What does 1 John 3:20 mean?
ESV: for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.
NIV: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
NASB: that if our heart condemns us, that God is greater than our heart, and He knows all things.
CSB: whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows all things.
NLT: Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything.
KJV: For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.
NKJV: For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.
Verse Commentary:
This verse provides the second half of John's statement, which began in verse 19. Here, the focus is on conviction of sin. The believer will be convicted when he or she does something wrong. Why? God lives in us through the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is "greater than our heart" and "knows everything." When we sin, the Spirit convicts us of the wrong and causes us to desire to change to live for God.

Further, this verse reminds us that God knows our motives, since He "knows everything." There is no hiding our feelings or sins from Him. Rather than this being a danger, the believer can take comfort that God lovingly understands our heart, good and bad. Yet, we also experience an uncomfortable self-judgment when we sin. In fact, true salvation results in a person being more sensitive to sin than they were before, since they experience conviction through the Holy Spirit.
Verse Context:
First John 3:19–24 concludes chapter three by connecting our confidence in prayer with our obedience to God. While God's love is unconditional, and His salvation is secure, His approval is based on whether or not we obey Him. Feelings of conviction are not only a sign that we are truly His children, they give us opportunity to correct our behavior. As mentioned earlier in the chapter, love is not only a primary command, it is a key sign of Christian belief.
Chapter Summary:
The third chapter of 1 John focuses mostly on the concept of love. Because of His love, God not only calls us His children, He actually makes us His children. John also explains how sin, including hate, is never the result of a proper relationship with God. Christians, in contrast to the world, are supposed to do more than simply ''feel'' love; we are to act on it, as well
Chapter Context:
Chapters 1 and 2 introduced the stark differences between those who truly have fellowship with Christ, as opposed to those who are ''in darkness.'' Chapter 3 continues this discussion, with a particular emphasis on love. This serves as a bridge, between John's descriptions of lives lived abiding either in darkness or light, to an explanation of how God's faithfulness gives us confidence as Christian believers.
Book Summary:
First John seems to assume that the reader is familiar with the gospel. Rather than re-state these facts, John is concerned with building confidence in Christian believers. At the same time, his words encourage believers to examine their own lives for signs of their relationship with Christ. This letter also challenges false teachers and their incorrect claims about Jesus. Many themes are shared with the Gospel of John.
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