1 John 3:17-24: Actions Speak Louder Than Words

August 25, 2017

 This world is difficult for the believer in Christ. Our world is hostile  to Christ and His followers. “So don’t be surprised, friends, when the world hates you. This has been going on a long time” (John 13:12,13 MSG). Our world is a dog eat dog existence.  The way of the world is to put self first, love self and provide for self.  The Bible is clear that the way of the Christian is to be vastly different from the way of the world.  We are taught in the Bible that genuine love for the brethren is our calling card, “The way we know we’ve been transferred from death to life is that we love our brothers and sisters” (John 13:35 MSG). 

1 John 3:17-24 admonishes us to “love one another.” For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another”

Verse 17: “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?”

Wuest translates this verse as, “But whoever has as a constant possession the necessities of life, and deliberately keeps on contemplating his brother constantly having need, and snaps shut his heart from him, how is it possible that the love of God is abiding in him?”

“Verse 17 brings Christian love down to earth in a hurry, and it places Christian love squarely in the midst of everyday life.”  –John Piper


“World's goods” refers to resources needed to sustain life. Those basics needed in order to stay alive - food, shelter, clothing, etc.

The test of Christian love is not simply failure to do evil to others. Love also involves doing them good. Christian love is both positive and negative. “Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.” (Galatians 6:10 MSG).

“Here is a test of this love; if we do not divide our bread with the hungry, we certainly would not lay down our life for him. Whatever love we may pretend to mankind, if we are not charitable and benevolent, we give the lie to our profession. If we have not bowels of compassion, we have not the love of God in us; if we shut up our bowels against the poor, we shut Christ out of our hearts, and ourselves out of heaven.”–Adam Clarke

Verse 18: “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”

“In tongue:” God's love is not evident if we can see others in need…physically, emotionally, or spiritually, and pass them by unconcerned. Then all our words and talk about love are as empty as Paul says in the “love” chapter,  “If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1 NLT). Or as James says, “Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing,  and you say, ‘Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well’—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?” (James 2:15,16).

“Fine words will never take the place of fine deeds; and no amount of talk of Christian love will take the place of a kindly action to a man in need, involving some self-sacrifice, for in that action the principle of the Cross is operative again.” –Wm. Barclay

“He does not condemn kind words which are comforting and cheering, but warm words should be accompanied by warm deeds to make real “in deed and in truth”. Here is a case where actions do speak louder than mere words.”–A.T. Robertson

“In deed:” The word for “deed” in the Greek New Testament is the noun ergon, which means work or action. The believer’s love is an active love. It is putting feet to our words.  George Whitfield told the story of the poor beggar who asked a pastor for alms. When the pastor refused, the beggar asked the pastor for a blessing. “God bless you,” answered the pastor. “Oh,” replied the beggar, “you would not give me that if it was worth anything.”

Ray Stedman's shares a great story of loving in deed and truth: “Yesterday I heard a young Jewish convert give the story of his life. It is a most amazing story: His name is Arthur Katz and he is a teacher in the public schools in Berkeley. He was raised as an atheist, even though he was of Jewish descent. Early in his life he became a Marxist, a committed Communist. He was always a left-wing radical, a trouble maker, at the heart of every uprising that was going on. At the close of World War II he happened to be in Germany with the American Army and personally saw the gas chambers at Dachau and Buchenwald. He came away from them shocked and sick at heart, filled with hatred, first toward the German race, and then, realizing that this was not merely a national problem but a human problem, filled with an all-pervading sense of disgust and loathing for the whole human race. He came back to Berkeley and tried to give himself to education, but more and more he realized that education was not the answer. Education could not change hearts, education could not and did not touch the basic problems of human beings. Finally he gave it all up and resigned his position. His wife lost her mind, and was put in a mental institution. Divorced, footloose, and fancy-free, he went out to wander up and down the face of the earth, hardly knowing where he was going. One rainy wet day he was in Greece, hitchhiking, with a week's growth of beard upon his face, and a dirty rucksack on his back, standing in the wind and the rain thumbing a ride. Of course, no one wanted to pick him up. He stood there for hours when at last a big Cadillac came by, and stopped. To his amazement the man did not merely open the door and gesture for him to get in; he got out of his car, came around, and began to pump his hand and to welcome him as though he were some kind of king. He took the dirty rucksack and threw it on the clean upholstery. Art said he winced himself when he saw that. Then the man invited him to get in the car, and they drove on. The man treated him as though he were a welcome guest. Art Katz could not understand this. He was taken to a hotel and the man bought him a room and cleaned him up and gave him some food. Finally he asked him what he was doing, and where he was going. There came pouring out of this young Jewish atheist all the pent-up heartache, misery, and resentment of his life. He told him the whole thing, just pouring it all out. The man sat and listened, and when he was all through, he spoke one sentence. He said, ‘You know, Art, what the world needs? Those who are willing to wash one another's feet.’ Art Katz said, ‘I never heard anything more beautiful than that. Why do you say that?’ And the man said, "’Because that's what my Lord did.’ For the first time in this young atheist's life he heard a Christian witness. That was the beginning of the end. I do not have time to tell the whole story of how this young man came to know Jesus Christ. But the thing that arrested him and broke through all the years of hatred, all the pent-up resentment and bitterness of his heart and life was one act of kindness which manifested to an apparently undeserving young man, genuine courtesy and kindness in the name of Jesus Christ. ‘By this,’ Jesus said, ‘shall all men know that you are my disciples,’ (John 13:35 RSV). That is the path of love. If life is there, that kind of love will be there. Now, let it show, is John's exhortation. ‘Little children, let us not love in word or speech, but in deed and truth.’ (1 John 3 Commentary)

John’s challenge is for every believer to be genuine in their love. One of the distinguishing marks of the child of God is love, a love that originates in God, displays itself in actions of self-sacrifice, and is evidence of eternal life.

Real love doesn’t just talk, it acts.  People who talk and don’t do really do not love.  People who are insincere might talk about helping; but people who truly love with Christ’s love reach out to help others.

Real love might be manifested by meeting a material need. It might be manifested by lending a helping hand or a listening ear. There are many ways we can show the reality of our love.  The bottom line here is this: Real love does more than simply talk, it acts! 


Verse 19: “And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.

“By this,” by what? ‘By this’ refers to what precedes; and the thought is similar to that in 1John 3:14, “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren.” By sincere and active love we shall come to know that we are children of the truth.” –The Pulpit Commentary

Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God. When we see this love at work in our lives, we can know that we are of the truth. A lifestyle of love in action is a proof of salvation and this brings assurance to our hearts before God, that we are in Him! The evidence that we have faith, genuine faith, saving faith, is that we love the brethren, so that by loving the brethren we assure ourselves that we belong to the kingdom of light rather than to the kingdom of darkness.

Verse 20, 21: “For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God.”

As true Christians we should not live in condemnation. Jesus said that “He did not come into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17).  If a person has come to Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, those sins are forgiven, and there is no condemnation.

Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Romans 8:31-39. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ…”

“Sometimes our heart condemns us, but, in doing so, it gives a wrong verdict, and then we have the satisfaction of being able to take the case into a higher court, for 'God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.'” –C.H. Spurgeon

Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything.

“Condemnation can well up inside us that has nothing to do with our standing before God. It may be the work of the enemy of our souls (who, according to Revelation 12:10 accuses the brethren), or the work of an over-active conscience. At those times, we trust in what God's Word says about our standing, not how we feel about it.”–Guzik

“Confidence towards God”

“Confidence in Greek is parrhesia, literally all speech or speaking all things and thereby conveys the idea of freedom to say all. The basic idea in the word is freedom of speech, when the word flowed freely. It is that attitude of openness that stems from freedom and lack of fear (shaking fear - godly, reverential fear is always appropriate). Greeks used parrhesia of those with the right to speak openly in the assembly. Speaking with plainness, openness and confidence (Acts 2:29). It describes the privilege of coming before someone of importance, power, and authority and feeling free to express whatever is on one’s mind.” –John MacArthur

People may condemn us, but that doesn’t matter; they may accuse us of  wrong motives, they may misrepresent us, but that is no concern of ours so long as we have confidence toward God. You see, God is greater than our feelings, he is bigger than our emotion, and what God thinks carries more weight than what I’m feeling at the moment.


Verse 22: “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.

God appeared to Solomon and said, “Ask for whatever you want Me to give you.” (2 Chronicles 1:7). Can you imagine? God appears to you and tells you to ask for whatever you want. Not whatever you need. Whatever you want. If we assume that “ask and you will receive” means “ask for anything you want and I’ll give it to you,” then we have turned the Lord into a cosmic genie who, when summoned by prayer, must grant any request they make. This is the problem of prosperity gospel, word of faith, the name it and claim it teachers.


Some people would like prayer with no conditions. They would like for God to be a celestial genie who, when summoned by prayer, must grant any request they make. But the biblical fact is that prayer has conditions. It’s true that Jesus said, “Whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive” (Matthew 21:22). But, even in that statement, we have one condition, faith, “If you believe.” And  “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them” (Mark 11:24).

Another condition of answered prayer is, will this for which I am praying glorify God. “Whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13).

Abiding in Christ is necessary to having our prayers answered: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7). Ephesians 3:17, “That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” That Christ may settle in and feel completely at home in us. (my paraphrase).

And James 4:2,3 gives us another condition for answered prayer: “You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”

Asking according to His will is a condition for answered prayer: “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him” (1 John 5:14,15).

Anyone with an honest relationship to God can have his prayer answered.

Matthew 7:7,8, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

Hebrews 4:16, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.”

Jeremiah 33:3, "Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”

Verse 23,24: “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.”

John summarizes the commandments of God in one twofold command. God's command is that we would believe in Jesus and love one another. Sometimes this twofold command is viewed as two distinct commands, but in this case John treats them as one. John's placement of the two commands in one shows the close relationship between the commands. Faith in Christ is an absolute prerequisite to being born again. When we truly believe in Christ, we will obey the command to love one another. Loving one another is the normal result of coming to faith. You cannot believe without loving nor love without believing.


“Abides” in Greek is meno to take up permanent residence, to make yourself at home, stay, remain, in present tense signifying God continually abides in the genuine believer. The idea is to live in fellowship with Christ and other believers.  The believer who applies the principles of God’s Word lives in fellowship with the Lord.

“To abide in Christ means to depend completely on Him for all that we need in order to live for Him and serve Him. It is a living relationship. As He lives out His life through is…“When Christ who is our life…” (Colossians 3:4), we are able to follow His example and walk as He walked. Paul expresses this experience perfectly: “Christ liveth in me” (Galatians  2:20). This is a reference to the work of the Holy Spirit.”–Weirsbe

Verse 24b: “by the Spirit whom He has given us.”

When did He give the Spirit? when first we believed.


2 Corinthians 1:21-22,  “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.”

              Ephesians 1:13-14,  “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”

            Romans 8:15-16, “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”

What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit?


•To be dominated by the things of God, having our live saturated with His word. (Colossians 3:16).

•It is to rest so completely in the Lord, that we will be carried along through life like a piece of driftwood on the water. It is simply trusting in Him.

•To yield to Christ all authority for our lives. He loves us so much He is not going to let anything happen to us that's not good for Him.

•It is simply practicing His presence within us. Galatians 2:20, “Christ lives in me.” Colossians 1:27, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” 2 Corinthians 3:5,” Do you not know that Christ is in you?” 

•It is living every moment of our lives knowing that Christ lives in us. It is Hudson Taylor's spiritual secret: Christ's life and mine are fused together by the indwelling Spirit, when you see me you see Christ.


The indwelling Holy Spirit urges us to action when we see others in need. A good way to forget your own troubles is to help others in theirs.


“Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived” (Galatians 6:2 MSG).  

“Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?” (Romans 15:1,2 MSG).

I do not know who wrote this poem, but I’m certain there are people within our sphere of reference who feel like this…

I hurt all the time. I don’t want to cry for the way I feel inside.

I just want someone to hold me…

I’m alone in the dark, please try to find me.

If no one cares, I don’t see the point in going on.

Anyone find me! Anyone care!

I’m sorry, I just don’t want to be alone anymore.

I feel unheard and unseen, depressed and weak.

No one cares, and yet I’m always the sorry one.

Someone find me! I’m scared!

Please hold me until it all ends.

Just hold me, that’s all I want.

I don’t want to be alone in the dark.

Just hold me as I disappear from the light.

Just hold me as I start to cry.

Just hold me so I won’t be alone inside.

Just hold me so I don’t do something wrong.

Just hold me tight, that for a moment I could feel the light.

“As we look at Jesus’ life we can see several characteristics of his love, It was without discrimination. Jesus loved all kinds of people. He showed love to the rich and to the poor. The healthy and the diseased. The Jew and the Gentile. Jesus did not see labels and stereotypes, He only saw people. Jesus didnt require that people love Him first. Once he healed a man of blindness and when the man was asked who healed him, the man didnt know. Jesus cried at the tomb of Lazarus. He touched the leper. He raised the widows son. He reached out to the demon possessed man who had been sent to live a secluded life in a cave. He felt the peoples pain. Jesus continued to love the disciples (even Judas) even though at times they didnt seem to have a clue.  John puts the focus on the greatest illustration of love, the death of Jesus on the cross. Jesus Himself said, Greater love has no man than this, that He give up His life for His friends. When Jesus loved people, they were changed. No one who met Jesus was ever the same again. The one thief on the cross was granted Heaven. The Roman guard recognized that Jesus was the Son of God. Countless lives that previously had been thrown away were now made new.” –Bruce Goettsche, unionchurch.com

Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English  bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB).

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