What does 1 John 3:21 mean?
ESV: Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God;
NIV: Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God
NASB: Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God;
CSB: Dear friends, if our hearts don't condemn us, we have confidence before God
NLT: Dear friends, if we don’t feel guilty, we can come to God with bold confidence.
KJV: Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.
NKJV: Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God.
Verse Commentary:
When we have a clear conscience, we can have great confidence before God. Our confidence in His love is unconditional, and for all people (John 3:16), regardless of what we do. But the confidence we have in God's approval is conditional. We must be in fellowship with God—we must "abide in" Him—before we can have confidence in that aspect of our relationship with Him. God will only "approve" those things which are according to His will (Romans 2:7–11). Based on the information John has given so far in this letter, we can gauge whether or not we are living according to the will of God. And, when we realize we've fallen short, we can rest in God's knowledge and forgiveness (1 John 2:1).

John emphasizes confidence in other places in this letter. In verse 28, he wants believers to seek reasons for confidence, instead of shame. In 1 John 4:17, John notes that the work of God's love in us gives us confidence under His judgment. Likewise, we can have confidence that God hears our prayers (1 John 5:14). A close walk with God leads to a humble confidence, which leads to bold prayer and looking forward to the return of Christ.
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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