Some hesitate to even call the book an epistle, for it is more of a general letter; that is, there is no destination given and no particular people are addressed. It may be more like a treatise than an epistle; there is no salutation (personal greeting) and no farewell. The purpose of the epistle was to refute the false teachings of the Gnostics and to comfort and encourage those in danger of being deluded by their teachings. Gnosticism, a hodge-podge containing elements of Greek philosophy, Judaism and the Mystery Religions, was rampant during the latter part of the first century. It taught salvation through knowledge (gnosis) rather than through faith.
Our assurance of everlasting life is built largely upon two types of evidence. The first is doctrinal in nature, and the second involves our living. John writes to those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God. This same Jesus with whom John had walked and talked was the eternal Son of God. To identify clearly the object of our faith is essential to our assurance. He writes in I John 4:15, "Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God." Fellowship with God is one evidence of salvation. Those who have fellowship with God will bear fruit for God. Fruit bearing is a second evidence of salvation.
In this epistle the writer characterizes God in the wonder of His essential being as LIFE, LIGHT, and LOVE. The very nature of God was revealed in His Son, Jesus Christ, and is imparted to the born-again believer when he is saved. In the act of being born again or being born of God, the believer has imparted to him the possibility of fellowship with God and fruitfulness for God. If God is LIFE, then those who are born of God will possess the divine and eternal life. If God is LIGHT, the child of God will manifest a practical righteousness thus walking in the light. If God is LOVE then the life of the Christian will be dominated by the characteristic of godly love.
1. John's Witness to the Christ - 1
The writer begins his epistle much as he did his gospel. "In the beginning was the Word," (John 1:1). "(The Word of life) was from the beginning," (I John 1:1). This eternal Word is also an historical character, but also he had no beginning or when the beginning (arches) was He was there. Furthermore, John claims to have had a personal encounter with Christ Who was God manifest in the flesh. John is saying here, (and the other apostles testified to the same experiences), we HAVE HEARD (akekoamen) or perceived audibly the words of Jesus with human ears; we HAVE SEEN (herakamen), perceived with the eye or gazed intently upon Him with human eyes. He uses the perfect tense of completeness here indicating that the memories of these events are vividly etched in his mind.
Their hands TOUCHED (etheasametha) or handled the hands that were nailed to the cross. John used the aorist tense here denoting one particular event probably referred to in Luke 24:39 and John 20:27. After His resurrection, Jesus urged the apostles to, "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have." Three of the five human senses were experienced by the writer and his friends during Jesus' personal ministry. Jesus was the Incarnate Word; He came to reveal life, and He is the Word of Life (logou zoes).
Only in Christ can God truly be known. "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him" (John 1:18). Although we do not have the privilege of knowing Jesus as His disciples did; that is, in the flesh, we can know God now by receiving Him in the Son. The writer of Hebrews affirmed that, "God, who at sundry times and in diverse manners spoke in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son" (Hebrews 1:1, 2).
2. Jesus Witness of the Father - 2
John continues (verse 2) by writing, although it is a parenthesis, "(For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us)." To bear witness for God, to claim that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, in the first century, meant to literally lay down one's life as a martyr. This the apostles were willing to do in order to propagate the faith. These men had come into possession of this priceless knowledge of God in Christ, and they were eager to transmit this knowledge to others that they, too, might dwell in its blessedness.
This eternal Word (logos) is life; furthermore. He was with the Father from before the beginning. He came manifesting (ephanerothe) or declaring the characteristics of the Father and to give ETERNAL LIFE to all who would believe in Him. This life was made available for human eyes to see and human ears to hear. This eternal Life became the historical and human Jesus. "Great is the mystery of godliness; God was manifest in the flesh" (I Timothy 3:16). Hobbs quotes R. G. Lee as having said of Christ, "As in eternity he leaned upon the bosom of his Father without a mother, so in time he leaned upon the bosom of his mother without a father" (p. 21). Furthermore, in this verse we have it all: (1) divine revelation "was manifested"; (2) human verification "have seen" ;(3) witness to the fact "bear witness"; (4) and the gospel message "shew unto you" (Ibid. p. 25).
3. Fellowship with God Possible - 3
The message of the apostle concerning the manifestation of God in Christ brought the possibility of fellowship with God into the reach of all who would receive it. Verse 3 reads, "That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son, Jesus Christ." The twentieth century Christian has not been given the privilege to hear, to look upon, and to handle the Word of life, but this does not deprive us of the spiritual fellowship with the Father and the Son. We have the message of the apostles, and if we accept it by faith, we can enjoy this blessed fellowship. The secret of true fellowship with God is to accept Christ as the Word, revealed by the Spirit, appropriated by faith and appreciated in worship.
This word "fellowship" (koinonian) is an interesting word. It really means "having all things common" or "sharing." All Christians can have blessed fellowship, for we have the same God; Christian fellowship is impossible apart from the saving experience with God in Christ. "Careful explanation of his meaning in this word 'fellowship' (partnership), involving fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ and only possible in Christ" Robertson, VI, p. 206). Then John writes "ye also may have fellowship with us;" we are brothers and sisters in Christ. So it also is a relationship.
4. The Purpose of the Epistle - 4
"And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full." Fellowship with God brings fullness of joy (pepleromene chara) or complete gladness. Complete joy comes only to those who know God as their heavenly Father and Christ as a personal Savior. In a world of so many uncertainties and where there are so many circumstances to bring heartache and sadness; it brings full joy to the Christian to know that God understands and that Jesus cares.
Hobbs writes that the Greek manuscripts vary between "your" and "our". The true reading is difficult to determine. If we follow the KJV, the sense is that the readers' joy may be full. If the latter (RSV), it means John's joy may be full as he recounts the story of the Incarnation and also sees his readers standing firm in the faith. Both ideas make sense" (p. 27).
Thus John's introduction closes with verse 4, but the reader is introduced to the discussion that encourages the readers to beware of the Gnostics. They are still with us today. Anyone who denies the divinity of the Christ or His humanity is neo-Gnostic. NEO means "new" but truly there is nothing new about it. The false teachers merely parrot the heresy of the ancient teachers of John's day.
1. God Is Light - 5
"This, then, is the message (aggelia) or announcement which we have heard of him, and declare (anaggellomen) or relate unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all" (verse 5). The revelation of God in and through Jesus shows God's absolute purity; it shows His perfect righteousness and impeccable holiness. Not only does John speak of God's holiness in a positive way, but he further states, "in him is no darkness at all," which is the negative declaration of His absolute purity. Yeager translates a portion of this verse, "in Him there is not one bit of darkness." God is in no sense darkness (Vol. XVII, p. 302 , 303). In order to have communion with God an individual must walk in the light.
2. Believers Must Walk in The Light - 6, 7
"If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth; but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin." Two spheres of walking are revealed here. The one of darkness is contrasted with the sphere of light. One who would walk in darkness does so in ignorance of God and is in a state of alienation from God. It is a condition of moral and spiritual blindness without God. Paul says of the saved (Ephesians 5:8), "For ye were once darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord; walk as children of light." The individual who says that he has fellowship with God and walks in the darkness of this world lies and does not practice the truth.
But on the other hand, the individual who walks in the light has sweet communion with God. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossian saints (1:12, 13), "Giving thanks unto the Father, who hath made us fit to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; who delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son." Peter states (I Peter 2:9), "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a people of his own, that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."
God has not only brought us into the place where we can enjoy fellowship with Himself, but He has, in His infinite grace and mercy, made ample provisions to maintain that fellowship. We have already established the fact that there is no fellowship between darkness and light. "What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial?" (II Corinthians 6:14, 15).
The believer who is brought to walk in the light with God finds his fellowship there with fellow believers who share that sphere of light with him. All believers are sustained in perfect acceptance before God by the cleansing efficacy of the blood of Jesus Christ. It is not the continued or repeated application of the blood which is involved here, but this - that all who have experienced the cleansing power of the blood of the Redeemer stand in unquestionable acceptance before God. This is the initial provision God has made that fellowship might be maintained in the light.
The cleansing efficacy of the blood of Christ is effective for him who does not live or continue in spiritual darkness. Divine cleansing is not dependent on the Christian's personal conduct. Nor does fellowship depend upon sinlessness, but upon our faith in the light of God. The man who has been born again has real heart fellowship with God, although in his life at times he may not have full fellowship. For this reason he needs cleansing from time to time. But whether the cleansing is originally of the heart, or any time afterwards of the life, it is done by the blood of Christ. We stand perfect in Christ before God. "Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him" (Romans 5:9).
3. Sins Can and Will Be Forgiven - 8 - 10
"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (verse 8). Sin is ever present even with the child of God. Anyone who claims that he has no sin lies before God and man just like the man who says that he has fellowship with God and is wholly wrapped up with the world. There must be complete acknowledgment of sin in order to be forgiven of sin. The Scripture teaches the subjugation of sin, but not its eradication in this life. "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing. ..For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye, through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live" (Romans 7:18; 8:13). If a man were wholly free from sin, his physical body would never die. The reason Christ, the perfect Body, died was not because of sin IN HIM, but the sins of the world were laid UPON HIM.
"If we confess (homologomen) or acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us (aphe) or put away our sins, and to cleanse (katharise) or purge us from all unrighteousness" (verse 9). To continue in unconfessed sin breaks fellowship with the Father and inevitably occasions His chastening. "But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world" (I Corinthians 11:32). Unforgiven sin breaks our fellowship with the Father, but it does not break our relationship. We are still God's children. Our confession is to be made to God through Christ, not to an earthly intercessor.
If we have wronged any man, however, our Christian responsibility demands that we acknowledge the same to him. James wrote, "Confess your faults one to another" (5:16). But when it comes to the salvation of our soul and the forgiveness of sins committed against God (and all sins are committed against God), we must look to God, going to Him through Jesus Christ, who is our High Priest. This means that every believer is an individual priest, having access to the throne room of God. Baptists have believed this cardinal doctrine for centuries back to the time of Christ's day here on the earth. And for this belief Baptists were put to death by many of the enemy who lived during the first Christian centuries.
The admonition to confess our sins is proof that God knows that His people will have sins to confess. "If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (I John 2:1). we receive forgiveness of sins in the judicial sense upon acceptance of Christ as Savior; here the Word of God speaks of parental forgiveness - the forgiveness of a child in the family of God when he confesses his sin. Judicial forgiveness insures deliverance from the penalty of sin; parental forgiveness restores the broken link of fellowship with the Father. Any child of God who fails to confess known sins will be chastised of God. Anyone who denies that he has not sinned makes God a liar, and reveals the complete absence of faith in God's Word.
"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:28). No man ever reaches sinless perfection in this life. The new life which the believer possesses, (the Christ-like life) does not sin, but the carnal man does sin. This is the force in us that we must guard against and pray God to help us to subdue. While sins will remain with the child of God, however, it is no sign that he cannot live an honorable and upright Christian life. Our Lord is faithful to forgive and is able to forgive us on a just basis since His death on the cross provides the legal basis for forgiveness. We are not asking God to do something illegal, when we confess our sins and ask His forgiveness. We are reaping the benefits that flow from the atonement at Calvary. (Yeager, p. 308).
By virtue of God's holiness, His attitude toward sin can only be one of absolute abhorrence. Habakkuk (1:13) characterized God, "Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity." Therefore God must set before His people a perfect standard for their life and walk. So while holding before them a perfect standard, He reveals the provision which has been made for sinning saints. Note that the Advocate is with the Father; thus, it is for saints not sinners (I John 2:1).
For the sinner Christ is a Savior; for the saint He is our Advocate. This word "advocate" carries with it the meaning that Jesus is our "legal Assistant;" He is the "Counsel for our defense." So, provision is made here for the family of God, not for the world. Our Advocate is "Jesus Christ, the righteous." His perfect righteousness is declared in contrast to the failure and sin of His people. On the basis of HIS SACRIFICE, through which the sin question has been settled to God's eternal satisfaction, we are reconciled. In the perfection of His own unsullied righteousness, our Advocate sustains His people in full acceptance before God even in times of sin. What a comfort this is in times of failure when Satan would tempt with doubts as to our acceptance before God!
1. Jesus Is Our Advocate - 1, 2
"My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate (parakleton) or one called along side for help with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the propitiation (hilasmos) or expiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." Throughout chapter 1 John has referred to his readers indirectly, now he addresses them as "my little children." This is not a term denoting immaturity but rather of endearment. As John the aged teacher, he addresses us as pupils. "These things" probably refer to the entire letter.
For the saint, those of us who are saved, Christ Jesus is our Advocate and propitiation for our sins, and He desires to be the world's advocate and sacrifice for sins. Christ has made a reconciliation between the repentant sinner and a holy God. God's wrath is appeased and sins are expiated (or atoned for) when a sinner trusts Christ as Savior. What a joy it is and what satisfaction a child of God experiences when he knows that God's holiness has been satisfied, and there is no longer the barrier of sin between the creature and the Creator. John's advocate is Paul's Mediator (I Timothy 2:5), and Job's Daysman (Job 9:32). Jesus Christ, the righteous One is our Advocate; He is our defense Attorney. As the Comforter (Advocate) on earth is the Holy Spirit (John 14 - 16); Jesus is our Advocate in heaven (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7).
He is also the propitiation (expiation - RSV). Jesus propitiates or expiates for the sins of saints throughout the whole world. This propitiation is for our sins as often as we will confess them, and not for ours only, but for any number who will avail themselves of it in the way pointed out. This ought to give confidence to any sinner coming for salvation, and encourage any saint in his desires and aims to be holy. In the atonement there is no lack. If there is any lack, it is in us, in not confessing our sins, and so receiving the benefit of the blood of Christ. Instead of making false claims about sinlessness, a Christian should be grateful to know that, if he does commit sin, his case is not hopeless.
Since our sins are forgiven we can have sweet fellowship with this God of holiness and life and light. It pleases God to have fellowship with His saved creation. The reason for the creation of man is implied in Genesis 3:8, where God desired fellowship with Adam and Eve, but sin entered in to prevent this longed-for association. This sweet fellowship with the heavenly Father is not only a priceless privilege; it is also most productive of blessing in the lives of God's children. As the child of God walks with God this blessed fellowship produces precious fruit - fruit that is evident to all those who behold.
Fellowship with a righteous God is possible because the sin problem has been settled. "Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ...But God commendeth his love toward us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him" (Romans 5:1, 8, 9). We are justified by Christ's blood now, we shall be saved from wrath day by day, moment by moment, until we reach Paradise - but notice that we are saved from wrath through JESUS. "We were reconciled to God by Christ's death, we shall be saved by His life. Because He lives, we live - Christ is our life - and when He who is our life shall appear, we shall also appear with Him in glory. He died to redeem us, and as our Advocate He lives to deliver us from sin day by day" (Green, p. 48).
2. To Know God Aright Is To Obey Him - 3, 4
One of the precious fruits of this fellowship with God concerns our obedience toward God. Our first responsibility is toward Him. In verse three, John writes, "and by this we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments." The way that the world can know that a person is saved is for that person to keep the commandments found in the Word of God. For an individual to claim to know Christ and to live in continual disobedience and rebellion to His known commands is to manifest untruthfulness and unreality. John uses the word "know" (ginosko) or to perceive twenty-six times in this epistle. How can one know that he has been saved? He can know it if he has a desire to keep the commandments of Jesus. When one is saved, God plants a desire in his heart to serve and worship Him. We have a desire to keep God's commandments. "The Gnostics boasted of their superior knowledge of Christ, and John here challenges their boast by an appeal to experimental knowledge of Christ which is shown by keeping his commandments..." (Robertson, VI, p. 210).
Jesus said, "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me" (John 14:21). To keep the Lord's commandments involves three things: (1) to regard them with watchful interest and approval, (2) to guard and preserve them as something precious, and (3) to do them, to obey them.
"He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (verse 4). Literally, this verse of Scripture says, "The one who keeps on saying, "I have come to know him, and keeps on not keeping his commandments is a liar." The Gnostics of John's day boasted of their superior knowledge of Christ, and John here challenges their boast by an appeal to experimental knowledge of Christ which is shown by keeping his commandments. "The keeping of God's commandments is not just an outward following of divine rules to avoid the wrath of outraged justice, like obeying traffic laws to avoid getting a traffic ticket and being cited to traffic court; rather, it is a pleasure because of inward agreement and a recognition of the law as a sacred trust" (Gingrich, p. 30).
3. Love Is Perfected Through Obedience - 5, 6
"But whosoever keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected; by this know we that we are in him" (verse 5). The Bible reveals certain basic principles which, when followed, keep us in the path of obedience and thus in fellowship with the Father. When the love of God is perfected (teteleiotai) or completed in the believer's heart, he will want to obey all these principles, and this will bring the assurance that we are in Christ.
Is there a difference in keeping God's commandments and keeping His word? "This has been illustrated thus: imagine a certain home where there are two children. The one is very punctual in doing the things that his parents demand of him (commandment keeping). The other not only does that which his parents command, but also is careful to do other things which are not specifically commanded but which are included in the desire and wish of his father and mother (word keeping). When one's life is filled with keeping the Word of God, he has progressed from what he does to what he has - the love of God which has been perfected in him" (Gingrich, p.32).
"He that saith he abideth (menein) or continues in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked" (verse 6). Furthermore, another evidence of fellowship with Christ, the individual will be obedient to the example or pattern of Christ. The Christian will keep on walking (peripatesen from peri + pateo), a continuous performance, not a spasmodic spurt. The Christian will walk as Christ walked. He who claims to be in union with Christ ought to walk in the path of loving obedience as that One walked therein.
In Jesus we have a perfect Example of fellowship with God the Father. He was in the Father, and the Father was in Him. The will of the Father and Son are one. His total purpose of being was to do the will of the Father and to finish His work. If we abide in God as did Jesus, we "ought" to order our lives in keeping with Jesus' life. The word "ought" expresses a moral obligation. It has been translated "bound," "indebted," and "require."
Yeager writes, "Truly to abide in Christ is to be totally dominated by His resurrection life. This resurrection victory constantly enjoyed, results in a totally victorious life with a victorious prayer life (John 15:7)" (Vol. XVII, p. 318). One of the favorite words of I John is abide or continue; he uses the word eleven times in I John.
1. Fellowship With God Promotes Love - 7, 8
The commandment to "love one another" which Jesus gave to His disciples was not novel, but new in kind and quality. "Kainos" signifies what is fresh, in contrast to that which is familiar and well-known. "The Mosaic law taught love for one's neighbor, but Christ taught love even of enemies" (Robertson, VI, p. 211). The commandment was old in teaching but new in practice. To walk as Christ walked is to put into practice the old commandment and so make it new, as love is as old as man and fresh in every new experience.
This commandment can be new with the perennial freshness and abiding vitality of eternal truth. It has been true in Christ; it was to be true in Christians. Although this principle of love is a blessing it is also a duty founded on the exclusive and peculiar relationship of Christians to each other as spiritual kinsmen of Christ, children of the new birth, and members of God's elect family. Our Lord gave the love commandment a "new" and fresh meaning by making His own love its model (John 13:34, 35).
2. Light vs. Darkness; Love vs. Hate - 9 - 11
In the old realm of sin and darkness there was hatred, blindness and ignorance of the very nature of God. In the new sphere of light there was to be love, and nothing to cause a brother to stumble. "He that saith he is in the light and hateth (mison) or despises his brother, is in darkness even until now" (verse 9). The brother here is one's Christian brother, a kinsman in Christ, a fellow partaker of the light nature. Walking in the light of God's love excludes all hatred toward the brethren, for such hatred is a form of darkness. Claiming to be in the light is nullified by hating a brother. The person who hates his brother denies the very love-nature of God.
"He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is no occasion of stumbling (skandolon) or offence in him" (verse 10). The person who loves his brother has not only entered the region of light, but has made it his home; "He ABIDETH in the light." The individual who walks in the light will not be a stumbling block or a trap either in the way of others or in one's own way. There is nothing in him to cause himself or another to fall. Now he may have faults, but they will be so covered by the presence of superabounding love, as to do little harm, and it will make easy the overcoming of offending things.
Hatred is the very kingdom of darkness. Man lives in the dark (9); he walks in the dark (11); he gropes in the darkness (11). "Hatred robs a person of light like the mole, like the poor, little pit ponies used in the coal mines, like fish in a cave; dwellers in darkness eventually lose the ability to appreciate light. Hatred robs a person of all spiritual insight" (King p. 37). "In the Mammoth Cave of Kentucky the fish in Echo River have eye-sockets, but no eyes" (Robertson, VI, p. 212).
3. Fellowship With God Promotes Growth - 12 - 14
In these verses the writer addresses three distinct groups of believers; little children, young men, and fathers. Doubtless, he uses these terms to distinguish the various growth stages in the Christian's life. It seems possible that the stages of spiritual growth taught by the Gnostics of John's day are being transformed in meaning by assigning to each some distinct view of Christ. The three fundamentals of the Christian faith in conflict with Gnostic speculation are perhaps (1) the forgiveness of sin, (2) the incarnation of the pre-existent Christ, and (3) the victory of the Gospel over the evil one.
"I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven (apheontai) or sent away you for his name's sake...because ye have known the Father" (verse 12, 13c). Even a "babe in Christ" can have the assurance of forgiven sin. If he takes God at His word he can then know that he has been forgiven and stands forgiven in God's presence. These sins are forgiven "through" or "on account of" the name of Jesus. Christ's name means His character, especially as Savior. Because of Who Christ is and because of what He has done, the sins of the believer are forgiven, and he has fellowship with God. Forgiveness is the foundation of the Christian life, so it is associated with "little children." This statement is in agreement with verse 2 where Jesus is referred to as "the propitiation for our sins."
Verses 13a, 14a read, "I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning." The apostle directs his attention to the fathers - those who are ripe in knowledge. Those mature Christians with long and rich experience have come to know God and still know Him. The veteran Christian can better fathom the truth of the pre-existence of Christ Who became incarnate that the world might understand the character of God. The Lord Jesus Christ Who from everlasting was in union with the Father, the mature Christian has come to know, and they were, by Christ, raised to divine fellowship with the Father, and thereby made partakers of eternal life in Him. The Apostle John had already established the fact of Christ's eternal existence in the opening sentence of the epistle (I John 1:1).
Attention is further directed to the "young men." "I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one (poneron) or evil one...because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you" (verses 13b, 14b). Although these are less mature members, these young men are strong in grace, men full of vigor and conflict and victory. These are they that are able to "overcome" (nenikekate) or conquer the wicked one. Of course, the writer here refers to Satan. In the Lord's Prayer recorded in John 17:15, Jesus said, "I pray not that thou shouldest take them (the children of God) out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil (one)."
The victory of the Christian over the evil one is expressed here as permanent. A model "young man" in mental, moral and physical life has become in I John the pattern for progress in the Christian life. It is a pity that many church members are still in the "cradle roll" when they should be well on their way toward graduation from the "high school" of victorious Christian living. The young men were strong because the work of God continued to abide in them. This is what makes them powerful and able to gain the victory over the evil one.
I John teaches us that the world order is still ruled by the Devil, but he is unable to touch those who abide in the fellowship of light and love which was created by the coming of Christ into the world. There is a great deal of effort today to try to "de-demonize" the Word of God; that is, to remove the doctrine of Satan and his forces from the Bible. Satan is real and his influence is exerted, however, throughout the world today. As there is a kingdom of heaven, so there is a kingdom of darkness over which Satan rules. In Matthew 12:27, 28, Jesus speaks of Satan's kingdom, "And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? And if I by Beelzebub cast out demons, by whom do your children cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you." He states furthermore, that Satan has subjects who are angels (Revelation 12:9), "And the great Dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the devil and Satan, who deceiveth the whole world; he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him." Other subjects of Satan are called devils or demons in Matthew 12:24, "This fellow doth not cast out demons, but by Beelzebub, the prince of demons." His subjects are referred to further in Matthew 13:38 as human beings, "The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom, but the tares are the children of the wicked one; the enemy that sowed them is the devil."
The epistle of I John contrasts the power of darkness and the God of Light reminding us of the model prayer in which Jesus prayed, "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (the evil one)." It is a real joy to know that even though the saved are left in the world, we can rely upon the prayer of the Lord Jesus Christ, knowing that He has already prayed that the Evil One will not destroy us, nor will he win the victory over our lives. Praise God for this assurance found in the Word of God !!
We are to love lost people who inhabit the earth, but we are to shun the pagan social order which takes no account of God. In fact, the world is godless and rebels against Jehovah God. "The world here means the organized system of manmade society with emphasis upon its malignant opposition to God. Much of the church's failure in the world is the result of her failure to see that the world is her enemy, whom she cannot love without sacrificing the love of the Father" (Yeager, Vol. XVII, p. 328, 329). The natural creation which God created is beautiful. Were it not for the entrance of sin into the world, it would be even more beautiful.
1. Forbidden Love - 15
"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (verse 15). God warns His children against the worldliness which will tempt them. The world mentioned here in this verse is that social organism that is estranged from God and is hostile toward those who abide in the fellowship of light and love. It is impossible to love the godless world order that is hostile toward God and have love for the Father.
Love for this godless world order and love for the Father exclude one another. The worldliness referred to here originates within. It is in our love and desire, that which contradicts the truth of God. It is whatever destroys fellowship with God and dulls our spiritual senses. It is whatever takes away our appetite for the Word of God. It is whatever hinders our work for God and mars our testimony in the world.
The Christian has a new affinity. He has passed from death unto life. Although he is still in the world; the worldly order should have no great attractions to him. His desires are no longer in the direction of the world for he has an affinity to God. Jesus said in John 17:14 - 16, "I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil (one). They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." The believers are not yet taken out of the world; they are still surrounded with evil and the remains of a lustful, covetous, proud nature are within them.
The Christian ideal of behavior is to be in the world, but not of the world. "For our citizenship is in heaven from which also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Philippians 3:20). The model of Christian living is a heavenly one. It is God's purpose that the will of God in heaven become the will of God on earth. In unforgiven man, worldliness is the governing principle. He loves the objects of nature, or the works of science, or the acquisition of wealth or the displays of fashion, honor from man, pleasures of society or business, or family, or his own thoughts and self, better than he loves God or His will. God strictly condemns and forbids the loving of those things which would rival the love of God - all those immoral tendencies and pursuits which give the world its evil character. Man cannot give his affection to the world as an end in itself, and at the same time love God as God.
2. The Passions of the Worldly Life - 16
"For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life is not of the Father, but is of the world" (verse 16). God's word describes the world and its attractions under three categories. The first of these attractions - "the lust of the flesh" has to do with all longing desires that have their seat in the flesh, lusts (epithumia) or desires that are prompted by the flesh. Those desires of the drunkard, the glutton, the epicurean and the libertine are herein condemned. To "lust" means to have an intense desire usually emanating from the lower nature, human nature corrupted by sin. W. Hersey Davis says that lust is "an illegitimate expression of a legitimate desire" (Hobbs, p. 57).
"Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousy, wrath, factions, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and the like; of which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (Galatians 5:19 - 21). These sins of the flesh are more then sensuality; the term includes all the desires growing out of a self-centered life that are hostile to God. The lusts of the flesh only satisfy the body and not the soul; this was the food good to eat in Eden (Genesis 3:6) and the bread from stones in the wilderness (Matthew 4:4).
"The lust of the eyes," has to do with those desires that originate in the sight. Jesus warns against the lust in a look, "Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matthew 5:28). It is the appeal that comes through our aesthetic senses. It involves more than what we see; it involves what our thoughts desire in what we see. The first woman, Eve, was tempted in this direction when she saw that the tree "was pleasant to the eyes" (Genesis 3:6); it was good to look upon. This temptation is repeated when Christ was tempted of the Devil, who took him up to an exceeding high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them (Matthew 4:8 - 10). Satan appealed to Eve's aesthetic senses, he also appealed to the aesthetic sense of our Savior. It was the temptation to live life for this world only.
"The pride (alazoneia) or arrogance of life" means the vainglory, boasting, and empty talk of man. This sin concerns the highest dimension of human personality. It is the pride which results in boastfulness, swagger, the vanity, ostentation and the self-gratification which is so prominent in some people today. In its highest form it is manifest in conceit of knowledge and intellectual superiority.
Eve was tempted in this direction when she saw the tree was "to be desired to make one wise" (Genesis 3:6). The Devil's temptation of Christ to cast Himself from the pinnacle of the temple was to show presumption rather than faith (Matthew 4:5, 6). Satan would put Christianity in the religious show business; it was his effort to get Jesus to display His indisputable divine powers in order to win the applause of people. Satan wanted Christ to display His independence of God. Satan always tries to pervert the physical appetite, the love of the beautiful and ambition. Billy Sunday describes the braggart, the proud person as being "all front door" when you go in, you are immediately in the backyard! All of these lusts have their origin in the carnal nature, in the plane of this world, and not in the Father. These three "things" can be summed up in sensuality, materialism and arrogant self-sufficiency.
3. The World and These Things Will Pass Away - 17
"And the world passeth away, and the lust of it; but he that doeth the will (or keeps on doing the will) of God abideth forever" (verse 17). "And that world is passing away with all of its allurements, but he who does God's will stands for evermore" (NEB). Selfish desires and their objects will soon cease to hold their present relations, passing on and over into darkness, disappointment and ruin. Even if they did not pass away, our capacity to enjoy them would, nonetheless, certainly come to an end.
God abides forever, but the world alienated from God is passing away and the lust of it. Because God abides forever, the one who loves God and does His will abides forever also. He is the one who has love to the Father in his heart, that love revealing itself in practical obedience to the Father's will. The wrong kind of love leads to a perishing life. The right kind of life leads to a form of living that never ceases. It leads to an investment of strength, time and activity that pays eternal dividends.
"The present world system is scheduled for disintegration (II Peter 3:10 - 12). It's tinsel and glitter, so superficially alluring to the Christian who has not grown in grace enough to evaluate it for what it is really worth - the sex, gluttony, drunkenness, the thrill of prestige - these are not permanent" (Yeager, p 331). It was Augustine who said, "Join thy heart to the eternity of God, and thou shalt be eternal with Him." (see also: II Corinthians 4:18).
1. Antichrists Will Come - 18
"It is the last (eschate) time (hour); and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists, by which we know that it is the last time," John writes in verse 18. There is some question as to what John meant by the last time (hour). Did he mean the end of the Apostolic age was at hand, or that Jerusalem, the center of Christianity, would soon be destroyed? Did he mean that the false philosophies were arising to combat the truth or that the rise of the antichrists was at hand?
When we consider that the history of man is some 6,000 years old, it may be that the first century Christians were living in the last stage of the world's religious history. This being true, we could say that those of us living some 2,000 years later, are certainly living in the last minutes or seconds of the world's religious history. Time is an important topic in biblical teachings. The Old Testament prophets spoke of the last days, and the Day of the Lord in no uncertain terms. The idea of this "last hour" is that it is "a time of crisis or judgment; a time of extremity; a very grievous time." The Christian era is the last era of the Divine program; the next will be the coming of the Lord.
The apostle wrote that during these "last days," the appearance of antichrists would take place. The word "antichrists" is plural, indicating more than one. "Antichrists" are those who are set against Christ. But John also writes of THE "Antichrist" as one person; there are other passages in John's writings where the word is used as a spirit, an influence or a tendency. John's Antichrist can also be identified with Paul's "man of sin; the son of perdition" in II Thessalonians 2:3 where Paul wrote, "Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come, except there come the falling away first, and that MAN OF SIN be revealed, the SON OF PERDITION. "
This one will be an end-time dictator, the very epitome of evil. Revelation 13:5, 6 speak of him as a beast who had "a mouth speaking great things...and he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. "
Jesus prophesied that false Christs would arise, and that their number would be great. "For many shall come in my name, saying I am Christ; and shall deceive many" (Matthew 24:5). He stated further, "For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they would deceive the very elect" (Matthew 24:24). The word used by the apostle in our text refers to an opponent of Christ or a rival Christ. These opponents to Christ are merely the fore-runners or harbingers of THE Antichrist or THE "man of sin." The apostle tells his readers in I John 4:3 that those who deny that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God; and this is that of the antichrist. So, those who deny that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh possess this spirit of the Antichrist. His life is influenced and he possesses an antichrist spirit within himself.
2. Some Left the Church - 19
Those who possess this spirit of antichrist in John's day had originally professed to be true Christians. They had joined themselves to the fellowship of Christians, but they were not possessors of eternal life. The Apostle Paul warned the Ephesians of these future opponents of the Lord in Acts 20:29, 30, "For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also OF YOUR OWN SELVES shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them." Perhaps nothing has harmed the cause of Christ more, down through the years, than these perverted heretics. They have become a stumbling block to unbelievers and a scandal to seekers after the truth.
"They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would (no doubt) have continued with us; but (they went out), that they might be made manifest (phanerothosin) or made known that they were not all of us" (verse 19). They had lost the inner fellowship, and then apparently voluntarily broke the outward fellowship. They were at one time a part of the church fellowship, but the heresy which they embraced broke this fellowship and led to the division. Their departure make manifest the breach of inner fellowship.
If these individuals had been true Christians, they would have abode in Christian union and fellowship; they would have remained with the fellowship in doctrine and association. The Christian standing of a man is to be tested by his doctrine, as well as his life. Furthermore, the identity of those who have the spirit of antichrist is to be found not only in what they say about Christ, but in what happens to them. Error is self-revealing, self-judging and self-condemning. Their withdrawal is a certain manifestation or demonstration of their antichristian nature.
3. An Unction From The Holy One - 20, 21
For the true Christian, there are certain safeguards of the soul in this final age. "But ye have an unction (chrisma) or anointing from the Holy One, and ye know all things." The "Holy One" mentioned here is Christ - God's Anointed. Christ has the Holy Spirit without measure according to John 3:34, which reads, "For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God; for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him." Over against the Antichrist and his followers, John places the Anointed One and His anointed ones. Christians today, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit of Christ (the Spirit of truth), remain indifferent to any fancy religion that may spring up with a claim to superior knowledge. They are under the New Covenant, so that they are not dependent for knowledge of God and His truth on anyone else, however enlightened; they have independent personal knowledge, as the result of the anointing from the Holy One.
The recipients of this epistle already possessed the truth of the letter, so they need only to be reminded of this great truth. Knowledge of the truth of God is the best defense against heresy, then and now. A God-taught mind cannot depart far into error. It will know the vital truths; and, knowing them, will adhere to them. "This grasp of truth is not reserved for only a part of the Body of Christ. All members of the body of Christ have had this experience" (Yeager, Vol. XVII , p. 336).
The KJV translates the latter part of this verse, "and ye know all things." Really the correct translation is, "All of you know." All believers receive the anointing of the Holy Spirit at regeneration. "I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever. Even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him, but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you," Jesus said (John 14:16, 17). Paul, furthermore wrote of the saved, "But ye are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his" (Romans 8:9).
The apostle concludes this portion of Scripture by writing in verse 21, "I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth." The most vicious of all lies is one which contains a half-truth. Satan knows how to mix half-truths with half-lies. When the individual comes to know Jesus Christ as Lord, through the Holy Spirit's regeneration and illumination, however, he comes into possession of the truth. For Truth is a Person - even Christ!!
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How important is this Holy Spirit of truth? If a person shuns Him there is no further revelation for salvation. "God the Father spoke to man through His prophets in the Old Testament age; God the Son has spoken to man in the Gospels; God the Holy Spirit is speaking to the elect since Pentecost. There is no further revelation (I Corinthians 13:8) and there is no fourth member of the Godhead to make another appeal. That is why rejection of the testimony of the Holy Spirit is the sin for which there can be no forgiveness" (Yeager, Ibid, p. 333).
1. Denial vs. Confession - 22, 23
In this verse the apostle herein contrasts the truth with the lie. He asks his readers a question, "Who is a liar but he that denieth (arnoumenos) or repudiates that Jesus is the Christ?" He would direct their attention specifically to a person; he would say, "I have spoken of a lie, I have said virtually that somebody has been lying; now who is the liar?" He answers his own question by saying that the liar is the individual who denies that Jesus is the Christ. The word "deny" here means to repudiate or to refuse to associate oneself with some one or some thing.
If a person denies that Jesus Christ was a literal man; he also denies the Messiahship of Christ and that person is a liar. This charge of lying was probably directed at the Cerinthian Gnostics. Furthermore, John writes, "He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son." To deny that Jesus is the Christ is to deny the Son of God, and to deny the Sonship is to deny God's natural relation to Christ as Father. Hence, both the Father and the Son are denied. Jesus said, "And no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, except the Son, and he to whosoever the Son will reveal him" (Matthew 11:27).
"Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father; he that confesseth (holologon) or acknowledges the Son hath the Father also" (verse 23). The concept of confession and denial is central at all levels of New Testament faith. Confession and denial were decisive for the disciples of Jesus. "Whosoever, therefore, shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father, who is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father, who is in heaven" (Matthew 10:32, 33). This passage seems to emphasize the fact that only those who possess Christ as Savior and Lord can confess Him, while those who are unsaved deny Him. Just as the confession of Jesus as Lord is inspired by the Holy Spirit, so the denial is inspired by the Devil. I John 4:1 - 6 makes this fact very plain. "To deny the incarnation is to repudiate the Father. Conversely one cannot accept God's Son without accepting the Father also" (Yeager, Vol. XVII, p. 340). To deny both the Son and the Father is to be an antichrist and an atheist. Hobbs quotes Alexander Ross as having written, "The man who denies the Son is an orphan, a fatherless child in the vast loneliness of the universe" (Hobbs, p. 69).
2. Abiding in Christ - 24
"Let that, therefore, abide in you which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father" (verse 24). The teaching or doctrine which John's readers had heard was the subject of Christ's incarnation. This was the eternal message which they had "heard from the beginning," and the apostle admonishes them not to be carried away by some "new-fangled" teaching.
Abiding in Christ or continuing in what Christ has spoken of here in verse 24 simply means that mystical union between Christ and every born-again child of God. "I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing" (John 15:5). In I John the writer speaks of abiding in the light, life and love of God. This "life" is "eternal life" and is nothing less than God's life imparted to those who abide in Christ. "And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life" (5:11, 12). So eternal life is the life from God. One has this life the moment he believes. Divine union and fellowship are connected with a right doctrinal faith.
The apostle warns the true believers against those who would seduce them (lead them astray). He says the way to avoid all these perils and problems is to abide in Christ, enjoying all the blessings which come from the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and looking forward to the coming of the Lord. John is doing his part to rescue the sheep from the wolves. This anointing of the Holy Spirit was a teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ just prior to His crucifixion. He taught His disciples (John 16:13), "Nevertheless, when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth; for he shall not speak of himself, but whatever he shall hear, that shall he speak; and he will show you things to come."
The Spirit not only reveals to us new truths as we study, meditate and pray, but He illumines, certifies and guides us in the former truths revealed in the Word of God. Furthermore, Jesus said (John 14:25, 26), "These things have I spoken unto you, being present with you. But the Comforter, who is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatever I have said unto you." Although Jesus has not taught and instructed us personally and audibly as He did His disciples, John is saying to his readers and to us that we have the same promise of spiritual instruction and guidance as did the immediate disciples of Jesus because we have an anointing of this same Holy Spirit.
On the Day of Pentecost, God's Holy Spirit descended upon the Lord's church thus empowering them with Divine power which has continued until this present age and shall continue until Jesus comes back again. The Holy Spirit Who was given on Pentecost has never been withdrawn. Therefore, the believer is not dependent on any human teacher. Certainly, there are many human teachers to whom we will forever be grateful, but we are not slavishly dependent upon any of them.
3. Eternal Life is a Present Possession - 25 - 27
"And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life" (verse 25). This word "promise" (epaggelia) means to make a commitment, to pledge to do something. The Word of an eternal God Who cannot lie is behind that which brings eternal life. "These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you (planonton) or lead you astray" (verse 26). "These things" refer back to verses 18 - 25. "Satan's seductions are all based upon his denial of the incarnation of the Son of God" (Yeager, p. 344).
"But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you; but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him" (verse 27). John is saying here that his readers did not need him to teach them. The Holy Spirit teaches us all that we need to know (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit is Jesus' alter ego; the other Jesus.
1. Admonition to Purity - 28, 29
"And now, little children, abide (menete) or stay in close association in him, that, when he shall appear (phanerothe) or be made manifest, we may have confidence (parresian) or boldness and not be ashamed (aischunthomen) before him at his coming" (verse 28). The word "confidence" means "boldness," or "freedom of speech." "This 'freedom of speech' expresses the attitude of children talking to their father in contrast to a slave talking with his owner. Appropriately, it expressed the idea of intimate friends baring their hearts to each other" (Hobbs, p. 73).
The "Christ deniers" will shrink away in shame at Christ's coming. What a tragedy to be compelled by one's own choice, to slink away into the outer darkness of eternal night from the presence of the One Who is King of kings and Lord of lords! The only way that God's creation can stand before a righteous God is to have the "imputed righteousness" of Jesus. We have no righteousness within ourselves. "As it is written, 'There is none righteous, no, not one'" (Romans 3:10). The prophet Isaiah also wrote, "All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" (64:6). But, thank God, Paul wrote in II Corinthians 5:21, "For (God) hath made (Christ), who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in (Christ)."
"If we know that he is righteous (dikaios) or just, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness (dikaiosunen) is born of him" (verse 29). Yeager translates this verse, "If we understand that He is righteous we conclude that everyone who is doing the right things is born of Him." He also writes, "The former is perception that can come only from the Holy Spirit (John 16:10). The latter is nothing more than the result of human logic. The unregenerate will never know that Jesus Christ is righteous. From this supernatural experience, we conclude on the basis of human deduction and our knowledge of genetics that those who are spiritually born of righteousness are righteous. It is a matter of the sons of God taking after their Father" (Yeager, Vol. XVII, p. 347).
2. God's Love Bestowed Upon Sinful Man - 3:1
The writer expresses astonishment and amazement. "Behold, what manner (potapen) or what kind of love the Father hath bestowed upon us (dedoken) or given us, that we should be called the children of God (and we are); therefore, the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not" (verse 1). Robertson called this verse "qualitative interrogative" (VI, p. 220). John is amazed at the quality of God's love; it is other worldly. God's love belongs to another world. The love of God in Christ is foreign to this world; it is no flower that has blossomed in the cold climate of this world. It is through this GODLY LOVE which the Father has bestowed upon his lost humanity that we are called the children of God. Sonship to God is not something to be taken for granted. It is ours through the grace and love of God, and it ought to fill our souls with wonder.
Some translations (Berkeley, the Living Bible, Phillips, and some others) add the words "and we are," and they seem to be in the original text (see above verse). Charles Haddon Spurgeon calls this insertion, "A genuine fragment of inspired Scripture...too precious to be lost" (Vaughn, p. 74).
Those who are born of God, or begotten of God, have the nature of God and consequently the name of a child of God. "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God...The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God" (Romans 8:14, 16). We have been called children of God, and that is not the empty bestowal of a high-sounding title; we really ARE the children of God.
And because we are children of God the world does no know us. The lost sinner, who has never understood God, can never understand one of God's children. We need to accept this fact. If we did, we would stop seeking recognition from the world, and we would stop feeling offended when we do not get the world's recognition. John encourages the child of God by saying that the world did not know Jesus Christ either. If the world did not recognize Him for Who He really was, we need not be surprised if it passes us by without remark. This same apostle said of Jesus, "He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not" (John1:10).
3. To Know Christ Aright Means to Purify Ourselves as He is Pure - 2, 3
"Beloved, now (nun) or at this time are we the children of God" (2a). This assurance of sonship is a present reality; we do not need to wait until we get to heaven to know whether we are saved or not. To have Christ NOW is the greatest blessing that can come to a child of God. NOW is in contrast to the future (NOT YET); one never becomes more a member of a family, a child of his parents, than he is at birth. John writes furthermore, "And it doth not yet appear (ephanerothe) or it has not been made manifest what we shall be" (verse 2b). What we shall be is NO UNCERTAINTY HERE, but IT IS NOT YET MANIFESTED. Our status as children of God is the guarantee of the fullest perfection which will one day be made manifest to all of God's children.
In the High Priestly prayer, Jesus prayed, "Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory, which thou has given me; for thou lovest me before the foundation of the world" (John 17:24). The glory referred to here, and of which our Scripture text speaks, is His resurrection glory. At His first coming Jesus Christ became incarnate THAT HE MIGHT BECOME LIKE US, but at His second coming we shall be glorified THAT WE MIGHT BECOME LIKE HIM. "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our lowly body, that it may be fashioned like his glorious body, according to the working by which he is able even to subdue all things unto himself" (Philippians 3:20, 21).
Then John writes, "But we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (verse 2c). And being like Christ we shall be like everything that is lovely, beautiful and eternal. Natural laws had no effect on Him (distance, space, time); flesh and bones (Luke 24:39) yet free from corruption and morality. He is our Model! G. G. Findlay said of this verse, "As the Son of God humbled Himself to share our estate, so He in turn will glorify men that they may take their part in His (estate) " (Gingrich, p. 56).
Although God's children will be like Christ when we see Him, at the present we are only in the process of purification and sanctification. This process is motivated by the hope that is based on Christ. Our souls have been made pure by the blood of Jesus; this blood being applied by faith, but we are still in our fleshly bodies. These bodies need purification daily by our reading and meditation upon the Word of God and by the continual confession of our sins to God. This principle is taught by Jesus. After the bath (washing) of regeneration, it is necessary only that the feet be cleansed from their contamination while passing through this world. "Jesus saith to (Peter), 'he that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit; and ye are clean, but not all'." That is, Jesus is saying, "He who has bathed does not need to wash (his entire body), except for (just) his feet, but is clean all over; and you are clean."
"And every man that hath this hope (elpida) or assurance in him purifieth (agnizei) himself even as he is pure (agnos) or chaste" (verse 3). The present status and the future prospect of the child of God have a very definite effect upon his behavior. To be like Jesus is the goal to which the Christian always strives, enabled by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus. In this passage the writer declares very candidly that the true believer is one who has experienced the new birth, is living a righteous life, enjoying the love of the Father, misunderstood by the world but assured of his salvation and anxious to be like Jesus.
1. Sinning by Nature and Sinning by Practice - 4 - 6
"Whosoever committeth (poion) or does sin transgresseth (anomian) or rebels against also the law; for sin is the transgression of the law." The apostle is saying in essence - "Whoever practices sinning habitually also practices lawlessness (rebellion, a purposeful defiance of God)." The true child of God may fall into sin as an incidental and momentary act, but the lost person will live in sin as a continual and habitual practice. It is possible for the believer to "slip into sin," and for such an one there is the advocacy of Jesus Christ the righteous. It is not possible, however, for a truly and genuinely born-again believer to habitually practice sin. It is just as unnatural for a lost person to continually practice righteousness as it is for a saved person to continually practice lawlessness. Sinning is incompatible with the Christian life.
"And ye know that he was manifested (made manifest) to take away our sins, and in him is no sin" (verse 5). The very reason for Christ's coming into the world was for the purpose of taking away sins. "From the glory where He has been with the Father, He came to earth becoming Incarnate, and so manifested to men" (Vine p. 53). By Christ's work on the CROSS we are saved from the PENALTY of sin, by His work at the THRONE we are being saved from the POWER of sin, and by His RETURN we will be saved from the PRESENCE of sin.
The reason that Jesus has the ability to take away (are) or remove by lifting our sins is because He had no sin of His Own, yet He took upon Himself our sins. "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath LAID UPON HIM THE INIQUITY OF US ALL" (Isaiah 53:6). Just as the scapegoat of Old Testament days "bore away" the people's sins so Christ is our SIN-BEARER.
"Whosoever abideth (or keeps on abiding) in him sinneth not; whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him" (verse 6). Sin, in the believer, is not that ruling principle as it is in the case of the defiant, persistent sinner. Everyone abiding in Christ does not have the habit of sinning; everyone having the habit of sinning has not seen him, neither known him. "Dr. Harry Ironside uniquely puts it something like this: A believer is in the righteousness business, and if he sins, it is the exception and not his fixed rule of conduct. On the other hand, an unsaved person is in the sinning business, and when he does a good deed (relatively), it is the exception and not his fixed rule of conduct. The teaching here, then, is that he who is abiding in Christ does not practice sin. He may stumble and fall occasionally, but this is not the usual pattern of his life. He has an inward immunization" (Gingrich, p. 63).
2. Christ is Righteous, So Are His Children - 7 - 9
Again the apostle writes these endearing words, "Little children, let no man deceive you (humas planato) or lead you astray; he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous" (verse 7). False teachers, antichrists and wolves in sheep's clothing may arise, but don't wander off after them. You can know that one is a Christian if he is of the class of the righteous, and the fruit of his life will agree with this fact. He will reflect Christ, who, righteous Himself, was a Doer of righteousness. BEING proves itself by DOING. A good tree brings forth good fruit.
"He that committeth sin (or he that keeps on doing sin) is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy (luse) or break the works of the devil" (verse 8). The one who makes sin his business, the one who sins daily or continually, is of the devil. The devil is the source of all evil which masters and dominates him. Furthermore, the activity of the devil did not have its origin yesterday, but the devil was the first person to sin, and he has never ceased sinning, nor has he ever ceased to induce man to sin.
The devil's whole existence is sin. "He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar, and the father of it" (John 8:44). The very works of the devil are the sins which he causes men to commit; they are the direct opposite of the works of God. John says that the individual who lives a life of sin is not only under the dominion of the enemy of God, but he is doing the works of his master, the devil. "Those who sin repeatedly in an unbroken sequence, having never perceived Christ nor understood Him (v. 6) indicate the diabolical source of their action (v. 8)" (Yeager, Vol. XVII, p. 358).
The manifestation of the Son of God was for the express purpose of destroying the works of the devil. The writer of Hebrews wrote (2:14), "Forasmuch, then, as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same, that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil." So through Christ's death, he has succeeded and one day Satan and all of his followers will have the judgment carried out that was passed upon them at Calvary. Sin stands eternally condemned as does the devil. And if the one continually living in sin clings to his evil ways, he, too, shall be eternally destroyed in the devil's condemnation.
The apostle now contrasts the born-again believer with the child of the devil by writing, "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin (i.e., he does not sin as the law of his life; he does not belong to the sin sphere); for his seed (sperma) or sperm remaineth in him, and he cannot (is unable to) sin, because he is born of God" (verse 9). Whenever the born-again believer "slips" into sin, the new nature is grieved. Forgiveness is sought because he has the Holy Spirit dwelling within him, and God's word has been implanted in his heart. The Divine nature in man (that which is born of God) does not sin; it is only the old nature (that which is of the flesh) that sins. The one who goes on doing sin (that is, lives in sin) has never become a child of God.
The secret of this new nature is the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and the acceptance of a new Master. It is not so much the individual Christian holding the reins of will power in his hand, who drives the chomping steeds of passion and disposition through the dangers of temptation, as it is the ONE WHO rides the chariot beside him. The "seed" referred to here is the incorruptible seed of the Word of God, implanted in the soul by the Holy Spirit, and it has brought to the soul the new life of the children of God. "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever" (I Peter1:23). The growth of a seed may be inhibited by certain adverse weather conditions, but when the weather changes the seed continues its growth.
3. The Conclusion of the Whole Matter - 10 - 12
By the practical test of fruit-bearing, you can know whether a person is a child of God or a child of the devil. "In this (i.e., in this practical test) the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil; whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother" (verse 10). "A life of sin is proof that one is a child of the devil and not of God" (Robertson, VI, p. 222). The apostle divides the world into two classes, the one bearing in his soul the image of God, the other the image of the devil. In the last phrase of verse ten, John adds a new dimension to righteous living by re-emphasizing "love" which he referred to in chapter two. The lack of love for one's fellowman is a indication of the absence of Christ in the heart.
Love for our fellowman and an interest in his eternal welfare is the aim of both Christ and the redeemed. To realize the worn-out expression - "brotherhood of man and Fatherhood of God" - sin must be forsaken and God's type of love must take its place. Jesus said "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:35).
The authority with which the apostle speaks is dated from the beginning - "For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another" (verse 11). If any new religion or cult is dated from some so-called new revelation it has no authority. The truth is "from the beginning." The old commandment which is ever new is re-iterated by John, not merely as being a duty to which believers are bound, but as being one of the most decisive proofs of their divine sonship.
"Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and killed (esphaxen) or slew his brother. And why killed he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous" (verse 12). Cain is referred to here as an illustration of what the lack of love for the brethren can do and what it means in reference to one's relation to God. Cain proved himself to be a child of the evil one; jealousy led to murder. His smouldering hatred for his brother Abel burst forth into a devouring flame; his hands became stained with a crime of specially crimson hue, the murder of a brother.
The word used here means, "to slay, to butcher, to cut the throat," like an ox in the shambles. This is a very vivid detail of the fratricide recorded in Genesis 4. The apostle asks the question, "Why did Can slay Abel?" And he answers by saying, "because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous." His deed showed what his nature was; it showed with whom he was allied. Instead of making a sacrifice of love for his own brother, Cain took that brother and sacrificed him to his god, the devil. Hatred is the basic motive of murder. Unrighteousness is related to hate as righteousness is related to love.
1. Love - Proof of Eternal Life - 13- 15
"Marvel not (thaumazete) or don't be surprised, my brethren, if the world hate (misei) or despise you" (verse 13). The whole world system, the unredeemed world (kosmos) is an enemy of Christ, Christian love and the redeemed fellowship (koinonia). Since the day that Cain rose up and slew Abel, his righteous brother, the world has used the same weapon of hatred against the fellowship of God. The believer should not be surprised or perplexed at the hatred of the unbelieving world. "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own," Jesus said in John 15:18, 19. The righteousness of the believer still provokes the world's hostility. In view of what happened to Abel, the Christians should stop being surprised that we are subjected to the same treatment.
In contrast to the hatred which the world has for the followers of Christ, John writes, (verse 14), "We know that we have passed (metabebekamen) or departed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death." One of the greatest evidences of being a child of God is the fact of "love for those of the fellowship of saints." We have passed or "migrated" from spiritual death into spiritual life. This word "passed" was used in ancient times of persons migrating from one country to another. John used the present tense here denoting an act with results continuing on and on. We have left the abode of death for the abode of life.
Jesus said again in John 5:24, "Verily, verily, I say unto you. He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but is PASSED from death unto life." The life here is new life, the life of the Spirit, eternal life and the divine life. A characteristic quality of this new life is LOVE. It is as natural for the Christian to love as it is for the world to hate, and it is as unnatural for the Christian to hate as it is for the world to love. A Christian can no more live without love than a plant can live without growth.
John writes, furthermore, "He that loveth not his brother abideth in death" (14b). Where there is an absence of love there is the atmosphere of death. One may abide in death as well as life. Abiding in death means to live in darkness, hatred, unrighteousness and in the clutches of the Evil One. Yeager translates this verse in this way, "We know that we have passed out of death into life because we love the brothers. The one who does not love has always been in the sphere of death" (p. 364). Then verse 15 reads, "Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer (anthropoktonos from anthropos + kteino) or man-killer; and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him." Love is the only security against hatred. Everyone who does not love is potentially a hater, and every hater is a potential murderer. A murderer is a hater who expresses his hatred in a most emphatic way. A hater who does not murder abstains for various reasons, such as the fear of punishment and possibly the stigma of society. The word for murderer really means "manslaughter." The only other time this word is used is in John 8:44 where Jesus referred to the Devil "as a murderer (manslayer) from the beginning. "
In His Sermon on the Mount, the Great Teacher expressed it this way, "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old, 'Thou shalt not kill (literally, 'Thou shalt do no murder'); and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of judgment;' but I say unto you that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of judgment; and whosoever shall say to his brother, 'Raca,' shall be in danger of the council; but whosoever shall say, 'Thou fool,' shall be in danger of hell fire" (Matthew 5:21, 22). The absence of love and the presence of hate is the equivalent of murder in the sight of God. Hated in the realm of the spiritual world is the equivalent of murder in the physical world.
No murderer has eternal life abiding in him, for he who would hate the life of a brother does not have the attitude of heart to receive God's life. "Actual physical murder is only the overt expression of the covert thought of hatred. No one in his right mind ever murdered another person that he loved" (Yeager, Vol. XVII, p. 365). Furthermore, the person who has been saved possesses the Holy Spirit of God Who is a constraining Force against such a diabolical act.
2. Love Expressed By Works - 16, 17
The love of Christ is now contrasted by the hatred of Cain. "By this perceive we the love of God because he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (verse 16). The Lord Jesus Christ laid down his own life to benefit his enemies while Cain took his brother's life to benefit HIMSELF. The supreme revelation of love is in the Cross, where Christ laid down His life for us. In Christ's death was a unique deed in that His death was redemptive and a propitiatory sacrifice. Incidentally, the word for "laid down" referring to Jesus' death is a once-for-all thing, while the child of God should "lay down" his life continually for his brethren.
The Apostle Paul described it this way in Romans 5:8, "But God commendeth his love toward us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Cain's hatred is an example of the taking of life while the sacrifice of Christ is the example of giving of eternal life and the sustaining of earthly life.
"But whosoever hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need and shutteth up his compassions from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?" (verse 17). When the saved "shutteth up his compassions;" he is literally "slamming his heart's door." Compassion for all men is a New Testament teaching, but the apostle is concerned here primarily with the brother in need. Compassion is actually CONCERN tempered with love - a self-sacrificing love. Our compassion for a brother in need is evidence that we have love for God. He who shuts his heart in the presence of need shuts out God as well as his brother. In fact, love for God does not abide where love for the brother is absent.
"This world's good," is literally "the world's means of life" or man's physical sustenance. It can mean riches, wealth, station in life or intellect. We may like to make this Scripture apply to rich people entirely, but such should not be the case. This same word is used of Jesus in Mark's Gospel (12:44) with reference to the widow's mite when He said, "She did cast in all her living (literally, her world's good)." This principle applies as much to the widow and the widow's mite as it does to the rich and the rich man's gold, but it applies proportionately. There is no exception from the duty of giving for anyone.
"My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth" (verse 18). Jesus herein pleads for less talk about love and more deeds of love that speak far more eloquently the truth than what is said. The empty sham of a religion that involves nothing more than word is rebuked against the background of the way of the deed and truth as expressions of Christian love. Deeds are needed to complete the kind words; truth is needed to correct the insincere tongue. The child of God must be sincere; his walk must agree with his talk.
1. The Means of Assurance - 19 - 22
"And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure (peisomen) or persuade our hearts before him" (verse 19). There is a certainty of expression here. We have the assurance that we belong to Him Who is Truth. Jesus said to His disciples (John 14:6), "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." Since Christ is Truth, and we have trusted Him, there is the presence and practice of this "Christ-love" in our daily lives. This "Christ-love" is one of deed and truth. A true love will scarcely spring from a false faith. If faith works by love, it lives!
Love does not cleanse the conscience, but it supplies to it a satisfying argument that guilt has been taken away. Love brings the assurance of salvation. The cause of salvation is the grace of God, and the means of salvation is faith, but the evidence of salvation is love. So "in this;" that is, by "loving in deed and in truth," we shall know that we are of the Truth, that we are the children of the God of Truth, not the children of the devil, who is the father of lies.
"For if our heart condemn (kataginoske from kata + ginosko = to know something against) or blame us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things" (verse 20). "It means to know something against one, to condemn" (Robertson, VI, p. 226). Here the writer gives the assurance of an inner witness. "The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God," wrote Paul in Romans 8:16. There is, therefore, in the inner being of the true child of God the sense of belonging, the consciousness of sonship. The Holy Spirit dwelling within the saved individual points out sin and convicts of that sin. Our hearts are condemned because God's power is manifested in our hearts through the condemning and convicting power of the Holy Spirit.
Although we have a dread of man knowing our secret sins, the Christian looks on God as all-loving as well as all-knowing and that makes a great deal of difference. This all-knowing love of God is the ground on which the troubled heart will come to know and will come to call on God for forgiveness. If the conscience is persuaded and pacified merely in and by itself, that may be insufficient, but if it is done under the searching eye and full knowledge of God, then confession will be made and forgiveness attained.
John Milton, in his poem entitled Paradise Lost, calls the conscience "the umpire of the soul." Of course, the conscience can be seared past feeling (I Timothy 4:2) and on occasion it may make an incorrect decision. If our conscience convicts us of sin or failure to love others like we should, the Christian can be sure that God is greater than our conscience. He convicts in a greater way than does our conscience; His conviction is much more severe. The Apostle Paul must have had this in mind when he wrote, "For I know nothing against myself, yet am I not hereby justified; but he that judgeth me is the Lord" (I Corinthians 4:4).
"Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence (parresian) or boldness toward God" (verse 21). There are blessed seasons of peace when our hearts do not condemn us. When we are free from condemnation, we are more than free; we can look up to God in perfect child-like faith and confidence, and so come boldly unto the throne of grace. Romans 5:1 reads, "Therefore, being justified by faith, we have PEACE with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." The writer of Hebrews puts it this way, "Let us, therefore, come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16). To know that God understands and knows our hearts gives us boldness to approach God in prayer.
This confidence or boldness in prayer is referred to in verse 22, "And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight." Robertson says of this verse, "The answer (to our prayer) may not always be in the form that we expect, but it will be better" (VI, p. 227). This confidence in prayer was a cardinal teaching of Jesus. Mark recorded a significant statement in the teachings of Jesus concerning prayer when he wrote, "Therefore, I say unto you, 'Whatever things ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them'" (11:24). What Jesus is saying here is that the asking that comes of this child-spirit will be of faith, and in the Holy Spirit, and according to the will of God; and whatsoever a Christian asks of God with these conditions, he will receive from him, whether it be a temporal good or a spiritual grace.
This word "whatsoever" is of wonderful range, and includes temporal things as much as it does spiritual. God is moved to grant the request. We must be reminded, however, that our prayer life is governed by our conduct in the world; our living has a direct bearing on our praying. When we do God's commandments this is pleasing to God, and when God is pleased, He desires to grant prayer requests. Our prayer requests will be heard if we are obedient children. Yeager points out here that "all of the verbs in verse 22 are durative. They describe a life so obedient to the indwelling Holy Spirit that it is always in line with God's wishes and hence always victorious. Victorious prayer is the reward for total obedience to God" (Ibid., p. 372). Durative here meaning continued action, or a state of incompletion denoted by the present tense. Alexander Ross said, "Children who come so confidently to their Heavenly Father cannot ask anything that He will refuse" (Vaughn, p. 88).
2. The Great Commandment - 23, 24
"And this is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment" (verse 23). Believing always has an object. The object here is the person of Jesus Christ. Believing "on" a person or "in" a person is trust, and trust has to do with an "I-Thou" relationship with Jesus Christ and with God the Father. To believe the Name of Christ is to believe all that His Name, which is here given with solemn fullness, contains and implies; His Deity, His eternal Sonship and His saving work as Anointed of the Father. Believing in His Son will prompt a person to love other believers. The summary of God's requirement is FAITH in His Son and LOVE to one another. Among the Jews one's name summed up his nature, his character.
"And he that keepeth his commandment dwelleth in him, and he in him. And by this we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit whom he hath given us" (verse 24). Keeping God's commandments is vitally important, because this is proof that we abide in Him and He abides in us. And confidence has its source in the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Holy Spirit, Who makes His home in the heart of every believer.
What the apostle is saying in this passage is this, "we know," "we feel," "we receive," and "we believe." Oh, today, there are many things we do not know or understand, but the most important of all things for time and eternity - WE DO KNOW. We know that we are CHILDREN OF GOD!! For the saved this is "hallelujah ground! "
In verses 1 through 6 John aims his guns at the Docetic Gnostics of his day, who deny the humanity of the Savior. Unfortunately those who believe the Docetic's doctrine are still around.
1. Try the Spirits - 1
"Beloved, believe not every spirit (pneumati), but test (try) the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (verse 1). The discernment in the religious realm is a spiritual discernment. The warfare against false religions is a spiritual warfare. "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against SPIRITUAL wickedness in high places" (Ephesians 6:12).
Furthermore, we read in II Corinthians 10:4, "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty THROUGH GOD to the pulling down of strongholds." We are charged by John to "try (dokimazete) or test the spirits," to see whether they are of God or Satan, whether they are good spirits or evil spirits. The word "test" here does not convey the idea of "get the trial over so we can hang them," but rather measure all the elements of one's beliefs to determine if they "ring true."
"Test the spirits;" that is, test them for authenticity as a metallurgist does his metals - putting them to the acid test. If they stand the test like a true coin, then the spirits are acceptable, otherwise they are to be rejected. A true prophet with his truth is to be accepted, while the false prophet and his error are to be rejected. Jesus said, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves" (Matthew 7:15).
2. The Criterion for Testing - 2, 3
"By this know ye the spirit of God; every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God; and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God; and this is that spirit of antichrist, of which ye have heard that it should come, and even now already is in the world." Truth is identified by "every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in (the) flesh..." Jesus Christ is God and man, in one Person, forever. Jesus Christ having come in the flesh is the whole of the Gospel. Error is identified by the denial of the fact of Christ's incarnation. See I Corinthians 12:3; and Romans 10:6 - 10).
The acid test or the supreme test is, "What think ye of Christ? Whose Son is he?" Jesus asked His disciples, "Who do men say that I, the Son of man, am?" Then He asked them directly, "But who say ye that I am?" "The Apostle Peter answered the Lord's question saying, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered him. Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 16:13, 15 - 17). The true confession which cries out, "Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God," is not the human spirit but the divine Spirit within us. "I give you to understand that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed; and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Spirit" (I Corinthians 12:3).
Why is believing in the incarnation so important? Why must we believe that Christ came in (the) flesh? This doctrine is the very heart of Christianity. If Christ was not God incarnate, we have no Savior! A person cannot deny the essential design of salvation and be saved by it at the same time. Not only does the antichrist deny Christ outright, but such an one may claim to receive Him, attribute to Him such a nature, work or doctrine as really makes another Christ of Him.
How is one to distinguish inspiration that has its source in the Spirit of God from that which belongs to antichrist? The Spirit of God is "the Spirit which God gives to us" (3:24), "his own Spirit:" (4:13). God's Spirit bears a twofold witness. He witnesses first of all that Jesus is the Christ, and secondly, He witnesses to the incarnation; that is, that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.
3. Christians are Overcomers - 4
"Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome (nenikekate) or conquered them, because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world" (verse 4). The word, "YE," or literally, "YOU," is emphatic in contrast with the false teachers. You are born of God and have overcome the Evil One and his evil forces. The subtle power of the Evil One over the human soul is great, but God is mightier, and He indwells the human soul. Satan's pernicious teaching does not overcome us or corrupt us, not because of our strength, but because of Him Whose Word abides in us. Just as Jesus overcame the godless world in conflict and by way of the cross, so His disciples are assured of a like victory.
The verb "have overcome" is in the perfect tense signifying that the victory has been won and its results abide. The NEB translates this phrase "you have the mastery." It is God's victory! "In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world," Jesus said (John 16:33). The word "overcome" means to "get the victory," or "to conquer." In Revelation 6:2 Jesus is referred to as coming forth on a white horse "conquering and to conquer." Christ will gain a victory over Satan and over the political world.
4. False Teachers Are Identified - 5, 6
"They are of the world; therefore speak (lalousin) they of the world, and the world heareth them" (verse 5). The unsaved and the false prophets have their source and origin in this present world system. John characterized them in an earlier passage by saying that they follow after "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life" (I John 2:16). False teachers speak, talk, prate without sense, or boast. "They are worldlings; their viewpoint is surprisingly worldly, their power is largely vested in worldly attributes, and their appeal is pretty much worldly" (King, p. 90).
The child of God is spoken of in verse 6 when John writes, "We are of God. He that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. By this know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error." We are "of" God in contrast to being "of" the world. The Christian teacher derives his commission, his message and his inspiration from God. "God's word elicits a positive response from God's people because there is a deep and real affinity between the two" (Vaughn, p. 98).
We are the children of God, and we have been specifically commissioned by the Lord to teach His truth; then he who knows God, listens to our message of truth. Therefore, the one who does not know God, the one who is not of God, does not listen to us. He thinks that he has sufficient light to life's problems elsewhere. He prefers his poor, feeble, flickering taper to the Light of the world.
By these facts we recognize those who are under the leadership of the Spirit of truth and those who are under the leadership of the spirit of error. There can be no doubt that the world gets a greater hearing than the Bible, but authority is not be judged by popularity. The Bible must not be judged by how many obey it. God's churches cannot be judged by how many who come to hear the gospel message in comparison to how many fail to hear. Truth is not to be judged by the numbers who hear it. Its merit rests upon its authority, and its authority is supreme.
It is a characteristic common to every modern cult and spurious religious system that they do not recognize the Scriptures as final, complete and separate authority to their faith. Thank God for the Bible, His infallible Word which is the final authority!!
"Here, in the best-known and best-loved portion of the entire epistle, love finds its richest and fullest development. Counting both its verbal and substantive forms the word "love" occurs approximately forty-four times in I John. No fewer than thirty-two of these occurrences are in the passage before us (4:7 - 21). The love of God for man, of man for God, and of man for his brother are all developed" (Vaughan, p. 102). One writer says further, that this passage is "like a diamond turned round and round for different angles of light to flash upon it."
1. Loving One Another - 7
"Beloved, let us love (agapomen) one another; for love (agape) is of God, and everyone that loveth (agapon) is born of God, and knoweth God." This concept of love is the highest type of affection, known only by God and the children of God. Divine love, AGAPE, is that spontaneous, self-sacrificing expression that gives ultimate meaning to all recipients. It has its origin and source in God; it is "out of" God. It goes deeper than natural affection, further than a friendly emotion, and certainly greater than sexual infatuation. As light radiates from the sun so this AGAPE (love) radiates from God.
Christian love has God for its primary object and expresses itself first of all in implicit obedience to His commandments. And, then, this love will be manifested toward others of God's creation. Genuine love is found only in him who is born of God and knows God. In all the universe there is no other source of genuine love except God and no manifestation of this kind of love separate and apart from God and those born of God.
2. Loving Others Proves Our Love for God - 8
"He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love." From Christ the child of God learns that "God is love;" that is, God has boundless impulse to impart Himself and all good to other beings. There is a vast difference between knowing ABOUT God and ACTUALLY KNOWING God. Karl Barth has well said, "God is He, who in His Son Christ Jesus loves all His children, in His CHILDREN all men, and in MEN His whole creation. God's BEING is His loving. He is all that He is as the One who loves. All His perfections are the perfection of His love."
So LOVE is God's very nature and character. Love is the element of God's being which qualifies every other part of His nature; that is, His power, His wisdom, His righteousness, His holiness and His truth. GOD IS LOVE. The Apostle Paul reminds us that, "God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). So the supreme evidence of God's love for us is seen in Jesus Christ. "God is love" suggests that love is such a necessity of God's nature, such an integral part of His very essence, that He cannot exist without loving. "Just because God is love does not mean that He will not be just, however, because He is love, God works against whatever works against His love" (Hobbs, p. 109).
3. God's Love Manifested on the Cross - 9
"In this was manifested the love of God toward us, that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him." We know that God is love by what He has done. Here we have the expression of God's love. Although we cannot always trace the love of God in the sin-stained world around us, we can gaze at the twin wonders of the Incarnation and the Crucifixion and realize that this was God manifesting His love to us in order that we might have abundant life. Thus we ever stand convinced - GOD IS LOVE!! Creation speaks of God's omnipotent power and wisdom, but if we would see His love - look at Calvary.
This word "manifested" also means disclosed, brought to light, or made visible. In God's only begotten Son, He gave His unique possession for our sins. Had silver and gold sufficed God could have given tons and tons of it, and still have tons and tons left. But He had only ONE Son. And he gave Him as a redemptive price for our sins" (Hobbs, p. 110).
4. God Loved Us First - 10, 11
"Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation (hilasmon) or expiation for our sins" (verse 10). Love to be true and genuine must express itself. "For God so loved the world, that HE GAVE HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). This love was not in response to man's love for God but in response to man's sin or his hatred for and rebellion against God. Man does not search for, nor seek God, but God seeks and finds man. "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). Behold the value of a soul! So valuable is your soul that God in Christ became the man Jesus Christ that He might save you from your sins.
God reveals Himself to man as man is capable of receiving that revelation. God first revealed Himself in the power of His creation, then in His perfection in the law, and then in His redeeming love in the Cross of Calvary. The very essence of His redeeming love is seen at Calvary where God in Christ reconciled the world unto Himself. Christ Jesus was the "propitiation" for our sins! Propitiation means "that which appeases" and signifies that through the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, God is appeased or at peace and shows mercy to the sinner who believes on Him. In this verse, we see the three dimensions of love. God's love coming down to man, our love going up to God, and then our love going out to embrace all men. If we demonstrate these three dimensions of love we will make the sign of the cross.
"Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another" (verse 11). The word "ought" carries with it the idea of a moral obligation; we are bound to love others. If the Cradle and the Cross show the measure of God's love to us, then we should evidence that same sort of selfless, self-giving love even to the least deserving. Since God loved us without our loving Him, we ought and must love those who do not love us. "Christ's love is as broad as mankind, as long as eternity, as deep as human need, and as high as the highest heaven, the very throne of God" (Hobbs, p. 111). The Apostle Paul prayed that the Ephesians might "be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God" (Ephesians 3:18, 19).
Some may not know what you mean by saying, "GOD IS LOVE," but they cannot fail to know when you "act it out" as well. The world stands in need of such unconditional love today. To love as Christ loved is to let our love be a practical love and not a sentimental love. Such a love is costly. God gave His ALL for you. Your love for Him and for others demands all that there is in you.
The solution to the world's problems is love. If we are to ever solve the world's needs and remove hatred and strife, we must begin by loving one another. Such love will seek the best for all; it will call forth our absolute loyalty to the highest good for the objects of our love. This kind of love, however, can come only by a right relationship to God in Christ.
1. Love Perfected - 12
With these facts in mind John writes, "No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected (teteleiomene) or fulfilled in us." Men have seen the express image of the Father in Jesus Christ, but the Father Himself no one has seen (tethatai) beheld, gazed upon, or contemplated. In John 1:18 the writer had written that no one had ever understood God, and then added that Jesus had come in order that we might understand God. Herein he means that no one has ever seen God in an optical sense. Neither God the Father nor God the Holy Spirit can be seen in the optical sense. We see God physically only when we look at Jesus (Yeager, Vol. XVII, p. 388). Even Moses saw God's "afterglow" only (Exodus 33:23).
The question may be asked, "Is it possible to love someone whom you have never seen?" Of course, the answer is in the affirmative. It is possible to love a parent whom the child has never seen; it is possible to love a great patriot of our country or a great old biblical patriarch whom we have never seen. Seeing the object of our love, however, greatly assists us in our love, but it is not absolutely necessary. Our faith in God and what He has done for us helps us to love God supremely.
Brotherly love is God's love in us fulfilling its end and bearing fruit. The world will have proof that God dwells in us by the affection we display one to the other. Love "perfected" means a love that has been brought to its proper end. As the Christian loves his fellowman, the love of God is in an ever continuous process of growth as a result of an initial implantation of God's love in him.
2. Love Expressed - 13
"By this know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit." The Spirit of God gives assurance of God's abiding presence; by this mutual indwelling of man in God and God in man we know that we are God's children. The Spirit in our hearts is the seal and assurance of our union with God. This verse parallels 3:24 where John wrote, "He that keepeth (God's) commandments dwelleth in (God), and he in him."
To dwell in God "in Him" is "a privileged position, beyond all human comprehension, but not, thank God, beyond our apprehension. You will recall that the phrase is one characteristic of Paul who constantly uses it - 'in the Lord,' 'in Christ.' Led of the SPIRIT, he confidently affirms that all that we Christians have, or hope for, is because of our being 'in Him.' Such a position brings us such a plethora of graces and blessings. 'We dwell in Him,' says John, 'and He in us,' he adds; for there is, as we have seen, a reciprocal aspect about it - if the poker is in the fire, the fire is soon in the poker; if the sponge is in the water, the water is in the sponge; if the body is in the air, the air is in the body - and, to infinitely greater purpose, if we dwell in Him, He dwells in us" (King, p. 96).
3. Love Expressed Through The Son - 14
"And we have seen (tethesmetha) or beheld and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world." Although no man has ever beheld God, John says, we apostles beheld the Incarnate Son and the impression that He made upon us remains until this day. The results of seeing Jesus prompted them to witness continually that He was the Savior. Note carefully that Jesus came as a Savior, He did not come primarily as a teacher, social worker, political reformer or personal example, but as a SAVIOR. His mission in the world was to save man from guilt and condemnation, from despair, from a nature of sin, from error, from a body of death, from the world, from Satan and from an eternal hell.
John and the other apostles testified that Jesus was and is the Son of God. He refers to his "three years of visible evidence of the life and ministry of Jesus. He saw Him optically for three years. As a result the memory of those days, with their indelibly impressed sights and sounds, remained deeply etched in his conscious memory. Thus he had been speaking as a historian about Jesus since Pentecost" (Yeager, op. cit., p. 390).
The world, referred to here, is that godless mass of humanity estranged and hostile to God. God's children are told not to love this godless world order, yet the Son of God is called its Savior. The gospel in miniature - John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." This verse means that God loved the souls of lost humanity, that He desired to save them rather than to condemn them. Although humanity is estranged and hostile toward God, He loves their souls and desires to save them.
4. Confessing Christ Proves Our Love - 15, 16
In order for God's mediatorial system to work, there are two aspects of it; that is, God's sending His Son and man's confessing. God has done His part in sending His Son; now man must confess Him. "Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth (menei) or abideth in him, and he in God" (verse 15). We have already noted that confessing is the criterion that distinguishes the true prophets from the false, and here it is the sign of the mutual indwelling of God and man. To "confess" Christ means to acknowledge Him before men.
In the giving of the Spirit and the sending of His Son, God has opened the way whereby He can abide in His children. Now, man must confess that Jesus is the Son of God and his own personal Savior. Genuine confession of Jesus is far more than the recital of a creed with the lips; it involves a movement of the soul toward Him Who is confessed. "That if thou shall confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation," the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 10:9, 10. To confess the Christ as the Son of God is an experience, a committal of oneself into His hands for saving and keeping.
"And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love, and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him" (verse 16). The child of God has experienced God's love in his own life. He has done more; he has found a deposit of that divine love in his own heart. It is the sacred gift of God to the regenerated, originating in God, Who is love. It marks the believer as a member of the Holy Family, bearing the likeness of the heavenly Father. Christianity is a love relationship.
The declaration that "God is love" is repeated here, but this time the positive experience of abiding love has taken the place of the negative statement about knowledge. In verse 8 John wrote, "He that loveth NOT knoweth NOT God; for God is love." Here in verse 16 John makes the positive statement, "God is love." The constant emphasis on the mutual indwelling of God, the Lover, and man, the beloved, is the true meaning of abiding love. The verse concludes with a beautiful thought - the one that has his home in the blessed domain of love has his home in God, and God has His home in him!! So John gathers up the whole argument that one who is abiding in love is abiding in God and shows that God is abiding in him (Robertson, VI, p. 234).
For the Christian, neighborliness extends to everyone whom his life touches (Luke 10:25 - 37). It embraces contacts in the community, associations in business or professions, and is domestic, national and international.
1. Love Made Perfect - 17
"Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world." The Apostle John writes of having boldness before God because of love. The "love made perfect" here is the perfection of love for God to us. Nothing in US or about US is perfect - it is not our love that is in view at all, but God's love perfected with us. Surely we could never have boldness in the coming day of judgment if such depended upon OUR perfect love. The fruit of this perfect love is stated here as the possession of confidence or boldness in the Day of Judgment. At this day of judgment the Son of God will be manifested in glory, and the secrets of men's hearts will be made known. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (II Corinthians 5:10).
What a gold mine of treasure is found in the latter part of this verse, "as he is, so are we in this world." What a wealth of truth! "As he is," means Jesus is now beyond death and judgment! He has passed through all of this for us, and He is risen again. Then, "so are we," because of our union with Him, because of our dwelling in Him, we are in that very position which He occupies, beyond judgment altogether! This is what gives boldness or confidence in the view of the judgment day. And it is true NOW of all believers. "In this world" are the words here, not in the future when we die, but NOW - at this present moment - we are seen of God in Christ. "There is, therefore, NOW no condemnation (judgment) to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Romans 8:1).
Vaughan writes, "John explains how such boldness is possible on judgment day. It is BECAUSE AS HE IS, EVEN SO ARE WE IN THIS WORLD (ASV). The primary reference in these words is to our standing or our position before God. That is to say, in this world our standing before God is the same as the standing of our glorified Lord. We are accepted in Him (Ephesians 1:6) and may share His confidence toward the Father. Brooke sees in these words an allusion to our sharing in the character of Christ. "Those who are like their Judge, can await with confidence the result of His decrees'" (p. 112).
2. No Fear In Love - 18
"There is no fear (phobos) or terror in love, but perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath punishment (kolasin) or torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love." Just as perfect love and confidence are never separated, so perfect love and fear can never be united. Perfect love sets man free from the deadly cycle of fear - hate - murder - death. Love and fear are two of the most powerful emotions in life, but love is stronger. As Jesus the Stronger One casts out Satan and the demons (Luke 11:14 - 23), so perfect love casts out fear.
Where God's perfect love and the blessed results of it are clearly apprehended, there will be no fear. When we are afraid, we endure the nagging torment of uncertainty, unrest and apprehension. Conscience, mind and heart are not at rest, nor can they be. Such fear betrays a lack of faith in the perfect love of God. Fear anticipates being cut off from God at the Day of Judgment. It gazes forward thinking only of that punishment which is to be meted out to the impenitent; this kind of fear has in it a foretaste of that future punishment in hell.
There is, however, a fear mentioned in the Bible that is a reverential awe in the presence of God which is the beginning of knowledge. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," (Proverbs 1:7). The fear referred to here in I John is the fear of punishment because the individual is estranged and separated from God. "At the judgment, knowing that God loves us, and we love Him and other people, we will not stand as a guilty criminal before the bar of stern justice; instead, we will stand before our loving Father who loves to give good gifts to his children" (Hobbs, p. 117).
3. God Took the Initiative in Love - 19
"We love him, because he first loved us." In the exercise of love God is the prime Mover. Love originates in God, not in us. We love in the fullest and absolute sense because God's love went out to men and more especially to us. If our love is to be made full and perfect then it must go out to all men, even to our enemies. The eternal sovereign love of God is the fountain of all that is good in us. He loved us when we were utterly unlovely. This verse could also be translated, "Let us love, because he is the first who loved us." The word LOVE could be a hortatory subjunctive, exhorting us to LOVE OTHERS because God loved us first.
4. God's Love Prompts Us to Love Others - 20, 21
"If a man says, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar; for he that loveth not his brother, whom he hath seen, how can he love God, whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, that he who loveth God love his brother also." A soul-searching question is found in these two verses. The man who talks love and "acts" hate is a liar. If his love does not reach out enough to embrace his fellowman, it cannot touch the heart of God in heaven. Love must have an object; if it fails to find a nearer object (our fellowman) it will never reach the further Object (God). Love must take two directions and find both God and our brother. Hating one of God's creation is actually hating what God loves, and this contradicts truth. The brother is the visible image of God. Loving God means loving His image.
We can deceive ourselves by thinking of the love of God as an emotional and pleasurable feeling that can be selfishly kept for ourselves. This is not so. We can be no more selfish about God's love than we can about His sunshine. We prove our enjoyment and reciprocity of the love of God by its overflow to others. Phillips' translation of this verse states it this way, "If he does not love the brother before his eyes how can he love the One beyond his sight?" "The Greek text reads, 'For the one not having the habit of loving his brother whom he has really seen (perfect tense) with the natural eye, God whom he has not really seen with the natural eye he is not able to love. If my love does not reach next door, it certainly cannot reach up to heaven'" (Hobbs, p, 118).
Love is an obligatory virtue and not an optional one so says verse 21. The practice of love is appointed by God as a commandment. Indeed, it is the sum of all commandments, but the meaning goes even deeper than this to say that whatever love we show to God, He insists shall be shared with His children. Love is a duty required of us at all times by God, and the children of God ought surely to obey their Heavenly Father. He refuses to accept a love we refuse to show toward our brethren. We wrong God when we are not right with man.
Brotherly love was a distinction of the early Christians. Brotherly love has not lost its power; it is still the most potent weapon of Christians who dare to put it into practice. Whether or nor we follow the depth and logic of the preceding verses, the fact remains that we have a clear command from God to love our brother. There can be no doubt what is God's will in this matter!
1. Faith and Love Go Hand in Hand - 1 - 3
"Whosoever believeth that Jesus Christ is born of God; and everyone that loveth him that begot loveth him also that is begotten of him" (verse 1). Literally, "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah has been born of God..." The writer indicates here that true faith is in a Person. To believe that Jesus is the Christ is to believe that He is the center and focus of revelation, that He was the One to Whom the whole of the Old Testament looked forward, that He is the Eternal Son of God.
Victorious faith is not the "worked-up" attitudes of any man. It is the gift of God. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the GIFT OF God not of works lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8, 9). Jesus declared that Peter's faith in Him as the Christ, came to him in a spiritual experience with the Father. The faith that is victorious is impossible apart from regeneration.
Faith and love are inseparable neither can exist without the other. To speak of loving God while refusing to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ is a contradiction. Saving faith in Christ envelopes us in the love of God and that of His family. To be born of God is to be born into a family with obligations, not only toward the Father of the family but also toward all His children. Faith concerning Jesus is essential to life; life is essential to love; love is essential to eternal life.
"By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments" (verse 2). Love for God means love for God's children. Our love for God is decisively proven by the doing (keeping) of His commandments. This kind of love is not all sentiment, but has the strong vigor of duty and obedience. Those who know the love of God soon know that they love those who love God. It is in this love relationship that the truth about the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man come to fruition. God is not the Father of the children of the devil; nor are the children of Satan the brethren and sisters of the saved. Only at the Cross of Calvary in the acceptance of God's bountiful love, does any one find God to be his heavenly Father. At no other place does he find other human beings to be his brothers and sisters. This does not mean, however, that we should treat the unsaved with disdain, but we are to love their souls and desire to see them saved.
"For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not burdensome (bareiai) or grievous" (verse 3). In the keeping of God's commandments our true love toward God is manifested. There is a delight in doing God's will, and there is also a delight in exercising good will to others. The commandments of God are not burdensome; they do not press down upon us as intolerable burdens. Jesus said, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28 - 30). In fact, the love of God lightens His commands.
The rigorous legal code of the Pharisees laid heavy burdens upon men's shoulders, but love for God and Christ make his yoke easy and His burden light. The born-again believer joyfully keeps God's commandments and lives a victorious and overcoming life. "To the unsaved person God's commands are indeed irksome. He neither wants to keep the divine commandments, nor can he do so. In respect to the law of God he is an outlaw. But to the child of God, having become a partaker of the divine nature, obeying God through His commandments is actually a pleasure" (Gingrich, p. 100).
2. Faith Overcomes Everything - 4, 5
"For whatever is born of God overcometh the world; and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith" (verse 4). This true faith is effective to the overcoming of all things. Although the conflict between the Christian and the world is a continuous one, the victory for the believer is an habitual experience. Furthermore, there is also evidence which indicates that our faith has won for us a once-for-all victory; the Christian overcomes opposition. Faith in Christ is the means or action by which the new creature overcomes. Knox writes, "Whatsoever takes its origin from God must needs triumph over the world" (Hobbs, p. 123). Because it appropriates Christ the Conquering One, and identifies us with Him; we thus enter into his strength, which is the secret of victory. Paul wrote, "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13). Furthermore he wrote, "But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Corinthians 15:57).
"Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God" (verse 5). The writer here uses the present tense because the fight is still in progress. Christ is the supreme Victor, and, if victory is to be ours, it must be though Him. It is no mere belief in God that conquers, but belief in the Incarnation, belief in that glorious victory won by the Son of God against all the forces of sin and darkness.
Jesus was victorious at the Cross even though He seemed to men to be defeated. Only after His resurrection could men know, even some of His disciples, that he was victorious. His darkest hour on the Cross was overtaken by the brightness of the Resurrection morning. Those of us who belong to Christ are victorious many times when the world thinks we are fighting a losing battle. Our victories are spiritual and eternal; they are satisfying and glorious.
As the Easter season approaches each year, when even nature bursts forth with a sign of life and victory, we are reminded anew of the victorious life of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The resurrection of our Lord is the KEYSTONE in the arch of Christianity; it is the SEAL of all His claims. Without the resurrection, we would have no Savior, but because of the resurrection Christ won the victory which can be ours. A right relationship with Jesus guarantees victory over the world. A faith whose object is Jesus, the Son of God, guarantees victory over the world.
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1. Evidence That Jesus Is the Son of God - 6 - 8
"This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood; and these three agree in one." How can we be sure of the incarnation, that God came down to earth in human flesh? The Lord Jesus Christ came, or was manifested, as the Son of God at His baptism in the Jordan and by His death on Calvary. In His bloody death upon the Cross, we have the explanation of His passion. In His baptism we see Him numbered with the transgressors, submitting Himself to be baptized alongside sinful men, identifying Himself in their relation to God as sinners.
We need to be reminded that John was refuting the Gnostic error. "Cerinthus taught that 'the Christ' (a spiritual being) came down on the man Jesus when He was baptized but left Him before He died. The Christ, that is to say, came through water (baptism) but not through the blood (death)" (Bruce, p. 118, 119). "Through His baptism, however, Jesus consecrated Himself to His mission, and through His blood He consummated it" (Hobbs, p. 126). He was Jesus the Christ from His birth and throughout His life here on the earth and even in His sacrificial death. And He is still the Christ, the Son of God. John the Baptist testified at the baptism of Jesus, "And I saw, and bore witness; that this is the Son of God" (John 1:34). We have the assurance that God was well pleased with the death of His Son, for He raised Him from the dead (Acts 13:30).
Three witnesses testify to the truth of the incarnation. The Holy Spirit is the first witness to the fact that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. The second witness is the water or the baptism of Jesus. He was not baptized on the confession of personal sin, nor to make Him the Son of God, but rather as a declaration of His purpose to fulfill all righteousness for men by means of His death, burial and resurrection, of which baptism is a type. A third witness is the blood, or His sacrifice on the Cross. Although there was no sin in Jesus, He was dying as the sinner's substitute. He paid the penalty of man's wrong doing. John writes, "These three agree in one?" that is, they all have one object and one effect. Thus the Scripture is fulfilled, "In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established" (II Corinthians 13:1). This New Testament Scripture is an interpretation of and a reference to Deuteronomy 19:15 where the conditions for a legally valid witness are laid down. A valid testimony is given to the fact that Jesus Christ was and is the Son of God; He is man's Savior.
2. God's Testimony Concerning His Son - 9, 10
"If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater (meizon); for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son" (verse 9). The writer emphasizes the fact that if humanity will accept the earthly witnesses such as the water and the blood, there is an even greater witness - the testimony of God is greater. At the baptism of Jesus, God declared, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17). At the resurrection God witnessed to the world that He was pleased with Christ's personal ministry and with the Son's sacrifice for sin.
A further witness is referred to, "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself, he that believeth not God hath made him a liar, because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son" (verse 10). "He that believeth" is in the present tense meaning that believing is an habitual attitude of faith. This testimony is an inner witness which is God's Holy Spirit Who resides within the heart of every believer. By believing in Christ, this divine testimony becomes a part of one's self, a self-evidencing experience. Unbelief is a serious responsibility - the recognition that there is a God but failure to accept the fact that Jesus was God incarnate. To fail to accept God's witness is to impute falsehood to God. The writer says that this individual has made God a liar, when he fails to accept God's testimony concerning His Son.
3. Eternal Life is in the Son of God - 11, 12
"And this is the record (marturia) or report, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." What is the testimony of these witnesses whose word cannot be disputed? Eternal life is the end result. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. ..He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John 3:16, 36).
Eternal life is in the Son, and it is the gift of God. Man cannot possess eternal life unless he possesses the Son of God in a believing relationship of surrendered love. There are not many saviors but only One. "Neither is there salvation in another other; for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
It is the presence or the absence of the divine Person in the heart and life of the individual that makes the difference between eternal life and eternal death. The unbeliever needs to know whose Son he has spurned when be refuses to accept Jesus Christ. The unbeliever has spurned the Son of God, God's sacrifice for sin. He has refused eternal life when he refuses God's Son.
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Concerning the witness in the heart of the believer, "Spurgeon affirms that this inward witness involves, "the WONDERFUL SENSE OF CHANGE which comes over the believer, the WONDERFUL POWER which goes with the word of God, and the DEEP FEELING OF PEACE which comes to us through believing in Jesus" (Vaughan, pp. 123, 124).
Won't you accept God's sacrifice for sin today? There is no other way that you can be saved. Salvation is in none other than Jesus Christ.
Guy H. King says that once when Spurgeon was preaching about having everlasting life, shutting his fist up tight as he pronounced the word, he explained, "HATH spells GOT IT" (p. 110).
1. You Can Know You Are Saved - 13
John writes, "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God" (verse 13). In this verse, eternal life is a present possession. We can know that we are saved by fully accepting what God has done for us in and through His Son, and by believing what He has said to us in His Word. Both the Living Word and the Written Word give us assurance of eternal life. Assurance cannot and will not come to the insincere and doubting. If our faith in Christ and repentance for sin are real then assurance is forthcoming.
Eternal life is a great treasure. It is of more value than any earthly possession. Although it defies definition and illustration, John says we can know that we have it. "The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God," (Romans 8:16). This assurance is neither mythical nor emotional; it is rational. It is visible, and invisible; it is within and without. Within is the witness of the Holy Spirit; without are the evidences of love, righteousness and all of the attributes of a changed life. This KNOWING faith is the normal result of a SAVING faith. Outward expressions of this inward faith are the realities of forgiven sins, a desire to keep God's commandments, a godly love which has both quality and quantity to it, the witness of the Holy Spirit and the word of God.
To know we are saved and have been forgiven for our sins will bring an abundant measure of assurance, joy, happiness and satisfaction "in the Lord." The Apostle John is characterized as a writer concerning knowledge and faith. In fact the Gospel of John was written to produce faith and its effect, while the epistle of John was written to confirm faith.
2. A Blessing for the Saved in the Avenue of Prayer - 14, 15
Assurance of salvation gives us confidence before God when we pray. "And this is the confidence (parresia) or boldness that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us" (verse 14). The heavenly Father is a prayer-hearing and a prayer-answering God. If His children pray according to His will, we can know that He hears. As a child of God, we have confidence or boldness to approach Him as our Father. Prayer is not only a "talking or conversing with God," but the individual projects himself into the very presence of God. We possess a holy boldness because we have trusted God's Son as our personal Savior, and we approach Him in and though the name of Jesus.
We come to Him on the merits of Jesus and not on our own merits, for we have none. Prayer in its basic form is an asking and a receiving, but one of the first steps is finding God's will. God and His will come first - before all human desires and requests. Jesus said in the Model Prayer, "Our Father, who are in heaven. Hallowed by thy name. Thy kingdom come. THY WILL BE DONE in earth, as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:9, 10). "Prayer must be in harmony with the Word of God; it must be supported by a life in harmony with the Word God; it must be in harmony with the will of God for the one for whom we pray" (Gingrich, p. 117, 118).
God's will may lead through ordeals of suffering, persecution and even death, as in the case of the Lord Jesus Christ. Living and praying according to the will of God are prerequisites for petitions being granted. Our praying should be God-centered and Christ-exalting. Jesus said in John 14:14, "If ye shall ask anything IN MY NAME, I will do it." It is not necessary that we know all there is to know about prayer, for much of the science of prayer is unknown, but we can know that it is the divinely appointed means of contact with God.
"And if we know that he hear us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions (aitemata) or requests that we desired of him" (verse 15). John follows his declaration on prayer by an amplification. Confidence is now expressed in terms of knowledge. If we KNOW that he hears, we KNOW that we receive. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, "Ask and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you" (Matthew 7:7). The certainty of the answer makes the requests as good as answered. AS A MATTER OF FACT the answer may be long in coming, but AS A MATTER OF FAITH it is ours at the time of our asking. Although the answer may not come at once, and though, when it comes, it may not be what we expected it to be, or what we wanted it to be, God does listen and our petition is granted according to God's own will and in God's own way.
3. The Prayer of the Saved Can Be Intercessory - 16, 17
Prayer is not just simply asking and receiving, but John also writes of intercessory prayer, "If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death; I do not say that he shall pray for it. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not unto death" (verses 16, 17). Intercessory prayer, that is, prayer in behalf of another, is a precious jewel. It is our responsibility to pray for the brother who has fallen into sin of any kind. As long as a brother has not committed a "sin unto death," we can have assurance that God hears and answers our intercessory petition. Vine states, "If our prayer has as its object, not our self-interest, but our brother's real good, the condition is fulfilled and prayer will be answered in God's time and way" (p. 104). Robert Law observes that "the marvelous and supernatural power of prayer consists, not in bringing God's Will down to us, but in lifting our will up to His" (Vaughan, 130).
What is this "sin unto death?" John has repeatedly referred to this throughout his epistle - that of willfully rejecting the testimony of the Holy Spirit as to the true nature and Messiahship of Jesus, the denying of Christ in His true nature. If the confession of Christ with the mouth and heart is salvation unto life, then denial of Christ with the mouth and heart, as the antichrists did, must be the sin that is unto death.
The Gnostics persistently resisted the Holy Spirit. To pray for the remission of this sin is to pray for an impossibility; it is to pray against an absolute decree of God. It is to pray for salvation outside of Christ and separate and apart from the Holy Spirit. Jesus spoke of what theologians call the "unpardonable sin." "Wherefore, I say unto you, all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men; but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this age, neither in the age to come" (Matthew 12:31, 32).
In the Old Testament God was lifted up by the prophets, many hearers rejected Him. In the New Testament days God was manifested in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. After Christ's resurrection the Holy Spirit represents God and His saving grace. If man rejects the Holy Spirit, He is the last contact that God has with lost mankind.
Of course, there are instances in the Bible where men have sinned a sin unto death; that is, because of their willful sin God has taken them to heaven through immediate physical death. Moses committed the sin of disobedience, and God took him in death before he could enter the promised land (Numbers 20:11, 12). Ananias and Sapphira committed the sin of deceit, and God took them both immediately by death (Acts 5:1 - 10). The Corinthians had sinned against the Lord in their disorderly observance of the Lord's Supper (I Corinthians 11:29, 30), "he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep (the sleep of death)." The world today takes sin too lightly. Sin is a terrible reality, but there is no cause for despair. Sin can be and has been overcome in Christ!
1. The Victory Over Sin - 18
The first certainty echos what John writes in 3:9, "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." What John is saying here is, "The one born of God does not make a practice of sinning," or "he does not keep on sinning." The born-again believer has the Christ-life in him, and he does not make a habit of sinning. With Jesus Christ as his personal Savior and the Holy Spirit as his Guide and restraining Force, the child of God has the moral and spiritual ability to meet sin.
Although the saved person is the subject of temptation and the object of satanic wiles, and since his nature has been changed he is able to overcome these temptations. This fact reminds us of Paul's letter to the Corinthian Christians, in which he wrote, "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not permit you to be tempted above that ye are able, but will, with the temptation, also make the way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (I Corinthians 10:13). Once it was natural for the individual to sin, now it is unnatural since he has been born again. A continuous course of sin is entirely incompatible with the new birth.
The part of man of which the apostle speaks is the soul. The body of the saved is still in its unredeemed state. The soul is redeemed at the time of salvation, but it remains in an unredeemed body. We are admonished to live holy lives, but holiness does not mean an absolute absence of sin so much as an abhorrent sense of sin. Even though God has said, "Be ye holy as I am holy," to achieve an absolute state of sinlessness is impossible, for only God can be absolutely holy.
Protection against sin lies within the saved individual, for God's seed remains in him. The characteristic of the new nature is holiness. Although the saved commit "acts of sin," he does not "live in sin;" that is not the nature of the saved. The Eternally Begotten keeps him who is begotten by grace. The evil one does not lay hold upon or grasp the one who is kept in Christ. The heavenly Father keeps guard over His child that the wicked one might not destroy him. The evil one assaults, but he cannot sever the vital connection between the believer and Christ. The Christian may have a malignant foe, but he has also a vigilant Guardian. That great Old Testament saint, Job, is a example of this fact. All of this adds up to a certainty - practical holiness is possible for the believer; however, absolute holiness belongs to God.
2. The Newness of Life - 19
In this verse is contained the second certainty. What a satisfaction comes to the saved individual to know that the hand of God has been laid upon him; he has felt the breath of the Eternal pass over his spirit to awaken and transform him! What a blessing to know that there is a power working within each of us, at the root of our nature, that is infinitely wiser and stronger and better than ourselves; a Spirit planted without our hearts which comes directly from the being and the will of the Living God our Father, and links us individually with Him! To possess this great knowledge is to hold a distinction immeasurably above all earthly glory.
While the child of God enjoys these blessings which have been mentioned above, the whole world passively lies in the embrace of the Evil One. The world is the abode of death and the Devil. "The pagan world has climbed up into Satan's lap and gone to sleep - the sleep of death" (Hobbs, p. 141). The individual must choose which group he will join - the fellowship of God and the saints, or the Evil One and his crowd in the world. It is impossible to belong to both. The new birth makes a clear cut division of humanity. Ultimately the separation of God's people from those who belong to the evil one will be final and complete when Jesus comes back to this earth in judgment.
3. Our Relationship to God - 20
In this verse is the third certainty which is the grandest one of them all. One of the most wonderful things in life is that inner consciousness of the truth and presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, our God in our life. To know that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is the only Real God, and to be in Him is to be in the realm of life, the life that is unfading and unwithering. This same apostle says in John 17:3, "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent."
Until these certainties root themselves in our hearts and really grip our souls, the believer lacks the stability, joy and usefulness that the Lord wants him to have. God desires that we have assurance, and we can have it by heeding the teaching of this epistle of John and by taking God at His Word. "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John 3:36).
4. The Closing Exhortation - 21
The writer concludes his epistle by writing in verse 21, "Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen." The "little children" are the begotten who have their source and origin in God, but who are confronted by the godless world that lies in the evil one. They must ever be on their guard at this boundary between God and the Devil. The word "keep" (phulaxate) here is used of "guarding a flock," or "guarding a trust or deposit." John's warning is, "Once and for all be on your guard and have nothing to do with idols." Idols are the symbols of this godless world that belongs to the Devil. Any substitute for God is an idol, and they are present on every hand. An idol is anything that threatens to take, in the affections of our hearts, the place which should be occupied only by the one Living and True God.