Most of us know the seven “I am” passages of John (the Bread of life; the Light of the world; the Door; the Good Shepherd; the Vine; the Resurrection and the Life; the Way, the Truth, and the Life), and even that there are ten if you include “I am,” “I am he,” and “I am in the Father.” But do you know the “hereby” passages of John, their significance, or how many there are? We should. For they are as profound as the “I am” texts, and the Spirit similarly calls attention to them. One way is this: “Hereby” is used only nine times in the New Testament; by no coincidence, eight of them occur in one book, the first epistle of John. Hereby, the Spirit calls us to take notice.
Although uses of “hereby” are rare, it translates a Greek phrase, en toutoo, that occurs some 30 times (half in I John). Literally, en toutoo means “in this.” So we read: in this we groan (II Cor. 5:2). It is also translated variously: “by this”—“by this shall all men know that ye are my disciples” (John 13:35); “herein”—“herein is my Father glorified” (John 15:8); “therein”—“I therein do rejoice” (Phi. 1:18); and, as mentioned, “hereby”—“For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified” (I Cor. 4:4, the one time outside I John en toutoo is translated “hereby”).
The fact “hereby” is used for en toutoo almost exclusively in I John indicates the translators saw a pattern whereby the Spirit not only caught their attention but pointed to a unified thought. Good thing. For en toutoo can have vastly different meanings. Generally, the phrase occurs before a verb and “this” refers to some clause that presents the sphere “in” which the verbal action occurs; but, depending on various factors, this sphere could be almost anything. For example, the meaning of Philippians 1:18 is “in this (circumstance) I rejoice: whenever Christ is preached”; Luke 10:20 means “In this (fact) rejoice: that your names are written in heaven.”
With few exceptions, the pattern in I John briefly is this: 1) “In this” begins the sentence; 2) “In this” refers to a clause that follows, not one that precedes; 3) “In this” is used with a verb that refers to knowledge; 4) the nature of this knowledge is spiritual and experiential, and consists of intimate, mutual fellowship of love—either God living in us in love, or we living in Him (and each other) in love; 5) each “in this” construction presents a sphere of manner or way in which that fellowship is known; or fact, instance or proof of that fellowship; and together they are intended by the Spirit further to explain each other regarding the covenant relationship.
There are eight “hereby” passages in I John; twelve, with all similar uses of en toutoo. They are as follows (for continuity and clarity, I translated en toutoo literally as “in this,” put the KJV in parenthesis and italicized the main verb; for brevity I edited some clauses):
In this (hereby) we know that we know Him: if we keep His commandments (2:3).
In this (hereby) we know that we are in Him: if we keep His commandments (2:5).
In this (hereby) are manifest the children of God and the children of the devil: whosoever does not righteousness or loves not his brother is not of God (3:10).
In this (hereby) we perceive the love of God: because He laid down His life for us and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren (3:16).
In this (hereby) we know that we are of the truth and shall assure our hearts before Him: when we love not in word or tongue, but in deed and in truth (3:19).
In this (hereby) we know that He abides in us: by the Spirit which He has given us (3:24).2
In this (hereby) ye know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God (4:2).
In this was manifested the love of God toward us: because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him (4:9).
In this (herein) is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (4:10).
In this (hereby) we know that we dwell in Him and He dwells in us: because He has given us of His Spirit (4:13).
In this (herein) our love is made perfect that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as He is, so are we in this world (4:17).
In this (by this) we know that we love the children of God: when we love God and keep His commandments (5:2).
1 This is one of two instances where “in this” refers back to an antecedent; in this case, according to H. Hoeksema, it refers back to verse 3. The other instance is 3:19 where the “in this” refers back to verse 18.
2 The word “by,” as in “by the Spirit” gives this proof causal-instrumental force: The fact God has given us His Spirit is proof that He abides in us; also by the Spirit God abides in us and causes us to know this.
2 This proof also has causal-instrumental force due to the word “because.” The fact God sent His only begotten Son into the world is proof the love of God was manifested toward us, and it is also the reason, cause, and means by which that love of God was manifested toward us. See also 3:16 and 4:13.