Thursday, July 19, 2007

What Does 1 John 3:20 Mean?

This is a very familiar passage in a very famous letter:

"Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us."

What does the phrase in italics mean, in light of the surrounding context? It is not immediately obvious, and I have a feeling that many Christians assume a meaning that is not likely. What do you think it means?

4 comments:

Lydia said...

Oh, cool, I have been wondering about this passage--though I was more confused by verse 21, or at least how verses 20-21 relate because they seemed opposite to me. I have been reading verse 20 as this: if you feel condemning thoughts in your heart, God is bigger than those thoughts, so (by verse 19) you can be reassured that you shouldn't be feeling those condemning thoughts. Verse 19 sets the context for this section that the purpose is to know we are of the truth and reassure our hearts before Him. So in that context, I have taken verse 20 to have the purpose of reassuring hearts that feel condemned that they are not condemned.

But then when I read verse 21, I was confused because it says if your heart does not condemn you... And I thought verse 20 was talking about when your heart does condemn you. Why does it switch?

Does the condemning of the heart have something to do with the verses following? Does it feel condemned based on this?--"because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another..."

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