1 John 3:20-24

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

March 11, 1998


John, the aging apostle has written a letter to the church at large.

Some of the themes we’ve seen so far are: The importance of our actions, the importance of not living continuous lives of sin. The importance of loving others.

:19 And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.

And hereby – for this reason … for what reason? Because we love in deed and in truth –

(1 John 3:18 KJV) My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

We mentioned last week that one of the ways we know that we are of the truth is because love each other, and not just a cheap love of words only, but with actions as well.

and shall assure our hearts – lit., "and we shall persuade our hearts …"

We are the ones that do the assuring, that do the persuading of our own hearts.

beforeemprosthen – in front, before; in the presence of

A.T. Robertson – In the very presence of God we shall have confident assurance (either we shall persuade our heart or shall assure our heart) because God understands us.

:20 For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.

condemnkataginosko ("against" + "to know") – to know something against someone; to find fault with, blame; to accuse, condemn


Watch out for condemnation.

This is a difficult thing to discern. How can I tell if the Holy Spirit has been convicting me, or if I’m just condemning myself?

One way is to see the direction it’s pushing you. If it’s leading you back to the Lord, it’s the Holy Spirit. If it’s driving you away from the Lord, it’s either yourself or the devil.

Sometimes our heart is wrong in condemning us. The heart can be a pretty wicked thing –

(Jer 17:9 KJV) The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

Our hearts don’t always have a great perspective, and often make the wrong judgments –

(Luke 10:38-42 KJV) Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. {39} And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. {40} But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. {41} And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: {42} But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Martha’s heart thought it knew what was the right thing to do, be busy.

But it was wrong. Jesus knew better.

When our heart is condemning us, we need to trust in God, not our heart.

God is greater than our heart, and it’s what He thinks that counts.

Rom 8:31-34 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? {32} He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? {33} Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. {34} Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

:21 Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.

confidenceparrhesia – freedom in speaking; free and fearless confidence, cheerful courage, boldness, assurance


Freedom from condemnation leads to boldness in prayer.

When our heart isn’t condemning us, we find ourselves able to come boldly before God’s throne.

It’s not that we can’t come boldly when our heart is condemning us, but in our practical experience, we don’t come because we feel condemned.

Deal with the condemnation. Jesus doesn’t condemn you, He understands you.

Heb 4:14-16 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. {15} For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. {16} Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

:22 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him

Wouldn’t it be great if getting answers to prayers were simply a matter of asking. Actually, sometimes this is the case.


Answered prayer starts by asking.

(James 4:2b KJV) … yet ye have not, because ye ask not.

Sometimes the very reason we’re not receiving any answers to prayer is because we aren’t praying.

Sometimes we say to ourselves, "But I don’t know how to pray, so I won’t …"

The best way to learn how to pray is to pray.


A key to answered prayer is learning to ask for the right things.

1 John 5:14-15 And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: {15} And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.

That’s what learning to pray is all about, learning to ask for the right things, learning to ask for the things that God desires for us.

This is what the concept means to be "asking in His name".

Jesus said,

Joh 16:23 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give [it] you.

It’s not just a magic formula to stick on the end of our prayers, as if every time we pray we have to add "in Jesus name" or it won’t be answered. I think it’s good to add that at the end of our prayers, but as a way to be checking ourselves, as a way of saying, "did I ask that like Jesus would ask?"

It means to be asking in the place of Jesus (doing it in His place, in His name) and asking according to the nature of Jesus.

To often we ask for the wrong things –

(James 4:3 KJV) Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

But if we ask for whatever God would want us to be asking for, then we’ll be getting our prayers answered.

:22 because we keep his commandments

keeptereo – to attend to carefully, take care of; to observe. The verb is a present tense, the idea of continually keeping God’s commandments as a way of life as opposed to continually living a life of sin as we saw in –

(1 John 3:6 KJV) Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.

(1 John 3:9 KJV) Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.


A life of obedience leads to answered prayer.

Listen carefully. It’s not that we earn certain "brownie points" in heaven by being obedient and then God rewards us with answers to our prayers.

Sometimes we do this with our children (and it’s not a bad idea) when we tell them they can watch television for an hour if they do all their chores.

This is not the case with answered prayers. We don’t earn them.

But a life that’s aimed at being obedient will also be a life that has learned to ask for the things that God would ask for.

(John 15:7 KJV) If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

(John 15:10 KJV) If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.

:22 and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.

pleasingarestos – pleasing, agreeable

Joh 8:29 And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.

in his sightenopion – in the presence of, before; any one and towards which another turns his eyes


This one’s for Dad.

Do we realize that He’s always watching?

Some people have the concept that when they’re sinning, that somehow God has stopped watching. They think that when they enter the bar, Jesus stays outside of the bar, waiting for you to come out. The truth is, He never leaves you. He goes with you.

We aren’t supposed to be performing in that we’re trying to pretend to be something that we’re not, but that we’re doing our best because our Dad’s in the audience, and He’s watching, and we want to please Him.


I think of the Olympic athletes, and how the television cameras often focus on the families of the athletes while they’re performing. There may be thousands of people in the stadium, but it’s those few family members that make the difference.

The amazing thing is that the whole idea of doing something that’s actually pleasing to God is actually something that He wants to be doing in you –

(Heb 13:20-21 KJV) Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, {21} Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

And when we’re doing what’s pleasing to Him, when we’re seeking to please Him, we’ll be seeing our prayers answered.

(Psa 37:4 KJV) Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

:23 And this is his commandment

In case you’ve been confused about what it means to keep His commandments, John’s going to clarify it for us. There’s two parts to it –

:23 That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ

believe on the name

A person’s name was often representative of who they were, of their nature.

This is the idea behind the story where God declares His name to Moses. It wasn’t just about God showing His driver’s license and spelling His name correctly for the newspaper stories, it’s about declaring what His nature is like:

(Exo 34:5-8 KJV) And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. {6} And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, {7} Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation. {8} And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped.

And so here, the idea isn’t just about believing that there was someone named Jesus, but believing in Who He Is.


Prayers are answered by believing who He is.

The more we come to understand who He is, the more we will find our prayers being for the right things.

It’s understanding that He’s merciful, gracious, forgiving, but also isn’t pleased with sin.

:23 and love one another, as he gave us commandment.

Here’s the second part, just as John has already been telling us –

1Jo 3:11 For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.


Prayers are answered when we’re loving one another.

If we’re doing the one thing He really, really wants us to be doing, loving one another, then we’re going to be in the place to be not only asking for the right things, but also to be receiving them.


An evangelist had preached on the Christian home. After the meeting a father approached him. "I’ve been praying for a wayward son for years," said the father, "and God has not answered my prayers." The evangelist read Psalm 66:18—"If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." "Be honest with yourself and the Lord," he said. "Is there anything between you and another Christian that needs to be settled?" The father hesitated, then said, "Yes, I’m afraid there is. I’ve harbored resentment in my heart against another man in this church." "Then go make it right," counseled the evangelist, and he prayed with the man. Before the campaign was over, the father saw his wayward son come back to the Lord.

:24 And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him.

dwellethmeno – "abide", stay put.

We get a definition of that famous concept of "abiding"

(John 15:1-5 KJV) I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. {2} Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. {3} Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. {4} Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. {5} I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

It’s all about being fruitful.

God wants us to be fruitful.

Notice the progression – "beareth fruit", then "more fruit", then "much fruit". It all happens by us staying put in Jesus.

It all happens by us growing in obedience to His commandments, which are –

Believing in Him.

Loving One another.

:24 And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.


The Spirit assures us.

This is a difficult thing to describe, because the work of the Holy Spirit is so different in each of our lives.

The Holy Spirit is our "seal", our "pledge", kind of a down payment for heaven.

(Eph 1:13-14 KJV) In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, {14} Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

And one of the things the Holy Spirit does, is to assure us that we belong to the Lord.

(Rom 8:15-16 KJV) For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. {16} The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

What does the assurance of the Holy Spirit feel like?

It’s just something you know deep down inside.

The difficult thing is that we can be real good at talking ourselves into not listening to the Holy Spirit’s ministry in our lives. We have to be careful about not relying totally on what could be described as a "feeling".