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1 John 3:20 [study!]

American Standard Version (ASV 1901) [2]
— because if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.
King James Version (KJV 1769)
— For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.
New American Standard Bible (NASB ©1995)
— in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things.
Webster's Revision of the KJB (WEB 1833)
— For if our heart condemneth us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.
Darby's Translation (DBY 1890)
— that if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart and knows all things.
Rotherham's Emphasized Bible (EBR 1902)
— Because, if our own heart condemn us, greater, is God, than our heart, and perceiveth all things.
Young's Literal Translation (YLT 1898)
— because if our heart may condemn—because greater is God than our heart, and He doth know all things.
Douay-Rheims Challoner Revision (DR 1750)
— For if our heart reprehend us, God is greater than our heart and knoweth all things.
Original King James Bible (AV 1611) [2]
— For if our heart condemne vs, God is greater then our heart, and knoweth all things.
John Etheridge Peshitta-Aramaic NT (1849)
— And if our heart condemn us, how much (more) Aloha, who is greater than our heart, and knoweth every thing!
James Murdock Peshitta-Aramaic NT (1852)
— But if our heart condemneth us, how much greater is God than our heart, and knowing all things?

Strong's Numbers & Red-LettersGreek New TestamentColor-Code/Key Word Studies
For 3754
{3754} Prime
ὅτι
hoti
{hot'-ee}
Neuter of G3748 as conjugation; demonstrative that (sometimes redundant); causatively because.
if 1437
{1437} Prime
ἐάν
ean
{eh-an'}
From G1487 and G0302; a conditional particle; in case that, provided, etc.; often used in connection with other particles to denote indefiniteness or uncertainty.
our 2257
{2257} Prime
ἡμῶν
hemon
{hay-mone'}
Genitive plural of G1473; of (or from) us.
heart 2588
{2588} Prime
καρδία
kardia
{kar-dee'-ah}
Prolonged from a primary κάρ [[kar]] (Latin cor, 'heart'); the heart, that is, (figuratively) the thoughts or feelings (mind); also (by analogy) the middle.
condemn x2607
(2607) Complement
καταγινώσκω
kataginosko
{kat-ag-in-o'-sko}
From G2596 and G1097; to note against, that is, find fault with.
us, 3754
{3754} Prime
ὅτι
hoti
{hot'-ee}
Neuter of G3748 as conjugation; demonstrative that (sometimes redundant); causatively because.
y2607
[2607] Standard
καταγινώσκω
kataginosko
{kat-ag-in-o'-sko}
From G2596 and G1097; to note against, that is, find fault with.
z5725
<5725> Grammar
Tense - Present (See G5774)
Voice - Active (See G5784)
Mood - Subjunctive (See G5792)
Count - 352
God 2316
{2316} Prime
θεός
theos
{theh'-os}
Of uncertain affinity; a deity, especially (with G3588) the supreme Divinity; figuratively a magistrate; by Hebraism very.
is 2076
{2076} Prime
ἐστί
esti
{es-tee'}
Third person singular present indicative of G1510; he (she or it) is; also (with neuter plural) they are.
z5748
<5748> Grammar
Tense - Present (See G5774)
Voice - No Voice Stated (See G5799)
Mood - Indicative (See G5791)
Count - 1612
greater 3187
{3187} Prime
μείζων
meizon
{mide'-zone}
Irregular comparative of G3173; larger (literally or figuratively, specifically in age).
than our 2257
{2257} Prime
ἡμῶν
hemon
{hay-mone'}
Genitive plural of G1473; of (or from) us.
heart, 2588
{2588} Prime
καρδία
kardia
{kar-dee'-ah}
Prolonged from a primary κάρ [[kar]] (Latin cor, 'heart'); the heart, that is, (figuratively) the thoughts or feelings (mind); also (by analogy) the middle.
and 2532
{2532} Prime
καί
kai
{kahee}
Apparently a primary particle, having a copulative and sometimes also a cumulative force; and, also, even, so, then, too, etc.; often used in connection (or composition) with other particles or small words.
knoweth 1097
{1097} Prime
γινώσκω
ginosko
{ghin-oce'-ko}
A prolonged form of a primary verb; to 'know' (absolutely), in a great variety of applications and with many implications (as shown at left, with others not thus clearly expressed).
z5719
<5719> Grammar
Tense - Present (See G5774)
Voice - Active (See G5784)
Mood - Indicative (See G5791)
Count - 3019
all things. 3956
{3956} Prime
πᾶς
pas
{pas}
Including all the forms of declension; apparently a primary word; all, any, every, the whole.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary

1 John 3:20

_ _ Luther and Bengel take this verse as consoling the believer whom his heart condemns; and who, therefore, like Peter, appeals from conscience to Him who is greater than conscience. “Lord, Thou knowest all things: thou knowest that I love Thee.” Peter’s conscience, though condemning him of his sin in denying the Lord, assured him of his love; but fearing the possibility, owing to his past fall, of deceiving himself, he appeals to the all-knowing God: so Paul, 1 Corinthians 4:3, 1 Corinthians 4:4. So if we be believers, even if our heart condemns us of sin in general, yet having the one sign of sonship, love, we may still assure our hearts (some oldest manuscripts read heart, 1 John 3:19, as well as 1 John 3:20), as knowing that God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. But thus the same Greek is translated “because” in the beginning, and “(we know) that” in the middle of the verse, and if the verse were consolatory, it probably would have been, “Because EVEN if our heart condemn us,” etc. Therefore translate, “Because (rendering the reason why it has been stated in 1 John 3:19 to be so important to ‘assure our hearts before Him’) if our heart condemn (Greek,know [aught] against us’; answering by contrast to ‘we shall know that we are of the truth’) us (it is) because God is greater than our heart and knoweth all things.” If our heart judges us unfavorably, we may be sure that He, knowing more than our heart knows, judges us more unfavorably still [Alford]. A similar ellipsis (“it is”) occurs in 1 Corinthians 14:27; 2 Corinthians 1:6; 2 Corinthians 8:23. The condemning testimony of our conscience is not alone, but is the echo of the voice of Him who is greater and knoweth all things. Our hypocrisy in loving by word and tongue, not in deed and truth, does not escape even our conscience, though weak and knowing but little, how much less God who knows all things! Still the consolatory view may be the right one. For the Greek for “we shall assure our hearts” (see on 1 John 3:19), is gain over, persuade so as to be stilled, implying that there was a previous state of self-condemnation by the heart (1 John 3:20), which, however, is got over by the consolatory thought, “God is greater than my heart” which condemns me, and “knows all things” (Greekginoskei,” “knows,” not “kataginoskei,” “condemns”), and therefore knows my love and desire to serve Him, and knows my frame so as to pity my weakness of faith. This gaining over the heart to peace is not so advanced a stage as the having CONFIDENCE towards God which flows from a heart condemning us not. The first “because” thus applies to the two alternate cases, 1 John 3:20, 1 John 3:21 (giving the ground of saying, that having love we shall gain over, or assure our minds before Him, 1 John 3:19); the second “because” applies to the first alternate alone, namely, “if our heart condemn us.” When he reaches the second alternate, 1 John 3:21, he states it independently of the former “because” which had connected it with 1 John 3:19, inasmuch as CONFIDENCE toward God is a farther stage than persuading our hearts, though always preceded by it.

Matthew Henry's Commentary

1 John 3:20-22

_ _ The apostle, having intimated that there may be, even among us, such a privilege as an assurance or sound persuasion of heart towards God, proceeds here,

_ _ I. To establish the court of conscience, and to assert the authority of it: For, if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things, 1 John 3:20. Our heart here is our self-reflecting judicial power, that noble excellent ability whereby we can take cognizance of ourselves, of our spirits, our dispositions, and actions, and accordingly pass a judgment upon our state towards God; and so it is the same with conscience, or the power of moral self-consciousness. This power can act as witness, judge, and executioner of judgment; it either accuses or excuses, condemns or justifies; it is set and placed in this office by God himself: the spirit of man, thus capacitated and empowered, is the candle of the Lord, a luminary lighted and set up by the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly, taking into scrutiny and viewing the penetralia — the private recesses and secret transactions of the inner man, Proverbs 20:27. Conscience is God's vicegerent, calls the court in his name, and acts for him. The answer of a good conscience towards God, 1 Peter 3:21. God is chief Judge of the court: If our heart condemn us God is greater than our heart, superior to our heart and conscience in power and judgment; hence the act and judgment of the court are the act and judgment of God; as, 1. If conscience condemn us, God does so too: For, if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things, 1 John 3:20. God is a greater witness than our conscience, and knoweth more against us than it does: he knoweth all things; he is a greater Judge than conscience; for, as he is supreme, so his judgment shall stand, and shall be fully and finally executed. This seems to be the design of another apostle when he says, For I know nothing by myself, that is, in the case wherein I am censured by some. “I am not conscious of any guile, or allowed unfaithfulness, in my stewardship and ministry. Yet I am hereby justified; it is not by my own conscience that I must ultimately stand or fall; the justification or justifying sentence of my conscience, or self-consciousness, will not determine the controversy between you and me; as you do not appeal to its sentence, so neither will you be determined by its decision; but he that judgeth me (supremely and finally judgeth me), and by whose judgment you and I must be determined, is the Lord,1 Corinthians 4:4. Or, 2. If conscience acquit us, God does so too: Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God (1 John 3:21), then have we assurance that he accepts us now, and will acquit us in the great day of account. But, possibly, some presumptuous soul may here say, “I am glad of this; my heart does not condemn me, and therefore I may conclude God does not.” As, on the contrary, upon the foregoing verse, some pious trembling soul will be ready to cry out, “God forbid! My heart or conscience condemns me, and must I then infallibly expect the condemnation of God?” But let such know that the errors of the witness are not here reckoned as the acts of the court; ignorance, error, prejudice, partiality, and presumption, may be said to be faults of the officers of the court, or of the attendants of the judge (as the mind, the will, appetite, passion, sensual disposition, or disordered brain), or of the jury, who give a false verdict, not of the judge itself; consciencesuneidsis, is properly self-consciousness. Acts of ignorance and error are not acts of self-consciousness, but of some mistaken power; and the court of conscience is here described in its process, according to the original constitution of it by God himself, according to which process what is bound in conscience is bound in heaven; let conscience therefore be heard, be well-informed, and diligently attended to.

_ _ II. To indicate the privilege of those who have a good conscience towards God. They have interest in heaven and in the court above; their suits are heard there: And whatsoever we ask we receive of him, 1 John 3:22. It is supposed that the petitioners do not desire, or do not intend to desire, any thing that is contrary to the honour and glory of the court or to their own intended spiritual good, and then they may depend upon receiving the good things they ask for; and this supposition may well be made concerning the petitioners, or they may well be supposed to receive the good things they ask for, considering their qualification and practice: Because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight, 1 John 3:22. Obedient souls are prepared for blessings, and they have promise of audience; those who commit things displeasing to God cannot expect that he should please them in hearing and answering their prayers, Psalms 66:18; Proverbs 28:9.

John Wesley's Explanatory Notes

1 John 3:20

For if we have not this testimony, if in anything our heart, our own conscience, condemn us, much more does God, who is greater than our heart — An infinitely holier and a more impartial Judge. And knoweth all things — So that there is no hope of hiding it from him.

Geneva Bible Translation Notes

1 John 3:20

For (4) if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.

(r) If an evil conscience convicts us, much more ought the judgment of God condemn us, who knows our hearts better than we ourselves do.

Cross-Reference Topical ResearchStrong's Concordance
if:

Job 27:6 My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go: my heart shall not reproach [me] so long as I live.
John 8:9 And they which heard [it], being convicted by [their own] conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, [even] unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
Acts 5:33 When they heard [that], they were cut [to the heart], and took counsel to slay them.
Romans 2:14-15 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: ... Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and [their] thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)
1 Corinthians 4:4 For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.
1 Corinthians 14:24-25 But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or [one] unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: ... And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on [his] face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.
Titus 3:11 Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.

God:

1 John 4:4 Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.
Job 33:12 Behold, [in] this thou art not just: I will answer thee, that God is greater than man.
John 10:29-30 My Father, which gave [them] me, is greater than all; and no [man] is able to pluck [them] out of my Father's hand. ... I and [my] Father are one.
Hebrews 6:13 For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself,

and:

Psalms 44:20-21 If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a strange god; ... Shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart.
Psalms 90:8 Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret [sins] in the light of thy countenance.
Psalms 139:1-4 [[To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.]] O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known [me]. ... For [there is] not a word in my tongue, [but], lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether.
Jeremiah 17:10 I the LORD search the heart, [I] try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, [and] according to the fruit of his doings.
Jeremiah 23:24 Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD.
John 2:24-25 But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all [men], ... And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.
John 21:17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, [son] of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
Hebrews 4:13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things [are] naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
Revelation 2:23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.
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Chain-Reference Bible Search

Jb 27:6; 33:12. Ps 44:20; 90:8; 139:1. Jr 17:10; 23:24. Jn 2:24; 8:9; 10:29; 21:17. Ac 5:33. Ro 2:14. 1Co 4:4; 14:24. Tit 3:11. He 4:13; 6:13. 1Jn 4:4. Rv 2:23.

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