the Bible does mention a little bit about it, for the most part it is a mystery. God has not chosen to reveal it to us. I am convinced it will not be like what you see in the movies (ie: floating around in the clouds playing a harp: BORING!)
What exactly we will be doing is not the critical issue. The more critical issue is what we will be like, how our nature will be changed. John says that we will be like Him. This means that we will be sinless (Revelation 21:4). And we will see Christ which is the best part about heaven. It is not the golden streets, or pearly gates. It is not the ability to fly or lack thereof. The best part about heaven is being with Christ, just like Paul said absent from the body, present with the Lord. Heaven without God is not paradise at all. The perfect relationship between people and God will finally be restored after it was broken by Adam and Eve’s sin at the fall. We will have a perfect relationship with Christ because there will be no more sin to separate us.
4. Hope is a purifying force. We hope for Jesus’ second coming. We know that He could come at anytime. In 1 John 2:28, John encouraged his readers to be living the right way so that we would not be ashamed when He returns. His possible soon return is motivation for us to make use of our time and stay far away from sin. Next time you are facing temptation, remind yourself that Jesus could come back any second. This will be extra motivation to take the way of escape offered (1 Cor 10:13).
II. Habitual sin and a relationship with God are incompatible (4-10)
What is lawlessness?
What is the main point of this passage?
What reasons are given for why practicing sin is incompatible with a relationship to God?
Why did Jesus come? (5)
Does verse 6 mean that a believer will never sin?
What kind of person might try to “deceive” people into thinking that sinning is OK or perhaps even good?
Did you ever try to tell yourself that some kind of sin is acceptable?
What should our view of sin be?
What other reason is given for why Jesus came? (8)
How can we tell believers and unbelievers apart?
Romans 6:1,2,8,11,12,13 – We are dead to sin.
Galatians 5:22-23 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Ephesians 4:22-24 – You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
1 Peter 2:24 – “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness;“by his wounds you have been healed.”
Ephesians 5:25-27 – Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
John 8:44 – You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. John makes it clear that the person who sins is breaking the law (lawlessness). Sin does not always break man’s law, but does break God’s law. For example, lying is not against the law in most countries, but it is against God’s law. In some countries, people don’t have a clear understanding of sin. Most will consider that sin is crime. They think that they are not criminals and that therefore their sin is not serious. But sin IS crime. It is crime against God’s law, which is more important than every other law.
A paraphrase of verse 4 could read, “Every person who practices sin is a criminal in God’s sight.”
2. Practicing sin is incompatible with a person’s relationship to Christ. A believer in Christ must have a new life. He is born again. The old has gone and the new has come. There is no excuse or justification for continuing to live in sin. Although the following verses might not teach you anything new, they are very important because they are yet another reminder that believers must hate sin. We must get rid of sin in our lives. We have to realize that if we don’t have a changed life, we are still living in sin, and therefore still unsaved. We will look at several of John’s reasons for why practicing sin is incompatible with a relationship to Christ.
A. Jesus came to take away sin. When the angel told Joseph to give Mary’s child the name Jesus he said it was because Jesus would take away the sins of the world. Jesus came to take away sin. Christians believe in Jesus. Therefore Jesus has taken away our sin. Therefore we should not sin.
B. In Him there is no sin. Jesus had no sin. We are to be like Jesus. Therefore we should not sin.
C. In verse 6 John comes right out and says that the person who sins does not know Him and the person who abides in Him does not sin. We should remember that this sin does not refer to isolated incidents (a righteous person falls seven times and rises again.) It refers to perpetual sin. It refers to practicing sin as we will see. This is the kind of sin an unrepentant person would engage in or a person making the argument in Romans 6:1 that God gives us His grace so we should sin all the more. Verse 6 is as clear a statement as you can get that practicing sin is incompatible with our relationship to Christ.
D. Make sure no one deceives you. Much of 1 John is focused against the rise of false teaching in the church, specifically the Gnostics. Their core belief was that matter was inherently evil and as a result, sins committed by our physical bodies are unimportant and don’t “count”. John squashes this teaching like a bug hitting a windshield. The person who practices righteousness is of God and the person who practices sin is of the devil. He doesn’t mince words at all. It is that simple.
This is not a new teaching. Jesus also said that you will know a tree by its fruit. Satan is the father of lies and the master of deception. If he can trick Christians (or at least professing ones) into believing that sin is unimportant he wins. Christians will rapidly fall away from God and justify their own sin.
Can you think of any examples in the Bible where people tried to justify or excuse their own sins?
This has been one of Satan’s chief methods of attack from the beginning. Verse 8 tells us that this is another reason Jesus came. He came to destroy the works of the devil. He came to defeat Satan, to teach people the truth about sin, and to show people that there is another road besides the road of sin. We don’t have to live in slavery to sin.
E. Verse 9 shows us another reason why sin is incompatible with a relationship with Christ. His seed is in us. It is a little unclear what this “seed” is referring to. My opinion is that it could refer to the fact that we are children of God. Since we are saved, we are adopted into His family. He has given us new life, spiritual life. Because we are His child and have been born again into His family, we will naturally hate sin and not want to practice it.
F. In case, anyone was unsure, John makes it clear in verse 10 that he is recording a test we can use to determine someone’s salvation. He is asking “what is a real Christian?”
The test is ones’ actions. It is the same thing as James taught about faith must show itself in action. How should we use this test? Primarily it is not for judging others. Jesus told us to take the log out of our own eye before we try to take the speck out of our brother’s eye. We should use this test to examine our own life to see where we fall short. Examine to see if our heart truly belongs to God. If we find that we are practicing sin, we must fall on our knees before God, repent, and STOP practicing sin.
We could title this whole section “give yourself a spiritual self-exam.” So I would ask, have you given yourself the self-exam? Have you really looked hard at these Scriptures and evaluated your actions by them? A lot of times when people go for checkups, the doctor will tell them they are unhealthy. They are overweight. They are not eating well. They are not exercising well. The patient says, “yeah, yeah, yeah.” Then on the way home he buys a couple of Monster burgers, an order of French fries, and a large soda. He arrives home, plops himself down on the couch and flips on the TV. He continues on enjoying the same lifestyle until he has a heart attack. I hope none of you will be like this patient.
Perform this self exam and then change your lifestyle accordingly. If none of us make any applications from this, we have wasted the last two hours of our lives.
Application: Spend some time this week to give yourself a spiritual self-exam. Examine your prayer life, your Bible reading, your fellowship habits. Consider your attitude toward family members and at work. Find one area of weakness and write down a specific thing you can do to improve. Make your application SMART (Simple, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound.)
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