In 3 John 1:11, it is written,

11 Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God. NKJV, 1982

Ἀγαπητὲ, μὴ μιμοῦ τὸ κακὸν, ἀλλὰ τὸ ἀγαθόν ὁ ἀγαθοποιῶν ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐστιν ὁ δὲ κακοποιῶν οὐχ ἑώρακεν τὸν Θεόν TR, 1550

One might expect the inverse statement of “he who does good is of God” to be “he who does evil (i.e., the opposite of good) is not of God.” Instead, the author writes, “He who does evil has not seen God.” Is the author equating being of God with seeing God, and thus, he who does good has seen God, while he who does evil has not seen God? What does the author mean by “seeing” God?

2 Answers 2


John, along with the other Apostles, had been taught by Christ that the pure of heart shall see God (Matthew 5:8). Cyprian of Carthage (200-250 AD) explains what this means in the context of another of John's Epistles:

In the Epistle of John: If our heart blame us not, we have confidence towards God; and whatever we ask, we shall receive from Him. (1 John 2:21-22). Also in the Gospel according to Matthew: Blessed are they of a pure heart, for they shall see God. Also in the twenty-third Psalm [LXX]: Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord or who shall stand in His holy place? The innocent in hands and of a pure heart.

Third Book of Testimonies Against the Jews (Treatise XII), No. 79

John is not writing here, however, of cause and effect - i.e. if you do good, you will see God; else not - but rather of consequence. If one is doing good, it is because he or she is in communion with God; in which case one would certainly perceive, or "see" God.

We can consider here the commentary of Justin Popovic, a 20th century Orthodox Christian theologian, on this specific verse:

Behind every good stands the Good One, the All-Good One. He gives powers to man and awakens man to do good. If a man doeth good, it is a sign that he has united himself with the Only Good One, with God, that he has united himself with God to such an extent that all the spiritual powers in him are born of of God, and emanate from God. There is no good in man that is not from God; and likewise, there is not an evil in man that is not from the devil. As a result of sinning, a black fog arises in the soul, which clouds God's presence in man's spiritual sight. Then man does not see God, neither in himself nor above him, neither in the world nor above the world. He that doeth evil does it because he is always, consciously or unconsciously, in a spiritual bond with the creator of evil. Committing evil blinds man.

Commentary on the Epistles of St. John the Theologian (tr. from the Serbian, Sebastian Press, 2009), pp.92-93


John Gill commentary

3 John 1

he that doeth good is of God; he is a child of God, he appears to be so, in that he is like to his heavenly Father, who is kind and merciful; he is born of God, he is passed from death to life, which his love to the brethren shows; he has the grace of God, and strength from Christ, and the assistance of the Spirit, without either of which he could not do that which is good:

but he that doeth evil hath not seen God; has had no spiritual saving sight of God in Christ; for if he had, he would abhor that which is evil, and, with Job, abhor himself for it, and reckon himself, with Isaiah, as undone, Job 42:6, for such effects has the sight of God on the souls of men; such an one knows not God, nor what it is to have communion with him: for those who live in sin, in whom it is a governing principle, cannot have fellowship with God; nor has such an one ever felt the love of God in his soul, or been made a partaker of his grace, which would teach and constrain him to act otherwise. Compare this text with 1 John 3:10, which shows the Apostle John to be the writer of this epistle. The Ethiopic version reads, "shall not see God"; that is, hereafter, in the world to come.


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