Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words
I’ll be repeating the book of I John in present-day terminology. It’s not a true translation of the book, as I am not qualified to do so. It will be based on an exegetical study of the book and will lean heavily on the SBL and UBS Greek New Testaments, as well as comparisons with other translations (ESV, NASB, NIV, ERV, NLT). My goal is to reflect the text accurately, and to highlight the intent of the author using concepts and vocabulary in common use today.
This is not an “essentially literal” translation, and should be read as something of a commentary.
Moral Protection, Identification
Anyone who continuously, consciously sins is anti-law. Sin itself is anti-law. We’ve known that Jesus was revealed to everyoneso that he could lift away sin, and sin doesn’t exist for you when you’re partners with him. Everyone who sticks with him avoids sin – if you continuously sin, it means you’ve never seen or known him.
Children, don’t let anyone fool you. If you continually2 practice moral excellence, you’re as pure as he is. If you continuously practice sin, you’re an ally of satan. He’s been a sinner since the very beginning.
God’s son was sent here1 for a specific reason: to destroy satan’s work. Anyone who joins God’s family for real is able to avoid sin. How? His very essence lives in you, so you’re unable to commit sin because you came from God.
This is how you can tell the difference between God’s family and satan’s family: if they aren’t practicing moral goodness, they aren’t God’s. If they don’t selflessly love their Christian family, they aren’t God’s.
1 ἐφανερώθη means, “to reveal, make visible, … expose publicly … with focus on sensory aspect rather than cognitive” (BDAG φανεροω). The idea seems to be that, unlike his other missions – which were invisible to the human eye (cf II Kgs 6.17ff, 19.35; I Chron 21.14f) – Jesus’s presence was visible to everyone. Since the word is aorist passive, “was sent,” and, “was revealed,” seemed appropriate.
2 Use of continuously and continually is not accidental. No one can continuously practice righteousness (cf I Jn 1.8). John posits sin as something we all have, but which is not held against us. Only when we sin so much that it defines our existence do we find ourselves in darkness. While “continuously” is not literally correct, it highlights the intention of the author more effectively. One who sins without ever coming up for air is different from one who struggles with sin (cf I Jn 1.7f; Rom 7.14-25).