Studies of First John
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life–
2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us– 3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. 5 This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.
6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
Verses 1 & 2 John begins his letter, writing: “1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life–
2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—3a that which we have seen and heard we declare to you”
What beginning is John talking about?
1) The beginning mentioned in Genesis 1:1.
2) The beginning of the humanity of Jesus and His dwelling among humanity.
3) Or some other beginning?
Verses 2-3a give the answer: In these verses John affirms the reality of the Incarnation of Christ.
What was John’s purpose in writing the letter?
John gives two purposes for writing the letter in verses 3 & 4”
“that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.”
What was underlying his purpose?
False teachers had brought false teaching into the church (talked about in our introduction and addressed by John in 2:18-26) and he wanted to assure them that what these false teachers taught was heresy, that what they (John and his fellows) taught was evidenced by the life of Jesus.
Verse 5-7 “5This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
In the prologue the author asserted that he was writing about things he had heard, seen, and touched (vs. 3). Here he began with something he had heard. “This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you” (vs.5).
By the words “from Him,” John no doubt meant from the Lord Jesus Christ whose Incarnation he had just referred to (vv. 1-2). The content of this “message,” as John expressed it, is that God is Light; in Him there is no darkness at all. This precise statement is not found in the recorded words of Jesus, but the author was an apostle who heard much more than was “written down” (cf. John 21:25). There is no reason to think that John did not mean just what he said. This is a truth he had learned from the Lord.
What was John trying to convey when he wrote: “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all?
In describing God as Light, which John frequently did (John 1:4-5, 7-9; 3:19-21; 8:12; 9:5; 12:35-36, 46; Rev. 21:23). The description of God as Light captures the essence of His nature, unmeasurable holiness. As Light, God both exposes man’s sin and condemns it. If anyone walks in darkness, he is hiding from the truth which the Light reveals (cf. John 3:19-20).
Verses 6-7 “6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
What Does John make clear about the walk of a Christian?
1:6. Since “God is Light,” it follows that a Christian cannot truly claim communion with Him while living in the darkness (in sin). As John warned, if we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in the darkness (sin) we lie and do not live by the truth.
John knew, as does every perceptive pastor, that Christians sometimes feign spirituality while engaging in acts of disobedience. The Apostle Paul had to deal with a case of incest in the Corinthian assembly (1 Cor. 5:1-5) and laid down a list of sins for which church members should come under church discipline (1 Cor. 5:9-13). Spurious claims to fellowship with God have been a tragic reality throughout the history of the church.
How are some Christian’s deceived? A Christian who says he is in fellowship with God (who “is Light”) but who is disobeying Him (walking “in the darkness”) is lying (cf. 1 John 2:4). Ten times John used “darkness” to refer to sin (John 1:5; 3:19; 12:35 [twice]; 1 John 1:5-6; 2:8-9, 11 [twice]).
1:7. What is the path of walking in the light? A recognition of, confession of, and repenting of sin. Light and darkness; righteousness and unrighteousness cannot co-exist.
There can be only one sphere of real communion with God—the light itself. Thus John insisted that this is where a Christian will find that communion: But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.
What does John mean; Fellowship with one another?
It is strange that many commentators have understood the expression “with one another” as a reference to fellowship with other Christians. But this is not what the author is discussing here. The Greek pronoun for “one another” (allēlōn) may refer to the two parties (God and the Christian) named in the first part of the statement. John’s point is that if Christians live in the light (in God, who is light) then there is mutual fellowship between Himself and them. That is, they have fellowship with Him, and He has fellowship with them. The light itself is the fundamental reality which they share. Thus true communion with God is living in the sphere where one’s experience is illumined by the truth of what God is. It is to live open to His revelation of Himself in Jesus Christ. As John soon stated (v. 9), this entails believers’ acknowledging whatever the light reveals is wrong in their lives.
What is significant about John’s communication? It is significant that John talked of walking in the light, rather than according to the light. To walk according to the light would require sinless perfection and would make fellowship with God impossible for sinful humans. To walk in it, however, suggests instead openness and responsiveness to the light.
How did John think about his readers, and himself? John did not think of Christians, or himself as being sinless. Even though Christians have the light of God, they sin. But, when recognized, confessed, and repented of they again walk in that light, that is, they walk in God. This is made possible because the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from every sin. This statement is grammatically coordinate with the preceding one, “We have fellowship with one another.”
So long as there is true openness to the light of divine truth, Christians’ failures are under the cleansing power of the shed blood of Christ. Indeed, only in virtue of the Savior’s work on the cross can there be any fellowship between imperfect creatures and the infinitely perfect God.
Verses 8-10 “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
1:8. At times, when a believer is experiencing true fellowship with God he may then be tempted to think or say that he is, at that moment at least, free from sin. John warned against this self-deluding conception. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us (cf. v. 6; 2:4).
If Christians understand the truth that God’s Word teaches about the depravity of the human heart, they know that just because they are not conscious of failure does not mean that they are free from it. If the truth is “in” them as a controlling, motivating influence, this kind of self-deception will not take place. Whether someone claims to be “without sin” for a brief period of time or claims it as a permanent attainment, the claim is false.
1:9. What should a true believer always be ready for? In view of verse 8, Christians ought to be ready at all times to acknowledge any failure which God’s light may expose to them. Thus John wrote, If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. John’s thought might be paraphrased: “If we confess our sins, He… will forgive the sins we confess and moreover will even cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Naturally only God knows at any moment the full extent of a person’s unrighteousness. Each Christian, however, is responsible to acknowledge (the meaning of “confess,” homologōmen; cf. 2:23; 4:3) whatever the light makes him aware of, and when he does so, a complete and perfect cleansing is granted him. There is thus no need to agonize over sins of which one is unaware.
Moreover, it is comforting to learn that the forgiveness which is promised here is both absolutely assured (because God “is faithful”) and also is in no way contrary to His holiness (He is “just”). The word used here for “just” (dikaios) is the same one which is applied as a title to Christ in 2:1 where it is translated “the Righteous One.” Dikaios is also used of God (either the Father or the Son) in 2:29 and 3:7. Obviously God is “just” or “righteous” when He forgives the believer’s sin because of the “atoning sacrifice” which the Lord Jesus has made (see 2:2). As is already evident from 1:7, a Christian’s fellowship with God is inseparably connected with the effectiveness of the blood which Jesus shed for him.
In modern times some have occasionally denied that a Christian needs to confess his sins and ask forgiveness. It is claimed that a believer already has forgiveness in Christ (Eph. 1:7). But this point of view confuses the perfect position which a Christian has in God’s Son (by which he is even “seated… with Him in the heavenly realms” [Eph. 2:6]) with his needs as a failing individual on earth.
If we are already forgiven, what then is John saying? What is considered in 1 John 1:9 may be described as “familial” forgiveness. It is perfectly understandable how a son may need to ask his father to forgive him for his faults while at the same time his position within the family is not in jeopardy A Christian who never asks his heavenly Father for forgiveness for his sins can hardly have much sensitivity to the ways in which he grieves his Father. Furthermore, the Lord Jesus Himself taught His followers to seek forgiveness of their sins in a prayer that was obviously intended for daily use (cf. the expression “give us today our daily bread” preceding “forgive us our debts,” Matt. 6:11-12). The teaching that a Christian should not ask God for daily forgiveness is an aberration. Moreover, confession of sin is never connected by John with the acquisition of eternal life, which is always conditioned on faith. First John 1:9 is not spoken to the unsaved, and the effort to turn it into a soteriological affirmation is misguided.
It may also be said that so long as the idea of walking in the light or darkness is correctly understood on an experiential level, these concepts offer no difficulty. “Darkness” has an ethical meaning (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, s.v. “skotos,” 7:444). When a believer loses personal touch with the God of light, he begins to live in darkness. But confession of sin is the way back into the light.
1:10. However, after a believer sins, he should not deny that sin. If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His Word has no place in our lives. This statement should be read in direct connection with verse 9. When a Christian is confronted by God’s Word about his sins, he should admit them rather than deny them. To deny one’s personal sin in the face of God’s testimony to the contrary, is to “make” God “out to be a liar.” By contradicting His Word, a person rejects it and refuses to give it the proper “place” in his life.
2:1 1 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.
Studies in First John
1 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.
3 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. 6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.
7 Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning. 8 Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. 9 He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. 10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
I write to you, little children, Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake. 13 I write to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, Because you have overcome the wicked one. I write to you, little children, Because you have known the Father. 14 I have written to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, And you have overcome the wicked one. 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 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. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
18 Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us. 20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.
21 I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. 23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.
24 Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.
25 And this is the promise that He has promised us–eternal life.
26 These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. 27 But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.
28 And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. 29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.
Taken from the Commentary of John Vernon McGee
Pastor -Church of the Open Door-Los Angeles, CA.
Bible Teacher- Thru the Bible
What is the Theme of chapter two?
The advocacy of Christ; how the dear children may have fellowship with each other; the “dear children” must not love the world
This chapter is a continuation of the thought begun in the previous chapter regarding the manner in which “little children” may have fellowship with God. We have seen that we can have fellowship with God by walking in the light, that is, in God’s presence. The second thing we must do in order to maintain that fellowship is to confess our sins to Him. When we walk in the light, we know that the blood of Jesus Christ keeps on cleansing us from all sin, but we also know that there is imperfection in our lives and that we must go to Him in confession.
In chapter 2 we come to the matter of the advocacy of Christ. We will now see the conclusion of that which began with 1John 1:5, where John said, “This then is the message.” What is the message? It is the message of the gospel of the grace of God that takes the hell-doomed sinner and by simple faith in Christ brings him into the family of God where he becomes an heir and joint-heir with Jesus Christ. It is the relationship with the Father that is all important.
Verses 2:1-2 / Fellowship with God by the advocacy of Christ.
Verse 2:1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
“My little children” is an interesting expression. It comes from the Greek word teknia and probably should be translated “my little born ones” or “my little born-again ones.”
John is writing these things to us because God does not want His children (us) to sin. Although God has made ample and adequate provision for us not to sin, our entrance into His provision is imperfect — because of our imperfection. Notice that this verse does not say that we cannot sin, but John is writing to us that we may not sin. God wants us to walk in a manner that is well pleasing to Him; that is, He wants us to walk in obedience to His Word.
The Gnostics claimed that sin was of the flesh, not of man’s spirit-that man’s flesh was material and would die and return to dust but that his spirit was immaterial, immortal and could not sin. John by inspiration of the Holy Spirit was refuting this claim. He wrote My little children (my little born-again ones), I write these things unto you that you may not be sinning.” God doesn’t want you to live in sin. We are going to find later that John is going to say, “Whosoever is born of God does not sin” (1John 5:18).
Is there a contradiction?
No, “1John 5:18” speaks of a lifestyle, a practice of sinning, Living in continuous sin with disregard of it.
There are some today who claim that they do not sin but this is in denial of what John has just written and what Solomon was led to write in Ecclesiastes 7:20, “For there is not a just man upon earth, that does good, and sins not.”
Today you and I may be able to say, “I don’t think I have done anything really bad.” But how about doing good? James says, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). There are sins of commission and sins of omission. You and I are to walk in the light. When we walk in the light, we will see just how far we have fallen short of what God wants. Every sincere child of God wants to have fellowship with Him, and yet he knows within himself that he has fallen far short of the kind of life he should have. There is sin in his life, and sin, be it ever so small, breaks communion with the Father.
Broken communion with Father God, is it permanent?
No, Thank God John was led to write:
“And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father” (2:2).
What is an advocate?
Advocate — a paraclete, a helper — is a legal term. It means “one who will come to your side to help in every time of need.” We have a wonderful heavenly Father, and we don’t lose our salvation when we sin, but there is somebody up there who wants us to lose it, and that is Satan.
Satan is the accuser of the brethren. In Revelation 12:10 we are told that he accuses us before our God day and night. Satan is there at the throne of God accusing you and accusing me. Remember how he accused Job. In effect, he said to God, “If you will let me get to him, I’ll show You that he will curse you” (Job 1:16-12).
Who is our advocate to Father God?
Jesus Christ, the *Righteous One. The Holy Spirit is our advocate down here, and Christ is our advocate in heaven.
*The Righteous One John writes that Jesus is “The Righteous One”. Making this term applicable to Him is to make Him God, as God alone is Righteous.
When the Christian sins, (when we sin) the Lord Jesus is able to step in as our Advocate.
Why? because He is righteous and by very nature, God.
Verse 2:2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.
What does John mean, He is the propitiation for our sins?
The word propitiation, as it is used here in John’s epistle, is a different word from that used in the Epistle to the Romans. In Romans the meaning is “mercy seat” — Christ is the propitiation, the mercy seat, the meeting place between God and man. However, here in 1 John propitiation means “an atonement or an expiation.” It means that sins have been paid for by the suffering of Another.
Notice that John does not say that if anyone repents, he has an Advocate nor if anyone confesses his sins, he has an Advocate. Neither does he say that if anyone goes through a ceremony to get rid of his sins, he has an Advocate. What he does say is that if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father. Before we even repent of that cruel or brutal word we said, the very moment we had that evil thought, and the moment we did that wrong act, Jesus Christ was there at the throne of God to represent us as Satan was there accusing us. While Jesus is advocating in heaven for us the Holy Spirit brings conviction to us, causing in us a desire to confess and be cleansed of our sin.
The sincere child of God wants to please the Father, and he walks along with that in mind. The psalmist expressed it this way: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24).
My friend, if you are a child of God, you are in the family of God, and He wants to have fellowship with you. I don’t care about these little rules you are following. You think that some way you are going to be able to live the Christian life by following rules. My friend, God doesn’t want you to be a programmed computer. He is not trying to do that to you. You are a human being with your own free will (A will that is freed from the bondage of sin), you are a member of His family, and He wants to have fellowship with you. We can talk to Him like we can talk to no one else.
In another look at John 2:2 “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” John writes that Jesus was/is the propitiation for the whole world (2:2a) and last week we spent most of our time discussing unlimited and limited atonement, whether or not Jesus’ sacrifice was/is applicable to every person. We considered that Jesus blood washes away the sins of children, who have not reached the age of accountability; those who are mentally impaired; and those who are convinced and convicted of their sin, who repent of it, but wondered about all others, those whom do not repent and reject Jesus’ sacrifice. It was proffered that Jesus sacrifice had/has the power to cover everyone but that it was/is not applicable to everyone.
Looking for support of that determination I consulted the works of John MacArthur and read: The apostle’s words and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world have been understood by many to refer to an unlimited atonement, by which Christ provides a potential salvation for all people without exception. Logically, such an interpretation strips the work of Christ on the cross of any actual atonement for anyone specifically, and it provides only a potential satisfaction for God’s wrath.
To be faithful to the truth revealed in Scripture, the whole world must be comprehended as a generic expression that refers to humanity throughout the earth, but not necessarily to every individual. World simply identifies the earthly realm of mankind to which God directed His reconciling love and provided propitiation (cf. John 1:29; 3:16; 6:51; 1 Tim. 2:5-6; Titus 2:11; Heb. 2:9). The language of Scripture is strong and clear, stating that Christ’s death actually satisfies fully and eternally the demands of God’s wrath for those who believe (John 10:11, 15; 17:9, 20; Acts 20:28; Rom. 8:32, 37; Eph. 5:25). Though the Savior’s death intrinsically had infinite value, it was designed to actually (not potentially) secure the satisfaction for divine justice only on behalf of those who would believe. (End of transcription).
Verses 2:3-6 “3 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. 6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.”
Can a Christian lose Salvation?
Verse 2:3 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. First of all, let me point out that this verse has nothing to do with the security of the believer. John is talking about assurance. As God’s children, we are in a family. But how can we have the assurance that we are in God’s family? He is telling us that assurance comes by keeping His commandments.
“If we keep his commandments” does not refer to the Ten Commandments. John is not dealing with any legal aspects; he is dealing with family matters. The Ten Commandments were given to a nation, and on these commandments every civilized nation has based its laws. The Ten Commandments are for the unsaved. Now God has something for His own family, and they are commandments for His children.
For example, in Galatians 6:2 the family is told, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”
In 1Thessalonians 4:2 Paul tells the family of Christ, “For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus.”
Some of those commandments are mentioned in the last chapter of 1 Thessalonians. I have counted twenty-two commandments in that chapter, and here are a few of them. “Rejoice evermore” — God wants you to be a joyful Christian. “Pray without ceasing” refers to an attitude of prayer. That is, when you get off your knees, you still are to walk in a prayerful attitude. “Quench not the Spirit” — don’t say no to Him. These are some of the commandments which the Lord Jesus has given to believers, and if we are to have fellowship with the Father and enjoy it by having assurance in our own hearts, we must keep His commandments. We do not feel that we are free to do as we please. The Christian doesn’t do as he pleases; he does as Christ pleases.
“And hereby we do know that we know him.” Remember that throughout this epistle John is answering the Gnostics who claimed to have a superior knowledge that no one else had — and generally it was heresy. But the apostle John is saying that the important thing is to know Jesus Christ. And how can we have the assurance that we know Him? My friend, although a great many folk believe in the security of the believer, they don’t have the assurance of salvation, and the reason is obvious. We cannot know that we are children of God if we are disobedient to Him. Obedience to Christ is essential and is the very basis of assurance. You cannot have that assurance (oh, you can bluff your way through, but you cannot have that deep, down-in-your-heart assurance) unless you keep His commandments.
Verse 2:4 He who says, “I know him, and does not keep His commandments, is a liar; and the truth is not in him.
I would call this very plain talk! In the previous verse John has said that we know that we know Him — this is the positive side. We know by experience in contrast to the esoteric knowledge of the Gnostics. Now he presents the negative side: disobed-ience to Christ is a proof that we do not know Him. This is plain and direct language. Disobedience to Christ on the part of a professing Christian is tantamount to being a liar. In other words, his life is a lie.
There are a great many people who say they are children of God, but are they? It is one thing to say you are a child of God, and it is another thing to be a possessor of eternal life, to have a new nature that cries out to the Father for fellowship and wants to obey Him. John is making it very clear that we know that we know Him because we keep His commandments.
Let me repeat that John is not talking about the Ten Commandments that were given to the nation Israel in the Old Testament. John is talking about the commandments that Christ gave to the church. If a child of God does not have a love for these commandments, he is in the very gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity, as the Scripture says (see Acts 8:23).
The Lord Jesus, when He was here in the flesh, said of the Father, “…I do always those things that please him” (John 8:29). I can’t say that, but I can say that I want to please Him, and I have dedicated my life to that end. Although I sometimes stumble and fall, I want to please Him. While it is true that “he that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life…” (John 3:36), it corroborates his faith when in his heart he knows that he wants to do God’s will. The natural man never did want to do God’s will. Oh, boy, this is a strong statement which John makes! “He that saith, I know him, and keeps not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” And John will tell us that the Holy Spirit is the one who prompted him to say it. The truth is not in a man who claims to be a child of God but does not keep His commandments.
Verse 2:5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.
In John 14:15 the Lord made this statement: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” In John 14:23 He said, “…If a man love me, he will keep my words….”
What is the distinction here? Let me illustrate this. Suppose the home of a young boy is in the country. His father is a farmer. One day, when the boy is on his way to school, his father says, “Son, I’ll milk the cow when I come in from the field each day, but when you get home from school, I want you to chop wood, put it on the back porch, and tell your mama so she can make a fire in the cook stove and in the fireplace.” When the boy comes home, he obeys his father’s commandment that he chops wood. He spends about an hour and a half chopping wood after school, and he stacks it on the back porch. Then one morning at the breakfast table, the father says, “I don’t feel well today. I feel so bad that I don’t think I can go out and work in the field today.” But he goes out anyway. Now when the boy comes home from school, although his only commandment is to chop wood, he knows that his father is sick and doesn’t feel like milking the cow, so he not only chops the wood but he milks the cow also. He chops the wood because he was commanded to do so, but he milks the cow because he loves his father.
In just this way a child of God not only wants to obey the commandments of God, but he also wants to obey the Word of God. He wants to please his Father in everything that he does. I get the impression from many folk that they want to live as much like the unsaved as possible and still be Christians. I would never give an answer to a young person who asked me if a Christian could do this or that and still be a Christian — because they were asking the wrong questions. The right question to ask is this: “What can I do to please my heavenly Father?” You see, a genuine child of God wants to please Him; he does not try to live right on the margin of the Christian life.
All of this, you see, is on the basis of love: “If you love me, keep my commandments,” and “If a man love me, he will keep my words.” If you love Him, you will do more than keep His commandments; you will do something extra for Him.
I feel that a great many folk have in their thinking only the sins of commission and forget about the sins of omission. James said, … “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin. (James 4:17). There are many things I know I should do, but I neglect to do them. These are sins of omission. The Bible makes no distinction between the gravity of sins of commission and sins of omission. They are equally bad.
My friend, verse 5 is very important. Let me repeat it: “But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.”
When the love of God is perfected in you, it means that you have passed the commandments and you just want to please God.
I suggest that you take an inventory of yourself. What is your attitude toward sin? Does it trouble you? Does it break your fellowship with the Father? Does it cause you to cry out in the night, “Oh, God, I’m wrong, and I want to confess the wrong I have done. I want fellowship with You.” On that basis God will restore fellowship with us, and the assurance of salvation comes to our hearts.
Verse 2:6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.
We cannot do or be all that the Lord Jesus Christ did or was, but if we set our hearts on doing our Father’s will, which was the thing that the Lord Jesus put uppermost in His life, then we are walking as (in the same manner as) He walked.
I hear the word commitment a great deal these days. When an invitation is given after a message, the question is asked, “Do you want to commit your life to Christ?” What do they mean by that? Well, let me tell you what John means by full commitment. It is to love Christ. And if you love Christ, you are going to keep His Word — you can’t help it. You want to please the person you love. You don’t want to offend; you want to please. This is the reason I send a dozen American Beauty roses to my wife occasionally. You see, the question is not “Are you committed to Christ?” The question is, “Do you love Christ?”
Verses 2:7-11 7 Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning. 8 Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. 9 He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. 10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
2:7 Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning.
“An old commandment which ye had from the beginning.”
From what beginning?
Well, the “beginning” in 1 John is the incarnation of Christ. It began in Bethlehem, then worked itself out in a carpenter shop and three years of public ministry. The “commandment which ye had from the beginning” was what the Lord Jesus gave to His apostles when He was with them on earth — which He repeated many times.
For example, in John 13:34-35 we read, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
And in John 15:10, 12, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love…. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.”
2:8 Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.
Now, why is it a new commandment for believers who are regenerated and indwelt by the Holy Spirit?
Because it was given on the other side of the Cross, before the coming of the Holy Spirit. On this side it is new.
Believers are to do the will of God; and the will of God, first of all, is to love Him. This identifies a believer. A believer is one who delights to do the will of God. Because “the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth,” the believer ought to be able to say that he is getting to know the Lord God better and that he is understanding His will more perfectly. Schiller, the great German poet, said, “I see everything clearer and clearer.” And that should be the experience of every child of God. Every day we should be growing, and it is impossible to grow apart from a study of the Word of God. The written Word reveals the living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, and He is the Bread of Life and the Water of Life. We will famish if we don’t feed upon Him.
Let me repeat that the great problem in the world today is that the majority of believers are trying to follow a few little rules and regulations; they are programmed like a computer. They feel that they are living the Christian life if they do all those little things. Oh, my friend, you are not a computer; you are a human being. If you are a child of God, you have a new nature — although you still have your old nature in which “…dwelleth no good thing…” (Rom. 7:18). But your new nature wants to do God’s will; it wants to please Him.
“The darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shinning” would be better translated, “the darkness is passing.” As you look around you today, you will see that the darkness has not passed yet. Ignorance of the Word of God is still much in evidence. The “true light,” who is the Lord Jesus Christ, is breaking upon this world. He still is the most controversial person who has ever lived on the earth.
2.9 / He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now.
It is impossible for you as a child of God to walk in the light and hate your brother. If you do hate another Christian, it means there is something radically wrong with your confession of faith.
This does not mean that there are not some people whose manners and habits will be objectionable to you. This does not mean that there won’t be some believers who have certain habits that you don’t approve of — that is understandable. But to hate them reveals that you are in darkness. Hatred of a fellow believer is evidence that a person is not in the light. This is something we need to keep in mind. There is the natural darkness in which all men are born. Paul talks about it in Ephesians 4:18, where he says, “Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.” That is the condition of mankind by nature. But our condemnation is not because of what we are by nature. “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). This is important. Don’t let it slip by you. We are not responsible because we are sinners by nature; we are responsible if we reject the Savior. We are not responsible because we were born in darkness and because our understanding is darkened; we are responsible if we reject the light that comes to us through the Word of God.
What test does John gives us as a test to see if we are in darkness?
Verses 10-11 gives the answer: “10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”
Who is our brother?
Not one who is of the same blood (siblings) but of Christian unity.
MacArthur writes: A brother is identified by these words of Jesus: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). (end of transcription.
Jesus was talking to His disciples who were not all related by physical birth but would be by spiritual rebirth.
McGee writes: My friend, we need to apply John’s test to our own lives. Have you really trusted Christ? Is He your light? Is He the one who is so guiding you that you are not hating your brother?
What does John mean, he walks in the light will not cause his brother to stumble (vs.10)? Does it mean that by a lack of loving a brother as we ought, we can cause a brother to lose his salvation?
MacArthur writes: stumbling refers to sinning (cf. Matt. 5:29-30; 13:41; 18:6, 8-9; Luke 17:2; John 16:1; 1 Cor. 8:13; Rev. 2:14). John used the term to explain that the person who truly loves others—as a reflection of his love for Christ—will not cause them to sin (cf. Rom. 13:8-10) or reject the gospel.
Verses 2:12-14. “12 I write to you, little children, Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake. 13 I write to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, Because you have overcome the wicked one. I write to you, little children, Because you have known the Father. 14 I have written to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, And you have overcome the wicked one.
At this point John addresses four specific groups: Little children a.k.a. babes in Christ; Little children a.k.a. young persons with some level of maturity; Fathers; and young men.
To those he termed little children he writes: “I write to you little children because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake (vs.12). Then he writes in verse 13: I write to you, little children, Because you have known the Father.
Henry M. Morris writes that “Little children” in these two verses are in the Greek different words with different meanings. In Verses 12 little children means “infants” thus referring to spiritual babes in Christ, however in verse 13 a different word is used with the meaning of “young child,” evidently referring to half grown children. (End of transcription). Spiritual babes in Christ would be those who were just beginning their walk in Christ and young child would be those who had grown somewhat but far from maturity.
To those he addressed as fathers he wrote: “13 I write to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning. Then repeats his words in verse 14.
To those he addressed as young men he wrote: I write to you, young men, Because you have overcome the wicked one (vs. 13). Then in verse 14 he wrote: “I have written to you, young men, Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, And you have overcome the wicked one.
Henry Madison Morris (October 6, 1918 – February 25, 2006) was an American young Earth creationist, Christian apologist, and engineer. He was one of the founders of the Creation Research Society and the Institute for Creation Research.
It is hard to know why John grouped his readers as he did, perhaps (probably) because false teachers were approaching each level in their attempts to persuade them away from the true gospel.
MacArthur however writes: One essence of life is growth. This is true in both the physical realm and in the spiritual realm. Just as living seeds grow into mature plants and infants grow into mature adults, so new Christians grow into Christlikeness. When growth is hindered in the physical realm, either by malnutrition, disease, or birth defects, the results can be tragic. But it is an even greater tragedy when believers fail to grow and mature spiritually. After all, immature Christians cannot fully appreciate all the blessings and privileges that God has reserved for them, nor serve Him with the usefulness He desires (John 15:4-5; 17:21; Rom. 5:2; 8:28, 34; 9:23. Spiritual growth ultimately depends on God’s power, but it also requires the element of human responsibility. All scriptural calls to obedience make that obvious. Every biblical command toward sanctification assumes the necessary obedience of the ones commanded. That makes it clear that believers have a duty to faithfully and obediently use the means of grace to grow to maturity. (End of transcription).
Verves 2:15-17: “15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 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. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”
This is a section which a great many would separate from what has gone before, but I feel that it is very much a part of what John has been talking about. John has been telling us how we as God’s children can know that we are His children. He has said that the way we can know is by the fact that we love Him and keep His commandments. Later, John is going to say that His commandments are not burdensome (5:3). We are not talking about the Ten Commandments here but about the commandments which the Lord Jesus gave, for we have been brought into the Holy of Holies in a very personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
The way in which we can have assurance and be a proof not only to our neighbor but also to ourselves that we are genuine children of God is by our obedience to Him and our desire to please Him in all we do. I feel that there is some folk today who more or less grit their teeth and say, “Yes, I’ll obey Him.” But their motive is not love, and love should be the motive for obedience to Him. The Lord Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
My friend, when you obey the commandments of Christ because you love Him, a great many of the family problems will be solved and a great deal of the uncertainty in your own heart will disappear. If someone is offering a little course to follow in living the Christian life, people come running. A great many folk like to lean on something — even if it is a poor, broken reed which won’t hold them up.
Christianity is based on a love relationship. Salvation is a love affair. John is going to tell us more about this later when he says, “We love him, because he first loved us” (1John 4:19).
2:15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
What “world” is John talking about?
He does not mean the world of creation, that is, the system and order found in the physical creation. Nor is he not talking about the physical earth where beautiful roses and tall trees grow. Nor is the world about which John speaks the world of humanity (mankind) We are told that “God so loved the world.”
The Greek word for “world” here is kosmos. It means the world system, the organized system headed by Satan which leaves God out and is in opposition to Him. The thing which we need to hate today is this thing in the world which is organized against God.
Believe me, there is a world system in operation today, and it is satanic. John mentions this in his Gospel where the Lord Jesus says, “Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me” (John 14:30). “The prince of this world” — the prince of the world system, which is included in the civilization that you and I are in today. The world system belongs to Satan. He offered the kingdoms of this world to the Lord Jesus, and I don’t think he left out the United States when he made the offer — it all belongs to him, and we are not to love this world. We read in John 16:11, “Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.” Again, the Lord Jesus is referring to the satanic system that is in this world today.
In Ephesians 1:4, when Paul speaks of “…the foundation of the world…”, he is talking about the material creation, but when we come to Ephesians 2:2, he says, “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world….”
What is “the course of this world”? This is a world that is filled with greed, with selfish ambition, with fleshly pleasures, with deceit, and lying and danger. That is the world we live in, and John says that we are not to love the world. We are living in a godless world that is in rebellion against God. Our contemporary culture and civilization is anti-God, and the child of God ought not to love it. We are in the world, but we are not of the world. Many of us must move in the business world, many of us must move even in the social realm, but we do not have to be a part of it.
We need to recognize that we are going to be obedient to one world or the other. You are either going to obey the world system and live in it and enjoy it, or you are going to obey God. Listen to Paul in Galatians 6:14: “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” In effect Paul is saying, “There stands between me and this satanic world system, a cross. Both are bidding for me and, as a child of God, I am obedient unto Him, and I glory in the Cross of Christ.” You can be sure that the world today is not glorying in the Cross of Christ!
Peter also speaks of this: “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world…” (2Pet. 2:20, italics mine). He spoke earlier of the corruption of the world. We live in a world that is corrupted and polluted. We are hearing so much today about air pollution and water pollution, but what about the minds which are being polluted by all the pornography and vile language? What about the spirit of man that is being dulled by all these things?
“If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” You may run with the Devil’s crowd all week long and then run with the Lord’s crowd on Sunday, but it is obvious that the love of the Father is not in you.
In Romans 7 Paul describes his own struggle as a Christian. He says in effect, “I have discovered that in my flesh dwelleth no good thing. I have found that there is no power in the new nature. What I would not do, I’m doing. What the new nature wants to do, the old nature balks at — the old nature backslides and will not do that thing.” So there is a real conflict which goes on in the heart of the Christian as long as he is in the world with that old nature. For the old nature is geared to this world in which we live; it’s meshed into the program of the world.
Verse 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
John lists these three things that are in the world. These are not only the temptations which face us, they are also the temptations which Satan brought to Eve (see Gen. 3:6) and to the Lord Jesus Christ (see Matt. 4:1-11).
1. “The lust of the flesh.” Eve saw that the tree was good for food — if you were hungry, it was a good place to eat.
Scripture condemns gluttony and the many other sins of the flesh. So many things appeal to the flesh. There is an overemphasis on sex today both in the church and out of the church — it is all of the flesh. Satan brought this same temptation to the Lord Jesus: “And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread” (Matt. 4:2-3). The Lord Jesus could have done that. The difference between the Lord Jesus Christ and myself is that if I could turn stones into bread, I suspect that I would be doing it, but He didn’t. He was being tested in that same area in which you and I are being tested — the desires of the flesh. We are being tested, and there is no sin in being tested. The sin is in yielding to the temptation. This same principle applies to sex or to any other realm of the desires of the flesh.
2. “The lust of the eyes.” Eve saw that the tree was pleasant to the eyes. Remember also that Satan showed the Lord Jesus Christ all the kingdoms of this world. Let me tell you, they are very attractive, and they are in the hands of Satan. There is a godless philosophy which is trying to get control of the world today. There will come a day when Antichrist will arise — he is coming to rule this world for Satan. This is an attractive world that we live in, with all of its display, all of its pageantry, all of its human glory.
3. “The pride of life.” Eve saw that the tree was to be desired to make one wise. Many people like to pride themselves on their family. They pride themselves on the fact that they come from a very old family and upon the fact that they belong to a certain race. There are a number of races which are very proud of that. That was the appeal which Hitler made to the German people, and it is an appeal to any race. That is a pride of life. It is that which makes us feel superior to someone else. It is found even in religion today. I meet saints who feel they are super-duper saints. As one man said to me, “I heartily approve of your Bible study program on radio.” In fact, he has given financially to our program to help keep it going. He said, “I know a lot of people who listen to it, and they need it,” but he very frankly told me, “I don’t listen to it.” He felt that he didn’t need it, that he had arrived, that he was a very mature saint. Of course, it proves that he is a very immature saint when he even talks like that. Satan took the Lord Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple and said, “Cast yourself down. A great many people will witness it, and You will demonstrate to them Your superiority.” It was probably at a feast time when many would have seen Him, but the Lord Jesus never performed a miracle to demonstrate His superiority.
These are the three appeals that the world makes to you and me today. But when we make our tummy our goal in life, when we attempt to make beauty our goal, or even when we attempt to make that which is religious our goal, it leads to the most distorted view of life that is possible. These things are of the world, and they become deadly. We are told that we are not to love these things because God does not love them — He intends to destroy this world system someday. (End of Transcription)
What three things is our enemy?
The world, the flesh, and the Devil. This is the same temptation which Satan brought to Eve and to the Lord Jesus. He has not changed his tactics. He brings this same temptation to you and to me, and we fall for it.
Now John gives us the reason we are not to love this world —
Verse 2:17 “And the world passes away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abides for-ever.
Verses18-27 “18 Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.
20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. 21 I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth.
22 Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. 23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.
24 Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that He has promised us–eternal life. 26 These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. 27 But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.
Verses 2:18-27 “18 Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.
The word translated “little children” here is slightly different from the word that is translated in the same way back in verse 12. There it is a term of affection and implies all who are born into God’s family, God’s little born ones, little bairns as the Scottish term is. These little children here indicate the first degree of spiritual experience which we have seen in verses 1John 2:12-14: the fathers at the top, then the young men, and then the little babies. Here John is talking to the little babies again. The little babies haven’t grown up yet. They are passing through this world, and the chances are that they have been tripped up by one of these three things which John has just mentioned.
“It is the last time.” We are living in the last day here upon the earth. It has been the last time for a long time. This is the age when God is calling out a people for His name. You can say at any time during this period, “Now is the acceptable time. Today if you will hear His voice.” Why the urgency about salvation? Because, my friend, you might not be here tomorrow. Tomorrow I might no longer be heard preaching on the radio. It just might be that we will not be around, so it is important that I give out the Word, and it is important that you hear the Word.
Verse 2:18 “As ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.” Many antichrists had already appeared in John’s day, but there is coming the Antichrist. What do we mean by antichrist? I think that this word has been misunderstood and, as a result, the person who is coming has been misunderstood. Antichrist is made up of two words: the title Christ and the preposition anti. It is important to see that anti has two meanings. It can mean “against.” If I am anti-something, that means I am against that thing. Anti can also mean “instead of, an imitation of.” Therefore, it can be a substitute. It can be either a very good substitute or just a subterfuge for something.
The question arises, therefore: Is the Antichrist to be a false Christ or is he an enemy of Christ?
Where does Scripture place the emphasis? There are several references to Antichrist in 1 John, but the only things we can derive from this verse is that there is going to be the Antichrist and that there were already many antichrists in John’s day. What was the thing which identified an antichrist? He was one who denied the deity of Christ. That is the primary definition of an antichrist which we are given in 1 John, as we shall see when we come to verse 22. This is the emphasis in 1 John, but you will recall that the Lord Jesus said, “…many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (Matt. 24:5). That is antichrist — instead of Christ, claiming to be Christ.
I personally believe that there are going to be two persons at the end of the age who will fulfill both types — being against Christ and claiming to be Christ. Scripture presents it that way in Revelation 13. There we have presented a “wild beast” who comes out of the sea, and Satan is the one who calls him forth. That is the political ruler, and he is definitely against Christ. There is a second beast who comes out of the land. He appears to be a lamb, but he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He pretends to be Christ who is “…the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). He will be a religious ruler. The political ruler will come out of the gentile world, the former Roman Empire. The religious ruler will come out of the nation Israel — they would not accept him as their Messiah unless he did. So that you have actually two persons who will together fulfill this term antichrist. They are coming at the end of the age, and both of them can be called Antichrist — one against Christ and the other instead of Christ.
Verse 2:19 / 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 that they were not all of us.
This is very solemn. John says that some who had made a profession of being Christians in that day had all the outward trappings of being Christians. They bore the Christian name, and they identified themselves with some local assembly, some church. They were baptized, immersed, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They took the bread and the cup at the communion service. But John says that the way you can tell whether or not one is really a child of God is that eventually a man will show his true colors and will leave the assembly of God if he is not a child of God. He will withdraw from the Christians, the body of believers, and he will go right back into the world.
Remember that the Lord said of Judas, “But, behold, the hand of him that betrays me is with me on the table” (Luke 22:21). Right there, at the first communion service, there was a traitor, Judas Iscariot, and he was one who was identified with the group of faithful disciples. We read in John 6:70, “Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a demon?” Judas was never anything else although he looked like an apostle, he acted like an apostle, and he had power, I believe, to perform miracles. He went out with the others, and they were not able to identify him as being a phony, but he was.
John makes a very solemn and serious statement here, and he makes this statement to us today. The Lord Jesus said to a very religious man, Nicodemus, that he must be born again. He said to him that night, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). John says here, “They went out from us, but they were not of us.” They looked as if they were true children of God, but they actually were not, and the real test, of course, was the Word of God. This ought to cause every Christian, including this poor preacher who writes this, to ask himself the question: Have I really faced up to my sins in the light of the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ? Have I come to God in repentance, owning my guilt and acknowledging my iniquity? Have I cast myself upon Him and Him only for my salvation? Have I evidence in my life of being a regenerate soul of God? Do I love the Word of God? Do I want the Word of God? Is it bread to me? Is it meat to me? Is it drink to me? Do I love the brethren? And do I love the Lord Jesus Christ? These are the things which we need to consider, my friends, and the Word of God enjoins us in this particular connection.
After presenting justification by faith in no uncertain terms, Paul goes on to make it clear in Galatians 6:15, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” You cannot even boast of the grace of God and say, “Oh, I don’t trust in church membership. I don’t trust in baptism.” Well, whether or not you believe they are necessary for your salvation, the essential question is: Have you really been born again? Or, perhaps you are one who is trusting in these things. Again the important question is: Are you a new creation in Christ Jesus?
Paul spoke to the Corinthians, some of whom had reason to believe they might not be children of God: “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (2Cor 13:5). My friend, it is very important that you really know that you are a child of God. Paul also wrote earlier to the believers in Corinth, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong” (1Cor. 16:13). Friend, how are you doing with the Christian life? Are you really a child of God today? Is there evidence in your life that you are a child of God? I’m not talking about whether you have committed a sin or not, but what did you do after you committed the sin? Did you continue on in sin? The Prodigal Son got into a pigpen, but he did not continue there — that was not his permanent address. If you had mailed him a letter after he had been there a few weeks or months, unless the pigs had forwarded it, he wouldn’t have gotten your letter. That was no longer his address; he had gone home. The child of God, after he has sinned, is going to go to God with hot tears coursing down his cheeks and crying out to Him in confession. If he doesn’t do that, he’s not God’s child.
God’s child must hate sin. This light view of sin which we have today is simply something that is not quite scriptural. I am afraid that there are many church members who are just taking it for granted that they are children of God because they are as active as termites in the church — and they have just about the same effect as termites.
1st John 2:20 / But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.
What does John mean by “unction”?
Unction means anointing. “But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.” The Holy Spirit indwells every real believer and is able to reveal to him all things. “…Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit…” (1Cor. 2:9-10) so that we have someone dwelling in us who can reveal to us these things which are in the Word of God. We have an anointing, and every person can have the assurance of his salvation. If you really want to do business with God, if you really want to get right down to the nitty-gritty with Him, come to Him, ask for light, ask for guidance, and ask for His assurance.
Verse 2:21 / 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.
What Does John Mean “And ye know all things?
John means that all the things that you should know as a child of God are potentially yours to know. This does not mean that you have suddenly been given a Ph.D. degree in spiritual things. It does mean that by the Holy Spirit you can study the Word of God, and then through the experiences which God sends to you, you have the possibility of growing in these matters.
“I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth” — they had the gospel; they had the truth. John is not writing something new to these folks. He is writing to them for what I think is a twofold purpose. One is to encourage them, and the other is to warn them because there was false teaching going out in that day.
“But because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.” John is saying that they had the truth, but now lies were coming in. Gnosticism was coming in, and there were many antichrists who were appearing.
Who is an antichrist? We have already said just a few words about this, but now John will say a little bit more —
Verse 2:22 / Who is a liar but he that denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denies the Father and the Son.
The language is much stronger here; it is, “Who is the liar?” In other words, all lies are summed up in the one who is the prince of liars, the Devil. There is coming a man who is Satan’s man, and he is the liar. And a liar is one who does not tell the truth.
“Who is a liar, but he that denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denies the Father and the Son.” John gives us now the definition of antichrist. This will be the embodiment of the Antichrist, but there are many antichrists. There were some in John’s day; there have been some down to our day, and there are many today. Who are they? They are easy to recognize — they are those who deny the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, those who deny that Jesus the man is the Christ, the Messiah, the one who is God, the one whose name is Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the one who is pictured in the Old Testament. To deny that is being antichrist.
Verse 2:23 / Whosoever denies the Son, the same hath not the Father: [but] he that acknowledges the Son hath the Father also.
When you say that you believe in God and deny the deity of Christ, you really do not believe in God, certainly not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible is the one who sent His Son into the world to die for our sins. And since the Son is God, He alone is the one who could make a satisfactory sacrifice to God for our sins. Had he been anyone else other than God, He Himself would have been a sinner.
Verse 2:24 / 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.
“Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning.” “The beginning” goes back to the incarnation of Christ. That “which ye have heard from the beginning,” that which you heard concerning His incarnation, that which you heard concerning His life, that which you heard concerning His death and resurrection — in other words, that which they had heard from the beginning when the apostles began to preach the gospel.
“If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father.” John says that if you abide in Him, that is the evidence that you are a child of God.
Verse 2:25 / And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.
The only kind of life that God offers is eternal life. If you lose it tomorrow or next week or next year, it isn’t eternal life that you have. It is some other kind of life, but not eternal life.
Verse 2:26 / These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you.
Seduce means “to lead astray, to lead from the truth.” I think that seduce is a good word here because it applies in exactly the same way in both the physical and spiritual realms. In other words, you lead a person to commit spiritual adultery when you lead him away from the truth.
Even in John’s day there were those coming along who were beginning to deny the Father and the Son, beginning to deny that the Lord Jesus Christ was who He claimed to be. They were seducing some of those who were professing Christians. John says that the thing which you must hold onto is that God has promised you eternal life if you put your faith in Christ, and you do not need to add anything to that.
John was telling the people of his day that they did not need what the Gnostics were teaching. The Gnostics pretended to have super-duper knowledge, that they knew a little bit more than anyone else. I am afraid that in our own day there is a real danger when a great many people are going to so many Bible classes. There is the danger of their becoming super-duper saints. A lady said something to me the other day which I didn’t appreciate very much because I know her husband so well and he is a wonderful Christian. She’s been going to Bible classes, and they have been fine classes. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not criticizing the Bible classes. However, she was adopting a very superior attitude toward her husband, that she knew more than he knew, and that she was really the one who could teach him. Very frankly, I don’t think she could. He is a very intelligent man, and although he is not able to be in as many Bible classes as she is, what he does hear has an effect upon his life. So there is a real danger of present-day Gnosticism, of professing to have a super knowledge and maybe even a super experience, of becoming a super-duper saint where there is just no one else at your level.
Such a position is a dangerous one to come to because if you come into a knowledge of Christ and you begin to grow in grace and knowledge of Him, you will have the same experience that John the Baptist had, which he expressed this way, “He [Christ] must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
Now John is going to say to them, “You know Him as your Savior — hold on to that — but now you also want to have communion with Him and the Father, and to have fellowship with Him and the Father and with other believers.”
Verse 2:27 / But the anointing which ye have received of him abides in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teaches you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.
“Anointing” is the Greek word charisma. We speak of a certain speaker or preacher as having charisma. If he doesn’t have charisma, he doesn’t get very far today, you’ll have to admit that. When I went to my classical dictionary, I must say I was shocked and disappointed. This word means “to smear on”; it means to take an ointment and smear it on. It is like when you take a medicated petrolatum and put it on your chest at night — you are anointing yourself; you are smearing it on. That is literally what charisma means. I checked with Dr. R. C. Trench and Dr. Marvin Vincent, two outstanding Greek scholars, and they also have come up with the same meaning. Charisma means “to smear on.”
But what does this mean for us today as believers? Back in the Old Testament, by the command of God, the Israelite priests were anointed with oil. That anointing indicated in a physical way that they were specially endued by the Holy Spirit to perform a certain function. That is what the anointing here means for us today. “But the anointing which ye have received of him” — that is, you and I have received an anointing of God. When you are saved, one of the things which the Spirit of God does for you is that He anoints you. He anoints you to understand divine truth which you could not understand before.
“But the anointing which ye have received of him abides in you, and ye need not that any man teach you.” The important thing to note here is that John is not saying that we do not need teachers. We do need teachers, or else Paul was certainly wrong in Ephesians when he made the statement that God has given to the church certain men who are gifted — some who are teachers, some who are evangelists, and some who are shepherds to minister to and counsel folk. Paul said that God has given these men to the church to build up the body of believers. I think it is important that we all sit under good teachers.
Therefore, John is not saying that teachers are not essential, but he is saying something that is important for God’s children today. “But the anointing which ye have received of him” — this has been referred to before when he spoke of “the unction of the Holy One,” the anointing of the Holy Spirit. One of the Holy Spirit’s ministries is to teach us. He is able to guide us into all truth. The Lord Jesus, the great Teacher, said, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26). The Holy Spirit will teach us all things, that is, all that you and I are able to contain.
“But as the same anointing teaches you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.” There has been given to you an anointing whereby you are enabled to understand all truth because “…the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1Cor. 2:14). Paul also wrote earlier, “…Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit…” (1Cor. 2:9-10). This is the anointing of the Holy Spirit for a believer.
This is one reason we encourage folk to get into the Word of God and to study it. I received a letter from a dear lady who makes a tape recording of our radio program and then listens to it again and again. She also reads repeatedly the passage of Scripture being taught. All of a sudden her eyes are opened, and she sees the Lord Jesus in a new way. What has happened? She has had an anointing. I don’t believe in a lot of the silly stuff that is going on today which is purely emotional and which doesn’t enlighten you to understand and love the Word of God and to love the Lord Jesus. It does not matter how much whoopee you put into your religion, you can just whoop it up and have all kinds of emotion, but all that is of no value. It is enlightenment that we need today.
The whole point is that there ought to come a day when you and I can stand on our two feet as far as the Word of God is concerned and, as Peter says, “…be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1Pet. 3:15). We ought to be able to do that. But there is also a grave danger in this which I want to very carefully point out. I know people who have been going to Bible classes and have been studying the Bible for years, but they never get anywhere. They are the ones who bring Bible teaching into disrepute. I see people at Bible conferences in the summertime — I’ve seen them there every summer for thirty years — and they are today right where they were thirty years ago. They are like “…silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2Tim. 3:6-7). They don’t seem quite to arrive, but they always have their Bibles and are always writing a few little notes down. At a summer conference where I was speaking sometime ago, a woman came to me with the same question that I am confident she had asked me twenty-five years ago at another summer conference! She had a notebook, and she was still taking it down — “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
In other words, we ought to get to the place where the Spirit of God is our Teacher. As you study the Word of God, do you ask the Spirit of God to teach you and to lead you? If you don’t understand something the first time, get down on your knees and say, “Lord, I miss the point. I don’t understand this. Make it real to me. I want this to be real to me.” This is important, and this is what John is saying here. “The anointing which ye have received of him abides in you, and ye need not that any man teach you.” There are certain things which the Spirit of God can make very real to you.
“But as the same anointing teaches you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie.” The Lord Jesus said, “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect” (Matt. 24:24). But it will not be possible to deceive the elect. The Antichrist will not deceive the elect who are left on the earth when he comes. And today no antichrist will deceive them. God’s little children are going to follow the pattern the Lord Jesus spoke of when He said, “My sheep hear my voice…” (John 10:27). God’s children are not going to follow a false shepherd. They hear His voice, and the Spirit of God can be their Teacher. This should be a great comfort to us. We need to test every teacher we hear — it would be well if you tested me. Ask the Holy Spirit, “Is this that McGee is teaching the truth of God? Make it real to my heart, too. I want to know for myself whether it is true or not.”
Verses 2:28 / And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.
“And now, little children” — dear little bairns, little born ones, meaning all God’s children, irrespective of maturity.
“Abide in him” that “When he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.” A great many people are talking about the coming of Christ, and they get very excited about it; but it certainly is going to be embarrassing for them because they will not have any confidence and they are going to be ashamed before Him at His coming. Why? Because of their lives. The Lord Jesus says, “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be” (Rev. 22:12). Many people will look around for their reward, and they will find that they haven’t got any. Paul wrote, “If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (1Cor. 3:15). It is very important to have a life that commends the gospel.
John is saying here the same thing that Peter said: False doctrine and false living go together; true doctrine and true living go together. Every now and then you hear of a cult leader who is in trouble because he is guilty either of adultery, or of taking money which doesn’t belong to him, or of beating some person out of money. Why? False doctrine leads to false living. True doctrine leads to true living. There is nothing that will affect your life as much as the knowledge that you are going to stand in the presence of Christ and give an account of your works. Every believer will stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Paul writes, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2Cor 5:10). The issue of salvation has already been settled because we are His children and in His presence. It is not a question of whether you are saved or lost; it is a question of whether or not you are going to get any reward or recognition. There will be some folk who will not get any recognition. Paul writes further, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men…” (2Cor 5:11). The Rapture is not going to be such a thrilling event for a great many believers because of the lives they lived down here.
Remember, John wrote this letter as an encouragement, it is a love letter to his readers. It does give warning to the unsaved reader, but he intended it as an assurance of his readers salvation against the false teaching of the Gnostics, and others.
Verse 3:29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.
McGee believes this verse should be read with the first three verses of Chapter 3. So, we will consider there.
Studies in First John
1 Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
4 Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. 5 And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. 6 Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. 8 He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. 9 Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.
10 In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.
11 For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, 12 not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous. 13 Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.
15 Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.
19 And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. 20 For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God.
22 And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. 23 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. 24 Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
Most commentators believe that the last verse of chapter 2 (verse 29) belongs with the first three verses of chapter 3. In combin-ation, we read:
“2:29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him. 3:1-3 1 Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
The theme of chapter 3 is three-fold >
1) How the dear children may know each other and live together.
2) The Father’s love for his children.
3) The two natures of the believer in action.
Commentary; Primarily by McGee
Verses 2:29-3:3 / 2:29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him…. 3:1 Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
This is the final proof, this is the litmus test the Word of God is the real test. In effect John is saying that God’s children look like the Father — they take after their Father. If they don’t take after the Father, they must not be the Father’s children. It is just as simple as that, my friend.
It is one thing to testify that we know Christ and are in Him; it is quite another to have a life that reveals that He is our righteousness. It is wonderful to know positionally that we are in Christ and that we are accepted in the Beloved, but it is altogether different to have a life down here that is commen-surate with that. John is telling us that the way we recognize other believers is by their lives and not by their lips. Righteousness is a family characteristic of the Father and His children. God’s children take after their Father — they have His characteristics.
Theme 1 / 3:1-3 How The Dear Children May Know Each Other And Live
1st John 3:1 “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not”.
This is a very wonderful statement that John makes here. Let me give you my very literal translation of this verse: “Behold ye, of what sort of love the Father hath bestowed upon (given to) us, that we should be named children of God, and we are: and because of this the world does not know (begin to understand) us, because it did not know (begin to understand) Him.”
John is saying that we do not expect to be the sons of God, we are the sons of God. The child of God can say emphatically, “I am a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ.” We don’t hope to be, we don’t expect to be, but the thrilling fact is that every believer can exult and rejoice and constantly thank Him that he is God’s child. We are boasters not in ourselves, but we are boasting of the wonderful Shepherd that we have. John makes it perfectly clear that if you are a born-again child of God, you are going to exhibit a life that conforms to the Father. A child of God need not be in the false position of saying as an old hymn says:
“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.” The kind of love that John is talking about is a strange kind of love, an unusual kind of love, a kind of love to which we are not accustomed.
God loves us. And His love is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. John will go on to show that God has demonstrated His love by giving His Son to die for us. How many of us have someone who would die for us? How many folk would you be willing to die for? God loves you, and He has proven His love — He gave His Son to die for you.
The greatest motivating force in the world is God’s love. Love is the greatest drive in the human family. A man falls in love with a woman, a woman falls in love with a man, and some make such tremendous sacrifices for each other. When human love is genuine love, it is a beautiful thing, it is a noble thing, it is a wonderful thing, and it is a tremendous drive. But God’s love for His children far exceeds anything we can experience on the human plane.
The true child of God is going to prove his spiritual birth by being obedient to God’s Word, the expression of love for Him. God’s wonderful love for us should motivate us. It is that which is going to cause us to want to live for God. Behold, what an unusual kind, what a different kind of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the children of God.
3:2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”
John emphasized that we are God’s children now. Not shall be, but are God’s children. Then he writes “and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”
What are we to make of this?
The context points away from an appearance of form (bodily appearance), rather it points to purity. When we see Him we shall be pure as He is pure. This is what God the Holy Spirit is now doing, He is conforming us into the image of Jesus, the son of God. (See Romans 8:29).
R.V.G.Tasker, professor of New Testament Exegesis at the university of London and an editor of the Tyndale commentaries on the New Testament supports this understanding and writes:
“Since He is pure, when we see Him we shall have been, by the work of the Holy Spirit, made pure. He adds however, we have a part in this and must work to that end by being obedient to the Spirit’s solicitations. True, only the blood of Christ can cleanse us from the stain and guilt of sin but we have a part to play in purifying ourselves from its power (cf. 2 Cor. 7:1; 1 Tim. 5:22; Jas 4:8; 1 Pet. 1:22). (This in fact is what John writes in verse 3:3 “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure”.
Henry A. Ironside (A pastor at Moody Memorial Church-Author of 51 books on the Bible) also supporting this understanding writes:
“Beloved, now are we the children of God”—not we hope to find that we are such when we get to heaven but—”Now are we the children of God.” But then we find that there is something that we are waiting for. “It doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.” This is our great expectation, and soon every believer will be fully conformed to His blessed image. What a wonderful day that will be! But right now God looks at His people as they are going to be when He gets through with them. We look at each other as we are now, and get so discouraged with ourselves and with one another, but God is looking at us as we shall be when we see our blessed Lord and are changed into His glorious image.
Ironside adds: “And every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.” Looking ahead in blessed hope of His return I do not know any greater incentive to godly living. . People must be weaned away from the world by heart-occupation with the coming Saviour. You cannot be taken up with Him, the coming One, and be taken up with the world at the same time, for it is impossible not to be weaned away from the world when your heart is occupied with Him. You do not have to give up the world for Jesus’ sake. The fact of the matter is that When you are looking on to His return, you cannot enjoy the things of the world that crucified Him; and conversely, if you are a Christian and trying to enjoy the world, forgetting that you are called to be separate from the world, you cannot enjoy Christ. You cannot enjoy Christ and the world at the same time. And so we may say, occupation with Christ will save you from worldliness, or worldliness will hide the glory of His wonderful face. “Every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.” (End of transcription)
Verse 3:3 “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
How does we purify ourselves?
John MacArthur The idea of purifying oneself does not mean believers can generate their own sanctification. Rather, it emphasizes that the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit does not take place apart from the believer’s obedience and use of the means of sanctifying grace. (End of transcription).
The apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians addresses this, this way: “17 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. 20 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. 25 Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. 26 “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, 27 nor give place to the devil. 28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. 29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:17-32).
From these men’s comments then, we can see- Christianity is not a spectator sport and purification will not be realized without our participation.
Verse 3:4 “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.”
Mc Gee writes: Again let me give you my very literal translation of this verse: “Everyone that doeth sin, doeth also lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.” I have before me two very fine Greek commentaries, and they make it clear that the word translated “committeth” sin is literally “doeth” sin, meaning one who lives continually and habitually in sin. “For sin is the transgression of the law.” God has put up the Law so that we can know that we are sinners, so that we can know what He requires. That is the purpose of the Law. The Law was never given to save, it was given to reveal to man that he is a sinner. Sin is basically and fundamentally that which is contrary to the will of God. In other words, a sinner is one who is insubordinate to the will of God. (End of transcription).
We cannot live insubordinate to the will of God and hope to achieve purification. It just will not work.
Verses 3:5-6 / “5 And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. 6 Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.”
McGee writes: Only the Lord Jesus can take away sin. He came for that purpose.
Two things are important for us to see here. First, In John’s Gospel he wrote, “…Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). He bore the penalty of sin. “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). Christ died for the sin of the world. Secondly, Now here in John’s epistle he shows that Christ takes away the practice of sin in the life of the believer. Christ is the “propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1John 2:2). What is the difference? Well, He died a redemptive death to pay the penalty of our sin, but He also died that He might deliver us from the power of sin right here and now.
“And in him is no sin.” The literal translation of this is: “in Him sin is not.” He died a redemptive death — He was our sin offering. He was without sin; He was without spot or blemish as was the Levitical sin offering. Therefore He is able to remove the guilt of sin and to provide the power to deliver us from the habit of sinning and commence the process of purification.
“Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not” — that is, that new nature of yours will not sin; it never sins. Dr. H. A. Ironside puts it this way: “[Christ], this absolutely sinless One, who in grace became sin for us that we might be reconciled to God, dwells by the Spirit in the believer, and our new nature is really His very life imparted to us.” If you are God’s child, that new nature will not go along with the old nature and commit sin. The believer who abides in Christ does not practice sin — he doesn’t live in it. The sinner lives in it all the time, but the child of God has a new nature, and he cannot live a sinful life. This is pictured for us in the story of the Prodigal Son (see Luke 15:11-24). Only pigs live in pigpens; sons do not. Somebody will say, “But the son got into the pigpen.” He surely did, my friend, but he got out of the pigpen, too — let’s remember that. The child of God can get into it, but he will get out. Why? Because he is a son of the Father, and he takes after his Father. His Father is righteous, and the son wants to live that kind of life.
God provides the power to deliver from the habit of sinning, and that is all that John is saying here — “Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not.” Now if you go off to the pigpen, that’s the old nature, and if you stay in that pigpen, you never were God’s child. If you can be happy in sin, my friend, then you are not God’s child because God’s children have the nature of their Father.
Verses 3: 7-10 / 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. 8 He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. 9 Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. 10 In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.
McGee writes; “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous 1John 3:7.
“Little children” — John is talking to those who are God’s children; he is not talking to the world.
“Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.” This is the thing which reveals the child of God. To abide in Him does not mean just positionally. It is true that you have a position in Christ that can never be disturbed, but He was without sin — He had no sin nature. “For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners…” (Heb. 7:26). But He was a human being, and He died as our sin offering, paying the penalty for our sin. But John also says back in verse 5 of this chapter that He was “manifested to take away our sins.” The word our is not in the better manuscripts; it is literally “manifested to take away sins” — that is, to take away the sins of all believers. In other words, He died to make it possible for you and me to live the Christian life…. And be in the process of purification-my addition.
This brings us right to the subject of this section from verse 4 to verse 24: every believer has two natures. This is what Paul talks about at length in Romans 7. He says there, “For the good that I would [the desire of this new nature that I have] I do not [that is, the old nature which has been in control so long takes over]: but the evil which I would not, that I do” (Rom. 7:19). The new nature desires to do good, but the old nature drags its feet. The old nature will not serve God; it is in rebellion against God. Paul writes further, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:7-8). You cannot please God until you are born again. “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwells in you — Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Rom. 8:9).
Let me be very clear that we are talking about born-again believers. We are not talking about professing Christians; we are not talking about church members; we are not talking about those that have simply been baptized without ever having been saved; we are not talking about those that go through a ritual or belong to some system. We are talking about those that have been born again. The Lord Jesus was manifested “that he might destroy the works of the devil,” to make it possible for you and me to live for God.
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 [1John 3:9].
“Whosoever is born of God” — this is the new birth we have been talking about. This is what the Lord Jesus spoke of when He said to a religious ruler, “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again” (John 3:7).
“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin.” A child of God is given a new nature, and that new nature does not and will not commit sin. The reason that the prodigal son could not stay in the pigpen is that he was not a pig. He was a son of the Father, and he longed for the Father’s house. If you are a child of God, you will want to be in the Father’s house, and you will long for it.
“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin” — unfortunately, this gives a wrong impression here. The idea is not just one act of sin; the idea is that he does not live in sin. John has said earlier in chapter 2, “If any man [any Christian man] sin, we have an advocate with the Father” — the believer will sin. However, John makes it very clear that it is God’s will that we live without sin: “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not” (1John 2:1). Sin is anything contrary to the will of God, but when sin comes into our lives, John says that we have an advocate with the Father, and “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1John 1:9). Again, John is talking to believers, and he is saying that believers will sin. Therefore, when John says, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin,” he is saying that that new nature will not continue to live in a pigpen — never, under any circumstances will it do that.
“For his seed remaineth in him.” If you are a child of God, you have a divine nature.
“And he cannot sin.” Why? Because he “is born of God.” John is talking about something that is real and genuine. He is not talking about some little profession which you made when you went down to the front of a church and shed a few tears. The question is: Have you been born of God? I believe in the security of the believers, but I also believe in the insecurity of make-believers. It is well for us to take an inventory and to look at our lives. We must examine ourselves and see whether we are in the faith or not. Are you really a child of God? Do you long after the things of God? That is the important thing.
Whosoever is born of God does not practice sin. He does not go on in sin. When we received a new nature, we did not lose our old nature — that is the problem. No wonder Paul cried out, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24). Only the Spirit of God can deliver you, my friend. If you recognize that you are helpless and hopeless, if some sin binds you down, spoils your life, robs you of your joy, and you are miserable, then may I say to you that He can and He will deliver you — if you want to be delivered. If you want to get rid of that sin, if you really want to serve Him, if you mean business with Him, He means business with you. “For his seed remains in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”
In this 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 [1John 3:10].
“In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil.” I think we need a little more manifesting today because many of the children of God look like they belong to someone else, or at least they look as if they are orphans. There are two families in the world. The teaching of the universal Fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man I consider to be a damnable heresy. The Bible doesn’t teach that God looks upon all people as His children. The Lord Jesus said to the religious rulers, “Ye are of your father the devil…” (John 8:44). Someone has said that the reason a Christian ought not to marry a non-Christian is that if you marry in the family of the Devil, you are going to have trouble with your father-in-law! How true that is. There are the children of God and the children of the Devil — there are two families in the world.
John is going to show that there are two things which manifest the child of God. Now God knows our hearts and knows whether or not we have really been born again and are His children. But our neighbor next door doesn’t know that. The only way for him to know is for the life of God to be manifested in us. It is not necessarily manifested by lip and language, but it is manifested by our living.
In Galatians Paul tells the believers to learn to walk in the Spirit. You cannot do it yourself. In Romans 7 Paul discovered two things: there is no good in the old nature, and there is no power in the new nature. You must have help. It does not matter who you are, you cannot live the Christian life yourself. It is only by the Spirit of God working in you that you can produce that good fruit, and He wants us to produce fruit.
The Lord Jesus said, “I am the true [genuine] vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit” (John 15:1-2). He wants us to produce fruit, but He also tells us that He will prune us.
“In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil.” You can tell them apart by their fruit. Jesus said: “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matt. 7:20). We ought to be able to find fruit hanging on ourselves and on our fellow believers, and in 1John 3:10 John gives us two clear marks of identification of a true child of God.
First “Whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God.” It does not matter who he is or what profession he makes, if a person is not trying to live for God, he is not a child of God. It does not matter how active you are — you may be a deacon in the church, you may be as busy as a termite — but John says that the important mark of identification is: “whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God.” That is a strong statement, but John said it, and the Spirit of God said it through him.
Secondly “Neither he that loveth not his brother.” Here is the second mark of identification. Do you love other Christians? If you are a child of God, you are going to love other Christians.
The word love is going to occur again and again in this epistle. We need to get our understanding of it straight right here at the beginning. There are actually three Greek words that are translated by our one English word love.
The first Greek word is eros, and it is never used in the New Testament. It refers to erotic love, having to do with sex. The Greeks talked a great deal about sex, and they had the god Eros and the goddess Aphrodite, the worship of whom involved sex. Again may I say, the word eros is never used in the New Testament.
The second word, phileo, means “friendship.” It means a love of the brethren; it is a brother sort of love.
The third word, the highest word, is agapao. That is God’s love: “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16). Agapao is the word John uses here as he tells us that we are to love our brother. We hear a great deal of talk today about love, love, love, and many times it is articulated in the context of sex; but in the Bible, love has no relationship to that whatsoever.
“Neither he that loveth not his brother” means that we are to have a concern for our Christian brother; we are to be helpful to him. It does not mean that you necessarily care for his ways, his conversation, or the things that interest him. It does not mean you have to run up and put your arms around him. It means that you are to be concerned for him. You cannot harbor hatred in your heart against another believer. We will see in the next chapter that this love is not something that is sloppy and slippery by any means. It does not mean that you are to help, that is, to be taken in by every Tom, Dick, and Harry who comes along. We are warned to be very careful indeed and to keep our eyes open, but we are to have a love in our hearts for our brethren in the Lord. This love is to be a concerned love, a love that acts, a love that does something beneficial.
Verses 3:11-15 / “11 For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, 12 not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous. 13 Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. 15 Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”
McGee writes “For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another (1John 3:11).
John often speaks in this epistle about “the beginning.” The beginning he is talking about is the incarnation of Christ.
“For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” John is merely reaffirming here what the Lord Jesus had taught: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35). This love is to be the mark of Christ’s disciples. John says, “What I am telling you is not new. You have heard this from the beginning. The Lord Jesus taught it to us, and all the apostles have taught this. We have heard from the beginning that we should love one another.” Love of other believers is something that is woefully lacking today in many places.
Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous [1John 3:12].
“Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother.” Cain and Abel were blood brothers and were very much alike in many ways. But Cain killed his brother. Why? “Wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.” What was Cain’s problem? His problem was jealousy or envy — that was Cain’s sin.
Jealousy is perhaps not the best word to describe Cain’s problem. Jealousy has in it the note of suspicion; for example, a man may be jealous of his wife, meaning that he probably loves her but suspects that she may not be faithful to him. Therefore, I think the better word to use here would be envy. Envy and jealousy are given in the dictionary as synonyms, but there is a distinction between them without there really being a difference.
Envy is the thing which characterized Cain. He was envious of his brother, and it led to murder. Envy is that which is in the human heart. As someone has said, “The most destructive force in the world is jealousy and envy.”
Envy and jealousy among believers in the church hurt the cause of Christ today probably more than anything else. It is that old secret sin that many believers cover up. How many soloists are jealous of another soloist? How many preachers are jealous of another preacher? A great deal of backbiting that goes on in the church has its root in one thing: jealousy. Boy, that is a mean one!
Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you [1John 3:13].
John says, “Don’t act as if some strange or weird thing has happened to you if the world doesn’t accept you, because the world is not going to accept you.” John makes it very clear all the way through this epistle that he is merely passing along the teachings which the Lord Jesus Christ Himself gave. In John 15:18-19 the Lord Jesus said, “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: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
This has always been a problem for many of us in the ministry. I have never really appreciated it when anyone would say, “When you were a pastor in such-and-such a place, you were a popular minister.” I’m not sure that I care for that because there is a certain crowd I would deeply regret to be popular with. If I ever was popular with them, I should not have been, and I don’t want to be popular with them because the Lord Jesus is not popular with that crowd. I watched a minister on television the other night as he had a marvelous opportunity to witness for Christ. But instead he played up to that unbelieving crowd, and he said some nice, flowery, complimentary things, and he was applauded for it. I wondered if there was not sorrow in heaven because he was in a crowd where Jesus was not popular but he was popular with them.
What must we, as children of God recognize?
The child of God needs to recognize that the world will hate him.
What should we guard against?
There is an offense of the Cross, but we should guard against magnifying the offense by making ourselves objectionable and obnoxious. Many Christians do that, and they are rejected, not because they are Christians, but because they are simply obnoxious — they would be obnoxious whether they were Christians or not. Let’s make sure that Christ’s rejection and our rejection are for the same reason.
We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death [1John 3:14].
“We know that we have passed from death unto life.” You can know whether you are a child of God or not. The idea that we cannot know is a big mistake because the Word of God says that we can know that we have passed from death unto life.
How do we know it? “Because we love the brethren.” Do you have a love in your heart for the brethren?
One of the greatest experiences that I have had in my ministry is to travel throughout this country, speaking at conferences in many places and meeting many wonderful believers. We have had several rather interesting experiences as we have gone on our way. I recall one time when I was in a city in the East, and I felt very much alone. My wife was not with me at the time, and I felt very, very lonesome. I had gone into a restaurant and had just given my order to the waitress when a man sitting at the next table got up and came over to me. He said, “Dr. McGee, I didn’t expect to see you here!” I said, “Well, to whom do I have the pleasure of speaking?” He said, “I have never met you before. To tell the truth, I’ve never seen you before, but I listen to you on the radio. May I sit down?” So he sat down, and he and I had one of the most wonderful times of fellowship. How did we have it? Well, he was a child of God, and I am a child of God. He hadn’t even known that I was to be speaking in that area, but he came with his wife to the meetings after I told him about them. We went out after the service for refreshments, and I probably ought to say that he picked up the tab — which to me was a proof that he was a real brother! It is quite wonderful to be in the ministry today and to meet wonderful Christians all around the country.
Another time I was on a golf course in Florida, and there was a couple ahead of us who were slowing us down. I even yelled at them one time because of it. Finally, when we came right up to where they were playing, the man looked up at me and said, “Dr. McGee, I didn’t know you were here playing golf. In fact, I didn’t even know you were in this part of the country. Were you the fellow who was trying to hurry us along?” When I admitted that I was, he said, “I’ll be very frank with you. I’ve been to the doctor, and I’m not too well yet so I must play slowly.” So I had to apologize to the man for my being very rude and abrupt and trying to get him to hurry. Then we just had a wonderful time of fellowship. Our twosome joined his twosome, and we played along together. We got so involved talking that the foursome behind us yelled at us for not moving along! Again, that was someone I had never seen before, and yet I found him to be my brother, and we enjoyed fellowship together. This is what John is talking about. Do you love the brethren? When you can meet around the person of Christ, when you can talk about Christ with other folk, you have a brother or sister, my friend.
A comment by myself. Let me pause and say this is my experience. The members of this class and the church has received me well. I have and feel true Christian love here.
“He that loves not his brother abides in death.” There are those who do not seem to have any concern for the children of God, but you and I are to have a concern. I always look forward to our Bible conference tours because a lot of the folk will be people whom I have never met before. Yet we will have about two weeks of the most wonderful fellowship that you have ever heard of. Why?
Because we love the brethren, and that’s a proof of our salvation, friend. There is no greater proof than that as far as your heart is concerned.
Verses 3:15-19 / “15 Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. 19 And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.”
What does John mean by “he who hates his brother is a murderer?”
My thoughts He had just reminded his readers of Cain murdering his brother Abel and may have had actual murder in mind. But as we read the context we learn that it also refers to one who knows that his brother has a need but in lovelessness of him will not satisfy that need. Looking up the word hate (hateth) in Strong’s Greek concordance we learn that the word hateth comes from the Greek word Misĕō (mis-ehʹo) with the meaning “to detest”. Not sure which is the correct meaning but at least there is no love in a person who looks down on his brother and will not satisfy the brothers need.
McGee writes: In Matthew 5:21-22 we read of Jesus saying: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the 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.” May I say to you, these are strong words. The Lord Jesus said that if you have hatred in your heart toward your brother, it means that you are a murderer. Envy and jealousy lead to hatred, and hatred is murder.
My thoughts: Is not Jesus talking about attitude in the Matthew passage?
McGee seems to say the same thing: Hereby we 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 (1John 3:16).
“Hereby perceive we the love of God.” This is to be our example — the way God loves. How does God love? “Because he laid down his life for us.” This is the standard that is put before us.
This is the real proof that God loves us: He gave His Son to die for us. That is the standard — He is our example — and John says therefore that we should be willing to lay down our lives for the brethren. Until you and I have come up to that high level, we are not exhibiting the love that we should have for the brethren.
Now how does this love in action work itself out? —
But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? [1John 3:17].
John is saying that love is not a sentiment; it is that which expresses itself in action. James also had a great deal to say about this in his epistle. There he wrote, “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?” (James 2:15-16). When a brother in need comes to some folk, they simply say, “I’ll pray for you, brother.” But the important thing is whether or not our love is manifested in what we are doing. One of the most tragic things in the world will be when many believers come into the presence of Christ, having had this world’s goods down here and not having used them for the cause of Christ.
Real love gets into action. We see it in a home where there is love between a man and a woman, but what about love among believers? It ought to get into action; it ought to start doing something one for another. Until it does, my friend, it is the worst kind of hypocrisy. You express your love of the brethren by what you do for them, not by what you say. Our tongue is very good at running way ahead of our feet, but true Christianity, the real article, is a matter of the heart and not of the head or the tongue. John tells us very definitely here that if we are children of God, we will manifest this love.
My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth [1John 3:18].
Self-sacrificing love is required of us as believers. It may not be necessary to give our lives, but certainly it is necessary to give of our substance. Christianity is a love relationship.
Verses 3:19-24 / “19 And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. 20 For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. 22 And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. 23 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. 24 Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
Verses 3:19-20 “19 And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. 20 For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.
The statement, This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, probably refers back to verses 17-18. By practical acts of love in which the needs of others are met, Christians can have a basic assurance that they are participating experientially in the truth.
The rest of verse 19 and all of verse 20 are difficult in the original, but probably should be translated, “And we shall persuade our hearts before Him that, if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts, and knows all things.” It is precisely in the sphere of a believer’s love for other Christians, in which Christ has set him so high a standard, that he may feel deeply his own inadequacy and failure. But if his heart condemns him, he can remind himself that God takes account of those things which at the moment his heart ignores. If he has been engaged in the kind of practical acts of love which John enjoined, his guilt-ridden heart can be persuaded by realizing that God is well aware of his fundamental commitment to the truth. The passage clearly recalls Peter’s response to the Lord’s final query, “Do you love Me?” Peter replied, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You” (John 21:17).
Verses 3:21-22 / “21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. 22 And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.”
Once a condemning heart has been silenced by resting on God’s knowledge of all things, there comes a new confidence before God. As a result of active participation in the truth by real deeds of love, Christians can calm their disapproving hearts and achieve boldness in prayer, and their prayers will be answered because they, as believers, are consciously subject to God’s will (they obey His commands [cf. 2:3] and do what pleases Him). This presumes, of course, that the requests themselves are made in subjection to God’s will (5:14-15).
Verses 3:23-24 / “23 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. 24 Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.”
The writer had declared that a confident and effective prayer life is founded on obedience to God’s “commands” (v. 22). Now those commands are summed up in a single command consisting of faith and love. The phrase believe in the name of His Son contains the epistle’s first direct reference to faith.
These verses (23-24) furnish a kind of climax to the paragraph beginning in verse 18. As a Christian actively engages in deeds of love (v. 18) and as he achieves boldness before God in prayer (v. 21), he is doing what God commands (cf. 2:3; 3:24; 5:2-3): living a life of confidence in the name of Christ which is undergirded by love (3:23; cf. v. 14; 4:7, 11, 21). Since faith and love, thus conceived, go together, this kind of life is seen as obedience to Our Lord’s Commands. Being obedient to His commands gives us the confidence that He abides in us and we in Him.
Simon J. Kistemaker (A Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary and contributor to Baker’s Commentary of the Bible) offers his insights to on these last 6 verses:
3:19 And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.
If our lives manifest these things that John has talked about, we will have an assurance when we come before God in prayer. John has made it very clear that it is possible to be ashamed at the appearing of Christ. A great many folk talk about the coming of Christ, but they don’t seem to be doing anything. When you and I come into His presence, it is going to be a very awesome experience because He is going to demand some fruit. What have you been doing? He said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). One of His commandments is to get the Word of God out, to take it to the ends of the earth. Are you involved in that in any way? Are you involved in anything that reveals that you are a child of God?
“My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.” If you are a child of God and are using your substance — whether you are rich or poor — to get the Word of God out, God gives you an assurance in your heart that you are in His will and that you are doing the thing He wants done. Then you have an assurance when you go before Him in prayer, and you will have an assurance when you stand before Him someday. Paul had this assurance when he said, “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness…” (2Tim. 4:8) — Paul knew that; he had that assurance.
3:20 For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.
The child of God can have an assurance, but suppose we are not doing what we should be doing? Does that mean that we have lost our salvation or that we did not have it to begin with? John says, “For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.” We don’t lose our salvation. If our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts, greater than our lack of assurance. He is going to hear our prayer. Isn’t He a wonderful God? When we fail Him, He won’t fail us. You may not have any assurance when you go before Him. A great many Christians come to Him really empty-handed: “I have done nothing for You, Lord. I have done nothing at all, and yet I am coming to You in prayer.” God is greater than your heart; He will hear your prayer. He is going to deal with you. He will hear and answer according to His will. “For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.” You can depend on Him. Even if you don’t have assurance, friend, just keep going to Him.
3:21 Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.
If our heart does not condemn us, it gives us a confidence, an assurance in prayer. it is wonderful to have assurance when we pray. “If our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.”
3:22 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.
Love in action gives assurance in prayer. When your life is pleasing to God, you can expect Him to hear and answer your prayer. That is something that is desperately needed today. Remember the early church when persecution first broke out and the apostles were warned to stop preaching the name of Jesus. They went back and reported this to the other Christians, and the group went to God in prayer. They didn’t pray that the persecution would stop — they didn’t pray anything like that. They began their prayer by saying, “Lord, thou art God” (see Acts 4:24). This is the thing which seems to be absent in most churches today. Folk are not sure that our heavenly Father is God, that He does run this universe, and that He is in charge. John says, “Whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.”
3:23 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.
In other words, John says, “Don’t say you believe on Him and then not love one another.” With one breath you praise the Lord and say you trust the Lord Jesus, but then you say how much you dislike So-and-so. John is not talking about a love in which you just go up and put your arms around someone; he’s not talking about a love that you just talk about. It will be expressed in genuine concern for the individual. You will not be gossiping about him. You will not be hurting him in any way. But you will be concerned about him. This is so desperately needed today. This is the Christian life in a nutshell: “That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.”
3:24 Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
The Holy Spirit verifies these things to our hearts if we have not grieved Him. We grieve the Holy Spirit when we do not do His will. Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). If we do not do that, we grieve the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is given to every believer, as Paul makes clear in Romans 8:9, “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if [lit., since] 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.” The mark that you are a child of God is that you are indwelt by the Spirit of God, and it is the Holy Spirit who will verify these things and make them real to your heart.
Studies in 1st John
1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God,
3 and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.
4 You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
5 They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. 6 We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.
13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world.
15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. 17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love Him because He first loved us.
20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? h21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.
Verse 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
Having just discussed the abiding work of the Holy Spirit in true believers (3:24), John makes the transition to the work of unholy spirits in false teachers and their false teachings. Because these ancient, supernatural spirits are experts in deception, Christians must be careful to closely examine every spiritual message they encounter (cf. Matt. 10:16; 1 Thess. 5:21-22).
The imperative form of the verb believe, with the negative particle not, could literally be translated “stop believing.” John’s phrase indicates the forbidding of an action already under way. If any of his readers were uncritically accepting the message of false teachers, they were to stop doing so immediately. They needed to exercise biblical discernment, like the Bereans of whom Luke wrote, “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).
Simon J. Kistemaker (A Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary and contributor to Baker’s Commentary of the Bible) writes:
With this text John begins the third part of his epistle; the first section begins at 1:5 (The path of fellowship with God and with one another), and the second at 2:18 (The work of the Anti-Christ, and Antichrists against God and those that are His) There is a distinct parallel between the second part and the third. Both parts expound the following topics: A warning against the antichrist, children of God, love for God and one another.
4:1 A Warning / 1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
As a wise pastor, John first addresses his readers with words of tender love. He calls them “Beloved” a.k.a. dear friends” (compare 3:21; 4:7). After the address, John tactfully warns the readers against the work of false teachers and tells them not to believe every spirit. He wants them to realize that there are two spiritual spheres in this world: one is the domain of the Holy Spirit; the other is the domain of the devil. The Holy Spirit dwells in the children of God (3:24), but the spirit of the Satan lives in false prophets who speak in his name.
a. “Do not believe every spirit” (consult Jer. 29:8; Matt. 24:4; Eph. 5:6; I Tim. 4:1). Of course, we are unable to see a spirit, but we can hear and understand the teachings of that spirit. The word spirit, then, is equivalent to “teaching.”
Apparently, some of the first readers of this epistle were beginning to believe the false prophets who said that their teaching was a revelation from the Holy Spirit. John exhorts the readers to distinguish carefully between the teachings of God’s Spirit and false teachings. Not every teaching is an utterance of the Spirit of God. Therefore, John advises the Christians to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God” and to verify all teaching in the light of God’s Word (compare I Thess. 2:4; 5:21).
b. “Many false prophets have gone out into the world.” We know that false teachers have made the world their lecture hall. They desire to gain a hearing from a number of Christians. In his discourse on the end of time, Jesus warns us, “For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible” (Matt. 24:24; also consult Rev. 2:2).
J. Vernon McGee’s Folksy take on 4:1
Eureka! / This simple Greek word—meaning “I have found it!”—became a life slogan for thousands of California gold prospectors in the mid-1800s. It summed up every treasure hunter’s dream and expressed the thrill of striking pay dirt. For James Marshall (the first to discover the precious metal in 1848) and the “forty-niners” who followed him, the term eureka meant instant riches, early retirement, and a life of carefree ease.
But would-be prospectors quickly learned that not everything that appeared to be gold actually was. Riverbeds and rock quarries could be full of golden specks that were nevertheless entirely worthless. This “fool’s gold” was iron pyrite, and miners had to be careful to distinguish it from the real thing. Their very livelihood depended on it.
Experienced miners could usually distinguish pyrite from gold simply by looking at it. But, in some cases, the distinction was not quite so clear. So, they developed tests to discern what was genuine from what was not. One test involved biting the rock in question. Real gold is softer than the human tooth, whereas fool’s gold is harder. A second test involved scraping the rock on a piece of white stone, such as ceramic. True gold leaves a yellow streak, whereas the residue left by fool’s gold is greenish black. In either case, a miner relied on tests to authenticate his finds—both his fortune and his future depended on the results.
Spiritually speaking, Christians often find themselves in a similar position to the California gold rushers of the mid-1800s. When confronted with various doctrines and religious teachings, all of which claim to be true, believers must be able to tell those that are biblically sound from those that are not.
As was true in the gold rush, just because something glitters does not mean it is good. Christians need to be equally wary of spiritual “fool’s gold.” They must not accept something as true without first testing it to see if it meets with God’s approval. If it fails the test, Christians should discard it as false and warn others also. But if it passes the test, in keeping with the truth of God’s Word, believers can embrace and endorse it wholeheartedly.
California gold prospectors would cry “Eureka!” only when they found true gold. When it comes to spiritual things, Christians should be careful to do the same.
Turning theological, McGee adds:
Christians/we must be discerning lest they be “children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:14). It is crucial that they/we “examine everything carefully” in order to “hold fast to that which is good [and] abstain from every form of evil” Otherwise, they increase their/our vulnerability to satanic deception
Satan’s basic strategy for attacking the truth first became evident in the Garden of Eden, where he mounted a three-pronged assault on God’s Word. First, he cast doubt on what God had said about eating the fruit of the tree of life (“Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat…?”‘, Gen. 3:1). Second, he denied outright what God had said to Adam (“You surely will not die!”, v. 4). Finally, he added a distortion to what God had specifically told Adam (“you will be like God, knowing good and evil,” v. 5). Ever since, Satan and his demonic forces have waged a relentless, nonstop campaign against the truth—still using their original tactics of doubt, denial, and distortion. (See Matthew 7:15-20; Acts 20:28-29; 2nd Peter 2:103).
As in the Garden of Eden, the source of error can always be traced to satanic roots (John 8:44). Thus Paul told Timothy: “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron” (1 Tim. 4:1-2).
Any ideology, philosophy, opinion, or religion other than God’s truth fits Satan’s agenda—which is why it is so crucial for believers to recognize the difference between the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
If they fail to be discerning, Christians will not only be confused and unable to discern for themselves, but they will also be unable to accurately convey the truth to others. Thus, they must guard the truth by knowing it, firmly holding to it as a conviction and dis-tinguishing it from that which is false. By being faithful to sound doctrine, they will be able to teach others also (cf. 2 Tim. 2:2).
The apostle John knew that his readers were under attack from false teachers. As a safeguard, he commanded them to test those who claim to teach the truth. He gave them reasons that such testing is crucial, and guidelines for how it should be conducted. In so doing, he laid out a strategy all Christians can use for distinguishing between true spiritual riches and doctrinal “fool’s gold.”
How is a Christian to decern between the Spirit of truth and deceptive untruthful spirits?
Verses 4:2-6 Gives the answer: / 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. 4 You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. 6 We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
McGee writes: “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God.” How are we to distinguish? John tells us the way: “4:2 Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God.” This is where it all begins — in Bethlehem. Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem, and it begins there with his incarnation. Calvary and the Garden Tomb are meaningless unless He is who He claimed to be, unless He is the Godman. The way that you can determine the false teachers is that they will deny the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. That does not mean they do not talk nicely about Him.
They talk about what a remarkable youth He was and that He was a superior child who was born into the world—-They say that he was a religious genius and that he was intoxicated with God—-They say that He probably had a greater knowledge of God than any other man. He was a “superstar,” you know—-They can and will say a lot of nice things about Him, but ask them if He was God manifested in the flesh? They will not say that.
John speaks of “the Word” in his Gospel. Who was the Word? He was God, and He created all things, and He became flesh. Where? Yonder at Bethlehem, at the Incarnation. Jesus came there. When you deny the Incarnation, the deity of Christ, then you deny His work upon the Cross because it all rests upon who He is. The false teachers attempt to tear Him down by complimenting Him. That is the way the Lord Jesus is being treated today in many circles. But He is who He claimed to be — God of very God.
Here, in this letter John is meeting head-on the early heresy of Gnosticism, one of the branches of which said that Christ (the anointed of God) came upon Jesus at His baptism and left Him at Calvary. That is not what the Word of God teaches. The Word of God says that that Babe in Bethlehem was more than a remarkable baby, that His death upon the Cross was not an ordinary death, and that when He rose from the dead, He rose bodily from the dead. He “…was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). Isaiah wrote, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given…” (Isa. 9:6). The child is born, but the Son is given. The Son came out of eternity, the Ancient of Days, but the child, His humanity, was conceived in the virgin’s womb. He came forth yonder in Bethlehem where a few shepherds and wise men came to worship Him. He was more than just a precocious child. He was the precious Prince of Peace who made peace by the blood of His Cross and someday shall bring peace to this war-weary world that we are living in. The important thing for us to note is that this is the mark of whether a man is a false prophet or not — “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God.” Let’s find out what a person believes about Jesus Christ. That’s important, particularly important.
And every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world [1John 4:3].
This is the third time John has mentioned Antichrist. John is the only writer who mentions him, and he does so only in his epistles. In the second chapter of this epistle, John says, “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time” (1John 2:18). And then again, we read, “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son” (1John 2:22).
As we saw in chapter 2, anti can mean two different things. It can mean either “against” or “instead of,” that is, an imitation. We have that idea presented in Scripture. The Lord Jesus said, “For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (Matt. 24:5) — in other words, they imitate Him. Antichrist is used, therefore, in the sense of pretending to be Christ. The other meaning is to be against Christ.
In chapter 2 John says, “Even now are there many antichrists” (1John 2:18), and there are quite a few of them about in our day, but they are not the Antichrist. They are false teachers who are moving the world closer and closer to that day, preparing the world for the one finally to appear.
In these first six verses of chapter 4, we have what some have called a parenthesis. Maybe they are not quite that, but this is certainly a red light that John puts up here, a caution sign, a stop-look-and-listen sign. He says that love must be exercised with judgment and knowledge. We are to love believers, but we need to be sure that the so-called believers are not false teachers. We are to prove the spirits, for there are false prophets around who are teaching false things. In John’s own day there were the Docetic and Cerinthian Gnostics who denied the humanity of Christ, and in so doing, they also denied the deity of Christ; they made Him out to be a very strange and weird individual.
For some reason, God’s people have always been credulous and gullible. There are many believers who fall victim to what Dr. A. T. Robertson called “the latest fads and spiritualistic humbuggery.” There is a lot of that going around in our day. Therefore, John spends the time to give us this warning to beware that false teachers will deny the incarnation of Christ. Don’t tell me that the virgin birth is not important. Some people ask, “Can you be a Christian and deny the virgin birth?” You cannot — that is impossible because the mark of a false teacher is at that very point. When you destroy the virgin birth, you destroy His death upon the Cross for the sins of the world and His bodily resurrection — in other words, you wreck the Christian faith. This is the reason that the virgin birth is the place where there has been so much denial in our day, and that denial, of course, is that which reveals a false teacher immediately.
John is saying that God’s children ought not to be deceived by false teachers. The objective way to identify them is that they deny the incarnation of Christ. Now John gives us the internal, the subjective evidence in verse 4 —
Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world [1John 4:4].
There is no reason for you to be taken in by satanic teaching or the denial of the deity of Christ. A man said to me once, “I used to be in a certain church, and I was a high officer in the church. Then I got saved, and my eyes were opened. I knew then I was in the wrong place because they were denying the deity of Christ. So I got out.” Why did he get out? Well, he was indwelt by the Spirit of God who had revealed the truth to him. “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” — so that there is no excuse for you to be taken in today by a false teacher, a false prophet, or a false teaching. The thing to do is to go to God and ask that the Holy Spirit lead you and teach you. If you are in fellowship with Him, the Spirit of God is going to make the issue clear to you.
I knew a dear lady right here in Southern California who told me that when she first began to listen to my radio broadcasts, she was very critical of them. She was in a cult, and she felt that what I said contradicted what she was being taught — it sure did! But she began to test it by the Word of God. She was really a born-again Christian but had gotten caught up in this cult. Her eyes were opened because the Spirit of God was there to teach her. “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” You can overcome all the false teaching you hear because of the indwelling Spirit of God.
Every Christian is indwelt by the Spirit of God. Listen to what Paul has to say: “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” (Rom. 8:9). Back in the fifth chapter of Romans, Paul tells us of one of the present results of being justified by faith: “…the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Rom. 5:5). Again, we read in 1Corinthians 6:19, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” Was Paul talking to some super-duper saints, some who had really arrived, some very spiritually minded saints who were living on a high plane? No. He was writing to the Corinthians, and he called them carnal and babes in Christ. The Corinthian Christians were just about everything they should not have been, and yet they were indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Every child of God is indwelt by the Spirit of God.
This is the reason that you do not need an angel to appear to you tonight to tell you what you need to know. Rather, you need to have the Holy Spirit teach you, and the Holy Spirit teaches through His Word. You cannot stay away from the Bible, be ignorant of it, ignore it, and yet expect to have the Spirit of God lead you and guide you. I try to get people into the Word of God because I have seen that the Spirit of God opens people’s hearts, and He protects them from this world in which we live. We are living in a big, bad world, and we need to be warned concerning the false teaching that is around us.
John tells us that we can test the teachings of men. This test is just like putting litmus paper into a solution to tell whether it is an acid or a base. This is a test which will work: Does the teaching deny the incarnation of Christ? That is the spirit of antichrist, my friend. You do not want to follow that. It is contrary to Christ, although it may imitate Him. Generally, these false teachers are very attractive persons. Many of them have charisma, and they make a fleshly appeal to folk. But they can be tested by the Word of God for the Holy Spirit is there to be our teacher and guide.
They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them [1John 4:5].
False teachers do get a following. The occult and the cults are growing much faster today than is Christianity. They have the advantage of appealing to the flesh which we do not. I think it is tragic to have Christians using fleshly means to draw in a crowd. We need to be very careful of the methods which we use. If they are fleshly methods, God cannot bless them at all. We need to be sure that the Word of God is being given out. I do not care whether several thousand people come to your church — that is not the important thing. I am interested in the message. Is the Word of God being given out? Is it given out in the power of the Spirit so that the Spirit of God can take it and use it? The message should not be a great deal of pious promotion for some sentimental appeal that causes you to give. The question is: Is the Word of God going out from your church? Are folk coming to know Christ? You would not want to invest money in a company simply because they have a nice, beautiful building and the president is a very handsome fellow with a warm personality and charisma. If you are going to invest in that company, you will want to know whether it is making money or not. Is it getting results? Is something happening there? God intends us to use a little consecrated common sense when we are dealing in the area of religion.
“They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.” When John used Cain and Abel as an illustration in chapter 3, he said that Cain was not righteous and was not God’s child. He did not say that Cain wasn’t religious. Cain did bring an offering; in fact, I have a notion his offering was much more attractive than Abel’s offering. Cain’s was beautiful; it was the fruit of the field, but Abel’s was bloody and would have been sickening, nauseating to some people. However, Abel’s offering is the one which God accepted because it recognized the sin of man and his need of a Savior. Cain did not recognize that at all. The flesh depends on itself; it does not depend upon God.
John has made very clear to us that the important thing is that Jesus Christ is who he claimed to be, and that is the thing that we need to be very clear on in order to determine whether a teaching is true or not.
We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error [1John 4:6].
I used to tell the people of my church that I use the Bible as a Geiger counter. A Geiger counter tells you whether or not there is uranium there in the rocks and in the soil. So I just run the Geiger counter over the congregation, and the Bible is what I use — it’s my Geiger counter. I want to tell you; God’s children will always respond to it. That was my confidence as a pastor, and that is my confidence as I write this book: God’s people are going to hear.
John was sure of who the Lord Jesus was. He could say, “And the Word was made [became] flesh, and dwelt [pitched His tent] among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Then John gave us the purpose of his Gospel: “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:30-31). John had indubitable, indestructible, inevitable evidence that Jesus was who He claimed to be. John knew that, and that is something we need to be a little more sure of today.
Verses 4:7-14 / 7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.
13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world.
Verses 7 & 8 “7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
Simon J. Kistemaker expounds / These two verses and the following two are among the treasured passages of the entire epistle. They speak of love that originates in God and describe the believer as a person who loves and knows God. By contrast, the unbeliever does not love because he does not know God.
a. “Dear friends, let us love one another.” John addresses the readers with the familiar term dear friends (2:7; 3:2, 21; 4:1, 7, 11) which literally means “beloved.” He includes in the sentence an exhortation to love one another. He is not discussing the affection that family members have for each other. Rather, he writes the verb love, which means “divine love.” John indicates that God initiates love, showers it upon his people, and expects that in turn they express this same love to each other.
b. “Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” This, then, is the distinctive mark of the believer. The person who is born of God (2:29; 3:9; 5:1) is a window through which the love of God shines into the world. The believer expresses his love to his fellow man by doing for his neighbor what he himself wishes that others do for him. In short, he shows his love by obeying the Golden Rule (Luke 6:31). His love is genuinely unselfish.
The believer loves his neighbor as himself because, as John writes, the believer knows God. That is, he has fellowship with God the Father and his Son (1:3) and thus reflects the virtue of love.
Incidentally, when John says, “[he] knows God,” he may have intended to refute the Gnostic heretics of his day who prided themselves on having knowledge of God.
c. “Whoever does not love does not know God.” John compares the believer with the unbeliever and observes that when love is absent, knowledge of God is nonexistent. The person who fails to commune with God in prayer and neglects to read the Bible cannot be the instrument through which God demonstrates his divine love. The unbeliever has not even begun to know God. Without knowledge of God, there is no love. Love and knowledge of God are two sides of the same coin.
d. “God is love.” Children learn the words at home and in church. Adults treasure these three words, for in them John has stated one of God’s characteristics: love. This means not only that God loves his creation and his people, or that God is full of love. It means that in his very being God is love. And this is the message John conveys in his epistle.
Concerning verse 7; McGee writes: “Beloved, let us love one another” Why? “For love is of God.” Having given a warning against these false teachers, John returns now to the theme of this section: believers are to love one another.
Again, may I say that the word for love here is not eros; John is not talking about agape love, it is not sentimental, it is not sexual, and it is not social love. It is supernatural love. It is that which the Holy Spirit can put in our hearts, and only the Spirit of God can make it real to us. It is the love of God, and only the Spirit of God can enable us to extend this love to others.
This is not the kind of love you have for friends whom you delight in being with. “Beloved, let us love one another” — that is, love other believers.
“Every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.” This is approaching it from the human viewpoint. When you meet a person who says he is a believer, and you find that he loves you and loves other brethren, you can know that he is a born-again child of God.
Concerning verse 8 McGee writes: He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
“He that loveth not knoweth not God.” This is another test of whether or not you are a child of God. I’m not asking you if you love your papa and your mama. I’m not asking you whether you love your wife or your husband or your children or your kissin’ cousins — I’m not asking you that. But I am asking you this: Do you love other believers?
Maybe someone will say, “Well, I can love some of them.” That is helpful — you are moving in the right direction, but it is not enough. Certainly, there are some believers who are not very lovely, but what has that to do with your/our attituded and demonstrations. It is not essential that we put our arms around them in a hug, but it is essential that we are there for them in their need. True love for a Christian brother or sister demands action.
4:9 / “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. “
How does God love you? Well, you will not find that love in nature, but you will find a bloody tooth and a sharp claw — that is what nature reveals to us. You will find the love of God at Calvary. There is where you find the love of God manifested. “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.” God has proven His love. He laid down His life for us, and that is the proof of His love. I do not know whether or not you could get anyone to lay down his life for you; I think I’d have a little problem finding someone myself. But God has proven His love by giving His Son to die for you! He gave Him to die for you, not after you won a Sunday school attendance bar for not missing a Sunday in five years, but God loved you when you were yet a sinner. “For when we were yet without strength [while we were lost, while we were absolutely unlovely], in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6). God loved us! “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
Even when we were at enmity against Him, He loved us. He did not wait for us to become loveable. This needs to be our attitude toward fellow believers. Their becoming lovable is God’s work and perhaps His method of accomplishing this is through us.
“God sent his only begotten Son into the world.” Here is another verse to which those who would like to rob us of the deity of Christ turn. When Jesus Christ is called “the only begotten Son,” it means that He has a unique relationship with the Father. He was not created. God called the created angels His sons, and He says that those who trust Christ are sons of God, yet He says that the Lord Jesus is “the only begotten Son.” It is interesting that the same thing is said of Isaac: “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac; and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son” (Heb. 11:17, italics mine). At that time Abraham already had his son Ishmael, and later he had other sons. Ishmael was Abraham’s son, just as much his son as Isaac was. In fact, Ishmael probably looked as much like Abraham as Isaac ever did. But Isaac is called “his only begotten.” Why? Because he was unique, his birth was miraculous, and he stood in a unique relationship which was not shared by Abraham’s other sons. The position of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Godhead is that of the eternal Son of the eternal Father. We cannot have an eternal Father without an eternal Son. God is not a father in the sense that a human being is a father. “God is a Spirit” (see John 4:24), the Lord Jesus said. The “only begotten Son” is the Father’s unique son. Others are sons by creation, as Adam and the angels, or by new birth, as believers are, but Jesus Christ alone is the unique Son.
4:10 “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
John has used the word propitiation previously: “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1John 2:2). This word is quite remarkable. Propitiation means “mercy seat”; it is the same as the Old Testament word atonement, meaning “to cover.” Let me make this as clear as I possibly can. In the tabernacle in the Holy of Holies there was the ark of the covenant. On top of that ark there was a highly ornamented lid crowned with two cherubim of solid gold, facing each other and looking down upon the lid of the box. The ark was a very beautiful thing, for it was all made of acacia wood, and covered inside and outside with gold. The lid was called the mercy seat. It was here that the nation of Israel met God in the person of the high priest. Once a year and only once a year, the high priest came into the Holy of Holies, bringing blood to be sprinkled on the mercy seat. That is what made it a mercy seat because they could meet God only in that way. God loved them, but He did not simply slop over with love and say, “You can come to Me any way you want.” This was the way they were to come to God: On that great Day of Atonement, the high priest went in and sprinkled the blood on the mercy seat. That meant that the nation was accepted by God for another year, and then they would need to go through it again the next year.
Now here in the verse before us, the Lord Jesus Christ is called “the propitiation for our sins” which means that He is the mercy seat for our sins. Jesus is Himself the mercy seat because He died down here for us — “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). He has made expiation for our sins so that you and I can come with boldness to God’s throne of grace. That throne is now a throne of grace because there is mercy there for us. That is what Christ did, and that is the way God demonstrated His love for us.
Twice in this chapter John gives us the definition, “God is love” — in verse 8 and again in verse 16. This is a very wonderful thing, but I would have you notice something about it. You cannot say God is mercy. You cannot say God is grace. You cannot even say God is justice. You can say God is holy because that is what “God is light” means. But you can also say God is love. However, I must add that God does not save us by love. He loves us, and we do not want to lose sight of that, but God just cannot open the back door of heaven and slip us in under cover of darkness because He loves us. And God cannot let down the bars of heaven and bring us in the front door. God cannot do that, and God will not do that because He is a holy and righteous God.
We have seen so many shenanigans go on in the execution of justice in this nation of ours, and as a result, the judges and others who are in authority have wanted to get rid of capital punishment. Why? Because they know that if a man has money or influence, his life will not be taken. It is the poor fellow who cannot escape his due punishment. The tragic thing today is that we believe that justice can be bought. My friend, even though God loves you, He does not save you by love, and He cannot save you by love. God had to do something about the fact of sin because He is holy and righteous, and what He does is right. So God gave His Son to die on the Cross for you and me, to pay the penalty for our sin so that a holy God can now reach down and save us. It is only on that basis that a holy God can save us. Christ is the mercy seat, and that is where God reveals His love. “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).
“Herein is love, not that we loved God” — we did not love Him first. God did not give His Son for us because we were attractive, or because we were good, or because we promised to do something. God loved us “while we were yet sinners.” We need to recognize that you and I today are sinners and that “…God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). God did it at that time, and God loved us at that time. He has made a way for us if we will accept it. Jesus said, “…I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). You either come His way, or you do not come, my friend. It is nonsense to think that because God is love, everything will work out all right and everyone will ultimately go to heaven. It is going to work out all right because the lost are going to a lost eternity, and the saved are going to a saved eternity — that’s the reason things are going to work out all right. Are they going to work out all right for you? They will, if you come God’s way — this is tremendously important.
4:11 “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.”
God has demonstrated His love for us; therefore, you and I ought to love on that plane. John says, “Beloved, if God so loved us.” This carries our minds back to verse 10: “Herein is love… that he loved us, and sent His Son.” He loved us enough to give His Son as a propitiation for our sins.
If we love those who love us, or if there is a selfish motive in our loving them, there is no value in that. The Lord Jesus said, “For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?” (Matt. 5:46).
“We ought also to love one another.” I like that — when John says ought, he means it. He is not talking about the cheap sentiment which a great many people entertain today. Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). If you really love Him, keep His commandments. “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12). How about it, my friend? Do you mean to tell me that you can hate Christians down here and still love God? I want to say to you very frankly that if you cannot demonstrate in your life that you have love for other believers, there is a serious question whether you are a child of God or not. There is a lot of nonsense going on today. We are not talking about backslapping, calling somebody “brother,” or behaving so nicely in the church. But do you have a concern for believers? Do you have a concern to get out His Word? Do you have a concern to serve Him?
The Lord Jesus could say even on the Cross, “…Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do…” (Luke 23:34). The first martyr of the church, Stephen, said the same thing. Can you forgive like that today? Are you able to forgive those who have hurt you and harmed you and yet profess to be children of God? And if they cannot return your love, there is some question whether they are children of God or not. This is the real test, the acid test, and it hurts — does it not? We do not hear this type of teaching in these little seminars which talk about how to live the Christian life and how to get along with your spouse. John gives us the bedrock of it all: Do you love God? And do you love other believers?
Verses 4:12-21 / . 12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world.
15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. 17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love Him because He first loved us. 20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? h21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.
4:12 “12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.” 13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world.
Verse 12 What does John mean “No one has seen God at any time?”
McGee answers: “No man hath seen God at any time.” Some folk challenge this statement by pointing out scriptural illustration of those who have seen God. Of course, there was Adam, and then Moses who talked with God face to face and was hidden in the cleft of the rock as He went by. And Isaiah says, “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple” (Isa. 6:1). We find that Ezekiel had visions of God, and the Lord appeared to Daniel and to others. And yet John said in his Gospel, “No man hath seen God at any time” (John 1:18). But John does not conclude his statement with that; he goes on to say, “…the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1:18)–that is, He has exegeted (explained-reveled Him).
When God appeared to men in the Old Testament, they did not see God, for God is a Spirit and that is the way we worship Him. Those men saw what is known as a theophany. That is, God manifested Himself in some form to these men, but He did not reveal Himself in all His fullness. So that John says in his epistle, even after the Lord Jesus had gone back to heaven, “No man hath seen God at any time.” The Lord Jesus said to Philip, “…he that hath seen me hath seen the Father…” (John 14:9). But how did they see Him? He was veiled in human flesh, so much so that multitudes who saw Him did not recognize Him. He grew to manhood yonder in Nazareth, veiled in human flesh — they did not know that He was the Son of God. No man has seen God in all His fullness. That is still true today.
The point that John is making here is that no man has seen God at any time, but God manifests Himself through believers loving each other. Since the world in general is not seeing Jesus as He is presented in the Word of God, the only way it will know of God’s love is through the lives of believers who represent Him.
Verses 4:13-14 / 13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world.
Simon J. Kistemaker expounds:
a. The New International Version has “we know.” But the Greek actually says, “By this we know.” The words by this refer to the preceding context where John tells us that if we love one another, God lives in us. John’s discussion of the subject love, therefore, is the backdrop for the confidence John expresses in God. What is this confidence? John says, “We know that we live in him and he in us.” That is, from experiencing the presence of God in our lives we know that God lives in us and we in God.
b. How do we know that we dwell in God and he in us? “Because He has given us of his Spirit.” Even though John uses many of the same words he wrote in 3:24, he makes a slightly different point. There he says, “We know it by the Spirit he gave us.” Here in verse 13 he writes, “He has given us of his Spirit.” In 3:24 he states that divine blessings flow to us through the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit pours out God’s love to us (Rom. 5:5) and reveals that God is living within us. But in verse 13, we read that the Holy Spirit himself is God’s gift to us and we are the recipients.
c. The Spirit does not work alone. With the Father and the Son He takes part in the work of salvation. In verses 13 and 14, therefore, John mentions the work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—the Trinity.
d. Together with the other apostles John is able to testify to the truth of the gospel. He writes, “We have seen and testify” (compare John 1:14, 15). Perhaps he is thinking of the scene of Jesus’ baptism. At the Jordan, the Spirit descended in the form of a dove and the Father declared: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17; Luke 3:22). The disciples were eyewitnesses not only of the baptism of Jesus, but also of his entire life. They saw, heard, and with their hands touched Jesus (1:1). After the ascension, they proclaimed the truthfulness of Jesus’ message.
e. John gives a brief summary of the gospel: “The Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.” This is a most profound statement! God the Father commissioned his Son to assume the task of saving the world. And God initiated this mission of the Son because of his love for this sinful world.
Jesus proclaimed the message of salvation most effectively. When he visited Sychar, the Samaritans said, “We know that this man really is the Savior of the world” (John 4:42). In the early church, the apostles preached that Jesus is Savior. They said, “God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel” (Acts 5:31; also see 13:23).
The early church called attention to Jesus, who was appointed as Savior and given authority as Lord to save not only the Jews but also the Gentiles. The work of salvation, then, is worldwide in scope (John 3:16).
Henry A. Ironside Commenting on verses 4:11-14, writes:
“No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth—abideth—in us, and His love is perfected in us.” That love which was told out so fully in Jesus is now being manifested in those who have received life from the risen Christ, and are thus called upon to make known to the world for which He died, the same wondrous love that led Him to go to the cross. And so the apostle concludes this brief section by saying, “Hereby know we that we dwell—abide— in Him.” That is, if we love in this divine way, we abide in Him. You cannot abide in Christ and have hatred in your heart; you cannot abide in Christ and have malice in your heart, have unlovely thoughts and unholy desires. All these break fellowship with the blessed Lord.
“Hereby know we that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He hath given us of His Spirit.” Carefully notice these last words. Notice what John does not say, and then what he does say. The longer I live the more I am filled with admiration for this wonderful Book. It is absolutely perfect. I am asked sometimes what my theory of inspiration is. I tell them, “God spake all these words.” All Scripture is divinely breathed. No other book will stand the rigid test that this will. Get one little word out of place and you have disjointed the whole thing. Many ask, “Do you believe in verbal inspiration?” Of course I do. Verbo—A word! What other inspiration could I believe in? I have to believe in verbal inspiration, that is, inspired words, if I believe in any inspiration at all. It is not merely the message that is from God, but the form, the words, of the message also.
God does not say here that He gives us His Spirit. It is perfectly true that He does, for we would not be Christians if He had not given us His Spirit: “If any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” But He is speaking to people here to whom He has already given His Spirit and telling them how they can manifest divine love. “Because He hath given us of His Spirit.” What does that mean? He has Himself implanted within us something which He has given us from His Spirit. That is the new nature. His Spirit is that of love, and this is the very essence of the new nature, so that all you and I have to do is to let the Spirit of God control us, and as we do that, we will manifest the love of Christ.
Unsaved one, this seems like a high standard to you, and you say, “I do not see how I could ever live up to this, and what is more, I do not know that I have ever seen a Christian who did fully do so.” Yes, I know I have failed to live up to it, but this is my objective, my desire, my aim, and it is better to have a splendid and high objective and fail to obtain it than to have a low one and go beyond it. But you might say, “If this is what is expected of a Christian, I am afraid I can never be one.” An Indian once said to me, “Well, you know what I can see is this—Here we are in our sin and a great abyss is before us. On the other side is heaven. We must get from our sins over to heaven, and to do that there is a bridge across that chasm, but it is like a razor-edge, and I have to walk on that!” No, the wonderful thing is that Christ Himself has bridged the chasm and will carry you over from sin to salvation, from hell to heaven. And in order that we may manifest the love of Christ, He has given us His divine nature, and so it is not something that is impractical. We are called upon to receive Christ, and then He gives us the nature that delights to love. “Whosoever loveth—in this sense—is born of God.”
Verses 4:15-21 “15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. 17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love Him because He first loved us. 20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? h21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.”
Verses 4:15-16a If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16a. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
Simon J. Kistemaker of the Baker New Testament Commen-tary writes:
Who are the people of the world Jesus has come to save? They are the ones who acknowledge the divine sonship of Jesus. In fact, only if the believer confesses that “Jesus is the Son of God” will God live in him and he in God. By themselves, these words are simple enough. But the phrase should not be seen as a mere confessional statement, even though it may have been equivalent to the statement Jesus is Lord (I Cor. 12:3).
When we look at this phrase from a biblical point of view, we soon realize that John causes us to look at theological truth. The word Jesus embodies the entire history of Jesus from his birth to his ascension and session at the right hand of God. The term Son of God has its roots in Old Testament prophecies (e.g., II Sam. 7:14; Ps. 2:7) that were fulfilled when Jesus came (compare Heb. 1:5). The confession Jesus is the Son of God gives voice to his humanity and divinity. And it excludes everyone who denies that Jesus is the Son of God (2:23; 5:10, 12) as one who has no fellowship with God.
“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.” Using the personal pronoun we, John includes all the readers of his epistle. By experience, he says, we have come to know the love of God and we have put our trust in it. The two verbs know and believe (rely) go together. Writes A. E. Brooke, “The growth of knowledge and the growth of faith act and react on each other.”
J. Vernon McGee writes:
This is where you begin with Him — do not tell me that the virgin birth is not important. This is the gospel: “…how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1Cor. 15:3-4). My friend, if He is not who He said He was, His death and resurrection are absolutely meaningless; in fact, He was not raised from the dead if He is not who He said He was. But the evidence is all on the side that He did arise from the dead, and the proof of it is that He was virgin born; He was who He claimed to be.
“Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.” This is the reason that the Lord Jesus could say, “Whatever God does, I do.” He made this tremendous claim: “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 condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24). How is that possible? He had just said in John 5:19, “…The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” He is going to raise the dead, and He is going to judge all of the dead. Therefore, He can say to you today that because of who He is, if you will hear His voice and if you will believe on Him, you will be saved.
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 [1John 4:16].
These are inextricably intertwined and interwoven together. You simply cannot say that you love God and that you are a child of God when you hate the brethren down here.
This is the second time in this chapter that we have had the definition, “God is love.” An easy way to remember where in chapter 4 it occurs is this: multiply four by two and you get eight — it occurs in verse 8 the first time; then multiply eight by two and get sixteen — it occurs in verse 16 the second time. 1John 4:8 and 1John 4:16 give the definition, “God is love.”
Verses 4:17-18 “Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.” 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.”
J. Vernon McGee writes:
Our love is made “perfect,” and that means complete. “That we may have boldness in the day of judgment.” If you and I love God, love the Lord Jesus, and love one another as brothers and sisters in the faith, then that will give us boldness, and we will not have any fear of the day of judgment.
“Because as he is, so are we in this world.” In other words, we are just like the Lord Jesus. He was raised from the dead, we are told here, and He has life. Well, we have that life too, and He is up yonder at God’s right hand for us. We are in Christ, and we are accepted in the Beloved.
Therefore, John can go on to say —
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear hath torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love [1John 4:18].
There is nothing like fear in the human heart, but the child of God does not need to fear any judgment which is coming. It was all settled when Christ died for you.
“He that fears is not made perfect in love.” If you are fearful, you cannot enjoy your salvation. Joy stems from love, and if you have love for the Lord Jesus, for God, and for your brethren, then fear has been cast out.
Simon J. Kistemaker Writes:
a. “There is no fear in love.” As faith and doubt cannot exist together in the heart of the believer, so love and fear have nothing in common. Christians who, in fulfillment of God’s command, demonstrate their love for God and their neighbor have no fear.
The word fear has two meanings: it can mean “alarm, fright” or it can signify “reverence, respect.” The latter meaning, of course, does not apply to this text. The believer loves and respects God, but he is not afraid of him (Rom. 8:15). Because of his love for God and the fellowship he enjoys with him, the Christian is not afraid of the day of judgment. Instead, he lives his life on earth “in reverent fear” (I Peter 1:17; also see Phil. 2:12).
b. “But perfect love drives out fear.” What is the meaning of the term perfect love? “It is not flawless love; only God has that.” Rather it is the love that is complete because it instills within us the desire to keep God’s commands. When love comes to expression in the act of loving God and our neighbor, then fear in the sense of fright has no place in our hearts.
c. “Because fear has to do with punishment.” The reason that fear and love are mutually exclusive is because fear relates to punishment. In perfect love the idea of punishment is absent. But when there is disobedience, there is fear. And fear of impending punishment already is a penalty. Writes F. F. Bruce, “‘Punishment’ is the portion of those who through disobedience are ‘condemned already.'” The believer who lives in close communion with God is free from the fear of punishment. He knows that God punished Jesus Christ in his place on Calvary’s cross. Therefore, God does not punish the believer; otherwise Christ’s work would be incomplete. God corrects and disciplines but does not punish his children.
d. “The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” In this last part of the verse, John seeks to instill confidence in the heart of the believer. He puts his thoughts negatively to indicate that the person who fears lacks love. Unbelief leaves a person disturbed, but “the love of God, really known, tranquilizes the heart.” (End of transcriptions).
The test of loving God and being loved by Him are found in the last verses of this chapter.
19 We love Him because He first loved us. 20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? h21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.”
1 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. 4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith. 5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
6 This is He who came by water and blood–Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth.
7 For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. 8 And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one.
9 If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son.
10 He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son.
11 And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.
14 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.
16 If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that.
17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death.
18 We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him.
19 We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one. 20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. 21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.
McGee writes: In the first five verses, John talks about victory for the believer over the world. The “world” here is the cosmos, that is, the world with all of its organizations, all of its governments, all of its selfishness, its greed, its sorrow, its sickness, and its awful sin. John is going to say that it is possible for the child of God to have a victory over this world.
In this chapter we have come to the last major division of this very wonderful little book. In the first part of this epistle, we saw that God is light. In the very extensive center section, we saw that God is love. The theme of this final chapter is God is life, with 3 sub themes; Born of God; Victory over the world; and the assurance of Salvation.
An Examination of 5:1-5 Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and everyone that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. 4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith. 5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
MacArthur Writes: The foundational mark of an overcomer is believing that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah). That abbreviated statement implies all that is true about Him; that Jesus is the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, who came to earth to die and rise to accomplish salvation for sinners. Only the one who believes in the truth about Him is born of God (lit., “out of God has been begotten”) and overcomes the world. All who are born of God are overcomers, and only those who believe in Jesus Christ are born of God.
In the prologue to his gospel, John wrote, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12). The Lord Himself declared, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). In Acts 4:12 Peter boldly told the hostile Jewish authorities that “there is salvation in no one else [other than Jesus; v. 10]; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Paul wrote, “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11), and, “There is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time” (1 Tim. 2:5-6). Any teaching that people can be saved apart from faith in Jesus Christ is biblically untenable.
The tenses of the verbs in verse 1 reveal a significant theological truth. Believes translates a present tense form of the verb pisteuō,whereas gegennētai (is born) is in the perfect tense. The opening phrase of verse 1 literally reads, “Whoever is believing that Jesus is the Christ has been begotten of God.” The point is that contrary to Arminian theology, continual faith is the result of the new birth, not its cause. Christians do not keep themselves born again by believing and lose their salvation if they stop believing. On the contrary, it is their perseverance in the faith that gives evidence that they have been born again. The faith that God grants in regeneration (Eph. 2:8) is permanent, and cannot be lost. Nor, as some teach, can it die, for dead faith does not save (James 2:14-26). There is no such thing as an “unbelieving believer.”
The primary mark of an overcomer involves the doctrinal test of believing the truth of the Christian faith. The second mark is again a moral characteristic: an overcomer loves both the Father and the child born of Him. The new birth brings people not only into a faith relationship with God, but also into a love relationship with Him and His children. John has emphasized that principle throughout this epistle: i.e.,
The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (2:10-11)
By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. (3:10)
We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. (3:14)
But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? (3:17)
This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. (3:23)
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (4:7-8)
No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. (4:12)
If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. (4:20-21)
The love of which John writes is not mere emotion or sentimentality, but a desire to honor, please, and obey God. Directed toward people, it is the love of the will and choice, the love that sacrificially meets the needs of others. Paul described it in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7: Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
The opening statement of verse 2, by this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, is the corollary to the truth John expressed in verse 1. Just as it is impossible to love God without loving His children, so also is it impossible to truly love His children apart from loving Him. Those twin priorities of loving God and other Christians mark all who have been born again.
The proof of genuine faith is sustained and loving obedience; it is to love God and observe His commandments. Genuine saving faith produces love, which results in obedience. Those who believe God is who Scripture reveals Him to be will respond in love, praise, and adoration. Because He is the supreme object of their affections, they will long obey Him. Observe translates a present tense form of the verb poieō,which has the connotation of “to accomplish,” “to carry out,” or “to practice.” The present tense indicates that believers’ obedience is to be continuous. It will always be the direction, though not the perfection, of their lives.
Verses 4 & 5 “4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith. 5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
What does John mean by these words “Whoever is born of God overcomes the world?” Several things.
1) Because Jesus overpowers spiritual darkness (John 1:5) the Believer by faith is also able to see through that darkness.
2) Through faith in Jesus the Believer experiences peace (John 16:33).
3) The Believer overcomes evil with good (Romans 12:21).
4) The Believers overcome the influence of the evil one (1 John 2:13–14) and evil spirits (1 John 4:4).
5) The Believer has overcome physical and spiritual death (John 11:25-26; Ephesians 2:1-9).
Every believer is an overcomer and is victorious because they have eternal life in Christ (John 3:16) and abundant life now (John 10:10). God’s Spirit lives within the believer to provide power over the battles of this world.
How do believers overcome the world? Verse 5 gives the answer: by believing in Jesus as the Son of God. The faith of the believer is the victory that overcomes. Every believer is an overcomer and is victorious because they have eternal life in Christ (John 3:16) and abundant life now (John 10:10). God’s Spirit lives within the believer to provide power over the battles of this world.
When a person places their faith in Christ it is not a question of their overcoming the world by their own power, they overcome and are kept by the power of God through faith. We have faith in Christ for salvation in the future and faith in Christ for salvation from the world here and now.
Simon J. Kistemaker (Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary and contributor to Baker’s Commentary of the Bible) writes: John repeats the theme of Christ’s sonship which he expounded earlier (2:22; 4:15). Near the end of his epistle, he wants to tell his readers that Christ’s sonship secures their relation to God: “everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is a son or daughter of God.” The recipients of the letter should know that they are children of God through faith in Jesus Christ. This faith characterizes them as Christians who express their love for him by obeying God’s commands.
Verses 1 & 2 “1Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. 2. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands.”
We note three points:
a. Faith. In this chapter John frequently uses the verb to believe. He develops the significance of believing in Jesus Christ by declaring that “everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” When John says “everyone,” he indicates that the Christian religion excludes no one. Anyone who sincerely puts his faith in Jesus is a child of God.
The main verb in the sentence is “born” and the phrase everyone who believes is its subject. This means that the believer is the child of God the Father, for God causes the spiritual birth of his child. The believer’s faith in God is irrefutable evidence of his spiritual birth. He knows that Jesus is the Christ because the believer has been born of God. Faith in Jesus Christ is inseparably bound to love for God’s children.
b. Love. “Everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.” The second part of verse 1 links faith and love. The one cannot exist without the other, and together they demonstrate the vibrant spiritual life of the child of God. John Calvin observes, “Since God regenerates us by faith, he must necessarily be loved by us as a Father; and this love embraces all his children.” In essence, faith and love are inseparable. In God’s family, faith in God and love for him and his children are totally integrated.
What evidence is there for combining faith and love? John provides a ready answer. He writes, “This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands.” Actually these words are almost a verbatim repetition of an earlier verse, “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands” (2:3; and see 3:23).
c. Obedience. John states that love for God’s children must be coupled with love for God to be genuine. And love for God can be true only if we obey his laws. Notice that John gives the reader a statement that consists of three parts: love for the children of God; love for God; and obedience to his commands. If any part of the statement is to be valid, it has to be linked to the other two parts. In effect, John reiterates the teachings of Jesus on this particular subject. Jesus said, “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love” (John 15:10; compare 14:15).
Verses 3 & 4 “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 4. for everyone born of God has overcome the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.”
a. “Love for God.” John is the New Testament writer who provides a number of pithy definitions. For example, in his Gospel he defines eternal life (17:3) and in his first epistle he repeatedly explains spiritual truths (consult 2:5-6; 3:10, 23, 24; 4:2, 10; 5:14). Here he states what love for God means: “to obey his commands.” Love for God does not consist of spoken words, even if they are well-intentioned, but of determined action that demonstrates obedience to God’s commands.
b. “His commands are not burdensome.” John reiterates the words of Jesus, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:30). The Pharisees and scribes placed unnecessary demands upon the Jewish people of the first century. They added to the Decalogue hundreds of manmade rules that were burdensome to the people (see Matt. 23:4; Luke 11:46).
For the person who refuses to acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God, the commands are a threat to man’s self-proclaimed freedom. They are a hindrance to his lifestyle and a constant source of irritation. The child of God, however, knows that God has given him laws for his own protection. As long as he stays within the area delineated by these laws, he is safe, for in it he has his own spiritual environment. Therefore, the believer can do anything he pleases within the confines of God’s commands (Deut. 30:11-14).
Augustine aptly remarks, “Love and do what you please.” The Christian desires to obey God’s precepts. With the psalmist he says, “I delight in [God’s] commands because I love them” (Ps. 119:47; also see Rom. 7:22). Although John’s teaching holds for all God’s precepts, the context of verse 3 refers to the commands to believe in Jesus as the Son of God and to love the children of God (v. 1).
c. “Everyone born of God.” The Greek says, “all that is born of God.” John wants to place the emphasis not on the individual person but, in general, on all people who have experienced spiritual birth.
d. “Has overcome the world.” All who have their birth in God have overcome the world and therefore can claim victory already. They know that Jesus said, “Take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Because Jesus has been victorious, we, too, are victorious with him. Jesus has overcome the evil one in this world and has set his people free from the power of Satan. “The battle has thus been decided, even if it is not yet over.”
e. “This is the victory.” Note that John does not say, “This is the victor.” He writes “the victory” to show that the concept itself is significant. Victory and faith are synonymous. John tells his readers that their faith has overcome the world. Their faith, of course, is in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. When believers place their faith in Jesus, then nothing can separate them from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:37-39; I Cor. 15:57). No evil forces in this world are able to overpower the person who trusts in Jesus. Instead, the believer is victorious over the world because of his faith in the Son of God.
Who is it that overcomes the world? “He who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”
Verses 5:6-8 “6This is He who came by water and blood–Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth. 7 For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. 8 And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one.
Why place our faith (trust) in Christ?
MacArthur writes: The incarnation of Jesus Christ is the glorious central truth of redemptive history and the foundation of the Christian faith. It is to the coming of the Son and to His deity that the Father testifies in this passage. John gives three elements of that confirming testimony: the water, the blood, and the Spirit. Some connect the phrase water and blood with Jesus’ death, when “one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out” (John 19:34). But there is no reason to assume that John had that incident in mind. It is also difficult to see how the piercing of Jesus’ side was a divine witness to His deity; that act was not a divine statement of anything, but rather a very human affirmation that Jesus was dead.
It is best to see the water here as a reference to Christ’s baptism and the blood as a reference to His death. Those two notable events bracketed the Lord’s earthly ministry, and in both of them the Father testified concerning His Son.
Although He was without sin (2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 7:26; 1 Peter 2:22; cf. John 8:46), it was still necessary for Jesus to be baptized. By doing so, He publicly identified with sinners. Therefore He told John, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15).
After John baptized Him, “Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him” (Matt. 3:16). The physical manifestation of the Holy Spirits presence provided visible evidence of the Father’s testimony to the Son, especially to John the Baptist. As he later declared,
I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, “He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.” I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God. (John 1:32-34)
After the Father’s visual testimony by the Spirit to Jesus came His explicit declaration, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matt. 3:17). Those words, reminiscent of Psalm 2:7 and Isaiah 42:1, expressed the Father’s approval of the Son, and His attestation of Him as the Messiah.
John then introduces a second witness, the blood, representing Christ’s death. As He had at His baptism, the Father gave striking testimony to Jesus in the miraculous events surrounding His crucifixion. Matthew 27:45 records that “from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour.” In the middle of the day came a supernatural darkness, symbolizing the Father’s forsaking of the Son as the sin-bearing sacrifice. Sensing that, “Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?'” (v. 46; cf. Ps. 22:1).
The Father also testified to the Son through the ministry of the Spirit, who is the truth (cf. John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13). The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth in that He is true and, therefore, the source and revealer of divine truth (1 Peter 1:12; cf. Acts 1:16; 28:25; Heb. 3:7; 10:15-17), particularly about Jesus Christ (John 15:26). The Spirit was involved at Jesus’ conception (Matt. 1:18, 20; Luke 1:35), baptism (Matt. 3:16), temptation (Mark 1:12; Luke 4:1), and throughout His ministry. Peter said to those gathered in Cornelius’s house, “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38; cf. Matt. 12:28; Luke 4:14; John 3:34). Because the Holy Spirit empowered Jesus for ministry, to attribute Christ’s miraculous works to Satan was to blaspheme the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:28-30).
MacArthur adds: The phrase not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood is not redundant but addresses an important theological point. The Father did not, as the false teachers whom John was combating insisted, affirm Jesus at His baptism, but not at His death. Those heretics, purveyors of an incipient form of Gnosticism, taught that the “Christ spirit” descended on the man Jesus at His baptism, making Him the anointed One of God. According to this heresy, Jesus, under the control of the “Christ spirit,” gave valuable ethical teachings during His ministry. But the Christ spirit left Him before the crucifixion and, the false teachers further claimed, He died as a mere man, not the God-man whose sacrificial death atoned for the sins of all who would ever be justified.
Like any teaching that denies the efficacy of Christ’s substitu-tionary atonement, that teaching was a satanic lie, since “Jesus Christ the righteous… is the propitiation for our sins” (2:1-2; cf. 4:10; Rom. 3:25; Heb. 2:17). If He did not possess His divine nature on the cross, Jesus could not and did not conquer sin and death for believers. But the glorious truth is that “He… who knew no sin [became] sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).
At the beginning of Christ’s earthly ministry, the Father gave testimony to Him at the water when He was baptized. Matthew records that “Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him” (3:13). As the forerunner of the Messiah, John the Baptist proclaimed a “baptism of repentance” (v. 11; Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3; Acts 13:24; 19:4). He called on the people of Israel to prepare their hearts for the coming of the Messiah by confessing and repenting of their sin and asking God to cleanse them. Their baptism was a public affirmation of repentance from sin, an external act symbolizing an internal reality.
But John the Baptist knew that as the spotless “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), Jesus had no sin to repent of and hence no need to be baptized. Therefore “John tried to prevent Him, saying, ‘I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?'” (Matt. 3:14). John was shocked by the reversal of what he knew to be true. He was the sinner, Jesus the sinless one; he was the lesser, Jesus the greater (cf. John 1:27; 3:30).
Although He was without sin (2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 7:26; 1 Peter 2:22; cf. John 8:46), it was still necessary for Jesus to be baptized. By doing so, He publicly identified with sinners. Therefore He told John, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). Jesus always performed what God required of His people; He claimed no exemption here, just as He claimed no exemption from paying the temple tax (17:24-27). His perfect obedience (cf. John 4:34; 8:29; 14:31; 15:10) made Him the sinless sacrifice whose death made atonement for sin.
After John baptized Him, “Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him” (Matt. 3:16). The physical manifestation of the Holy Spirits presence provided visible evidence of the Father’s testimony to the Son, especially to John the Baptist. As he later declared, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, “He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.” I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God” (John 1:32-34)
Back to 1st John 5:5-6a / John then introduces a second witness, the blood, representing Christ’s death. As He had at His baptism, the Father gave striking testimony to Jesus in the miraculous events surrounding His crucifixion. Matthew 27:45 records that “from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour.” In the middle of the day came a supernatural darkness, symbolizing the Father’s forsaking of the Son as the sin-bearing sacrifice. Sensing that, “Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?'” (v. 46; cf. Ps. 22:1).
At the moment of Jesus’ death there was another astonishing miracle as “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matt. 27:51a). That curtain, separating the Most Holy Place from the Holy Place, was far too large and heavy for men to tear, especially from the top down. The Father’s act symbolized His acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice, through which the way into His presence was opened (cf. Heb. 10:19-20).
In yet another amazing miracle, “the earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many” (Matt. 27:515-53). Their appearance in bodily form testified to Christ’s resurrection as the “first fruits of those who are asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20). So overwhelming was God’s miraculous testimony to Jesus that a battle-hardened Roman centurion who witnessed it cried out in terror, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Matt. 27:54; cf. Mark 15:39).
Concerning water and blood Simon J. Kistemaker writes:
The person to whom John alludes is obviously Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The terms Christ (v. 1) and Son of God (v. 5) are synonyms. John uses the past tense to indicate that the coming of Jesus is a historical event. He asserts a historical fact that is irrefutable.
How did Jesus come? Says John, “by water and blood.” By themselves, the words water and blood are quite intelligible, but what do they mean with reference to Jesus? Although interpretations are many and varied, scholars generally agree that the phrase relates to the history of Jesus. That is, the terms water and blood refer respectively to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry marked by his baptism in the Jordan River and to his death on Calvary’s cross.
Verses 5:6b-10 “And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth. 7 For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. 8 And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one. 9 If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son. 10 He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son.”9 If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son. 10 He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son.
MacArthur writes The Father also testified to the Son through the ministry of the Spirit, who is the truth (cf. John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13). The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth in that He is true and, therefore, the source and revealer of divine truth (1 Peter 1:12; cf. Acts 1:16; 28:25; Heb. 3:7; 10:15-17), particularly about Jesus Christ (John 15:26). The Spirit was involved at Jesus’ conception (Matt. 1:18, 20; Luke 1:35), baptism (Matt. 3:16), temptation (Mark 1:12; Luke 4:1), and throughout His ministry. Peter said to those gathered in Cornelius’s house, “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38; cf. Matt. 12:28; Luke 4:14; John 3:34). Because the Holy Spirit empowered Jesus for ministry, to attribute Christ’s miraculous works to Satan was to blaspheme the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:28-30). Jesus always did the will of the Father in the power of the Spirit.
The witness of the three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood is in perfect agreement and convincingly demonstrates that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. How foolish to receive the testimony of men about matters of far less significance while rejecting the infinitely greater… testimony of God… that He has testified concerning His Son.
John continues, “And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.” The word testify is rather significant in this paragraph. The Spirit is testifying as a witness to the birth (Matt. 1:20 [conception]; Luke 1:35; 2:25-32), baptism (Matt. 3:16; Luke 3:22), teaching (John 6:63), and ministry of Jesus (Luke 4:1, 18). John affirms the words of Jesus: “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me” (John 15:26). The Spirit continues to testify to God’s truth with reference to the person and work of Jesus.
John states the reason for the testifying work of the Spirit. He writes, “Because the Spirit is the truth.” John identifies the Spirit with the truth and alludes to the words of Jesus, “I am… the truth.” That is, both Jesus and the Spirit have their essence in the truth. The Spirit testifies because of his identity with the truth in Jesus.
“For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood.” Of the English-language translations, only two (KJV, NKJV) have the expanded verses (vv. 7-8). “For there are three who bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness on earth” (NKJV). The translators of the New King James Version, however, state in a footnote that the Greek New Testaments (Nestle-Aland, United Bible Societies, and Majority Text) “omit the words from ‘in heaven’ (v. 7) through ‘on earth’ (v. 8).” Only four or five very late Greek manuscripts contain these words.
Simon J. Kistemaker writes: John actually writes that three (Spirit, water, and blood) are testifying. But why does John place the historical facts of Jesus’ baptism (water) and death (blood), to which the Spirit testifies, on the same level as the Spirit? How can water and blood testify along with the Spirit? We need to look at the text from a Semitic point of view. Impersonal objects can testify; for example, the heap of stones Jacob and Laban put together was called a witness (Gen. 31:48). And according to the Mosaic law (Deut. 19:15), “One witness is not enough…. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”
John writes that “the three are in agreement.” He means that all three witnesses say the same thing; before a court of law the factual evidence of Jesus’ baptism (water) and death (blood) is in complete agreement with the testimony of the Holy Spirit. A person cannot accept either one or two of the witnesses and omit the third. All three stand together.
MacArthur writes: If man’s testimony (5:9) – can be accepted when adequately attested (Deut. 19:15), God’s testimony, being greater, ought also be accepted.
But before specifying the content of God’s testimony (which is done in 1 John 5:11-12), John paused parenthetically to remark that accepting this testimony internalizes it for the one who believes. Each believer has God’s truth in his heart. By contrast, anyone who disbelieves God has made Him out to be a liar (cf. 1:10). For John there was no middle ground, no suspension of opinion. One either believes or he impugns God’s veracity.
Having said this, John returned to the content of the testimony, which is that God has given us eternal life (cf. 5:13, 20) and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. In the light of 2:25-26 John’s statement of God’s testimony is probably directed against a claim by some antichrists that the readers did not really have eternal life through God’s Son. But God has directly affirmed that eternal life is precisely what He has given in His Son. To deny this is to call Him a liar.
Believing in the Son and believing God is essential to salvation. Note verse 10 once again: “10 He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son.”
Simon J. Kistemaker writes: Note that John states specifically that faith is believing in the Son of God. The preposition in means that the believer puts full trust and confidence in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The believer has accepted the testimony (see John 3:33; Rom. 8:16) which God, through the Spirit, has given about his Son. And this testimony which comes to him through external witnesses is now lodged in his heart and has become an integral part of his spiritual life.
The second part of verse 10 is not a parallel of the first part. Instead of writing, “Anyone who does not believe in the Son of God,” John says, “Anyone who does not believe God.” He places the emphasis on God, who has given man testimony about his Son. Man, however, cannot accept this testimony merely for information. He does not have the freedom to take or leave it without obligation, for God gives him this testimony with royal authority. When man rejects God’s testimony, he has made and continues to make God a liar. And this is a serious offense, because rejection of God’s Word constitutes deliberate unbelief.
This is serious business, why? Because as Peter testified in Acts 4:12: There is salvation in no one else. Disbelieve the testimony of God and reject Jesus is to be damned to eternal separation from them.
Verses 5:11-12 “11 And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
After these many years (nearly 60) John’s understanding hadn’t changed for in the gospel that bears his name he wrote “36 He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36).
The purpose of God’s testimony through the water, the blood, and the Spirit is that sinners might receive eternal life.
What reason did John give for writing these things and what things is he referring to?
We read from 5:13: “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.”
In the beginning of this letter John 1:1-4 John informed his readers that he was writing to them that they might have fellowship with one another and that their joy would be full. His intention was to refute the claims of false teachers (especially agnostics) that the man Jesus was not truly deity. In that refutation he wrote:
“1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life– 2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us– 3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. His desire was to settle them down that they might have peace and joy.
Now at the close of the letter he writes “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.”
Verses 1:1-4 look forward with the intention of encouragement and verse 5:13 is an assurance of salvation based on what he had written in the undeniable fact that Jesus was incarnate God. Others, such as John MacArthur link the two passages together believing that by “these things” John is referring to the entire letter.
Verses 5:14-15 “14 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” What are we to make of this?
About 5:14-15 John Walvoord (The Bible Knowledge Commentary writes:
One who believes in the name of Jesus Christ has an assurance (parrēsia) in approaching God in prayer (cf. 3:21). Requests made in accordance with God’s will are heard by Him and a believer can be certain of receiving answers to them. Naturally, Christians today discern God’s will through the Scriptures and ask accordingly. But the unit of thought that commences with 5:3b has focused on the truth that God’s commands are not a burden because faith in God’s Son is the secret of spiritual victory over the world. In this context, then, it is natural to suppose that John was thinking especially, though not exclusively, of a Christian’s right to ask God for help in keeping His commands. That kind of prayer is transparently according to His will. Thus in victorious living a Christian is relieved of any burden through prayer that is based on faith in the name of God’s Son.
Concerning verses 5:14-15 “(And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him”
MacArthur writes: As noted above, the full experience of eternal life awaits Christians in heaven. But though they have not yet entered into their eternal inheritance (cf. 1 Peter 1:4), they have access to all of God’s resources through prayer. Parrēsia (confidence) literally means “freedom of speech” (cf. the discussion of 3:21 in chapter 13 of this volume). It can also be translated “boldness” (Acts 4:31), or “openness” (Acts 28:31). The phrase translated before Him has the sense of “in His presence.” Through Jesus Christ believers have “boldness and confident access” (Eph. 3:12) to God that enables them to “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that [they] may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).
The sure promise of God is that when believers boldly and freely come to Him with their requests, He will hear and answer. If we ask anything according to His will, John wrote, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him. Hearing in this context refers to more than merely God’s being aware of believers’ requests; it also means that He grants the requests which we have asked from Him. That is nothing less than a blank check to ask God for anything, but it comes with one important qualifier: the requests must be according to His will.
To pray according to God’s will assumes first of all being saved. God is not obligated to answer the prayers of unbelievers. He may choose to do so when it suits His sovereign purposes, but God does not obligate Himself to any unbeliever. John illustrated this principle when he wrote earlier in this epistle, “Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight” (3:21-22). The Lord Jesus Christ made a similar statement, recorded in John 15:7: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you [the definition of a genuine believer], ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (cf. v. 16). Only believers, those who obey God’s commandments, can have the certainty that He will answer their prayers.
Praying according to God’s will also means confessing sin. The psalmist wrote in Psalm 66:18, “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear” (cf. 1 Peter 3:7).
Again, the Lord’s promise in John 14:13-14 affirms the requirement of praying according to God’s will: “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” To pray in Jesus’ name is to pray consistent with who He is, with the goal of bringing Him glory. It is to follow the pattern of His model prayer: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10), and His example of humble submission to the Father’s will when He prayed in Gethsemane, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me;
And about 5:14-15 “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him’ McGee in his home folksy way writes: Our assurance will give us confidence in prayer, and believe me, we need confidence in prayer. This word confidence actually means “boldness.” “This is the boldness that we have in him.” This assurance will give boldness in prayer to the child of God.
“If we ask any thing according to his will” — our prayer must be according to the will of God. If you and I are in fellowship with Him, walking with Him, then our prayer would be for God’s will in every circumstance. George Müller put it like this: “Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance. It is laying hold of His willingness.” It is not trying to get God to do something which He is reluctant to do, but prayer is to be our thinking His thoughts after Him. This is the thing which gives us confidence when we turn to God in prayer.
“He heareth us.” You can be sure that He not only hears our prayer, but He also answers our prayer. God will hear the prayers of His children, but He will not always answer them by giving us what we ask. John is saying here that we can have the confidence that He will answer our request according to the way we pray — when we pray in His will.
It is wonderful to know that you and I have a heavenly Father. If we are in fellowship with Him, if we are not regarding sin in our lives, and if there are no other hindrances to prayer in our lives, we are not going to pray selfishly. When we are walking in fellowship with Him, when we are following Him, we can have the confidence that He will hear what we ask and answer our prayer. We are not to come to Him with mistrust or in a begging attitude, but we are to come with boldness to ask that God’s will be done.
Verse 5:16 “16 If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. 17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death.”
How are we to understand verse 16 ?
MacArthur Writes: At first glance, verse 16 appears to introduce an abrupt change of subject. But upon further consideration, the connection of verses 16 and 17 to verses 14 and 15 becomes clear. By giving one important exception, John illustrates in a contrasting manner the extent of God’s promise to answer prayer. When a believer sees a brother (a real or professing believer) committing a sin not leading to death, the apostle writes, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. On the other hand, there is a sin leading to death, and the apostle did not advise Christians to make request for this sin.
Evidently John and his readers knew what the sin leading to death was, since no explanation is given, but its exact meaning is difficult for us to determine. Two possibilities present themselves. First, the sin in question may be that of a non-Christian leading to eternal death. In that case it would be a final rejection of Jesus Christ, such as that committed by those who attributed His miracles to the power of Satan (Matt. 12:31-32). Such ultimate apostasy is unforgivable, as Jesus declared:
Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come. (Matt. 12:31-32)
Praying for the restoration of such people to the fellowship from which they have departed (1 John 2:19) is futile, because “it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame” (Heb. 6:6). John did not forbid prayer for such people, since it is impossible to know who they are. The apostle merely stated that prayer for them will not be answered; God has already made the final decision about their future. Supporting the view that John is referring to unbelievers is the present tense of the participle hamartanonta (“sinning”; the Greek text literally reads “If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin…”); John elsewhere in this epistle uses the present tense to describe the habitual sins that characterize unbelievers (e.g., 3:4, 6, 8; 5:18).
Another possibility is that John is not referring to an unbeliever, but to a believer. According to this view, the sin leading to death refers to a Christian’s sin that is so serious that God takes the life of the one committing it. He put to death Ananias and Sapphira when they lied to the Holy Spirit in front of the church (Acts 5:1-11). Paul wrote to the Corinthians concerning those who were abusing the Lord’s Table, “For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep [have died]” (1 Cor. 11:30). The sin is not one particular sin, but any sin that the Lord determines is serious enough to warrant such severe chastisement.
Both of the above views reflect biblical truth, and it is hard to be dogmatic as to which one John had in mind. In either case, John’s point is that prayer for those committing a sin leading to death will not result in the outcome that might otherwise be expected.
Although God mercifully does not immediately punish every sin with death, every sin is nonetheless a serious matter to Him. All unrighteousness is sin, John reminded his readers, even sin not leading to death. Every sin is a violation of His law and an affront to God, and is to be confessed (1:9; Ps. 32:5), forsaken (Prov. 28:13), and mortified (Rom. 8:13; Col. 3:5).
McGee proffers: The Death John refers here is physical death. It has no reference at all to spiritual death because the child of God has eternal life. John is saying that believers can commit a sin for which their heavenly Father will call them home; that is, He will remove them from this life physically, perhaps because they are disgracing Him.
Let us look at some people in Scripture who have committed a sin unto death. Moses and Aaron committed a sin unto death. You will recall that Moses got angry when the children of Israel kept begging for water and, instead of speaking to the rock as God commanded him, he smote the rock twice. He shouldn’t even have touched that rock. It had already been smitten once before, and he should have rested upon that. The rock was to be an example and a type of Christ. Paul wrote, “And [the children of Israel] did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ” (1Cor. 10:4). Christ died only once, and Moses spoiled the type by striking the rock twice. “And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them” (Num. 20:12). There was for this man Moses a restoration in that he could continue leading. However, he began to plead with God to forgive him and to permit him to enter the land, but the Lord told him in effect, “Although I have restored you to your place of leadership, you are not going to enter the land.” When Moses kept after the Lord, the Lord said to him, “…speak no more unto me of this matter” (Deut. 3:26). Moses and Aaron both had sinned a sin unto death — physical death.
In the New Testament we have another example of this in Ananias and Sapphira. They were a part of the early church, and they were guilty of a lie (see Acts 5:1-11). They had been willing to give a false impression to the early church; they were willing to live a lie. Because of that, God removed them from this earthly scene.
There is another incident of this mentioned in 1 Corinthians. Some of the people there had actually been getting drunk at the Lord’s Supper, and they were missing the meaning of it altogether. Paul wrote to them, “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep” (1Cor. 11:30, italics mine) — that is, they were dead. Paul is saying that they had committed a sin unto death.
Someone might ask at this point, “What is a sin unto death?” First, let me be clear that John was not speaking of an unpardonable sin. We are talking about a sin unto physical death, not spiritual death. These people were God’s children. He would never have taken them home if they had not been His children. The Lord doesn’t whip the Devil’s children — He whips only His own. When His children sin unto death, He will take them home.
What is this sin? What is it specifically? Well, for Moses and Aaron it was one thing — they lost their tempers, and they destroyed a type of the Lord Jesus. Ananias and Sapphira were living like hypocrites. And in the city of Corinth, there were believers who were getting drunk and were disorderly at the Lord’s Table. So a sin unto death is no one thing specifically. I have a notion that for you it would be different from what it would be for me, but I am of the opinion that every believer is capable of committing the sin unto death — whatever it is for him. You can go on in sin until God will remove you from the scene. This does not mean that every Christian who dies has committed the sin unto death, but it is possible to do that.
Absalom also committed a sin unto death. I believe that Absalom was really a child of God, but he led a rebellion against his father, King David. I have observed something over a period of years. I have watched how God has dealt with troublemakers in the church. I’ve not only seen Him remove them by death, but I’ve also seen Him set them aside so that they were of no more use in the service of God at all. It is possible to commit the sin unto death. Let me repeat that it is physical death not spiritual death.
Let me illustrate this. There is a mother who has a boy, Willie — her little angel child, of course. Next door, though, there lives a little brat about the age of her little angel, and they play together out in the backyard. One day as she is working in the kitchen, she hears that little brat yelling at the top of his voice. She rushes to the door, looks out, and there is her precious little angel on top of the little brat next door, just beating the stuffing out of him! She says, “Willie, you are going to have to come into the house if you are not nice to the little boy next door.” He says, “Yes, Mama. I’ll be better.” She says, “Well, if you are not, I’m going to have to bring you in the house.” So she goes back in, and about thirty minutes go by, but again she hears that familiar cry of the little brat next door. She goes to the door, and the same sight greets her. Her precious little angel is on top of the brat next door, just beating the stuffing out of him. She says, “Willie, come into the house.” He says, “I don’t want to come into the house.” She says, “I said that if you did that again, you would have to come into the house!” So what does she do? She goes out and gets him by the hand, and she takes her precious little angel, yelling at the top of his voice, into the house. He had to come in. He may not be her precious little angel anymore, but he still is her son — that fact never was disturbed, but he can no longer play outside. I think that if a child of God goes on disgracing the Lord down here, the Lord will either set him aside or take him home by death. God doesn’t mind doing that. I think He does it in many instances.
Thought – This is something we should seriously be remindful of.
Verses 5:18-21 “18 We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him. 19 We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one. 20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. 21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.”
John MacArthur gives the following commentary on these verses. It is lengthy but I believe a fitting end to our study of 1st John. He writes >
As he winds down this letter, John reiterates a vitally important principle he repeated earlier in this epistle: no one who has been transformed by the new birth goes on living in an unbroken pattern of sin.
The unconverted can do nothing but sin. They are sinners from birth (Ps. 51:5), slaves to sin (John 8:34; Rom. 6:16), defiant, rebellious haters of God (Pss. 5:10; 68:1; Rom. 1:30; 5:10; 8:7), and under the dominion of Satan (Eph. 2:2; cf. Acts 26:18; Col. 1:13). In short, they are “dead in [their] trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1).
The one who is born of God, however, cannot live in an unbroken pattern of sin, for several reasons. First, sin is incompatible with the law of God (1 John 3:4). The redeemed love God’s law (Ps. 119:97, 113, 163, 165) and cannot habitually live in violation of it (cf. 1 John 2:3-4; 3:24; 5:3). Second, sin is incompatible with the work of Christ, who “appeared in order to take away sins” (1 John 3:5; cf. v. 8; Matt. 1:21; John 1:29). Finally, sin is incompatible with the work of the Holy Spirit, who in the new birth plants the principle of divine life in the redeemed (1 Peter 1:23; 1 John 3:9). (For a complete discussion of believers’ incompatibility with sin, see chapter 11 of this volume.)
That they do not continually live in sin does not mean that believers can reach a point in this life where they never sin. In fact, John said that those who make such claims are liars (1:8, 10). Further, his description of Jesus as believers’ Advocate (2:1) assumes that they will continue to sin and need His intercession. The point here is the same as earlier, that a pattern of righteousness characterizes the redeemed, whereas a pattern of unrighteousness characterizes the unredeemed.
Paul reminded the Romans that since sin’s power over them has been broken, it cannot characterize their lives: but thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. (Rom. 6:17-22)
The unredeemed are “slaves to sin,” but the redeemed are “obedient from the heart” to God’s law, and thus “having been freed from sin, [they-we are] slaves of righteousness.” While the inevitable outcome for those who live in sin is spiritual death (Rom. 6:23), those who have “been freed from sin and enslaved to God” gain “eternal life.”
A believer can never fall back into a pattern of unbroken sin because He who was born of God keeps him. This second reference to one born of God is to Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God (John 1:14; 3:16, 18; Heb. 1:5; 5:5; 1 John 4:9). As the Good Shepherd, Jesus protects His flock so that the evil one (Satan) does not so much as touch (lay hold of or fasten his grip on) them. They are no longer under his control, having been “rescued… from the domain of darkness” (Col. 1:13; cf. Acts 26:18; 2 Tim. 2:26; Heb. 2:14-15). Satan can tempt and harass the saints, as he did Job (Job 1-2) and Peter (Luke 22:31), but he can never reclaim them. Jesus will not fail to keep the redeemed (John 10:28; 2 Tim. 1:12; Jude 24-25), who have been given to Him by the Father (John 6:37, 39; 17:2, 6, 9, 24). Christ is the “anchor of the soul” for believers, providing them with “a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Heb. 6:19-20).
The Bible does speak of Christians keeping themselves. They are to keep themselves pure (1 Tim. 5:22), keep the commandments of God (1 John 3:22), keep the faith (2 Tim. 4:7), keep themselves unstained by the world (James 1:27), keep themselves from idols (1 John 5:21), keep God’s Word (1 John 2:5), and keep themselves in the love of God (Jude 21).
But John sees here God’s work of supernaturally preserving His people, which is as guaranteed as His justifying of them. The promises of God constitute the first guarantee. Paul wrote in Philippians 1:6: “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” To the Thessalonians he wrote, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass” (1 Thess. 5:23-24). Nearing the end of his life, with martyrdom looming, Paul still confidently affirmed, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (2 Tim. 4:18).
Second, the power of God guarantees believers’ security; what He promised, He can deliver. In Romans 5:10, Paul points out that since God has the power to do the greater work of redemption, He is certainly powerful enough to do the lesser work of preservation: “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”
Third, God’s eternal, unchangeable purpose to save the elect (Matt. 25:34; Eph. 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 1:9; Rev. 13:8; 17:8) guarantees their preservation.
Fourth, the prayer of Christ, “Holy Father, keep them in Your name” (John 17:11), prompts the Father to preserve the elect.
Fifth, believers’ inseparable union with Christ (Rom. 6:3-5; cf. 1 Cor. 6:17) guarantees their preservation.
Sixth, the high price that God paid to redeem the elect—the blood of His Son (Acts 20:28; Heb. 9:12)—guarantees that He will not lose them.
In Romans 8:31-39, Paul eloquently sums up the absolute certainty that God will preserve His own:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
That We Belong to God
We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. (5:19)
Despite the existence of countless political, cultural, and social entities in the world, there are in reality only two realms. It is the comforting privilege of believers, in addition to having eternal life, answered prayer, and victory over sin, to know they belong to God. Though they exist in this world, they are not part of it (John 15:19; 17:14); they are children of God (John 1:12-13), “aliens and strangers” (1 Peter 2:11; cf. 1:1, 17; 1 Chron. 29:15; Ps. 119:19; Heb. 11:13), whose true citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20).
On the other hand, the whole world—its politics, economics, education, entertainment, and, above all, its religion—lies in the power of the evil one. The evil world system is hostile to God and believers (John 15:18-19), as John noted earlier in this epistle (see the discussion of 3:13 in chapter 12 of this volume). It takes its cue from its ruler, Satan (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; cf. Eph. 2:2; 6:12), the archenemy of God and His people. Because the world is completely under Satan’s influence, believers must avoid being contaminated by it (2:15-17; cf. James 1:27).
There is no middle ground, no third option. Everyone is part of God’s kingdom, or of Satan’s. In the words of Jesus, “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me, scatters” (Luke 11:23). Or as James scathingly declares, “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).
That Christ Is the True God
And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. Little children, guard yourselves from idols. (5:20-21)
These closing verses finally bring the epistle full circle. John began with the coming of the Word of Life (1:1-4); now he closes with the certainty that the Son of God has come. The present tense of the verb hēkō (come) indicates that Jesus has come and is still present. The Christian faith is not theoretical or abstract; it is rooted in the practical truth that God became man in the person of Jesus Christ.
Because no one can know “who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Luke 10:22), Jesus has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true. But beyond mere knowledge, Christians have a personal union with Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ (cf. Rom. 8:1; 1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:17; 1 Peter 5:14). The Bible teaches that the only way to know the true and living God is through Jesus Christ. No one can be saved who does not believe in Christ, for there is no salvation apart from Him (cf. 2:1-2; 4:10, 14; 5:1; John 14:6; Acts 4:12).
John’s threefold use of the word alēthinos (true) in this verse stresses the importance of understanding the truth in a world filled with Satan’s lies. The last use of the term points to the most significant truth of all—that Jesus Christ is the true God and eternal life. The deity of Jesus Christ is an essential element of the Christian faith, and no one who rejects it can be saved. (For a detailed biblical defense of Christ’s deity, see John 1-11, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary [Chicago: Moody, 2006], chapter 1).
John’s concluding warning, Little children, guard yourselves from idols, reflects the crucial significance of worshiping the true God exclusively. The danger of idolatry was especially serious in Ephesus (where John likely wrote this epistle), center of the worship of the goddess Artemis (Diana). A few decades earlier, the ministry of the apostle Paul had sparked a riot by her zealous worshipers (Acts 19:23-41). But the danger was not confined to Ephesus, as Paul’s warning to the Corinthians, “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons” (1 Cor. 10:21), indicates. Though few in our contemporary culture worship physical idols, idolatry is widespread nonetheless. Anything that people elevate above God is an idol of the heart. Every “lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God” (2 Cor. 10:5) must be smashed, and only Christ exalted.
In a dark world filled with uncertainty Christians have the glorious certainty based on divine revelation—”the prophetic word made more sure… a lamp shining in a dark place” (2 Peter 1:19). While the world stumbles blindly in the darkness (Jer. 13:16), God’s Word is for saints “a lamp to [their] feet and a light to [their] path” (Ps. 119:105), because “the commandment is a lamp and the teaching is light” (Prov. 6:23). End of Study…
Thankyou class for allowing me to facilitate our study of 1st John.