“Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.”
Verses 7 and 8 strongly suggest that antichrists confused sin and righteousness. Maybe the antichrists taught that it was okay to continue to sin while claiming fellowship with God.
By calling out to his readers as “little children,” John directly applies to his previous point (3:5,6).
let no one deceive you.
The Greek indicates that John’s readers were to stop the deception that was already in process. This also indicates the severity of the satanic error to which they were susceptible.
John warned his readers in chapter two about the “antichrists” who confused the distinction between sin and righteousness. Now he warns them again about the importance of consistency in the faith. Genuine righteousness springs from a righteous nature. Sin finds its origin in the Devil.
Jn 8:44, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.”
This word for “deceive” is the same word used in 2:26. The word means to lead astray. Evidently, the antichrists led some of John’s readers astray from a correct view of the nature of God in relation to His righteousness.
He who practices righteousness is righteous,
The genuine believer in fellowship reflects righteousness beyond himself. He is far more than a mere profession. He has the life of God in him. The life of God in the believer reflects itself in righteousness produced by God. There is a close connection between conduct and character. Character is the foundation of life and deeds.
John does not say that the practice of righteousness makes one righteous. Rather, righteous conduct is a sign of righteous character.
just as He is righteous
A believer in fellowship always reflects the source where he derived his righteousness – the Son of God. He reflects the nature of Christ. He behaves like Him because he is from Him.
The words “just as” mean precisely as. The phrase reads, “just precisely as that One is righteous.” These words do not indicate that believers exercise righteousness to the same extent as Jesus did but in the same manner as He did. Genuine positional or judicial righteousness always shows itself in righteous conduct. Genuine righteousness springs from a righteous nature.
Just as Jesus did not become righteous by doing, so the believer does not become righteous by doing. Jesus was eternally and immutably righteous, so He manifested Himself as such in the world. Believers manifest the righteousness they have in Christ because of their life in Christ. There is a mighty big difference between those who imitate the righteousness of Christ and those who are complimentary of it.
The believer’s conduct manifests his relationship with God.
Satan is ever on the look-out for gullible believers. Untaught Christians are particularly susceptible to deception from Satan when it comes to righteousness.
Every believer possesses two kinds of righteousness. Jesus declares the believer to be as righteous as He is righteous at the moment of personal trust in the cross to forgive sin. That is judicial righteousness. The second righteousness is a righteousness that flows out of our fellowship with the Lord (Ph 1:9-11). The Holy Spirit produces the latter righteousness. There is no way that a person can fellowship with God and not produce experiential righteousness.
Ga 5:25, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”
He that lives righteously demonstrates that he is righteous. He resembles the One with whom he fellowships. There is a self-righteousness that does not come from Jesus Christ. It is simply a pious front to deceive others into thinking that it is real. John says in effect, “Don’t let them fool you; it isn’t real. They are phony, having no relationship with Jesus Christ.”
For someone to say, “I am a Christian,” and live like the Devil, he is just kidding himself. This is self-deception. No one would believe them. People believe what they see, “What you are speaks so loud I can’t hear what you say.”
A holy God cannot tolerate sin in the slightest degree. That is why we need God’s righteousness to go to heaven (Ro 3:22; 4:5; 5:17; 10:3; 1 Co 1:30; 2 Co 5:21; Ph 3:7,9; He 11:7). This is not human righteousness but the righteousness of God.
No righteousness found in us is adequate; all our righteousness is filthy rags (Is. 64:6). Righteousness by operation bootstraps is not the righteousness of God. Anything but God’s righteousness is just religious veneer. When we come to the end of life’s short day, only God’s righteousness will be acceptable to Him, not our man-made righteousness. My righteousness is irrelevant and incidental.