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I John

(THE GLORIOUS CIRCLE THAT IS ETERNAL LIFE)

by LARRY CORY

 

A SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE OF
I JOHN

 

The glorious circle of fellowship (1:1-4)

The glorious circle of light (1:5—2:11)

The glorious circle of growth (2:12-27)

The glorious circle that comes from our birth as children of God (2:28:3:10)

The combined glorious circles of love, obedience, and life in God's Spirit (3:11-4:21)

God's glorious circles show us that we are born of God (They give us assurance that we are Christians) (5:1-12)

The purpose of John's letter (5:13-20)

Postscript: Keep yourselves from idols (5:21)

 

Introductory Information About the Book of I JOHN

1. The author:  The book of I John does not tell us who the author of this letter is.  But, the leaders of the early church during the time period right after the time of the Apostles were in agreement that this letter was written by John the Apostle.  Irenaeus (AD 130-200), Clement of Alexandria (AD 155-215), Tertullian (AD 150-222), and Origen (AD 185-253) all quoted from First John and referred to the author of these quotes as John the Apostle.  But, we can do our own examination.  We can compare what is written in the Gospel of John with I John.  Compare the purpose of the Gospel of John (20:31) with the purpose of I John (5:13).  Other comparisons that appear to have been written by the same author are as follows: John 1:1, 1:14 and I John 1:1; John 3:16, 4:10 and I John 3:16; John 14:21, 23 and I John 2:5, 5:3.  Also, we can see from the first four verses of I John that the author had even touched Jesus.  Who was better able to make this claim than the Apostle who said at the Last Supper that he leaned "back against Jesus" (John 13:25).  He was the apostle "whom Jesus loved." (John 13:23, 19:26, 20:2, 21:7).  Bible scholars have concluded from the type of false teaching that John combats in this letter and from the writings of the church leaders that immediately followed the time of the Apostles that John was probably in his late 80s or early 90s when he wrote the book.  That he calls his readers "children," supports this conclusion (2:18,29).
 
2. The recipients of the letter:  The letter clearly states that he was writing to Christians: "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life" (I John 5:13).  Since there is nothing in the letter that is addressed to a specific person, specific persons, a specific church, or to a specific region, it is reasonable to conclude that it was written to Christians in general.  Because it was written to Christians in general, it was, then, written for all the Christians of John's time and it was also written to all the Christians of our time.  There is historical verification that it was received and used by Christians in the area surrounding Ephesus (our modern-day Turkey).

3. Gnosticism:  It appears from the contents of I John that John was writing partly in response to the infiltration into the church of a group of false teachings that is collectively called "Gnosticism."  They believed that matter and the flesh are evil.  They further concluded that a good God could not have created that which is evil.  They believed that a series of emanations came forth from God, each a little farther removed from God's goodness, until one of these emanations was able to create an evil world.  This belief taught that salvation came not through faith In Jesus Christ as the God/man who died for our sins, but through a secret "knowledge."  Possession of this secret "knowledge" enabled one to escape this fleshly world and climb up to God.  The Gnostics did not believe that Jesus could have been a fleshly man, for flesh to them was evil and would have made Him evil.  They taught that Jesus only appeared to have been a man.  Others concluded that the Christ (the Divine part of Jesus Christ) came upon the man Jesus at his baptism and left him before he died.  They believed either that the evil, fleshly side of us must be attacked by self-denial (asceticism) or that the spiritual side of man was not affected by the flesh, so you could do what you wanted to in a fleshly way (licentiousness or antinomianism – no law).  Gnosticism was obviously a great threat to Christianity.  You will see John combating this false teaching throughout I John.  Gnosticism is being reintroduced to our modern-day world in many forms.  (At the time that I am typing this study, the book, THE DA VINCI CODE is one of the best selling books in our country.  It presents the Gnostic Gospels as plausible history.  A number of Christian authors are defending Christianity against this book and its Gnostic version of history, just as John defended Christianity against Gnosticism at the time of the early church.)

4. The theme of I John:  John wrote this short but very thorough letter to combat the false teaching of Gnosticism and to enable his readers to have a description of authentic Christianity.  He specifically tells his readers, "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life." 

 

THE MESSAGE OF THE BOOK OF I JOHN

     How do we know whether or not our Christianity is authentic and not counterfeit?  We can only know for sure that our relationship with God is authentic if we can compare it with a dependable standard.  For example, we can only know for sure what time it is if we compare the time on our watch with Greenwich Mean Time. 
     In I John, the Apostle John, who in the Gospel of John described himself as "the disciple whom Jesus loved," gives all Christians of all times a dependable description of genuine Christianity.  He was one of the first generation of Christians.  By the time I John was written, John was in his later years.  It had been some fifty or more years since the church had begun at Pentecost.  John of the first generation of Christians is writing to the second generation of Christians about what Christianity was like at its very start. 
     There is a pattern that typically occurs when Christianity has been in a family for two or more generations. To the first generation, their relationship with God is real and directly personal.  They were dead and blind; they heard the Gospel, they believed it, and God powerfully changed their lives.  The second generation of Christians follows the pattern of their parents at first: "I am a Christian because my parents are Christians."  The Christianity of the second generation is often not as real and personal to them as it was to their parents.  They also need to realize their own personal need for a Savior.  They also must choose a relationship with God on their own.
     The Apostle John calls the second generation of Christians into the very same vibrant relationship with God that was experienced by the first generation of Christians.  This book is also vital for us.  For, do we not also want to experience the same vital relationship with God that was experienced by the first generation of Christians?
     A second important reason why John wrote this first letter was that there was a false version of Christianity that was a real threat to these second generation Christians.  Bible scholars believe that it was a form of Gnosticism that was described in the Introduction.  In the Gnostic mind, Jesus was merely one of the inferior gods or emanations.  It also included the belief that the physical flesh is evil.  They did not believe that the emanation Jesus Christ could be made of this evil flesh.  John also wrote this letter, then, so that Christians would be able to clearly tell the difference between genuine Christianity and the false teaching of the Gnostics.
     Is I John relevant for us today?  We also need to be able to have some way of telling the difference between genuine Christianity and false Christianity.  For all time, I John provides us with a totally dependable standard for true Christianity.
     Finally, before we dig into this wonderful book, it is necessary that a few words be said about John's unique style of writing.  I John is more of a relational book than a doctrinal book.  Though it is full of sound doctrine, John does not present a detailed and ordered statement of God's truth as you find, for example, in the book of Romans.  In I John, John describes the dynamic effect that a true relationship with God will have on someone. 
     John's writing style can be described as presenting to us a series of relational circles that come from a genuine relationship with God.  John describes relational circles that begin with God's righteousness and love, and our proper responses to Him and who He is.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones states that someone has said that "John thinks in circles." "Taken from his five volume commentary on I John.  Published by Crossway Books."
     We have heard the term a "vicious circle."  This is what occurs, for example, when someone offends someone else.  What starts, often, is a cycle of retaliations that get more and more vicious.  An example is the fabled hillbilly battle between the Hatfields and the McCoys.  It is, sadly, what is actually happening between rival gangs in our large cities.  One gang shoots a member of a rival gang.  That gang goes looking for revenge.  On it goes in its murderous and endless way, leaving a trail of tragedies and heart-broken families in its wake.  It is also what is occurring between Israel and the Palestinians.  Palestinian terrorists set off a suicide bomb that kills Israeli nationals.  This attack is followed by an attack by Israel on those among the Palestinians that are believed to have been responsible for the killing.  This vicious circle between Israel and the Palestinians seems to have no end.
     The opposite of a "vicious circle" is a "glorious circle."  One person loves and forgives another person, which influences others to be like him.  John says in this book, "We love because he first loved us" (I John 4:19).  This process is also dynamic, but it builds others up rather than tearing them down and destroying them.  It is God's solution, rather than the destructive process we so often see around us.  So, let us dig into John's first letter and see his description of dynamic and genuine Christianity.

THE GLORIOUS CIRCLE THAT BEGINS WITH A GENUINE FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD AND HIS SON (1:1-4)
"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our own eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched---this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.  The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.  We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us.  And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.  We write this to make our joy complete."

Thought Question #1:  What do you believe is the eternal life that they saw, heard, and touched?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why do you believe that John emphasizes that they saw, heard, and even touched this eternal life?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  From what you see in these verses, why do you think that John wrote this letter?

 

 

Thought Question #4:  According to these verses, what will enable us to experience the most fulfilling and satisfying life?

 

 

1. The beginning point: "That which was from the beginning," (1:1a)

The Gospel of John started out similarly to how I John starts out here.  Compare how I John begins - "That which was from the beginning" - to how the Gospel of John begins - "In the beginning was the Word."  We know from John 1:14 that the Word that was "in the beginning" was God who became flesh and lived among us – Jesus Christ.  The "beginning" in the Gospel of John is infinite eternity past.  God's Son---"the Word"---has always existed.  The most exciting truth of all time is that He who was "with God" and "was God" became a man---Jesus Christ.  This Jesus Christ who is God, as any child in a Sunday School class will quickly tell you, came to die to pay the penalty for our sins.

In I John, John continues to speak on the same subject: this One who "was from the beginning" became a man and John and His other early followers heard, saw, and touched Him.  Once again, John is talking about Jesus Christ.

2. Cycle #1: We saw, heard, and touched the eternal life that was from

the beginning. (1:1-2)
"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched---this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.  The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and has appeared to us."

The eternal life, without any question, is Jesus Christ.  As was pointed out in the Introduction, there were false teachers at that time who taught that Jesus did not become a man with human flesh just like our human flesh.  He only appeared or seemed to have human flesh.  John refutes this false teaching immediately.  He and the other early followers of Jesus Christ have seen Him, heard Him, and even touched His human flesh.  He was not a phantom; He was a real man.  John begins his book by proclaiming that Jesus Christ, who is the Eternal One and who is the source of eternal life, became a man of human flesh.  This is not insignificant, for He became like us so that we could become like Him; so that we could also possess His eternal life.

If we comprehend what John is saying here, we cannot help but get excited.  The One who existed from the very beginning, therefore having eternal life, became a man and John and the other early believers saw, heard, and touched Him.  If that happened to you, would your next day be just the same as the day preceding it?  No!  If you comprehended what had happened to you, you would never be the same again!

It is interesting that the Greek word that is translated "we have looked at" describes a careful examination of what is seen.  Also, the Greek word translated, "touched," means not just touching someone, but "to grope or feel after in order to find, like a blind man in the dark."  "Taken from The Epistles of John by John Stott.  Copyright 1964 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  So, John is saying they did not just see Him and touch Him, but they saw and touched Him in so careful a way that it became certain to them that He was a man of flesh.  This type of careful seeing and touching of Him certainly took place after the resurrection.  See Luke 24:39 

They did not keep this unique relationship with the Eternal One to themselves.  They proclaimed it to others.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones highlights the importance of what John is saying in these verses: "The gospel is an announcement.  We can put it negatively by saying that the gospel of Jesus Christ is not a speculation, nor a human thought or idea or philosophy.  It is essentially different, and it must never be put into that category.  That is the trouble, alas, with so many of us.  We will persist in regarding it as an outlook, as something which results from the meditation and thought of man on the whole problem of life and living. . . But, that is not the gospel!  The whole position of the Apostles, John and the rest, is that they have something to say.  They have seen something, they are reporting it, and that is something so wonderful that John can scarcely contain himself." "Taken from Fellowship with God Volume One. Copyright 1993 by Elizabeth Catherwood and Ann Desmond."

John is proclaiming what actually took place in his lifetime-what happened to him.  He heard, saw, and touched the One who was from the beginning!  The Eternal One with the eternal life from God appeared to them, and he is proclaiming this good news of eternal life to the readers of this letter---and to us. 

3. Cycle #2:  We proclaim to you "what we have seen and heard" so that

you may have fellowship with us. (1:3a)
"We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you may have fellowship with us." 
Why did John write this letter?  This verse provides us with at least part of the answer.  He wrote it so that those he was writing to would share in the same type of fellowship with God that the first Christians had in common with each other.  He is here describing the Christian life as a two-fold fellowship-a fellowship with God that is shared with other Christians.  The Greek word for fellowship, koinonia, means the following: sharing together something that you both have in common.  What we Christians have in common is our common relationship with God.

Here in the state of Washington during the time that these notes are being written, the Seattle Mariners have just completed an amazing season.  They won 116 games in one season, tying the record for the most games won by a Major League baseball team in one season.  Men and women alike became Mariner fans.  Each day, most everyone in Washington knew whether or not the Mariners had won.  We had a fellowship around a baseball team.  Obviously, this type of fellowship was very superficial and is centered on something that is not very important to the significance of our lives.  On the other hand, a fellowship that is centered on our common relationship with God is not superficial and has the very greatest importance with regard to the significance of our lives.

John's purpose in this letter is that his readers might share the same type of fellowship that the early Apostles and Christians shared with each other.  This book is a description of what fellowship with God and with each other was like for the very first Christians.  John is eager that his readers would have the very same type of fellowship with God that they had experienced.

It is important at this time to emphasize that John's experience was based on what had happened to them in history.  He had heard, seen, and touched the physical and living Son of God.  He is not talking about a subjective and mystical experience.  When we share in the Lord's Supper we are fellowshipping based on our common belief that the Son of God died for our sins on a historical cross in Judea.  Because our fellowship today at the communion table is based on the very same historical reality as the early Christians based their fellowship-Jesus' death on a cross in Judea, our fellowship today is the same as the fellowship of the earliest Christians. 

If someone says that he believes that God talks to him through his feelings, he can not know for sure if those feelings are coming from God, from him, or from the deceptive angel of light.  Now, what if a group of Christians began to base their fellowship around these types of feelings?  There obviously could begin to be some doubts as to whether or not they are sharing the very same experiences and about whether or not their feelings are actually coming from God.  But, when we share in our common faith in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ in history, we can be confident that our fellowship with each other has a common and dependable focus.

Later in I John, John says, "test the spirits." (4:1)  We cannot test one's subjective experiences, but we can test whether or not we together believe in the historical facts about Jesus Christ revealed to us in the Bible.

Listen to what Martyn Lloyd-Jones says about what is an authentic Christian experience:  "If it is an experience that we can test, we can ask it questions.  And that is the only way to safeguard against the false mysticism and the false teaching which would masquerade as true Christian teaching, but in reality is nothing but something psychological or perhaps even psychic. . .There are teachers today claiming to know about a 'higher Christian life'. . . They would have us listen to their teaching, and they tell us that their teaching is something that has come to them because of some wonderful experience they have had.  They say no one else can understand it, but they have experienced it.  Now this is not what the Apostle is emphasizing.  His experience is one that is based upon objective truths and teaching.  It can be tested, it can be examined."  "Taken from Fellowship with God Volume One by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1993 by Elizabeth Catherwood and Ann Desmond."  See I Thessalonians 5:21

4. Cycle #3: Fellowship also means you share in one fellowship with the

Father and His Son Jesus Christ. (1:3b)
"And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ."  Without God, life has no purpose or meaning.  What can be more exciting than to become aware that it is possible to know God and to actually fellowship with Him?  As a young Christian, it was emphasized to me that Christianity is not a religion, but it is a relationship with God; a relationship with God that has been made possible through His Son Jesus Christ.  That is what the Lord's Supper is all about.  It is a remembrance of how fellowship with God was made possible through the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins.

For fellowship with God to be possible there must be no barriers between God and us.  Jesus' death on the cross removed the greatest barrier between God and us, the barrier caused by sin.  Jesus' death satisfied God's wrath produced by our sin.  Jesus took God's wrath on Himself, in our place.  That is why we cannot come to God through some mystical feeling, but only through the blood of Christ.  Only Jesus' blood gains us entrance into God's presence. See I John 2:2

Jesus' death makes fellowship with God possible, but what is fellowship with God and His Son Jesus Christ like?  Alcoholic Anonymous refers to God as a higher power.  A retired pastor once told me that he always asked those who talked about a higher power if their higher power was the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.  John tells us their fellowship was not with some higher power, but with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.  So, fellowship with God is fellowship with the one and only God who has revealed Himself to us through Jesus Christ.

Now, let us focus on the word, "fellowship."  Martyn Lloyd-Jones has the following to say about the meaning of "fellowship":  "Firstly, to be in a state of fellowship means that we share in things; we are partakers, or, if you like, partners – that idea is there intrinsically in the word.  That means something like this: the Christian is one who has become a sharer in the life of God. [See II Peter 1:4; Galatians 2:20]. . . The second thing is that as well as being partakers of God, we are partners with Him, sharers in his interests and His great purposes."  "Taken from Fellowship with God Volume One by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1993 by Elizabeth Catherwood and Ann Desmond."

Fellowship with God, then, is not some vague, subjective, and untestable feeling.  It is based upon what has been revealed in the Bible about God and His Son.  It is made possible by what took place in real history on a cross in Israel about 2000 years ago.  Finally, we are fellowshipping with God when we are choosing His lifestyle for our own lifestyle and choosing His goals for our goals; and doing both on a daily basis.  Even more, it means delighting to choose His lifestyle and purposes for our very own.

There are many in Christian circles who emphasize our need to feel close to God.  But, it is possible to feel close to God and yet not be walking close to God.  Fellowship is very much more than a feeling.  It requires that we choose daily to forsake selfish pursuits and seek to pursue His holy pursuits.  Jesus said that He is "the True Vine."  We are fellowshipping with Him when we choose to live close to Him by obeying His words to us. See John 15:1-17  Martyn Lloyd-Jones dedicates a chapter in his commentary on First John to "mysticism."  Mysticism is different than what is being described by John in  I John.  Mysticism is a method of seeking after fellowship with God.  But, the mystic chooses a different path to God than the fellowship with God that John is describing in this letter of I John.  Lloyd-Jones describes "mysticism" as making "feeling the source of one's knowledge of God, not intellect, not reason, not understanding."  He contrasts mysticism and true fellowship with God as follows: "Our Lord put it perfectly once and for ever in the Sermon on the Mount.  He did not say; 'Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after spiritual experiences, blessed are they who hunger and thirst after joy and happiness' – not at all!  The blessed, the ones who experience a blessing, 'hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled.'"  "Taken from Fellowship with God Volume One by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1993 by Elizabeth Catherwood and Ann Desmond."

We are to "seek first his kingdom and his righteousness"; then we are fellowshipping with God (Matthew 6:33).  "Mysticism is an attempt at a short cut to the great experiences; the way of the Scriptures is the other way – simple, indirect but certain, and free from the effects of fanaticism and excesses and leading to a balanced Christian life and living, true to God and His Word in line with the Apostles and in line with the mighty evangelical tradition throughout the ages and the centuries."  "Taken from Fellowship with God Volume One by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1993 by Elizabeth Catherwood and Ann Desmond."  As we continue in I John, John will describe what true fellowship with God is.

Just one further note with regard to fellowship "with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ."  Here we have a distinction between two members of the Trinity.  Christian fellowship with God is fellowship with the Triune God.

5. The glorious result: complete joy! (1:4)

"We write this to make our joy complete."  Where can we find the fullest joy?  The world has its answers: pleasure, wealth, fame, thrills, travel, and social acceptance.  John gives a very different answer in this verse.  "We write this to make our [your – in some manuscripts] joy complete."  Jesus said something similar: "I told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete." (John 15:11)  See also John 16:24, 17:13; II John 3-4

What is the complete joy that Jesus and John speak about?  Martyn Lloyd-Jones gives this definition: "I suggest it is something like this.  The joy about which the New Testament speaks is never something direct and immediate.  You cannot make yourself joyful in the New Testament sense; it is always produced by something else. . . . There is not joy unless I am satisfied, if I am dissatisfied in any respect I am not joyful….I suggest to you that in joy is always a feeling of power and strength. . . . When you are truly joyful, you are wound up by some mighty dynamic power; you feel strong, you are lifted up above yourself, you are ready to meet every enemy from every direction and quarter; you smile in the face of them all. . . . The joy of the Lord is your strength; it is a strong power, a mighty robust thing. . . . Joy is something very deep and profound, something that affects the whole and entire personality.  In other words, it comes to this; there is only one thing that can give true joy and that is the contemplation of the Lord Jesus Christ.  He satisfies my mind, He satisfies my emotions; He satisfies my every desire."  "Taken from Fellowship with God Volume One by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1993 by Elsizabeth Catherwood and Ann Desmond."

Where can we find the fullest joy?  It is not something we can work up ourselves.  It comes from our relationship with God and from sharing in our relationship with God with other Christians.  We need a deeply satisfying relationship with God to find complete joy.  We need a deeply satisfying relationship with other Christians to find complete joy.  In short, we will know full joy when our lives are the way they were meant to be.  An example of this type of joy occurs when our car is not working right.  We take it into the garage and it comes back humming and working great.  This brings us joy.  The fullest joy comes when our lives are working right.  Do you want to find complete joy?  John tells us that these are the two directions we should pursue if we want to pursue after full joy: we should pursue after a good relationship with God and sharing that relationship with others.  He wrote this letter so his readers (which include you and me) would find complete joy.

In the book of I John, the Apostle describes what he knows about this fellowship with God.  He writes this letter so we may have the same type of fellowship with God that he had.  He tells us about what hinders our fellowship with God---what robs us of joy, and what builds up our relationship with God---what brings us joy.

THE GLORIOUS CIRCLE OF LIGHT (1:5-2:11) (The internal part of our relationship with God)
One of the main factors in our relationship with God is the fact that we are sinful and God is holy.  How are we who are sinful to fellowship with a God who is holy?  I John 1:5-2:2 gives the answer to this question as well as any part of the Bible.  In these verses we will be able to discover what fellowship with a holy God must be like.

1. The reality our fellowship must be based on: our fellowship is with a God

who is light. (1:5)
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all."

Thought Question #1:  What is meant by "God is light"?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why doesn't John start out with God being love?

 

 

The Christian life begins with God.  The selfish life begins and ends with "I":  What's in it for me?  What do people think of me?  It's my life!  I'll make my own decisions.  The Christian life is determined by who God is and what we need to do to fellowship with Him.  We see in this verse that God is totally different than us and that fellowship with a God who is completely without any darkness at all immediately humbles us.  For we see that we are filled with all kinds of darkness. Consider Isaiah's response when he found himself in the presence of the holiness of God:  "'Woe to me!'  I cried. 'I am ruined!'  For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty." (Isaiah 6:5) 

A second reality is that we who are filled with darkness are always in the presence of God who has no darkness in Him at all.  If we live as if God is not always present or that we are the center of the universe, then we are not living in true reality.  It is a sort of insanity.  We are living a lie.  We are living in a self-imposed darkness.

John tells us here that first of all, if we are going to fellowship with God, we will need to be fellowshipping with the God who "is light."  What does John mean when he says "God is light"?  And why does John not start out with God being love rather than with God being "light"?

Once I led a Bible study in another town for a long-time friend.  We met in the building of a liberal church.  At one point an older lady who was a member of the church objected to my emphasis on the holiness and righteousness of God by saying, "God is love!"  She was implying that a God who is love is not concerned about such things as righteousness and holiness.  I later heard that she was not going to come back to the Bible study until we were no longer studying a book by Paul.  God, of course, is both holy and love.  Paul starts out with God's holiness and our sin in the book of Romans.  After establishing that, we all stand condemned before God and His holiness, then he begins to emphasize the mercy and grace of God.  John also starts out this letter with the holiness of God.  For "light" is referring to God's absolute moral purity, His holiness, His righteousness.

What if we tried to get right with God without acknowledging that He is holy and we are sinful?  It would not be true fellowship with God!  This type of false fellowship with God would lead us to think that we could ignore what is right and wrong, ignore our sin, and still be able to have fellowship with God.

There is much of this false type of fellowship with God taking place in the church today.  They offer a short-cut to fellowship with God.  It is like telling a baseball player that he does not need to go around the bases to get a homerun.  He can merely run to first base and back again to home plate to get a homerun.  Those who offer shortcuts say that that a revival is taking place when everyone is merely getting emotionally hyped up about God.  Instead, a revival of real fellowship with God only takes place when there is a real recognition of our sin before a holy God!  There is no true joy until we see that it is possible to fellowship in the light with God who is light. See John 3:19-20; I Timothy 6:16; Ephesians 5:8

2. Life outside the light (1:6)

"If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth." (1:6)

Thought Question:  How do we "walk in the darkness"?

 

 

If we live in a state of being unaware that we are constantly in the presence of God and His holiness, we are walking in the darkness.  Someone who can easily be deceptive and who is not concerned about his sinful practices should not be able to confidently say, "I am a Christian."  If he does, he is lying.  Genuine Christian fellowship with God requires that we walk in the light with a God who is light. See II Corinthians 6:14

We live in a world that is walking in this type of darkness.  We are in a world full of victims, who regularly point to others as the cause of our problems.  Society, our parents, the government are the cause of our problems.  The true and greatest problem is inside of each of us.  As Pogo, the comic strip character said, "I have met the enemy and the enemy is me!" 

What enables us to walk in the darkness?  We walk in the darkness when we avoid facing our sins before a holy God by justifying, rationalizing, and minimizing away our sinfulness.  Jesus called this loving the darkness rather than the light.  Simply put, we "walk in the darkness" by not admitting before God the truth about our sin. See John 3:19

John may have been combating a teaching of the Gnostics at this point.  "They thought of the body as a mere envelope covering the human spirit and maintained that man's spirit could not be contaminated by the deeds of the body."  "Taken from The Epistles of John by John Stott.  Copyright 1964 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  Simply put, they believed that you could sin in the flesh all you wanted and it would not contaminate your spirit.  John says if anyone did this, they were walking in the darkness.  They had found a way to rationalize away their sins, and to justify their sins.  This practice of not needing to obey God's laws is called antinomianism – "anti" – against, and "nomos' the law; being against the law.

3. Fellowship with God inside the circle of light (1:7)

"But if we walk in the light as he is in the light we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his son, cleanses us from all sin."

Thought Question #1:  What does this verse tell us about how we, who are constantly unholy, can enjoy fellowshipping with and living in the presence of a God who is constantly holy?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How does walking in the light enable us to have genuine and satisfying fellowship with other Christians?

 

 

At this point John is describing a Christian.  Listen to Paul: "giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.  For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us unto the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom, we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." (Colossians 1:13-14)  Listen to Peter: "But you are a chosen people, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." (I Peter 2:9)

The Gnostics did not walk in the light and were not Christians: "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us.  For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us." (I John 2:19)

John tells us here one way we can know that we are Christians.  Christians are those who walk in the light.  We are Christians when we have faced the reality that we are not at all like God or like what He wants us to be.  The person who says he has obeyed the Ten Commandments is in the darkness, but he who acknowledges that he is unable to obey the Ten Commandments is in the light.

The Pharisee in Luke 18 who was confident of his own righteousness was in the darkness.  The tax collector who said, "God have mercy on me, a sinner," was in the light.  A Christian is someone who has faced up to his sinfulness and has turned to Jesus to rescue him from the penalty and power of sin. See Romans 7:24; Jeremiah 17:6; Isaiah 6:1-5, 64:6; Luke 5:1-11

But, how is it possible for us to continue to walk in the light when it means that we will be continually aware of our sinfulness?  A story will help at this point.  It took place a number of years ago to me---about ten years before I became a Christian.  I was in the Navy, going to school near San Diego.  Sometimes we would get what we called, "liberty."  It was simply some free time when we were free to go into the city.  One time, some of us attended a movie in the middle of the day.  We were wearing our black wool uniforms.  Inside the dark of the theater, I was eating popcorn.  In the dark, I felt fine.  But, when I came out of the darkness of the theater into the full light of the middle of the day, I saw immediately that my uniform was filthy with pieces of popcorn and salt.  Now that I was in the light, and saw how dirty I was, I immediately brushed myself clean.

When we come out of the darkness and into fellowship with a God who is light, we clearly see our sinfulness for the first time.  But, God has not just left us to see our sin and feel dirty and rotten because of it.  If God left us there, our lives would be lived in a continual state of just condemnation.  God has wonderfully provided a way that we can be wiped clean: "the blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin."  How can we who are doing what is sinful, fellowship with a God who is totally without sin?  Jesus' blood "purifies us from all sin."  Paul, in I Timothy, refers to himself as the "worst" of sinners.  See I Timothy 1:13-16  Yet, Paul was able to walk in fellowship with God because the blood of Jesus cleansed him from all sin. 

Walking in the light does not mean that we become perfect.  For all of us are far from perfect.  But it does mean that we are willing to see the truth about our sin, as we compare ourselves to God's holiness and purity.  It means also that we are continually depending on the blood of Jesus to cleanse us from our sin.  The Greek verb translated "purifies" is in the present tense.  This means that as we are continually seeing and acknowledging our sins, the blood of Jesus is also continually cleansing us from that sin.  This is also genuine fellowship with God; it is a continual acknowledging of our sins and a receiving of God's forgiveness for those sins.

I John 2:1, John says that he writes this so that we do not sin, but if we do sin we have a continual means of forgiveness.  This is the type of fellowship with God that John experienced.

We need to remember at this point that some Gnostics of that time denied that Jesus was a flesh and blood person who lived in history.  They believed that he was a phantom who gave the illusion that He was a man.  Other Gnostics denied that he was the Son of God.  They said that the Christ or the Son of God came on him for a while and then left him just prior to His death on the cross.  John makes it clear that Jesus Christ was both a man and God.  The blood of this flesh and blood human was also the blood of the Son of God poured out of his body to pay the penalty for our sin.

In verse seven John says that if we walk in the light, we will have fellowship with one another.  His purpose in writing this letter was so that his readers could have the same type of fellowship with God that had been experienced by John and the other early Christians.  We can only have this type of fellowship with God and each other if we have left the self-deception of not acknowledging our sins and have with John admitted our sins and our need for Jesus to save us from our sins.  Proud people have a very superficial fellowship.  Humble Christians who have recognized their fallenness have very much in common.  What they have in common is a genuine, deep, and heartfelt gratitude for what Jesus did for them on the cross.  We celebrate this communion of those who are of like heart at the communion table.

4.  Outside the circle of light #2 (1:8)

John is not talking in this verse about what it is like when we do not acknowledge that something that we do is a sinful act, but he is talking here about what it is like when we do not recognize our basic sinfulness.  "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us."

Thought Question:  Is it possible for you to be a Christian if you do not acknowledge your sinfulness before God?  Is it possible to fellowship with God if you do not regularly acknowledge your sinfulness before God?  Please explain your answers.

 

 

If we are in the light, we will see our sinfulness.  Paul was in the light and he cried out to God, "What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from the body of death?" (Romans 7:24).  He also called himself "the worst of sinners." See I Timothy 1:13-16  Paul explains his state as a Christian in Romans seven: "I know that nothing good lives in me, that is in my sinful nature [flesh]." (Romans 7:18)  In Galatians five he lists the acts of the "sinful nature [the flesh]" "sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery. . . " (Galatians 5:19-21)  Even as a Christian, you and I cannot do anything good apart from walking in the power and life of Jesus Christ within us.  In us, apart from the life of Christ, our fleshly sinfulness is still alive and ready to take over our lives.  He who says he has no sin has deceived himself and the truth is not in him.

Today, in our society, sin has become a bad word; morality and guilt are not acceptable words.  We are to avoid whatever might make someone feel guilty.  It has become popular to see ourselves as victims rather than as being the problem ourselves.  One of the clear goals of God's book is to enable us to see the truth about ourselves.  Jeremiah saw the truth when he said, 'The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9)  Isaiah saw the truth when he said, "all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags." (Isaiah 64:6)

Even as Christians we continue to have the capacity to be sinful, selfish, impure, prideful . . .  When we come into the light as Christians we begin to see the ugliness in us.  James, in the book of James, exposes the sinfulness within his fellow Christians.  He gives them this exhortation.  "Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you." (James 1:21)  James was in the light.  He did not say that there was no sin in us.  It is only as we see the truth about the sin in us and its ugliness that we will seek after God's purity through Christ's life within us. 

5. Inside the circle of light #2 (1:9)

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."

Thought Question #1:  What does the word "confess" mean?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  The word "confess" is in the present tense; this means that walking in the light involves a continually confession of one's sins.  What does that tell us about what the Christian life is to be like?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  Why do we need to "confess our sins" if Jesus' death already paid the penalty for our sins?

 

 

In this well-know verse, we learn what we will do with regard to our sins if we walk in the light: we will confess them.  Confession is agreeing with God about our sins.  He calls them sins; we call them sins! 

Walking in the darkness is the very opposite of admitting our sins.  We create the inner darkness by purposely and pridefully ignoring God and what He says about sinfulness and sins.  In the darkness, we see others' sins clearly, but are able to use every perverted self-defense mechanism possible to deny that our sins are sins.  We minimize them, justify them, blame others for them, avoid them, and rationalize them away.  We are in the light when we see them clearly for what they are – selfish, ugly acts of rebellion against God and His holy laws.  In the light, we call them what they are.

When we refuse to admit our sins, we are at that very time choosing darkness over light.  We are also breaking of our fellowship with God.  We are also showing that we prefer darkness over fellowshipping with God, a God who is light.  Confession of our sins, then, is essential for us to remain in fellowship with God. 

Also, confession of our sins is not just saying, "Yes, I know that I am a sinner.  After all, no one is perfect."  It requires that we get honest and humble as God's light reveals to us the rottenness of the specific sins in our lives.  It means that we will admit that they are wrong and that we should not do them anymore.  It does not mean that we will halfway admit our sins, but that we will fully admit them.  It means that we will come to be disgusted with what God calls unclean and desire to be rid and cleansed from these filthy acts. See Psalm 32:1-5, 38:18, 51; and II Corinthians 7:10 for examples of confession of sin.  See also Proverbs 28:13 and James 1:21

Next, John says, if we confess our sins, God "will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."  Some have called this verse "the Christian's bar of soap."  It explains to us the way that we can be cleansed morally from the filthiness that comes from our sins and tells us the way that we can be legally set free from the guilt before God that we accrue because of our sins.  If we are continually admitting our sins before God, we can also be certain that we are continually experiencing God's judicial cleansing from our sins.  In verse seven we learned that the blood of Jesus "purifies us from all sin."  In chapter two verse two, John will explain how this purification from our sins is made possible.  We will discuss why our purification is made legally acceptable to God when we come to that verse.

The Old Testament sacrifices were a picture of how Jesus' blood cleanses us from sin.  The High Priest of Israel was only able to go into the Holy of Holies when the way was opened up to him by a blood sacrifice.  The High Priests were sinful human beings just like us.  We, who are also sinful, can only enter into the Holy of Holies in heaven to fellowship with our holy God through the blood of Jesus.

We can be justly forgiven by God, but we may still not feel pure and cleansed before God.  Washing was part of the ceremony at the Temple.  The blood of Jesus not only makes us legally right with God, it also cleanses and purifies us before God.  Because of Jesus' blood, "God will both forgive us our sins and….. cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  In the first phase sin is a debt which he remits and in the second a stain which he removes." "Taken from The Epistles of John by John Stott.  Copyright 1964 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

We confess our sin and God does His part.  He has revealed throughout the Bible that Jesus' blood completely removes our guilt and filth before God.  How do we know this is true?  God says it is true.  It gets down to whether or not we trust that what He says is true, is true.  As John says, "he is faithful and just"!  When we confess our sins, we can count on Him to do His part---to forgive us and cleanse us of our sin.  We confess or agree with Him about our sin, He forgives and cleanses us.  How can we know He forgives and cleanses us?  We simply trust in His faithfulness!  He says we are forgiven; we believe in what He says.  By faith we enjoy forgiveness, cleansing, and peace with God.  We rest in what He says is true!

One question remains: why do we need to confess our sins if Jesus' death already has paid for all of our sins?  I personally asked that question of Luis Palau, the well-known international evangelist over 30 years ago.  As I remember it, he put his arm around my shoulder and took me for a small walk.  He said that our relationship with God has been eternally taken care, but our fellowship with God needs to be kept up by continually confessing our sins.  We confess our sins so that nothing will hinder our on-going fellowship with God.  John is talking about how we can enjoy the same type of fellowship with God that the early Christians enjoyed.  One part of this type of fellowship with God is a regular confession of our sins, so that we can walk with purity before a God who is light.

6. Outside the circle of light #3 (1:10)

"If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives." 

Thought Question:  How can we do the very opposite of what John describes in this verse?

 

 

There are those who say that they are good people and that they almost always keep the Ten Commandments.  Or they say that something that God says is a sin is not a sin.  When someone speaks like this, he is calling God a liar.  For God's word says that what they say is not a sin is a sin. See Romans 3:10,23  We do not want to be like them.  When God says it is a sin, we need to also agree and say it is a sin.

Here, we have the very opposite of confessing our sins when we say that our sins are not sins.  It is also the very opposite of agreeing with God and the very opposite of fellowshipping with God.  If we fellowship with God who is light, we will agree with Him about our sins.  The blood of Christ, though, will wash away the guilt of our sins.  So, we who are sinful do not need to hide like Adam and Eve did when they hid from a holy God because of their sin.  We can, because of the blood of Jesus Christ, fellowship with a God who is light.

7. Fellowship with God inside the circle of light #3 (2:1-2)

"My dear children, I write this to you so you will not sin.  But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father, in our defense---Jesus Christ, the righteous One, He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins and not only for ours, but also for the sins of the whole world."

Thought Question #1:  What has he written in previous verses that should help us not to sin?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  According to these verses, what happens in heaven when we fail to obey God and sin?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  What is meant by Jesus being "the atoning sacrifice for our sins"? ("propitiation" in the New American Standard Version)

 

 

John starts out by calling them "My dear children."  The Greek word is teknia, which according to the Greek scholar W. E. Vine is a term "expressing not immaturity, but of endearment." "Taken from The First Epistle of John by W. E. Vine.  Copyright 1970 by Zondervan Publishing Company. See also 2:12,28, 3:7,18, 4:4, 5:21.  John uses a different Greek word in 2:13,18.

Here, again, we have a description of what will occur when we fellowship with a God who is light.  First of all, John describes our part and, then, he describes God's part.  We are not to sin.  Then, knowing that we will not always be successful at restraining ourselves from sin, he gives God's solution when we do sin.

What does John mean when he says we are not to sin.  What is sin?  It is doing anything that God commands us not to do.  We cannot walk in fellowship with God and continually do what God commands us not to do.  God tells us not to hold grudges and resentments against anyone.  If we are holding on to resentments, it is preventing us from having or enjoying fellowship with God.

John says that his purpose in writing this letter is so that they will not sin.  In other words, he is not seeking to have them justify their sin by saying, "Well, we all sin."  Rather, his purpose is to prevent them from sinning. See John 5:14, 8:11  The non-Christian is not able to be free from his slavery to sin.  "There is no one righteous." (Romans 3:10) See Ecclesiastes 7:20  But, we as Christians, indwelt by God's Spirit, have His ability to be free from sin.  So, because we do not have to sin, we should not sin.  But, we carry around our flesh and its powerful desires.  We live in a fallen world, and Satan is still the tempter.  So, though we do not need to sin, should not sin, and realize that it leads us to death, we still do sin.

What is there in this letter that will help us not to sin?  He has already provided us with a strong reason not to sin in verses five through ten of chapter one.  He has told us that God is light and if we fellowship with Him, our sins will be exposed and we will see them as sins.  God's holiness exposes our unholiness.  We should not want to sin because it separates us from God, and in comparison with God's holiness, we see it as it is; unholy, ugly, shameful, and totally reprehensible to God.

This is totally the opposite of the way the world looks at sin.  Our world system markets sin, exalts sin, and justifies sin.  We who are Christians, on the other hand, should see sin as our central problem, and our primary enemy.  For sin robs us of our relationship with God, removes our joy, and destroys our Christian testimony.

The tense of the Greek verb that is translated as "sin" in this verse is important.  It is in the aorist tense, therefore referring to one act of sin.  He writes to them so that they will not choose to do even one sin.  In 3:9 and 5:18 the verb for sin is in the present tense.  In these verses it says that a Christian is one who does not continually and regularly choose a life of sin.  But as John says, if we do choose to commit a sin, there is a solution.

Look carefully at the words in these two verses: "but if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father."  Sin does not mean that we are no longer a child of God.  We continue in a Father/child relationship with God.  In a human family, a child can become disobedient and create a problem in his fellowship with his father, but he still is in a father/child relationship with the father.  In our relationship with God, sin breaks our fellowship with God, but we are still loved and still a child of God.

Then, "we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense."  In other translations: "an advocate with the Father."  It is the Greek word translated "comforter" in John 14:16,26, 15:26 and 16:7: paracletos in the Greek languageWe have Someone who is a defense lawyer on our behalf before the Father who is the ultimate and perfectly just Judge of all He has created.  When Satan who is our constant accuser (See Revelation 12:10) constantly parades our sins before God, Jesus defends us against his legal charges against us. 

How does Jesus defend us against Satan's charges against us?  He cannot say that we did not sin, for we did sin.  He also cannot plead with the Father to just forgive and forget our sins, for the Father is a perfectly just Judge.  But He can say that the penalty that we justly deserve for our sinfulness and sins has been justly paid for when He died on the cross for our sins.

Our Advocate before the Father's throne is "Jesus Christ the righteous."  Because there is no sin in Him, He is in constant fellowship with the Father.  The holy Son of God is in constant fellowship with the holy Father. See Hebrews 4:15 

"He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins."  In the New American Standard Version of the Bible, "atoning sacrifice" is translated "propitiation." See also I John 4:10  It means that Jesus' death on the cross fully satisfied or appeased God's righteous judgment for all of our sins.  As John Stott states, the noun hilasmos and the verb hilaskesthia mean to appease an angry god.  Although this type of appeasement of an angry pagan god is abhorrent to us, God is righteously angry over our sin.  He is a God who is pure and requires purity of us.  The difference between the sacrifice that has been offered for our sins and the sacrifices made to pagan gods is that God Himself became the sacrifice that satisfied or appeased His just wrath against our sins and sinfulness.  "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice [propitiation] for our sins" (I John 4:10).

All the Old Testament sacrifices were a picture of Jesus' sacrifice for our sins.  As it explains in the book of Hebrews, Jesus took His blood and presented it before the Father and it fully paid the penalty for our sins. See Hebrews 2:7, 7:26, 9:22, 10:14; Leviticus 16:30, 17:11; I Peter 2:24, 3:18

It is important to add what Martyn Lloyd-Jones emphasizes with regard to these verses.  Jesus is not seeking to convince the unwilling Father to forgive us.  For as John 3:16 clearly says, God loves so much that He sent His Son to die for us.  The Father gladly receives us back to fellowship with Him, just as the father of the prodigal son gladly received his wayward son back to him. See Luke 15:11-24

"And not only for our sins but also for the sins of the whole world."  John Stott gives the following explanation of these words: "this cannot be pressed into meaning that all sins are automatically pardoned through the propitiation of Christ, but that a universal pardon is offered for the (the sins of ) the whole world and is enjoyed by those who embrace it; cf 4:9,14 and John 1:29, 3:16, 5:24."  "Taken from The Epistles of John by John Stott.  Copyright 1964 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

8. Fellowship with God inside God's circle of light #4: If we live in the light,

we will keep His commands. (2:3)
"We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands."

Thought Question:  How could a person who has doubts that he is a Christian use John's words in this verse to test himself on whether or not he is a Christian?

 

 

Who is the "him" that John refers to here; this "him" that we are to "know" and to obey "his commands"?  Is it "Jesus Christ, the Righteous One" of 2:1 or the God who is light of 1:5?  In 3:23, the One whose commands we are to obey is clearly God the Father: "And this is his command: to believe in the name of is Son, Jesus Christ and to love one another as he commands us."  Whether John is referring to the Father or Jesus Christ, he is still referring to obeying God's commands, for both are God.

How can we "know" that we "know him"?  First, notice the two "knows."  He is talking about how we can be certain that we know "Jesus Christ, the Righteous One."  John is not talking about having knowledge about Him, but he is talking about having a close and real relationship with Him.  Knowing Him, in this sense, is like our knowing a close family member.  In other words, John is explaining how we can be certain that we are in God's family.  In still other words, how can we be certain about our eternal relationship with God?

Someone once told me that she was sure that she knew God, because she had a vision.  But, how could she be sure that vision was from God?  We could say that I am sure that I know God because I feel like I know God.  There were those in John's time (the Gnostics) who believed they knew God because they were having mystical experiences.  John says that there is an objective way you can use to discover if you know God.  If you know God, you will be obeying His commands.  How will we recognize that we are obeying God's commands?  You will begin to change as you are willingly and in love choose to do what God wants you to do.  For example, you were once unwilling to forgive someone when he or she offended you.  Now, you obey God by forgiving people when they offend you.  You know God wants you to forgive, so you choose to forgive.  The reality of your relationship with God will become evident in the way that you choose to live. See Ephesians 5:8

Vine says that the first word for "know" in this verse is ginosko "to learn by experience."  "Taken from The Epistles of John by W. E. Vine.  Copyright 1970 by Zondervan Publishing House.Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  How can we "know" by experience that we "know" God?  We "know" it as our life changes and we begin to obey God.

Notice, he does not say that you must change and then you will be a Christian.  Rather, he says that if you truly know God and are a Christian, you will change.  Jesus said, if you love me, you will obey my commands. See John 14:15,21  Our desire to obey God and our obedience to God show us that we are a member of God's eternal family.

9. Outside God's circle of light #4: If we say we know God, but do not obey

God, we are a liar. (2:4)
"The man who says, I know him, but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him."

Thought Question:  We may have heard someone say, "I do not care what you say, what is important to me is what you do."  According to this verse, how does this saying apply to the Christian life?

 

 

He begins with, "The man who says, I know him."  Saying with words that we "know" Him is not sufficient; we will show that we truly "know" God by what we do.  John says that when someone says he "know" God, but does not obey Him, he does not "know" Him.

It is apparent there were those who were a threat to the early Christians who said that they knew God, but who were disobeying what God commands us to do.  The word "Gnostic" comes from the Greek work gnosis or "to know."  The "Gnostics" stated that they knew God, but in their actions they were not acting like those who did "know" God.

One branch of the Gnostics believed that there was such a separation between our spirit and our evil flesh, that it was possible to choose to do fleshly and wrong actions and not have those actions affect the spirit.  John is likely referring to them here.  They said they knew God, but they were constantly disobeying God's commands.

Today, we can have those who live like heaven when they are in a church building, but live like hell outside of the church building.  Those who behave like this can have no assurance that they "know" God.  Their words are saying that they "know" God, but their actions are saying that they do not "know" Him.

10. Inside God's circle of light #5:  If we obey His word, God's love will

become truly complete for us. (2:5-6)
"But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him.  This is how we know we are in him:  Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did."

Thought Question:  According to this verse, how does God's love become complete?

 

 

How do we bring to completion God's love for us?  We can believe that we have reached the ultimate in the Christian life through having a very intense emotional feeling toward God or by having a deeply satisfying mystical experience with God, but John says that we bring our relationship with God to completion when we return His love for us by obeying His words.

"Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did."  A Christian is someone who follows Jesus Christ as a way of life.  If we "live in him" or abide in Him, we will live like Him.  Jesus' relationship with the Father is shown by His perfect obedience to all of the Father's ways.  We will also show that we are in fellowship with God by living (walking) like Jesus Christ lived.

Notice that He is surely referring to Jesus' obedient and holy life.  As Martin Luther is reported to have said: "It is not Christ's walking on the sea, but his ordinary walk we are called to imitate."

11. Fellowship with God inside God's circle of light:  An old command is

seen in God's new light. (2:7-8)
"Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning.  This old command is the message you have heard.  Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining."

Thought Question:  How can the "command" be both an old and a new command at the same time?

 

 

The false teachers were seeking to teach them something that was different from what they had heard as brand new Christians.  It appears that "the beginning" refers to the beginning of their Christian life or, in other words, when they became Christians.  What John was writing to them about was nothing new to them, it is what they heard when they first became followers of Christ.

What he will soon be telling them in the following verses is that fellowship with a God who is light will result in them loving one another. See 2:9-11  The teaching in these verses was nothing new for these Christians.  In John's own Gospel account of Jesus Christ, he records that Jesus said, "A new command I give to you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another." (John 13:34) See also John 15:12,17; II John 5-6; I John 3:11  So what John is about to tell them is nothing new.  In Leviticus 19:18, Israel was instructed to love others as they loved themselves.  Here, though, John calls them to an even higher standard; they were to love one another as Jesus had loved them.

"Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining." 

Because we who are Christians have come into the light and are able to see the old command in a new way, it is both an old command and a new command.  As Paul said, we are a new creation and "the new has come!"  (II Corinthians 5:17).  In simple terms, God turned the light on, and now we see clearly what has been true all along. See I Peter 2:9

The "true light" is He who has enabled us to see what God is like and what we were created by God to be like.  God did not create us to be selfish and greedy.  Jesus shows us that we were created to be perfectly loving just as He is perfectly loving.

12. Outside God's circle of light #5:  If we hate our brother, we are not in

the light. (2:9)
"Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness."

Thought Question:  Is there anyone that you have difficulty loving?  What does this verse say to help you to love that person?

 

 

One of the greatest atrocities in the history of the world was the Spanish Inquisition.  Those who called themselves Christians tortured and killed those who disagreed with them.  They said they were in the light, but they hated their fellow Christians.  They were not in the light but in the darkness.  It is not surprising that this period in history was called the "Dark Ages."

Many of us have heard that people do not care what we know until they know that we care.  We can talk a good Christian life; but if we do not live a good Christian life, there is no evidence that we are Christians.  If we hate someone, though, there is good evidence that we do not know what God is like.  When we hate, it shows we are blind to God and His ways.  What would it take to get us to hate a fellow church member?  Would it only take something small, like a disagreement over the color of the carpet in the church sanctuary?  Or would it take something larger, like learning that he or she is turning other Christians against us?  Jesus said, "If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?  Are not even the tax collectors doing that?" (Matthew 5:46) See also Luke 6:32  God loved us and sent His son to die for us even though we were in rebellion against Him.  We are like Him when we love even our enemies. We are walking in the light when we constantly comparing our attitudes toward others to what God's attitude is toward them and toward us.  We are walking in the light when we are seeking to have the same loving attitude toward people as Jesus has toward us and had toward even those who were His enemies.  See Matthew 5:43-47

13. Fellowship inside God's circle of light #6:  If we love our brothers, we

are in the light. (2:10)
"Whoever loves his brother lives in the light and there is nothing in him to make him stumble."

Thought Question:  What does John mean by "there is nothing in him to make him stumble"?

 

 

What do we see when we are in the light?  We see our sinfulness.  As John said in 1:8-10, we see our sin for what it is and then we agree with God about it – we confess it.  We also see that Jesus died as the "atoning sacrifice" for our sins. See 2:1-2  We see God's love for us.  We see that we are to love others as He has loved us.  "We love because he first loved us." (4:18)

What does John mean by "there is nothing in him to make him stumble"?  If we are in the light, we will clearly see the difference between love and hate.  When we were in the darkness, we did not clearly see that it was wrong to do hateful things such as slandering and gossiping about someone else.  We did not like it when someone slandered and gossiped about us; but we were strangely unable to see that it was wrong to slander and gossip about them.  We hated others, though we did not like it at all when someone hated us.  In the light, we see that it is wrong if others do it, and it is wrong if we do it.  Because we could not see clearly what was wrong about our actions, we were stumbling about in our own darkness; doing one wrong thing after another and thinking that we were doing what is right.  In the light we are able to see clearly.  We see it is wrong to hate.  We are no longer justifying what is ugly, selfish, and sinful.  We see what is right and we see what is wrong.  We are no longer stumbling around in our own moral blindness. 

John is giving broad principles which separate Christians from non- Christians.  We know, though, that there are times when we who are Christians do hate.  In these cases, we are to confess it as sin; as John explained in 1:5-2:2.

14. Life outside God's circle of light #6: The one who hates his brother is

blind. (2:11)
"But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him."

Thought Question:  What does it show if a Christian hates another Christian?  How can this Christian do it?

 

 

The person who is in the darkness is blind to the fact that he is in the darkness.  As Jesus said, "If then the light within you is darkness, how great that darkness!" (Matthew 6;23)

The one who is hating does not see what a despicable act he or she is committing.  They are blind to the ugliness of their hate.  They are able to blind their eyes by justifying their sin.  In their eyes it is not ugly, but good and right.  The one who hates and sees no wrong in it is surely blind.

Is it possible for a genuine Christian to hate another Christian?  Again, John is giving broad principles that generally divide Christians from non-Christians.  A Christian cannot hate another Christian if he or she is walking in the light.  In Ephesians 4:26-27, Paul says the following: " 'In your anger do not sin':  Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold."  What if a Christian does let the sun go down while he or she is still angry?  They, according to Paul, would then be giving the devil a foothold in their lives.  The devil would have someone to use to help him in his hate of the Christian that is being hated.  The Christian would then become a tool of the accuser and slanderer of Christians.  Satan would assist and empower them to hate their fellow Christian.  James says, "What causes fights and quarrels among you?  Don't they come from your desires that battle within you?  You want something but don't get it.  You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want.  You quarrel and fight." (James 4:1-2a)  He also says in 3:14-16: "But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.  Such wisdom does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil.  For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice."  James' solution is found in James 4:6-10: "But he gives us more grace.  That is why Scripture says: 'God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble.'  Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come near to God and he will come near to you.  Wash your hands you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Grieve, mourn and wail.  Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up."  We need to humbly get back in the light and confess that our hate toward another Christian is totally wrong.  When we humble ourselves like this, God will lift us up.  We are back walking in the light and have left the darkness once more.

THE GLORIOUS CIRCLE OF GROWTH (2:12-27)
The book of I John is a book about assurance.  If what is described in I John describes our lives, we can be assured that we are members of God's forever family.  If we are in fellowship with the God who is light, we will first of all acknowledge that we are a sinner.  We will admit our sins and sinfulness.  We will also see that the One who died for us is also Lord.  We will be obedient to His commands.  Also, if we know God, we will show it by being like Him.  We will love.

Another evidence that we truly know God is that there will be growth in our Christian life.  John describes in the following verses three stages of growth: children, young men, and fathers.  He also exhorts us who read his letter on how we can grow from one stage to the next stage.

1. The beginning point:  John speaks to Christians who are fathers, young

men and children in their growth as Christians. (2:12-13)
"I write to you dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.  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 evil one.  I write to you, dear children, because you have known the Father."

a. All Christians were children to the elderly Apostle John, and he wrote to

them all because their sins were forgiven through Jesus Christ (2:12)
"I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.

Thought Question:  Please write down everything you can think of that this verse says is true of every Christian.

 

 

The "children" here does not appear to be describing a stage of growth.  It is the Greek word technion.  John uses this Greek word for "children" in 2:1, here, and in 2:28, 3:7,18, 4:4, and 5:21.  In these verses he is describing a child who is someone's child by birth.  In 2:13 and 2:18 he uses the Greek word paidia, describing a state of being under the supervision of his or her parents.  Our word pedagogue comes from paidia. 

So, in this verse where the Greek word technion is used, the aged Apostle is warmly speaking to all Christians who read his letter.  To the aged Apostle John, the disciple that Jesus loved, we are all his "dear children."  He says of readers, "your sins have been forgiven."

As we mentioned, if you are a Christian and truly in fellowship with the God who is light, you know that you are a sinner and you are among those who know that they are sinners.  Next, if you believe that Jesus died for your sins, you know that your "sins have been forgiven on account of his name."

Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out the importance of this fact in the following way: "The Christian is not someone who is seeking forgiveness, or who is hoping to be forgiven.  The Christian is not a person who is uncertain about forgiveness or who prays for it or tries to merit it.  No, Christians are people who knowthey are forgiven.  Now, this is absolutely vital and fundamental.  So many people, when you ask them if they know their sins are forgiven say 'I am hoping that they are; I am seeking forgiveness; I am praying for it; I am very uncertain about the whole thing, but I am hoping my sins will be forgiven me.  'No!' says John. 'That is not the Christian position---that is a typical non-Christians statement.  The Christian is one whose sins are already forgiven.'"  "Taken from Walking with God Volume Two by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1993 by Crossway Books."

In Psalm 23:3, we find these words:  "He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name sake."  We are also forgiven "on account of his name."  We are not forgiven because of anything we have done, but because of Him who has provided a "sacrifice of atonement." (2:2) for our sins. See also Psalm 25:11, 31:3, 79:9, 109:21, 143:11; Jeremiah 14:7  His name describes His character.  It is His character to be forgiving and to forgive us.  As it says in Hebrews 2:10, "it was fitting" that God would sacrifice His Son for our sins.  That is the type of God that He is. 

We who are God's children because we believe that God's Son gave Himself as a propitiation for our sins and, therefore, we will not face God as a horrible Judge who will condemn us for our many sins.  He will forever be our Father!

b. Fathers are those who have "known him who is from the beginning."

(2:13a)
"I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning."

Thought Question:  From this verse, how do you believe someone becomes a spiritual "father"?

 

 

These same words are repeated at the beginning of verse 14.  Spiritual fathers are those who have matured from children to young men, and have become fathers in the Christian world.  Maturity does not come automatically in the Christian life.  In Hebrews 5:11-13, the author of Hebrews scolds those who had been Christians for some time, but still need spiritual milk.  These Christians had not grown beyond the infant stage and were still acting like non-Christians.  The author of Hebrews tells us the reason that they had not grown in their Christian walk.  It was because they had not grown and matured through regularly putting what is taught in the Bible into practice in their lives.  See also I Corinthians 3:1-4

Spiritual fathers are those who have matured in their Christian walk.  What John said in 2:3 describes how this maturity comes about:  "We know that we have come to know him if we obey His commandments." See also John 14:21  As we live continually seeking to obey him---over the years this obedience matures until we really come to know Him.  We come to know Him because we are gradually growing to be more like Him.  Fathers, then are those who "have known him who is from the beginning."

c. Young men are those "have overcome the evil one." (2:13b)

"I write to you, young men, because you are strong and the word of God lives in you and you have overcome the evil one."

Thought Question:  From this verse, how do you believe someone becomes a spiritual "young man"?

 

 

John first talks to Christians who are in one of three stages of maturity (in 2:13).  In 2:13a and 2:14a, he talks to the fathers.  The fathers do not need to be warned or exhorted.  So, there is no instruction in these two verses to the fathers.  But he does need to give warnings, exhortations, and instructions to the young men.  We will find his instructions to young men in the section of verses immediately following 2:13 and 2:14---in 2:15-17.  Then beginning in verse 18 he gives his instructions to spiritual children (2:18-27).

Those who are young men spiritually are those "have overcome the evil one."  What does John mean by "overcoming the evil one"?  When we are new Christians, we are confused and weak.  There is so much we do not know about the Bible.  We grow into young men spiritually when we begin to gain confidence in the basics of Christianity.  We begin to become familiar with God's word.  We learn of the resources that we have in Christ and through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  When we reach this stage in our Christian growth we become as someone has said, "independently dependent on Christ."  We learn that we "can do everything through him who gives us strength." (Philippians 4:13)  We become familiar with God's Word, so we are not easily fooled by false teaching.  "Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind and of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming." (Ephesians 4:14)  Dressed in the armor of Christ, we become able to "overcome the evil one."

How do we grow in strength as Christians?  We grow strong as God's word is understood and applied in our lives.  Young men have overcome the evil one because they have grown strong in God's word.

d. Children are those who "have known the Father." (2:13c)

"I write to you, dear children, because you have known the Father."

Thought Question:  Why are children those who "have known the Father"?  What does John mean by knowing the Father?

 

 

One immediate characteristic of a new Christian is that God goes from being a vague concept to them to being their Father.  As Paul says in Romans 8:14-17, new Christians are able to call out to God as their "Abba" or "Pappa."  God goes from being an impersonal idea to them to being an intimate Father to them. See also Galatians 4:6 

2. The process of growth from children to young men, and from young

men to fathers (2:14-27)

a. Goal #1, so that young men can grow into fathers – "Do not love the

world!" (2:14-17)
In verse fourteen, John once more describes spiritual fathers: they are those who "have known him who is from the beginning."  Then he once again describes the young men: they are those who "are strong and the word of God lives in" them, and they "have overcome the evil one."  He does not speak to the spiritual children at this point.  The reason he does not address spiritual children until verse 18 is because verses 15-17 are directed primarily to spiritual young men and 18-27 are directed primarily to spiritual children.  Spiritual young men are strong, and they have learned how to be victorious over Satan's deceptions; but they need to be willing to overcome the love for this world that is passing away before they can become spiritual fathers.

"Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For everything in the world---the cravings of sinful man, the lust of the eyes, and the boasting of what he has and does---comes not from the Father, but from the world.  The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever."

Thought Question #1:  What "world" is he talking about?

 

 

Thought Question #2: The "cravings of sinful man" has been called the "lust of the flesh," the "boasting of what he has or does" has been called the "pride of life" or just "pride."  So, the three can be called: the "lust of the flesh," the "lust of the eyes," and "pride."  Please give two examples of each of these sinful cravings.

 

 

Thought Question #3:  Why do you believe we are not able to love both God and the world at the same time?

 

 

Thought Question #4:  How can one "love not the world"?  How do you believe this will help us to grow from being spiritual young men to being spiritual fathers?

 

 

As Christians we are to love God and each other, but here we find something that we are not to love.  We are not to love the "world."  It is, of course, very important at this point to understand what "world" John is talking about.  God so loved the "world" that He gave his one and only Son to die for it. (John 3:16)  Is this the "world" that we are not to love?  John explains what he means by the world.  In short, it is fleshly lust, covetousness (the lust of the eyes) or greed, and sinful pride.  John is talking about the world system that caters to each of these selfish and self-centered cravings.  It is the ethical, philosophical, and social structure in our world that is ordered toward fulfilling these fleshly and sinful cravings.  This world system is controlled by Satan, the prince of this world. See John 12:31, 14:3, 15:11  In this book, John says that "the whole world is under the control of the evil one" (5:19).  We as Christians have been chosen out of the world to not be a part of the world (John 17:6, 14-18).  Satan desires to tempt us and draw us back into his world system of lust and pride. See also Ephesians 2:2; Titus 2:13

Temptations toward each of these three areas of lust are found all around us.  Hollywood and television make money by appealing to our human-fleshly desires (sex, food, pride, etc.), to our greed (money, possessions, etc.), and our pride (prestige, ego, etc.)  A book about the advertising profession is called The Want Makers

Let us take a close look at each of these three worldly and sinful desires.  First, let us take a close look at the "the cravings of sinful man," or the lust of the flesh.  The Greek word that is translated "lust" or "cravings" is epithumia.  It describes an extreme type of desire.It is like a fire that is out of control, as compared to a fire in a fireplace that is useful and controlled. God has given us a fleshly desire for food, sexual intimacy, and others.  These desires can be under control like the controlled fire in the fireplace or out of control like the uncontrolled fire of the forest fire.  They
become sinful desires when they control us, lead to the breaking of God's laws, and when they come between us and our relationship with God.  Gluttony and sexual immorality are the result of God-given desires that have become out-of-control forest fires.  My mother used to tell me that we eat to live, not live to eat.  I was probably wolfing down a meal at the time.

What is meant by the "lust of his eyes" (or greed)?  It can be summed up by, what I see, I want even if it belongs to someone else, even if it is beyond what I can afford to own, and even if it will make me its slave.  Examples of this worldly lust of the eyes are the inordinate desire we can have for the latest clothing, technology, cars, and recreational equipment.  The pursuit of luxury and comfort can consume our lives, leaving little room for God and the needs of others.

What is meant by "boasting of what he has and does" or the boastful pride of life?  In short, it is the desire to see ourselves exalted above others.  It is the ugly part of us that enjoys it when we can see others as less than us and hates it whenever they seem to be doing better than us.  It results in a prideful competition whereby we are continually evaluating how well we are doing compared to others in such areas as wealth, race, social status, accomplishments, education, spirituality, abilities, knowledge, honors, and recognition.  God hates all of this ugliness.  James tells us that "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." (James 4:6). 

These three categories of worldly desires are what Satan uses to tempt us to sin.  They are what Satan uses to bring the world system under his control.  Eve said the fruit of the tree was good for food [the lust of the flesh] and pleasing to the eye [the lust of the eyes], and also desirable for giving wisdom [the pride of life] (Genesis 3:6).  Satan also tempted Jesus in these very same areas. See Matthew 4:1-11 (Lust of the flesh = hunger and temptation that stones could become bread; lust of the eyes = all that your eyes see can become yours; and pride of life = throw yourself down and God will miraculously rescue you)

Jesus taught that we must choose between our love for God and a love for the world.  We cannot do both at the same time: "No one can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and money." (Matthew 6:24)  James says, "Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God." (James 4:4)  John says the same here: "If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." (2:15)

The reason that loving the world means that the "love of the Father is not in" us is that all of these worldly and sinful cravings do not at all come from God.  James says that they are "earthly, unspiritual, and of the devil." (James 3:15)  God's Spirit within us does not desire any of this impurity.  Paul says the following in Romans 8:5: "Those who live according to the sinful nature [flesh] have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires."  Then in Galatians 5:16-17, Paul makes a similar statement: "So I say, live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature [flesh].  For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature [flesh].  They are in conflict with each other."  We cannot have both a desire for the worldly and a desire for God at the same time.

John finishes by giving one more reason why we must choose the love of the Father and reject the love of the world:  "The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of the Father lives forever." (2:17)  A theme in I John is eternal life.  It is a type of life that is not based on seeking after temporary gratification.  The love of God and obedience to His will satisfy the heart now and this type of love will go on even after this life is over.  Sin gives pleasure for the moment, followed by guilt and wreckage.  And ultimately this worldly system will be judged by God and destroyed.  Eternal life gives joy, peace, love and abundant life now and forever.  Paul said: "Do not get drunk on wine which leads to debauchery.  Instead, be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:8).  And he says of the fruit of the Spirit, "against such things there is no law" (Galatians 5:23).  Should we choose for our life that which will be judged by God and be destroyed or that which is eternally abundant?

For us to grow into the final stage of Christian growth, we must choose to not love the world.  John understood this truth very well, for he himself had chosen not to love this world and had grown from a spiritual young man to a spiritual father.  For example, he refers to the Christians that he is writing to as "children."  So, he was already a "father." Every Christian, of course, should desire to grow into becoming a spiritual father (or spiritual mother).  To do this, we must choose to not be "doubleminded" as James say in James 1:7 and 4:8.  Those we admire most are those who have resolutely, uncompromisingly, and eternally chosen to love God and to hate the world.  Spiritual young men can only become spiritual fathers when they have chosen this path for their life direction.

b. The process of growth from children to young men: overcome the

lies of the evil one by remaining in God's word. (2:18-27)
In these verses we will find the following:  (1) The reason the church is always in danger is it is the last hour and the lies of the antichrist are everywhere (2:18).  (2) The evidence that the antichrists are present is those who leave the church.  (3) God's provision to enable us to recognize the false teaching of the antichrists is the anointing of the Holy Spirit (2:20-21).  (4) How can you know that you are not a follower of an antichrist?  You will acknowledge that Jesus is God's Son (2:22-23).  (5) You can defeat the antichrists by remaining in the truth (2:24-27).

(1) The reason the church is in danger – the lies of the antichrists are

everywhere. (2:18)
"Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come.  This is how we know it is the last hour."

Thought Question #1:  How could it have been "the last hour" in John's time, when Jesus still has not returned today, nearly 2000 years later?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Who are the "antichrists" that John is speaking about?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  How did the presence of "many antichrists" tell them that it was the "last hour"?

 

 

What can be discouraging to us who are Christians are the many counterfeits of Christianity that are all around us and the many clever lies we constantly encounter.  This is particularly confusing to the new Christian.  What does John say in this verse and in the following verses to help us and the new Christian to be able to handle these lies?

In verse eighteen, he says that the reason that the church is assailed by all the false teachings of the antichrist is because it is "the last hour." See II Timothy 3:1-9; II Peter 3:3-7; I Timothy 4:1; I Peter 1:20; Hebrews 1:1,2; Jude 18; Acts 2:17  It is likely that "the last hour" has stretched out longer than John thought it would.  But, John was there when Jesus predicted that before He returned there would be many false teachers.  John and the other disciples asked Him:  "What will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?  Jesus answered: 'Watch out that no one deceives you.  For many will come in my name, claiming, ’I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many'" (Matthew 24:3-5).  Because of Jesus' warning, John knew that there would be antichrists preceding the end times.  We have no evidence that he knew that it would be at least 2000 years before Jesus returned.  As we look over these 2000 years, there have been many false teachers.  Jesus predicted that the birth pains before his return would grow stronger just before His return:  "At that time [when believers begin to be persecuted and be put to death], many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other.  And many false prophets will appear and deceive many people" (Matthew 24:10-11).  Another way of putting this is that there have been many "pied pipers" who have led many away from Christ in the last days since John's time and there will be even more of these "antichrists" in the last days that are still to come. See also II Thessalonians 2:7a

Who are the "antichrists"?  The "antichrists" are false prophets; those who will lead people into a counterfeit worship of God.  Who is the "antichrist"?  The "antichrist" is certainly the one who will appear in the least days as Satan's replacement for Jesus Christ.  As Jesus was God in human flesh, the "antichrist" will be Satan in human flesh.  He will be "anti" or against Christ.  In other parts of the Bible he is called by many names: (1) "the beast" (Revelations 13:1-10), (2) "the man of lawlessness" (II Thessalonians 2:3-11), (3) the "little horn" (Daniels 7-8), and the "the king who exalts himself" (Daniel 11:36-42).

John concludes this verse by saying that because there are many "antichrists," we can know that it is the last days.  He goes on to describe how they could recognize the "antichrists" of their time; i.e., those that they were encountering who were opposed to Christ . See 4:1-3

(2) The evidence that antichrists are present – those who leave the

church. (2:19)
"They went out from us but they did not really belong to us.  For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us."

Thought Question:  What is there in these verses that we should be teaching every young Christian?

 

 

The people of the antichrist are those who were once a part of the church, but have, since then, separated themselves from the church.  They are those who have shown they were never a part of the church, by teaching and believing in doctrines that are different from what God's word teaches.  Modern-day cults usually teach a false view of God; particularly they teach a view of God different than the Trinity.  They also usually teach a false view of Jesus Christ-such as Him being merely a man or an angel.  Furthermore, they usually undermine the authority of the Scriptures by adding another authority to the Bible or by altering the Bible in some way.  Finally, they teach a false view of salvation usually by teaching that some type of human works is necessary for salvation.  Many of the original leaders of cults once appeared to be part of the church.  Their leaders have often left the church because their teachings were not acceptable to God's people.  They usually leave when their own teachings change, but the teachings of the church they are attending do not change to go along with their new teachings. 

Paul predicted these false teachers in Acts 20:29-30: "I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.  Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them." See also II Peter 2:1-2

In John's time, an expression of the Antichrist was the Gnosticism that was described in the Introduction to this book.  In the time between John's time and our time, there have been many split-offs from the church.  We can be certain (as we draw closer, each day, than anyone has ever come to the last days) that there will be even more who will arise from the church to draw people away from the church.  According to John, they are all of the antichrist.

What should our response be to all of this?  First of all, we should not be surprised at the presence of Satan's lying false teachers.  Jesus, Paul, and John predicted them.  Young Christians, however, may not yet know that the Bible predicts that there will always be false teachers who will seek to lead the church astray.  John explains to these young Christians about these false teachers so that they will also come to know that Satan's liars, deceivers, and counterfeiters will always be among us.

(3) God's provision to enable us to recognize the false teaching of the

antichrist – the anointing of the Holy Spirit. (2:20-21)
"But you have an anointing from the Holy One and all of you know the truth.  I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth."

Thought Question:  How does the "the anointing from the Holy One" protect us from Satan's attack on the church?

 

 

How can we resist and stand strong in the midst of all the Satan-inspired false teaching that surrounds us?  Has God left us His children with no weapons to respond to Satan' attacks?  We have weapons that are very sufficient to meet Satan's attacks.  As Paul says, our weapons are divinely powerful and are able to conquer Satan's strongholds. See II Corinthians 10:3-6

One of our divinely powerful weapons is the "anointing of the Holy One."  The word "anointing" is a picture of God's Spirit coming down on us in the same way that oil was ceremonially poured out on the priests, kings, and prophets in the Old Testament.  We are told in Acts 10:38, "how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him." See Isaiah 61:1; II Corinthians 1:21-22  See also Exodus 29:5-7,21; Leviticus 8:30; I Kings 19:6

Paul tells us that "if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, He does not belong to Christ" (Romans 8:9).  Those who have left the church have left the church because they did not belong to Christ.  We, who stay in the church, usually stay in the church because we have the Spirit of Christ.

John is saying in these two verses that the Spirit of God gives us the ability to recognize what is true and what is error.  Particularly, God's Spirit enables us to know the truth.  In chapter four, John says: "We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us.  This is how we recognize the spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood" (4:6).  A test that we are Christians is whether or not we listen to what John and the other writers of the Bible say.  A Christian has Christ's Spirit – the "anointing of the Holy One" within him and he is able to understand, believe, and know the truth.  He is also able to recognize what is false.

(4) How can you know that you are not a follower of the antichrist?

You acknowledge that Jesus is God's Son. (2:22-23)
"Who is the liar?  It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ.  Such a man is the antichrist---he denies the Father and the Son.  No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also."

Thought Question #1:  What is the very important issue that John is talking about here?  Why is it so important?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why does someone who denies the Son also deny the Father?

 

 

What is the common view of who Jesus Christ is that is held by each Christian?  We believe the following:  We believe that He is the Messiah predicted in the Old Testament; that He was born of a virgin; that He is fully God and fully man, yet one person; that He died on the cross and rose from the grave; and that He is coming again.  John calls all who teach other versions of who Jesus Christ is, liars.

It is difficult to learn and remember all of the different versions of who Jesus is that are taught or have been taught by false teachers.  The reason for this is that Satan does not care who people say Jesus is, as long as they don't say He is who the Bible says He is.  So, false teachers say he was a great teacher, a great martyr, a great mystic, a great medium, an avatar, an angel, a phantom, and on and on it goes.  John says that each person who teaches one of these is a liar!

In our age of tolerance, John's words seem too strong.  Could not he just say that there are those who have other views than we have, and that we need to be tolerant of their views?  Instead, he says they are of the antichrist and they are liars!

We tend not to be as strong as John.  We can be like the frog in the pan of water that does not recognize the slow change in the temperature as the pan is slowly heated.  Instead of taking action and jumping out, he slowly gets cooked.  We tend to not respond strongly to error until it has become so bad that it is obviously wrong.  By this time it has often become so deeply imbedded in some people's lives that it is too late to root it out.

The denial of Jesus as the Christ---the Anointed One---who was sent by the Father to carry the sins of the world on Himself as a payment of the penalty for our sins is a denial of the essential message of the Bible.  Someone can say, "I believe in God, but I do not believe that Jesus is God's Son."  Belief in the Father and belief in His Son cannot be separated.  According to John, if someone does not believe in the Son, He also cannot believe in the Father: "that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father.  He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him." (John 5:23)  The person who does not believe in the Son is without salvation and without hope, for Jesus alone is the only way to a relationship with God. See John 14:6

We who have not denied the Son, but have acknowledged Him for who He is---our Savior and our God-we "have the Father also."  Notice that John is not just talking about having an intellectual belief in the Father and the Son, but he is saying that the Christian is one who "has" the Father and the Son.  As Paul says, "Christ in me" (Colossians 1:27).  Jesus said what is true of His followers: "I in them." (John 17:23)  We who have acknowledged Jesus the man as also being God's Son and the Messiah have the Son and the Father.  The message we heard from the beginning is the basic gospel message: Jesus Christ is God's Son, He became a man, died for our sins, and rose from the dead. See I john 1:1-3 and I Corinthians
15:1-8

(5) How can you defeat the antichrists? (2:24-27)

(a) Stay in the truth that you received from God's Spirit. (2:24-25)

"See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you.  If it does, you will also remain in the Son and in the Father.  And this is what he promised us---even eternal life."

Thought Question:  How can you remain in "what you heard from the beginning"?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why will you "also remain in the Son and in the Father" if you remain in "what you heard from the beginning"?

 

 

Jesus called the Christian life the narrow road.  Because it is narrow, it is very easy for us to stray from it.  John exhorts his readers and us to stay in the teaching that was given to the church in "the beginning."

Over the years, since the beginning of the church, many of those who call themselves Christians have wandered away from the narrow road given to us in "the beginning."  Much of what has been taught as being Christian is not anything like what is taught in the Bible.  The threat in John's time was the Gnostic's false teachings about Jesus Christ.  Today, we have many more false teachings that are presented to our world as Christian teachings.

In the book of Jude we find this exhortation: "I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once and for all entrusted to the saints." (Jude 3).  Paul warned the elders of the church at Ephesus with these words: "Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.  So be on your guard!" (Acts 20:30-31a)  A very vital part of the Christian walk is the need for us to be vigilant so that we do not wander from what is taught in the Bible, and so that we do not allow false teachers to seduce us away from the Bible's narrow road.

John Stott puts it this way:  "Christians should always be 'conservative' in their theology.  To have 'itching ears,' ever running after new teachers, listening to anybody and never arriving at a knowledge of the truth, is a characteristic of 'perilous times' which shall come in the last days. (II Timothy 3:1, 7, 4:3)  The continuous obsession for some new thing is a mark of the Athenian not the Christian (Acts XVII.21)  Christian theology is anchored not only to certain historical events, culminating in the saving career of Jesus, but of authoritative apostolic witness to the events.  The Christian can never weigh anchor and launch out into the deep of speculative thought." " Taken from The Epistles of John by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

It is only when we "remain" in the teachings of the Bible that we have fellowship with "the Son" and "the Father."  There are those who advocate a higher form of fellowship with God that is attained by going beyond the mind and fellowshipping with God in the Spirit.  It sounds good, but it is contrary to what is taught in the Bible.  Fellowshipping with God, as Jesus said, also means abiding or remaining in God's word. See John 15:3,7, 14:23,24; II John 9

In John 15, Jesus says these words as recorded by John: "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you" (John 15:7)  The word "remain" is used two times in I John 2:24.  It means remaining in heart agreement with God's words.  Then you will be having a heart to heart agreement and fellowship with God's Son and with the Father.

"Remain," or as the King James says, "abide," speaks of not only living somewhere, but of being completely at home and comfortable there.  It is the difference between living in a house and it being your home.  We are to make sure that what we believed in when we first became a Christian and were completely comfortable with continues as our abiding and sure belief.  If we abide in God's truth in this way, we can be assured that our fellowship with God is also real and solid.

When we are embracing, at home with, and living in God's word, then, we are also living in constant fellowship with the Son and with the Father.  We are, then, experiencing a quality of life that is like what the Son and the Father experience.  It is their eternal type of life.

(b) Do not let false teachers lead you astray. (2:26)

"I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray."

Thought Question:  Can you think of any in our day who are trying to lead Christians and non-Christians astray?

 

 

There are many ways that are offered by men that they say will take us above and beyond what is written to us in the Bible.  They promise a higher form of life.  But, when they take us beyond what is written in the Bible, they also are taking us away from God's type of life.  There were those seeking to lead the Christians of John's time away from the Bible's teaching and toward their teachings. Notice that he says that there are those who are "trying to lead you astray."

As in John's time there were those whose goal was to lead people away from what the Bible teaches, so there are those today who are "trying to lead ..[us]..astray."  And, sadly, some Christians are being led "astray."  If there was not always a real threat of Christians being led away from the Bible's teaching, John would not have needed to warn the Christians of his time about it. See 3:7  If anything, the threat is even greater today, as we are much closer to the end times. We also need to warn Christians of our day that there are many today who are trying to lead us astray!  As in John's time, they are not always easy to recognize.  John's instructions in the next verses will help us not to be fooled by them.

(c) Trust in the Holy Spirit in you to enable you to discern what is

true and what is false. (2:27)
"As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you.  But as his anointing teaches about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit---just as it has taught you, remain in him." (2:27)

Thought Question #1:  Does this verse teach that we can get an infallible revelation directly from God's Spirit without reading the Bible?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Does this verse say that we do not need to listen to Bible teachers?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

Thought Question #3:  What is meant by "his anointing teaches you about all things"?

 

 

When we became a Christian, God made it real to us who He is, who Jesus is, and what Jesus did for us on the cross.  But, also, during those early Christian days and in the time since, there have been many voices and spirits beckoning us to come along with them.  We are to remain with what God's Spirit has made real to us.  We are to continue to rely upon God's word and the basic message of the gospel.  John says that this "anointing" by God that revealed to us the truth about God and His love for us through Jesus Christ was not counterfeit or a lie.  It was the truth and we can continue to rely upon what God made real to us in the beginning.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones describes one way that we can drift away from the Bible and drift away from abiding in the Bible.  It can be called "mysticism."  It occurs when someone takes this verse to mean that because we have the "anointing," we can receive our guidance directly from God without the need of the Bible.  He refers to a dispute in the 1800s between the Puritans and the Quakers: "The Quakers tended to emphasize what they called the 'inner light'. . . they tended to say that that was sufficient, that they received a direct revelation, that the word of God was unnecessary and that in a sense they were inspired as were the first apostles.  That was not true of all Quakers, but it was certainly true of some of them.  'We are told by John,' they said, 'that we have an unction from the Holy One; we know all things, and we need not that any man should teach us.  We have this inner light, this inner monitor, this enlightening, and we do not need any instruction; we do not need to be guided by the word of God.' . . . Mystics tend to look inwards; they believe that God is resident within them and that really the way to be blessed by God and to live the spiritual life in the full sense is to look within, to dwell within, and to be sensitive to the vision that speaks to you and the light that is given to you and the leading and the guidance.  It is the inward process, the turning inward on oneself, the belief that God is in the depths of one's being.  So the idea of mysticism always has likewise raised, in a very acute form, the very doctrine that John mentions here; so the mystics are generally fond of these verses which we are considering together….The more you emphasize this subjective state and condition, the less need is there for the objective Word, and that is why you always find the tendency amongst such people to say, 'Ah, these others are mechanical; they are tying it down to 'the Word.'  They haven't had this subjective experience, and they are always talking about something external.'  You find that most mystics are not famous for reading the Scriptures regularly; indeed you often find something like this:  They say that one verse is enough for them; 'one verse gets me thinking so I begin to think and things happen to me'; and they get this 'revelation.'  They do not read their Scriptures systematically, and that obviously must tend to depreciate it.  And the last tendency is always toward a claim of infallibility….if you read the history or study any movement which emphasizes the mystical, the inner light, or the principle of inner guidance, you will, I think, without a single exception find that somewhere or another in such a movement there is either a pope or a number of popes.  There is always somebody whose guidance is infallible and who cannot go wrong."  "Taken from Walking with God Volume Two by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1993 by Crossway Books."

What, then, is John talking about here, if he is not talking about the type of "mysticism" that Martyn Lloyd-Jones is talking about?  He clearly is not teaching that God is going to regularly give us new and fresh revelations from God or that God is going to guide us apart from the Scriptures.  The context tells us what he is talking about: "See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you" (2:24).  "You have an anointing from the Holy One and all of you know the truth."  God has revealed to each Christian the truth about who God is, who Jesus is, how we can be saved from sin, what is right and what is wrong, and other basic truths of the Christian life.  God's anointing has made it possible for each Christian to believe in the basics and to become a new person in Christ.  We still have this anointing.  So, we need to continue to rely upon what God has revealed to us to be the truth.

Some use this verse to prove that they do not need any teachers.  They can learn the Bible completely on their own.  But this book proves that teaching is necessary.  For those who read this letter needed to have John teach them.  If we do not need teachers and do not need to be taught, why did God give to the church those who are gifted to teach? See Ephesians 4:11; I Corinthians 12:28-29; Acts 5:28,42; II Timothy 2:24  In the book of Proverbs, it says that someone is wise if they listen to advice and a fool if they are unwilling to benefit from the wisdom of the wise. See Proverbs 1:8, 13:1, 118:2; 19:27, 22:27

When John says "you do not need anyone to teach you," he is saying that you do not need a teacher to teach you what is truth and what is not truth.  "I do not write you because you do not know the truth, because you do know it" (2:20).  God's Spirit had revealed to them what is the truth.  They were to remain in this truth that God's anointing had revealed to them.  God reveals to us that the Bible is from Him and is His truth.  We need to continue to rely upon what God's Spirit has revealed to us is truth.

There is still one more part of the verse that can be confusing: "his anointing teaches you about all things."  What does John mean?  First of all, John is clearly not saying that God's Spirit will teach us about chemistry and about how to fix a car.  Some may believe this, though.  But, most would agree that John did not mean that we will receive understanding about everything through God's anointing.  Nor does it mean that God will teach us everything apart from the Bible.  What John is saying is that God's anointing enables us to know everything we need to know to have a real relationship with Him.

As Paul says, "The spiritual man makes judgments about all things" (I Corinthians 2:15).  Paul said before these words to the Corinthians that God has given Christians the ability to understand things about God that the rulers of this age are unable to understand:  "We have not received the spirit of this world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us." (I Corinthians 2:12) See also I Corinthians 2:6-16

 

THE GLORIOUS CIRCLE THAT COMES FROM OUR NEW BIRTH AS CHILDREN OF GOD (2:28-3:10) (The internal part of our fellowship with God)
John makes the very natural transition from abiding in God's truth to abiding in Christ and in His righteous ways.  We can abide in Christ because of our new birth.  We can be like Christ because we each are a child of God with God's character inside of us.  In the previous verses, John instructed us that because of God's anointing we know the truth and are able to think right.  It is because of the new birth that we have the "anointing of the Holy One."

1. The glorious hope the children of God – We will be confident before Him

when He appears. (2:28)
And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming (2:28)

Thought Question:  What can you do now so that you will be "be confident and unashamed before him at his coming"?

 

 

We are presently in the period between Jesus' two appearences.  We will see later that His first appearance provides us with motivation to live a righteous life. See 3:5,8  His future appearance also provides us with a compelling incentive to seek after a holy walk with Christ.

Probably most of us have had this experience.  Someone we do not know very well calls us and tells us they will be dropping by our house in a short time.  What do we often do?  We do some quick cleaning up and straightening out (You may not do this, but I suspect that most people do.).  One day Jesus will appear and one day we will be with Him.  How should this amazing reality affect us?  If we really believe that we will one day see Him face to face, we will want to right now prepare for that day.  We will not want to be ashamed as we stand before Him.  We will, in short, want to do all we can do to clean up our lives for the ultimate Visitor.  The opposite of this confidence is the shame Adam and Eve felt after they had disobeyed God.  They were the very opposite of confident.  They shrank away from God and hid.  If we continue in Him, we will be able to be confident before Him. See Hebrews 4:16, 10:19;  I John 3:21, 4:17, 5:14

We tend not to focus on that day when Jesus will appear or that time when we will stand before Him.  Young people believe that they will always have their young bodies.  They do not often think about getting old.  But, as someone has said, "Two things are certain – death and taxes."  There is one more thing that is certain.  Everyone will one day stand before Jesus Christ.  If we focus on this reality, it will affect how we live today.

W. E. Vine, the author of Vine's Expository Dictionary of  New Testament Words, in his commentary on I John observes that his "coming" is not a good translation of the Greek word parousia.  A better translation of this word is 'presence.'"  One day Jesus will no longer be absent; He will be suddenly present with us.  We should live in His absence in a way that will make it possible for us to be confident when He will suddenly be present with us. See John 15:4-5

A false concept of what John is saying here is for us to hope that Jesus will appear when we are in the middle of doing something good rather than when we are in the middle of doing something bad.  For example, we might hope that He will appear when we are sitting with His church on Sunday morning.  But, we will be ashamed even if we are in a church service if we have not been living for Him as a way of life.  Notice that John says, "continue in him."  The only way that we will not be ashamed is if we are continually living like He wants us to live.  For, we will be standing before the One who has been watching us every moment.

2. The beginning point: We are children of God. (2:29-3:3)

How can God expect us to do what is right?  It is because He gave us His ability to do what is right.

a. He is righteous and we are able to do what is righteous because we are

His children (2:29)
"If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him."

Thought Question:  What are some indications in your life that you are born of a God who is righteousness?  None of us, obviously, are perfectly righteous, but what are some signs that you have God's righteous life in you?

 

 

In the first chapter, John explained that the God we fellowship with is light.  Our fellowship with God requires that we also do what is right.  One branch of the Gnostics believed that it was okay to sin.  They saw no relationship between the flesh and the spirit.  They believed you could be pure in the spirit while indulging in all types of fleshly sins.  John tells us here that a test of whether or not we are God's children is whether or not we do what is right.  God is righteous.  If we do what is righteous, it shows us that we have been born of Him.

Fellowship with God involves both our external response to the truth and our internal response to God's life inside of us.  John now begins to focus on the internal part of our relationship with God.  The external and the internal parts of our relationship with God occur simultaneously and cannot be dissected from each other.  But John is helping us to see together, these two essential parts of true fellowship with God.

John will show us that just as our external fellowship with a God who is light results in us doing what is right (2:3-6) and loving others (2:9-11); so our internal relationship with God will lead us to do what is right (3:4-10) and to love others (3:11-18).

The context in this verse seems to indicate that the "born of him" is referring to being born of Jesus Christ.  The "him" in the verse previous to this verse is Jesus Christ: "And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming." (2:28)The Bible says that we are born of the Holy Spirit (See John 3:6,8) and born of the Father. (See John 1:13; I John 3:9, 4:7, 5:1,4,18; and I Peter 1:23)  If this is referring to being born of Jesus Christ, it is the only place in the Bible where it says we are born of Christ.

b. John celebrates our relationship with God. (3:1)

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are!  The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him."

Thought Question:  What is there about being a child of God that you find in this verse, that you can personally celebrate about right now?

 

 

In 1:4, John says: "We write this to make our joy complete."  In this verse, John exhibits this fullness of joy that he wishes his readers to experience.

What does it mean for us to be "children of God"?  It will help us to consider what it means to be a child of our human father.  Our country gives us special privileges because we are children of our human fathers who are citizens of the United States of America.  For, upon our birth, we also immediately become citizens of the United States of America!  Furthermore, if there is no legal will that indicates otherwise, we as a child of our human father will be inheritors of his properties if both of our parents die.  So it is also true that when we are born as a child of God we also receive a special and privileged legal place of favor with God.

Because everyone was created by God, is it not then true that everyone is a child of God?  We will soon see, though, that John divides the world into children of God and children of the Devil. See 3:7-15  See also John 8:44

But, as children of God we not only have the legal privileges of a child of God (See Romans 8:17), we also have received from God the very life of God.  In II Peter 1:4, Peter says that we participate "in the divine nature."

Martyn Lloyd-Jones observes that when John says, "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us." that John is not just saying that God loves us a lot and has shown it to us by making us His children---though this is true and wonderful.  It is clear that John is saying here that the love God has "lavished on us" is also the love that is now in us; it is the love that we can love others with.  And when we see Jesus Christ we will be able to perfectly love others like He loves us.  When we see Jesus Christ, we will be able to love perfectly like He loves perfectly. See 3:2-3  But, even now God's love is present within us.  "God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit" (Romans 5:5).  What makes us children of God is that we have God's life and love in us.

When John says, "How great is the love," he is amazed that we have become indwelt by God's amazing love.  "What manner of (potpen) means originally 'of what country'.  It is as if the Father's love is so unearthly, so foreign to this world, that he wonders from what country it may come."  "Taken from The Epistles of John by John Stott.  Copyright 1964 by Wm. B. Eeerdmans Publishing Company."  This word is used in Matthew 8:27.  "What kind of man is this?  Even the wind and the waves obey him!"  In other words, where did this man come from?  Applying this to I John 3:1, where did this love that is within us come from?

The final thought in this verse is that it is because we are truly different from the world "that the world does not know us."  The world "did not know" Jesus the Son of God for who He is, so it stands to reason that it would will also not understand who we are. See John 1:5, 15:18-20  Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out that though the world does not know us for who we  are, we who are children of God know and recognize each other. See I Corinthians 2:12-15

c. The glorious hope of the children of God: when He appears we shall be

like Him. (3:2-3)

(1) We shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is. (3:2)

"Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.  But we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." 

Thought Question:  According to these verses, what is true of you if you are a child of God?

 

John begins this verse with a very significant statement, "now we are children of God."  He does not say that one day we will be "children of God," but he says we are "children of God" right now! That fact that we are "children of God" right now will not change next year or the year after next year.  We are "children of God" and will always be "children of God."  We just do not see yet all that it means for us to be "children of God."  This book of I John provides us with tests whereby we can determine whether or not we are "children of God."  If we are a child of God, we will confess our sin (1:5-9), we will seek to do what is right, and we will love others in the manner that we know God loves us.

There are a number of verses in the Bible that promise us that we will one day, as God's children, fully share in His glory.  Here are some of them: "For those God foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son . . . those he justified, he also glorified." (Romans 8:28-29)  God chose us to be like His glorious Son.  "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6)  "But our citizenship is in heaven.  And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body." (Phillipians 3:20-21)  "and we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory are being transformed into his likeness with ever- increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." (II Corinthians 3:18)

Right now, as we behold the glory of God, we are being transformed.  When we see Him face to face in our transformed and sinless bodies in Heaven and separated from this sinful world, we will not shrink from the glory of His holiness.  No, at that time we will become fully transformed, and we will realize fully what it means to be a child of God.  For, then, we will be like Him!

Do you believe these verses that were quoted from other parts of the Bible and these verses in I John?  John says that a Christian is one who "knows" that we Christians will one day be like Him.  Then, he says that because we "know" that we will one day be like Him, it leads us to seek right now to purify our lives! See also Matthew 5:8; John 17:22-24; I Corinthians 13:12, 15:49; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10; II Peter 1:3-4

(2) He who hopes for that day, purifies himself (3:3)

"Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure."

Thought Question:  How does our hope that we will be like Him lead to us purifying ourselves?

 

 

If we know that we are a child of God, who will one day be as pure as He is pure, how does "this hope" affect our lives?  Consider how a college student's hope affects him.  If a college student believes that he will one day be a doctor, how will that affect his time in college?  Most future doctors work to get good grades so they can get into medical school; and they usually seek to understand what is taught in their biology classes so they will understand their medical classes when the time comes.  If you and I believe that we will one day be like Jesus, how will it affect us today?  John says that if we understand who we are and what our hope is, we will purify ourselves right now.  The tense of the Greek verb is in the present active form, which means that we who hope to be like Jesus will actively and continuously seek to purify ourselves.

If we really grasp who we are and what we are to become, we will want right now to become like Him.  We will do all we can from now on to seek to become like Him.

Notice that John is not talking about some super saints who are an elite group of Christians, but he is speaking of each and every Christian.  For each Christian is a child of God and each Christian will become like Him when he or she sees Him face to face.  You and I will become like Him when we see Him face to face!

This is not the only verse in the Bible that first teaches some glorious truth about who we are as Christians and then urges us to, therefore, purify ourselves.  Here are some of those verses: (1) "Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose" (Philippians2:12-13).  "Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God" (II Corinthians 7:1)  "When Christ, who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.  Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed" (Colossians 3:4-5).  Finally, just a few verses before the verse, John says, "And now, dear children, continue in him, so that we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming." (I John 2:28)

We have in this section of verses, what should motivate us as Christians to seek to live a holy and pure life. See James 4:8  Some of the Gnostics of John's time taught that purity was not necessary.  John emphasizes that if we understand who we truly are and Who we will one day be like, we will recognize that we have no other choice but to seek to be like Him now.  We are to read His word and seek to obey what is taught there.  We are to resist temptation.  "Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart" (II Timothy 2:22). 

3. Those who have been born of Him do not continue to sin. (3:4-10)

If you said the word "sin" in a conversation in a public place you would probably receive some disapproving looks.  Those who believe in "sin" are labeled as "Fundamentalists."  But, an understanding of "sin" is an essential part of understanding the Christian life.  John explains how we as "children of God" treat the topic differently than those who are not children of God.

a. "Sin is lawlessness" (3:4)

"Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness."

Thought Question:  What are some ways that our society responds to the word "sin"?  How do they soften its meaning to make it okay to do what is wrong?  How have you softened its meaning in your life so that you did not call something sin when it was sin?

 

 

There were Gnostics [in John's time] who believed that they had attained a level of mystical knowledge that enabled them to be "above moral law, in which case one was rendered neither better for keeping it nor worse from breaking it."  "Taken from The Epistles of John by W. E. Vine.  Copyright 1970 by Zondervan Publishing House."  John demonstrates clearly that when anyone sins, they are rebelling against God and His law.  When John says, "Everyone who sins . . . ", the verb tense of the Greek word translated "sins" is in the present continuous tense.  He is talking about someone who continuously sins.  He is saying that when someone has a life of sinfulness, that person is living in continual rebellion against God and His holy ways.

So, John is saying that sin is not some innocent slip-up or mistake; it is a choice to do what is wrong before God.  When Adam sinned, he chose to break the law that God had given to him.  When we sin, we also choose to do that which we know is wrong.  For example, the Bible clearly teaches that God's moral law prohibits lying.  If we then lie, we have chosen to do that which is in direct disobedience to God's moral law.

What is God's law?  It is simply God's will for us.  Psalm 40:8 makes this clear: "I desire to do your will, O my God; you law is within my heart."  In the typical pattern of Hebrew poetry, David repeats the same thought in two different ways.  According to David, then, God's law and God's will are interchangeable.  The ultimate rebel against God is called the "lawless one" (II Thessalonians 2:8-9).

Notice that John says, "Everyone who sins . . ."  The Gnostics believed that they had reached an elite status and were now above sin.  But no one is above God's law, not even God Himself.  Whenever these Gnostics sinned, they were also being lawless.

Today, in our world, there is a pattern of softening our outlook on sin.  What the Bible calls sin and lawlessness is a disease, an emotional problem, an understandable response to being victimized, a making sure that our own needs and wants are being taken care of, and other ways of avoiding calling sin  what it is-disobeying God's righteous moral standards. See Romans 14:23; James 4:17; and I John 5:17 for other definitions of sin.

b. Those who truly know Him do not continue in sin. (3:5-6)

"But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins.  And in him is no sin.  No one who lives in him keeps on sinning.  No one who continues to sin has either seen or known him." 

Thought Question #1:  According to these verses, what did Jesus do when He came that should motivate us not to sin?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Does what John says here about a Christian being one who does not keep on sinning mean that it is possible to come to the place in our present life where we stop sinning?

 

 

If we truly know why Jesus came to earth --- why He became a man---we will not continue to sin.  "But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins."  John says that his Christian readers "know" why Jesus appeared.  The Gnostics boasted of their mystical knowledge, but they did not know why Jesus became a man.  We as Christians have the true knowledge, for we "know" why Jesus became a man in history. 

Why did Jesus become a man?  The simple answer is-it was because of our sin!  Our sin doomed us to eternal separation from God.  He came to make it possible for us to be eternally united with God.  What was the cost?  As Peter said, "for you know it was not with perishable things such as silver and gold that you were redeemed from your empty way of life…but with the precious blood of Christ." (I Peter 1:18-19) See Luke 19:10  He who was without sin came to seek and to save us who were full of sin. See Hebrews 4:15 and I Peter 2:22  Adam sinned by disobeying God's law and rebelling against God.  Adam was lawless.  We followed him in this lawlessness.  Jesus obeyed God's law perfectly.  Jesus was perfectly law abiding.

Jesus the sinless One came to take away our sin.  When John the Baptist saw Jesus, he said, "Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).  We were carrying the full burden of our sins and the penalty that they required.  Jesus came primarily to take all our sin and the penalty for all our sin on Himself!  "God made him who had no sins to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God." (II Corinthians 5:21)

Before we go on to the next verses, notice that when John says that Jesus "appeared," John is saying that Jesus pre-existed His own birth. 

"No one who lives in him keeps on sinning.  No one who continues to sin has either seen him or knows him."  The NIV translation that is used throughout this study captures the meaning here.  John is not saying that if we are true Christian we will not commit any acts of sin at all.  All of us know that this is not true.  John himself said in an earlier verse, "If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives" (1:10).  What he is saying is what the NIV translates it as saying: if we are a Christian, we can no longer live in sin as a non-Christian can.  We remember that it is because of our sins that the Son of God needed to voluntarily go to a horrible death on the cross.

The Greek verb translated "continues to sin" is in the present tense.  It speaks not of choosing to do one sin, but of continually choosing a life of sin.  One who is a Christian may choose to sin, but he or she will not characteristically choose to continually sin.

There are those within Christianity who teach that this verse and other verses teach that it is possible in this life to reach a state of sinless perfection.  They teach that John is saying here that we can reach a state where we no longer commit any individual acts of sin.  Again, in chapter one verse eight and ten John says that if we say that we have not sinned, we are denying what God says is true of us.  We as Christians will not want to live a life of sin, but we will not be able to live a sinlessly perfect life as Jesus Christ lived.  John is not talking about us who are Christians ceasing to commit any sins at all, but he is saying that Christians who know Jesus Christ will no longer choose a lifestyle of sin.  John's point is that we cannot be one who continually "lives in him" and also be continually sinning.  Living in Him means that we are walking in agreement and harmony with Him.  We cannot be in agreement and harmony with Him and be continually sinning at the same time.

It is undoubtedly because the Gnostics were saying that they could be spiritual and also live a life of sin, that John is making this point that a true Christian will not choose a life of sin.  But, there is also an application for us today.  We should never be influenced by anyone who says it is okay to know God and also live in sin.  As Paul says, "Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?  By no means!  We died to sins, how can we live in it any longer?" (Romans 6:1-2)  We who chose to turn to the cross of Jesus Christ and away from our sins should no longer ever want to turn back to a life of sin.

c. The type of moral life that we have is determined by whether we are of

God or of the devil. (3:7-10)
"Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray.  He who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous.  He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning.  The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work.  No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning because he has been born of God.  This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are:  Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother."

Thought Question #1:  What test does John give us to help us determine whether or not we are a Christian?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How do you believe that Jesus destroyed the "devil's work" when he came to earth the first time?

 

 

"Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray.  He who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous."  John will point out in these verses that we are either in agreement and walking with God or we are in agreement and walking with Satan.  The false teachers appear to have been teaching that it was possible to be righteous, yet not need to be doing what is right and good.  Those that taught this false teaching and followed this false practice had the spirit of the antichrist.  They were perverting and twisting the truth and coming up with a false Christ and false Christianity.  The Christian life devoid of seeking after holiness is not Christianity at all.

We who are Christians walk in the light, but we also have God's life within us.  What John is doing throughout this book is providing for us a way to test ourselves to see if we, during these earthly years, possess God's eternal type of life within us.  One test is that we will not continue to choose to sin if we have God's type of life in us.

The test he gives us here is that if you practice righteousness as a lifestyle, it is because there is righteousness within you.  We do not become righteous by doing what is righteous; we do what is righteous because God has given us His righteous type of life.  An orange tree did not produce oranges and then become an orange tree.  It was an orange tree at first, and then it produced oranges.  So, we do what is righteous, because there is now Christ's righteous life inside of us.

"He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning." 
Here we have a contrast with Christians who continually do what is righteous with those who regularly do what is sinful.  God is the source of what is righteous.  Satan is the source of what is sinful.  When someone regularly chooses sin, that person is "of the devil."  The source of his life is coming from "the devil."  Just as the lemon tree produces lemons, so the devil produces sin. See John 8:44  He is undoubtedly exposing the Gnostics who were doing what is sinful and at the same time saying they were of God.  If they were doing what is sinful, they were not of God, no matter what they said.  They were of the devil!

Each of us was born "of the devil."  "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient" (Ephesians 2:1-2).

Notice that John says that Satan "has been sinning from the beginning."  He has been doing nothing but sinning since his beginning as the devil; since his fall.  When he fell from being God's "guardian cherub" (Ezekiel 28:14) to being "the evil one," he has not had a good thought or a good motive.  He has done what is evil from that time on. See Ezekiel 28:12-10 and Isaiah 14:12-15

"The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work."  This is the first time in I John that John refers to Jesus as the Son of God.  Only the Son of God can completely conquer the devil.  John tells us, first of all, that the Son of God "appeared" to defeat the devil.  When Jesus was born of the virgin Mary, God defeated Satan's attempts to murder His Son.  When Jesus lived on this earth, He performed miracles that proclaimed who He was and is.  When He died on the cross, He conquered Satan by removing the barrier of sin that separated us from God.  When He burst forth from the grave, He conquered all the forces of Hell that were trying to keep Him in the grave.

He came to "destroy the devil's work."  Satan is the tempter, the liar, the accuser, the destroyer, and the murderer.  Jesus appeared to destroy his destructive work in our lives.  His death on the cross destroyed Satan's work of condemnation and guilt.  His life in us destroys Satan's work in us. See Hebrews 2:14; Colossians 2:14-15

"No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning because he has been born of God."

Thought Question:  According to this verse, how can a person tell whether or not he or she is a Christian?

 

 

This verse is placed in contrast to the beginning of verse eight: "He who does what is sinful is of the devil."  We who are born of God cannot live a lifestyle of sin.  We are no longer children of the devil.  We are now born of God.

The Greek verb translated "is born of God" in the Greek language is in the perfect tense.  It tells us that we were "born of God" in the past and continue to be in a state of being "born of God."  We will never cease to be "born of God."

We cannot now live in a continual lifestyle of sin, according to John, "because God's seed remains in" us and because we "have been born of God."  John says not only that we will not sin, but that we "cannot go on sinning, because ..[we]..have been born of God."  He is not saying that we cannot ever commit a single act of sin.  We all know that if never committing a single sin is a requirement for being "born of God," then, not one of us is "born of God."  But, he is saying that one who has been born again of God's Spirit cannot then live like a child of the devil-practice a lifestyle of sinning. 

The Gnostics that were a threat to the church taught, as was mentioned above, that you could believe in their Jesus Christ and continue to have a lifestyle of sin.  John is saying that they were not Christians, but children of the devil.  In 2:19, he said, "They went out from us . . . [because] they did not really belong to us."  John is saying that when we become Christians, God's life came into us and we can no longer live like the devil.

"This is how we know who the children of God are and who children of the devil are:  Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother."

Thought Question:  John adds another test of what will be true of all who are Christians and have God's life within them; what is this new test?

 

 

John now makes the transition to the rest of chapter three.  If you are a child of God, you will love your Christian brother.  Jesus said that they will know that we are Christians by our love. See John 13:35

THE COMBINED GLORIOUS CIRCLES OF LOVE, OBEDIENCE, AND LIFE IN GOD'S SPIRIT (3:11-4:21)
The Christian will show that he or she is a Christian by the presence of God's life within him or her.  This life will be expressed in obedience to God and love toward others.  John describes in these verses how the child of God differs completely from the child of the devil.  In these verses he gives us a very clear contrast between love and hate.

1. The beginning point: "We should love one another." (3:11)

"This is the message you heard from the beginning:  We should love one another."

Thought Question:  How important is it that we who are Christians love each other?  Why is it so important?

 

 

Someone who says that he is a Christian and is full of hate, denies by his life that God's life indwells him.  John ends verse ten which describes the contrast between children of God and the children of the devil by making this statement about someone who claims to be a child of God: "nor is anyone who does not love his brother."  Someone who says he is a child of God but does not love his brother has no reason to believe that he is a child of God.  Then, he says, "We should love one another."  Jesus said, "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."  We should love one another, because now we have in us the life of the God who is love!

2. The circle of hate (3:12-15)

a. Cain's circle of hate (3:12)

"Do be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother.  And why did he murder him?  Because his own actions were evil and his brother's were righteous."

Thought Question:  According to this verse, what was Cain's motive for murdering Abel?

 

 

In a murder case before one of our courts, one of the questions that needs to be asked and answered at the trial by the prosecuting attorney is---what was the motive?  What was Cain's motive for murdering Abel?  Actually, from the Greek word for "murder" that is used here it can better be translated, "Why did Cain "slash" Abel to death?  John tells us Cain's motive for murdering Abel.  Cain was an evil man who hated Abel's righteousness and out of jealousy eliminated by murder the one who outshined him.  Why did the Pharisees seek to murder Jesus?  They were evil men who hated Jesus' righteousness. 

b. The world's circle of hate (3:13-15)

"Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you.  We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers.  Anyone who does not love remains in death.  Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him."

Thought Question #1:  What are the two tests that John gives here that you can use to determine whether or not you are a Christian?  How did you do on the tests?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why does John say that hating someone makes that person a murderer?

 

 

Here we have a clear and unmistakable test of whether or not a person is a Christian.  It is a test of whether or not you are a Christian and whether or not I am a Christian.  First of all, does the world hate us?  Some time ago, I wrote a letter to the editor of our local newspaper in response to a university professor's editorial where he stated that Christians were as bad as the terrorists of September 11th.  My letter, I believe, was well reasoned and it defended Christians against his many charges.  There was one letter in response to my letter.  A fellow resented "my sermon."  He hated what I said because it was Christian through and through.  The world sneers as it calls us extreme right wingers and fundamentalists.  The world hates us to the degree that we follow in the footsteps of Abel.

The world hated Jesus Christ.  They hated Him, although He was totally good and innocent.  They also hate us who have become His children.  Why did they hate Him and why do they hate us?  They, who are in rebellion against God and everything about Him, hate those who love Him and love His ways. 

Jesus said in John 15:18-20:  "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.  If you belonged to the world it would love you as its own.  As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.  That is why the world hates you.  Remember the words I spoke to you:  No servant is greater than his master.  If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also."  We can count on it.  The more we are like our Master, the more the world will hate us.  We are forever aliens in this world.  As Jesus is unlike the world, so we are unlike the world.

The second test of whether or not we are Christians that is given in these verses is the following: do we hate our fellow Christians or love them?  I once literally hated Billy Graham.  My mom would regularly listen to him on television.  I was young and did not know the Lord.  Since we had one television set, we watched Billy Graham instead of something that I wanted to watch.  Why did I hate him?  He spoke of what was good and true.  I was a child of the devil at the time, and I hated what was good.  Today, there is probably no man alive that I respect as much as Billy Graham.  How did my feelings about Billy Graham change?  He did not change; I changed.  I went from being a child of the devil to being a child of God.  "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers."

The Greek word translated "passed" is in the perfect tense.  It describes something that happened in the past, but it continues to be true right up to the present time.  In the past we were dead.  At another time in the past, we who were dead were resurrected and are now alive.  What has happened to us since then?  We are still alive!  And we can tell that we have this life in us, because we continue to love Christians rather than hate and despise them as we once did.  We have come to life through God's Spirit.  Our love for God's children is evidence that God's life is in us.

In I John 5:11-13, John says, "I write these things to you who believe in the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life."  How can you know that you have eternal life?  Those who have God's eternal type of life will love and not hate God's children.  On the other hand, as Johns says in 3:14b-15, "Anyone who does not love remains in death.  Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him." See John 8:14

A final thought: how is someone who hates also a murderer?  Jesus, of course, said that if we hate someone in our heart, we are a murderer. John Stott quotes John Calvin as follows: "In equating the hater with the murderer, John is not exaggerating, 'for we wish him to perish whom we hate' (Calvin)." "Taken from The Epistles of John by John Stott.  Copyright 1964 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company." See Matthew 5:21-26

Do you find love or hate in your heart toward your fellow Christians?  Do you find hate in your heart toward any fellow Christian?  The presence of love is a sign that you are indwelt and forever will be indwelt by God's eternal life.  Those who hate are still of the world and are still experiencing spiritual death.  As John Stott succinctly states: "lack of love is evidence of spiritual death." "Taken from The Epistles of John by John Stott.  Copyright 1964 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company"  Vine adds these thoughts: "Spiritual death involves the absence of spiritual love; the presence of it marks spiritual life…He who professes faith and does not exercise love is after all in his old state of death." "Taken from The Epistles of John by W. E. Vine.  Copyright 1970 by Zondervan Publishing House."

3. The circle of love (3:16-18)

Just as there is a vicious circle of hate, so there is a glorious circle of love.  Hate leads to murder, which includes hate in the heart.  Love leads to giving to others to meet their needs, rather than to hating them and wanting to take their life.  Cain is a prime example of a hater and a murderer.  Jesus is the prime example of one who is a lover.  The greatest selfishness is to take the life of another; the greatest love is to give one's life for another.

a. The Christian circle of love began when Jesus laid down His life for us.

(3:16)
"This is how we know what love is:  Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers."

Thought Question #1:  What does this verse tell us about how we can know with certainty that we have genuine love for someone?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Is there a difference between liking someone and genuinely loving that person?

 

 

It is amazing how much John 3:16 and I John 3:16 have in common.  Both talk about Jesus out of love laying down His life for us.  This verse goes on to say we also should lay our lives down for others.  John 3:16 tells of God's love that made our salvation possible.  I John 3:16 tells of Jesus' love that should lead to our desire to serve others out of love.

John's point in this verse and in the following verses is that love is not just having a nice feeling toward someone.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out that there is a difference between liking someone and loving someone.  Some we find very easy to like.  In fact, there are some people that non-Christians find very easy to like.  There are those who have pleasant personalities.  But, there are also those who are very difficult to like.  Love has nothing to do with how pleasant we find someone to be.  True love occurs when we seek someone's best at a cost to us, even if they are not pleasant for us to be around. 

"Liking someone" is centered on the other person and whether or not we find the other person likable.  Love is centered in us and whether or not we care for them so much that we are willing to sacrifice to do what is best for them. 

Paul tells us that Jesus laid down his life for us when we were hostile and rebellious sinners. See Romans 5:8  We love our fellow Christian not when we merely like their personalities, for even the non-Christian can like those who are likable.  We love our fellow Christian when we are willing to help them when they have a need; even if it means a sacrifice is necessary to meet that need. 

In this verse, John says: "This is how we know what love is: Jesus laid down his life for us."  He is describing what Jesus did at a specific time in history.  He demonstrated His love for us by the action He chose to take on our behalf.  We will see in the next two verses that if we love others, we will also demonstrate our love for them by the actions we choose to make on their behalf.  Sacrificial action is the supreme expression of love.  Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).

God showed us how much He loves each one of us by what He did and by what His Son did in our world at a specific time in history.  The Christian singer Dallas Holm once made a wonderful point in an evangelistic message that I heard some years ago.  He asked, "Could God have shown His love for each of us any better than by what He did for us on the cross?"  I have thought about that statement many times since that night.  May his words bring the same type of comfort and encouragement to you as well.

The glorious circle of love is completed when we do for others what God did for us.  We are Christians in heart and action when we do for others what Christ did for us-not usually in dying for them, but in sacrificially serving them. See Acts 20:35; II Corinthians 5:14-15; Matthew 16:25; Philippians 2:1-8

b. We ought to love others in deed and truth, just as he loved us in deed

and in truth. (3:17-18)
"If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?  Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."

Thought Question #1:  According to these verses, what is a counterfeit form of love?  Why is it counterfeit?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What is meant by loving "in truth"?

 

 

Here we have a test which we can use to evaluate whether or not we are a Christian.  How do we respond when we see someone, especially a member of the church, in need?  If we do not do anything, John says, "How can the love of God be in you?" 

The love that is described in the Bible includes both the motive of love and the action of love.  In Corinthians 13, we learn that it is possible to give and to not be giving out of love: "If I give all I possess to the poor . . . but have not love, I gain nothing" (I Corinthians 13:3).  Paul also says in II Corinthians 9:7, "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."  But giving that does not result in action, even sacrificial action, is also not genuine love.

John asks, "How can we say we love someone when we can see them in need and do not care enough to help them out?"  We might conclude that we love someone because when we are around them we have a warm feeling toward them.  Listen to what James says about this warm feeling without deeds:  "Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?" (James 2:15-16)  Love is both a feeling of compassion and sympathy – feeling their need, and the action of doing something to help meet their need.

Love is not just the mother who cannot swim, jumping into the pond to save her drowning child, but it is also the less obvious heroic act of helping someone when they have a lesser and more ordinary need.  As John says here, "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in     need . . . " See Deuteronomy 15:7

John describes someone who clearly sees a need.  It is the kind of need where if one has the compassion of God, he will immediately want to do whatever he can to help the needy person so there will no longer be a need.  But, if someone sees the need and is able to harden his heart to that need, John asks, "How can God's type of love live in you?"

There are many needs in our world.  We who are Christians can easily live in such a way that we will have little opportunity to know about them.  Someone has said that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.

In verse 18, John says we are not to harden our hearts and we are not to just talk about love.  We are not to "love with words or tongue."  He appears to repeat the same idea in two different words: "words" and "tongue."  What is his point?  To use a modern expression, do not give love a lot of "lip service," do it!  We are to love "with actions and in truth."  This pairing of action and truth reminds me of Jesus' pairing---worshiping "in spirit and in truth," when he talked to the woman at the well. See John 4:23  "Actions" = doing what it takes to meet someone's need.  "Truth" = not just saying you are going to do something and then not doing it---a lie---but actually doing what you say you are going to do---the truth!

4. The circle of love and obedience leads to confidence before God and

confidence in prayer. (3:19-23)

a. The circle of love and obedience leads to confidence before God.

(3:19-20)

"This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us.  For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything."

Thought Question:  According to these verses, how can we "set our heart at rest in his presence"?

 

 

God loves us and showed His love toward us by giving His Son to die for our sins.  We, in turn, are to love others as we have been loved.  Our love, in turn, gives us confidence before God that we are actually His children.  We, then, are not part of a lie and separate from God, but we are living in the truth and are fellowshipping with God.  We are, as Jesus said in John 18:37: "on the side of truth."

The purpose of the book of I John is to provide us with a test whereby we can determine whether or not we have God's eternal life dwelling within us.  If we are compassionate and loving the needy in deed and in truth, it provides us assurance that we know God and that His eternal life now indwells us.  "Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God." (4:7b)

John says our genuine love for others, expressed in actions in response to their needs, is a way of assuring us that we have become God's children.    ". . . whenever our hearts condemns us."  John tells us in the book of Revelation (12:10) that Satan is the accuser" of Christians and that he accuses us "before our God day and night." 

The word "condemns" used here is the Greek word kataginosko.  It is used only three times in the New Testament (here, I John 3:21, and Galatians 2:11).  Ginosko is the Greek word for "know" and kata is the preposition that has as one of its meanings - "against."  It is knowing something against oneself.  It is describing self-condemnation, a self-condemnation that can also be energized by Satan "the accuser" of Christians.

There is true guilt before God that requires that we admit our sin and repent. See II Corinthians 7:10,11  But, there is also a false type of guilt that  results in our feeling that we are condemned and hopelessly separated from God.  Paul felt that condemnation when he cried out, "What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:24)  Satan wants us to stay in this state of hopeless condemnation.  Our genuine concern for others provides us with a basis for assuring us that we are not those who are condemned, but we are those to whom God has given His life and His love.  We love in deed and truth as He has loved us in deed and truth.

What does John mean by, "For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything"?  There are two main choices that commentators offer as the meaning of these words:  (1) God is greater than our condemning hearts and if He does not condemn us, we are not condemned; even if our hearts condemn us.  (2) He is greater than our hearts and He will be sterner in judging us than our hearts.  The second view encourages us to love in deed and truth because we cannot fool God.  If our love is not genuine love, He will know it even if we fool ourselves.  It appears to me, though, that the first choice is the proper interpretation, for John is comforting his readers and at this point no longer exhorting them to love: "This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and this is how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us."

We can be comforted that even though we may feel condemned, our genuine love for others is evidence that we are in relationship with the God who is love.  God, who is bigger than our hearts which condemn us, is pleased and does not condemn us, for we love others as He wants us to love them. See John 21:15-17

b. The circle of love and obedience leads to confidence in prayer (3:21-23)

"Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.  And this is the command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us."

Thought Question #1:  What do these verses tell us about how we can be confident that God will give us what we pray for?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What does John mean by "his commands"?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  What is that "pleases God"?

 

 

The book of James emphasizes that single-minded Christianity, as opposed to double-minded Christianity, will lead to prayers of faith.  This type of prayer can also be called the prayer of confidence. See James 1:5-8 and 5:15-18

In James and I John we learn that a genuine walk with God will result in prayers expressed in confidence or prayers offered in faith.  As it says in Hebrews 4:16, "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence."  What does John say will produce a confident prayer life?  To use the metaphor that we used in seeking to communicate the theme of I John, we can be confident when we see the glorious circles present in our lives-the glorious circles that John describes throughout the be book of I John.  John sums it up in 3:21: "because we obey His commands."  In verse 23, he says that His commands include loving one another---"as he commanded us."

Here is another metaphor that may help you to understand what John is saying here:  If we are in God's flow of things, we will obey God and love others.  When we see that our lives are characterized by obedience to God and love of others, we can, first, be confident that our relationship with God is right, and, second, we can be confident before God in our prayer life.  Jesus puts it as follows: "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you." (John 15:7) See also John 15:16

This word "confidence" is used 4 times in I John.  First of all, we are able to be "confident and unashamed before him at his coming." (2:28)  In this verse, we are told that we can be confident "before God." (2:21)  The other two uses of the word "confidence" in I John are found in 4:17 and 5:14.  In 5:14, the use of the word "confidence" also applies to confidence in prayer.

Boldness and confidence are meant to be part of our Christian life.  "The righteous are as bold as a lion." (Proverbs 28:1)  We are to be bold in our witness to the non-Christian world (See Acts 4:29), and we are to be bold in our prayers (See Luke 11:8).  We can be bold because we are not witnesses about ourselves, but about God; and we are not coming to God in our own name, but in Jesus' name.  The glorious circle of God's love begins with His love for us and is continued by our love and obedience to God in response to His love of us.  This completed circle of love shows us that we are in a relationship with God that began with His love for us and is completed as we love Him by obeying Him.

Our relationship with God is grace-based rather than works-based.  A works-based relationship with God starts with our performance.  In a works-based relationship with God, our relationship with God needs to be earned.  We could, then, only be bold if we are performing well enough.  But, we are not on a works-based relationship with God.  We do not need to grade ourselves on our performance before God before we can be bold.  For, then, we would never know if we are performing well enough to be bold.  Is an A+, or is a C+ good enough.  When are we earning an A+ or a C+?  But, we can be bold because God knows all about us and loves and accepts us fully!  The glorious circle is completed when we respond to His love and grace by loving and obeying Him. We can boldly witness about this God; we can be bold before this God; and we can boldly approach this God for our needs and others' needs because we are so confident in His love for us.  "We love because he has first loved us." (I John 4:19)

What does John mean by "his commands"?  We who love God, love to do what He wants us to do.  We want to do whatever it is that pleases Him. See John 8:29, 15:10

If we are abiding in Christ, united in fellowship with Him, and desiring what He desires; we can boldly ask God for what our hearts desire and what His heart desires, and we will receive what we ask in Jesus' name.  We need to remember, however, that though God immediately hears our prayers and immediately grants our prayers that meet the criteria in these verses, we often do not actually see the answers to our prayers until some time after we pray. See Proverbs 15:29; Psalm 37:4; Matthew 7:7-8; John 9:31; I John 5:14-15

What is it that pleases God?  In Hebrews 11:6, we learn that it is faith that pleases God:  "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."  In verse 23, John follows up the last words of verse 22 – "do what pleases him" with these words: "and this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us."  This is what we can do to please Him.  We learn here what it is that is the object of our faith; our faith that pleases God.  Faith that pleases God is faith in God's Son Jesus Christ.

Also, the faith in Jesus Christ will result in our doing what He commanded us to do: "love one another."  If we believe that Jesus is God's Son, what will we do?  We will obey Him, and He commands us to "love one another."

It is simply true that when we do not love our fellow Christians, it does not please God.  Listen to what Paul says:  "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God . . . Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  Be imitators of God, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us. . . . " (Ephesians 4:30-5:2)  When we are bitter and full of hatred, we grieve God.  When we love, we please God.

John has given us two practices that will assure us that we are indeed God's children.  These two practices that assure us that we are indeed God's children are (1) faith that Jesus Christ is God's Son and obedience to God's Son by loving our fellow Christians.

5. The circle of obedience is made possible by God's Spirit in us (3:24-4:6)

a. God lives, by His Spirit, in those who obey His commands (3:24)

"Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them.  And this is how we know that he lives in us:  We know it by the Spirit he gave us."

Thought Question:  What does this verse tell us about how a Christian is different from a non-Christian?

 

 

Who is a Christian?  It is true that you and I are a Christian if we believe that Jesus died for our sins.  But, it is also true that we who are Christians are people who are indwelt by God.  God's Spirit lives in us, and He does not live in those who are not Christians.  It can be said that we are no longer Homo Sapiens, but we are Homo Spiritens.  We are a new breed of mankind.  We are Spiritually alive to God, while those who do not know Christ are spiritually dead to God. See I Corinthians 2:12-16

A number of years ago I worked, along with a campus pastor, with a large college Sunday school class.  The president of that Sunday class was the son of a pastor.  Yet, he seemed to be disinterested in such spiritual things as reaching out to the lost in evangelism.  The next year he went to a retreat where the speaker boldly presented the gospel and called for revival.  That young man discovered at that retreat that he was not a Christian; and he became a Christian that week.  You see, he was not interested in Spiritual things because God's Spirit was not in him.  A Christian has a new dimension inside Him-the presence of God's Spirit.

b. God's Spirit reveals to us the truth about who Jesus Christ is (4:1-2)

"Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.  This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God:  Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God."

Thought Question #1:  Who are the "spirits" that John speaks about in these verses?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How can you test a spirit to "to see whether [it is] from God"?

 

 

When John talks about "spirits" he is talking about beings who exist in a dimension of reality that is invisible to us.  The Bible says there is an invisible spiritual world.  When we became a Christian, that invisible spiritual world invaded our lives in a very dramatic way when we were born again by God's Spirit.  In Romans 8:16, Paul tells us that "the Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children."  But, as John tells us here, not everything in this invisible spiritual world is from God.  He tells us that we must test the spirits "to see whether they are from God. . ."

Who are these spirits?  They are Satan's demons.  Demons are spiritual beings who are evil through and through.  The Bible is clear that these spirits are behind the false teachers and false prophets in our world.  In I Timothy 4:1, Paul says, "The Spirit clearly says that in the later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons."  In this verse in I Timothy, "spirits" and "demons" are used as interchangeable terms.  In other words, "demons" and "spirits" are different words for the same beings.

What if someone says, "I sense that God wants you to leave your present church and join our church?"  They may tell you that God is moving in their church and not in your church.  They may tell you that they sense that God is moving in their church and not in your church.  They are saying that they are being directed in the invisible spiritual realm by God's Spirit.  A valid question you should ask yourself at this point is, "What spirit is speaking to them or directing them?"  If it is God's Spirit, then, you should definitely listen to that person.  But, as John says here, "Do not believe every spirit."  Instead, we are to "test the spirits to see whether they are from God."  We are not to be gullible and believe everything that we hear; rather, we are to test everything to see if it really is from God as they say it is.

First of all, notice that John does not say, "Pastors and elders, test the spirits."  But, he says to every Christian, "test the spirits."  It is the responsibility of each of us to test the spirits.

So, how can we test the spirits to see whether or not they are from God?  How can we know what is of the Spirit of God and what is demonic in origin? There is only one way we can test the invisible and subjective world.  We need a visible and objective test.  Someone might say that he or she knows intuitively what is from God and what is not from God.  But, the only way we can know for sure what is from God is by comparing it with what we know is from God.  Jesus responded to Satan with the words, "It is written." (Matthew 4:4)  Satan appears as an angel of light and he is a master deceiver.  He is a master at making lies look good.  Even Jesus used the Scriptures to test Satan's lies.  Do we believe we can figure out what is from God and what is not from God without the Scriptures?

How can we test the spirits?  We need to know the authentic teaching of the Bible so well that we recognize it when some teaching is different from that which is taught in the Bible.  The false teachers that John is exposing here were teaching that Jesus was not truly a man.  Some teachers around John's time taught that Jesus only seemed to be a man, but he was not actually a flesh and blood man like each of us.  They said that he was like a phantom who only appeared to be a flesh and blood man.

God's Word written by God's Spirit reveals to us that Jesus was both God and man.  Anyone who teaches differently is led by another Spirit other than God's Spirit. See also II John 7  Whether or not Jesus was a man is no small matter.  For, if He is not a man, He could not have paid the penalty for man's sins in our place.  He also, then, cannot understand our struggles or our temptations. See Hebrews 4:15

It is important to know, also, that the Greek verb translated, "has come" in verse two is in the perfect tense.  It means that he came in the flesh and continues to be in the flesh.  Jesus Christ is still both a man and God. He is now and will continue to be the God/man!

False teachers often teach something similar to what the Bible teaches, yet it is different enough from what is taught in the Bible so that it is vitally different.  Notice, also, that John says the "many false prophets have gone out into the world."  So, it stands to reason, that today in our twenty-first century world, there are also many false prophets and many false teachings.  Today, as in John's time, we need to be very careful that we are not fooled by false prophets and false teaching.

Paul was concerned that the Corinthians believers would be seduced away from God's authentic message to them by false teachers offering them a different Jesus and a different gospel. See II Corinthians 11:4  It is very proper for us to thoroughly test what someone says is from God.  Paul says, "Test everything, hold to what is good." (I Thessalonians 5:21) See also I Corinthians 14:29

c. The spirit of the antichrist teaches lies about Jesus Christ (4:3)

"but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.  This is the spirit of the antichrist which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world."

Thought Question:  List as many different versions of who Jesus Christ is that you can think of.  Who is behind each of these versions?

 

 

We read in the prophetic portions of Scripture that Satan's version of Jesus Christ, the antichrist, will appear in the last days.  John tells us here that the spirit that will empower and guide the future antichrist is already busy in our world today.  The false prophets and false teachers who have invented so many false versions of Jesus Christ and so many false versions of Christianity have been and are now being guided by the spirit of the antichrist.  As John says earlier, "Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come…" (I John 2:18) See also II Peter 2:1; I Timothy 4:1-2; II Timothy 4:3

d. God's Spirit of truth is greater than the lying spirits of that live in  the

false teachers (4:4)
"You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world."

Thought Question #1:  How did those John was writing to overcome the spirit of the antichrist?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  "Greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world" is often quoted when Christians pray; but, why does John say these words in this verse?

 

 

John is clear that those he is writing to are Christians who have "overcome" these demon-directed false teachers that he described earlier.  How did they "overcome" them?  They simply did not believe their lies.  Later, John will say that they overcame these false teachers by listening to John and the other true teachers, rather than listening to the false teachers.

Also, we who are Christians have rejected all the demonically-inspired teachers and teachings of the cults and have listened to the truth from God written in the Bible.  We believe what God has taught us about sin, and we have received salvation through faith that Jesus Christ, God's Son, died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins.

The Greek word translated, "overcome" is in the perfect tense, meaning that we have overcome and continue now in the state of having overcome the false messages of the false teachers.  As we continue to believe God's truth, we continue in a state of victory over the evil one and his teachers.  As John says later in this book, "This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith." (I John 5:4b)

Can we take pride in our acceptance of the true teaching and rejection of false teachers?  John answers that question emphatically.  It is not we who should be praised, but God who should be praised.  It is God who enabled us to overcome these false teachers, for the one who is in us is "greater than the one who is in the world."  In Zechariah 4:6, we hear God's word through Zechariah make the very same point: "Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty."

Who is "the one who is in the world"?  Jesus' words in John 12:31 answer this question, "Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out."  Paul refers to Satan as the "god of this age." (II Corinthians 4:4)  We are unable to overcome Satan and his deception on our own.  God's Spirit in us is greater than Satan, "the one who is in this world."  That is the only reason why we have accepted the truth as the truth, and that is the only reason why we have rejected Satan's lies.  God alone deserves to be praised.

e. We can tell whose child we are by what Spirit or spirits we listen to

(4:5-6)

"They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.  We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us.  This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood."

Thought Question:  What kind of explanation do these verses give for why some people in our world have become Christians and others believe lies rather than the truth?

 

 

The message of false teachers appeals to men and women who do not have Christ in them.  It tells those apart from Christ that they can climb up to God on their own as well as many other lies.  Christians have been taught by God's Spirit about mankind's sinfulness and our sinfulness.  We have learned from God's Spirit that even what we consider as pure is an abomination in God's pure eyes.  "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away." (Isaiah 64:6)  "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9) See also I Corinthians 1:17-2:5

How can we tell if we are from the world and are those who truly know God?  John gives us a clear test in these two verses.  What do we think of the words of God's spokesmen in the Bible?  Those who know God believe the Bible is God's book and that it carries with it God's full authority.  Those who are of the world reject the Bible and listen to the world's version through Satan's many spokesmen.

One characteristic of a cult is that it cannot allow their followers to simply read the Bible and obey it.  Their false teachers need to be continuously indoctrinating their followers in their distortions of the Bible.  John says, "This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the Spirit of falsehood."  How?  The answer is simple: those who are of the spirit of falsehood do not listen to what is written in the Bible and those who are of the Spirit of truth do listen to what God has written to us in the Bible. See John 8:47,
10:4-5,16,26,27, 14:17, 15:26, 16:13-14, 18:37

The reason we recognize God's Word for what it is, is because God's Spirit guided the writing of God's Word, and God's Spirit operates in us to reveal to us that He wrote it and that what He wrote there is the truth!

6. God's circle of love began with God's love for us (4:7-12)

In these verses we have the prime example of how John thinks in glorious circles.  For we find in these verses that our love starts with God's love.  He loves us, and we are to appropriately respond to His love by loving Him and by loving others.

a. God began the circle of love by enabling us to be born into His family of

love. (4:7-8)
"Dear friends let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."

Thought Question #1:  From these verses, what should every true church of God be like?  Why are churches sometimes not like this?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What is the significance of the word "is" in "God is love"?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  What do the words, "God is love" say to you about the Trinity?

 

 

What is said here is beyond what any of us can imagine.  It is much too good to be true.  First of all, "God is love."  He does not say that God loves, God is loving, or that God loves us, but that "God is love."  This truth is wonderful beyond anything in the universe.  If you do not believe that immediately, consider what it would be like if the Supreme Ruler of the universe was anything but love.  But, "God is love."  This universe is not cold and heartless.  The One who created it "is love."  Do you ever feel unloved and alone?  That is never true. Because "God is love," each of us is loved.  Someone has said that all of our problems would be solved if we merely believed what the Bible says about God.

"God is love" means that all that God does is out of love.  Even His justice is done in love.  For all that is evil and destructive must be judged and removed, for love to prevail.

What is almost as wonderful is that we have been born into His family of love.  We also, at the core of our new being, have God's love indwelling us.  As an apple tree gives birth to apples, so God has given birthed His love in us.  John exhorts us, therefore, to "love one another."  John says that if we do not love, we are not one of those who have truly come to know God, for "God is love."

"God is love" means that all that God does is out of love.  Even His justice is done in love.  For all that is evil and destructive must be judged and removed for love to prevail

What is almost as wonderful is that we have been born into His family of love.  We, also, at the core of out new being, have God's love indwelling us.  As an apple tree gives birth to apples, God's love has been born in us.  John exhorts us, therefore, to "love one another."  John says that if we do not love, we are not one of those who have truly come to know God, for "God is love." 

In verse eight, John says that if we do not love, we have not come to know God.  The word "know" is in the tense of the Greek language which tells us that at some point in time we did not know God.  We did not know God, and then at a point in time (the aorist tense in the Greek language), we came to know God.  We came to know God when we were "born of God."  We have been born of this God who "is love."

Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out that Augustine saw these words as pointing to the Trinity.  How can God be love if there was a time before creation when there was no one to love?  But, if within God there are three Persons who fully and perfectly love each other, it makes sense that "God is love"!

This is the way we are to love each other.  We are to love each other as the Father loves the Son; as the Son loves the Father; as the Father loves the Spirit; as the Spirit loves the Father, as the Son loves the Spirit, and as the Spirit loves the Son.  That is a lot of loving!  How can we know we are Christians?  This is one of the main purposes of this book of I John.  We can know we are in God's eternal family by the love we have for each other. See also I John 1:5; John 4:24

 b. God began the circle of love when he sent His one and only Son to die

to pay the penalty for our sin (4:9-10)
This is how God showed his love among us:  He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins."

Thought Question:  What do these verses tell you about how true love will always express itself?  According to these verses, how did God show that He truly loves you?

 

 

Someone can say, "In my heart I love you."  How, then, can you come to know whether the love this person says he has for you is real?  It would need to be shown by the way he acts toward you.  John just said that "Love comes from God" (4:7) and "God is love (4:8).  How can we know that "God is love"?  He must somehow show us that He is love by His acts of love toward us.  Now, listen to John's words: "This is how God showed his love among us:  He sent his one and only son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins."  As I shared earlier, an evangelist I heard once made this powerful point: "Could God have shown us in any better way that He loved us than by sending His Son to die for us to pay our penalty for sin?"  The obvious answer is, "No!"  "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)  "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us." (I John 3:16a)

Jesus became the "atoning sacrifice for our sins."  For us, He took the full impact of the Father's righteous wrath against all of our ugly sins.  We have no idea how much it cost the Father and His Son.  We also have no idea how much we are loved.

John also points out in these verses that it was not we who loved God, but He who loved us: "not that we loved God."  We not only did not love God, we hated Him: "the sinful mind is hostile to God." (Romans 8:7a)  Romans 5:10 tells us that we were God's enemies before we became Christians.  Listen also to Paul's words in Colossians about our former enmity towards God: "Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your mind. . ." (Colossians 1:21)  So, there is no question who it was who began the circle of love.  We began the circle of hate.  God chose not to hate us back (the normal response to hate), but to love us back.

God sent His Son into the world "that we might live through him."  God, in love, has done everything necessary to reverse the curse on us that came as a result of Adam's sin.  In love, God took care of our legal problem with God, our alienation from God problem, and our separation from the life of God problem.  Now, we are justified – legally right with God, reconciled – relationally right with God, and regenerated by God's Spirit - spiritually right with God.  What God, in love, has done for us is too wonderful to comprehend.  What should our response be to God's amazing love toward us?

c. Since God loves us so much, we who have God living in us should love

each other (4:11-12)
"Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is made complete in us."

Thought Question:  John says here in 4:12, that "his love is made complete in us."  What does John mean by love becoming complete?  This, I believe, is a key to understanding the book of I John.

 

 

In chapter one verse four, John said that he wrote this book "to make our joy complete."  How can our joy be full?  Is it made complete by contemplating the love of God?  No, it becomes complete when we complete the circle of love by loving others!  He first loves us, then, we are to love Him back and to love each other.  The letters to the churches contain great truths about God's love and grace toward us, followed by exhortations to us urging us to both (1) love God by obeying His commands exhortations and (2) love each other with God's type of love.

What is God's type of love toward us?  He loved us when we were completely unlovable.  What type of love should we have toward one another?  Obviously, we should love others in the same way that we have been loved by God and are loved by God.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones recounts how he found that he was enabled to love those who were difficult for him to love.  First of all, he chose to not focus on what they did that made it difficult for him to love them.  Then, he chose to focus on how God had loved him in spite of what he had done against God.  John Stott makes the same point: "No one who has been to the cross and seen God's immeasurable and unmerited love displayed there can go back to the a life of selfishness." "Taken from The Epistles of John by John Stott.  Copyright 1964 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

Ray Stedman says that verse 11 is the answer to every lame excuse on our part which says, "Oh, I just can't love that person.  You don't know what she's like."  He goes on to say, "Do not come up with the shabby, sleazy imitation of love that is nice to another's face and cuts him to death behind his back.  That is not love." "Taken from a message by Ray Stedman on I John."

Verse twelve introduces an unexpected statement:  "No one has ever seen God."  John continues with, "but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us."  Some in the non-Christian world argue that they will not come to believe in God until He reveals Himself to them in such a clear way that there is no question that He has revealed Himself to them.  But, the Bible says that no man has ever seen God.

In I Timothy 6:15-16, Paul says the following:  "God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of Kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. . . "  God is more than we can handle at this time.  But, we can, as John says here, know that if we love others as He loves us; that this awesome God is living in us.  If we love others like He loves us, we can be certain that we know God.

John tells us, furthermore, that if we love others, "God lives in us."  We cannot see Him, but our love shows us that He lives in us.  Then, he goes on to say once more that God's love becomes "complete in us" when we love others.  What makes God's love complete?  God's love becomes complete when it goes full circle: God loves us, we love God, and we love others.  When we do not return His love by loving Him and by loving others, His love is not completed.  We also are not experiencing complete joy.  Among the members of the Trinity, love is both received and expressed. 

Love is not completed when love is only received, but is not expressed in any way by the one receiving the love.  Consider what it would be like for a wife to truly love her husband, but to never receive any love back from him.  She shows and demonstrates her love for him in many practical ways, but he never returns love back to her.  He just receives the love.  Would the love in that marriage be completed love?  It is obvious that the answer is no.  Love becomes complete when the love we receive is returned to the one who loves us. 

Why did God send His Son to die for us?  Ultimately, His purpose was that we might become like Him.  He "is love."  When we love others, we have become like Him.  And when we love others, our love is made complete.  God's love has reached its ultimate goal, and that goal is that we now love others in the same way as He loves.

We cannot see God because God is Spirit.  But, we can spiritually experience who God is in His essence!  He is love and when we love, we experience the very essence of who God is!  Also, others are able to see the essence of who God is when they experience our love---God's love for them is expressed through us!  As Ray Stedman said, "When we start being nice to those who are nasty to us, when we start returning good for evil, when we start being patient, tender, thoughtful and considerate of those who are stubborn, obstinate and selfish, and say difficult things to us, then people get the sense that God is somewhere around, close at hand." "Taken from Ray Stedman's message on I John 4. Discovery Publishing."

7. God's Spirit makes the circles possible.  Because God has given us His

Spirit, we are able to know that God lives in us and we in Him,
that Jesus is God's Son, and that we can rely on God's love (4:13-16a)

The Christian is uniquely different than the non-Christian.  Each of us who are Christians now sees that Jesus is God and that God sent Him to die for us.  Most everybody has heard of John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."  But, it is only the Christian who really believes that it is true.  How do we know Him?  It is because God's Spirit in us has enabled us to know and to believe.

"We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.  And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.  If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.  And so we know and rely on the love God has for us."

Thought Question:  Does God live in you?  How do you know that He lives in you?  How do these verses help you to know that God lives in you?

 

 

As John Stott observes, John expands in verses 13-21 on what he said in verse 12:  In verses 13-16 John's focus is on "God lives in us," and in 17-21 he focuses on what it means to have God's love being "made complete in us."

In these verses, then, John focuses on "God lives in us."  He says in verse 13 how we can know that "God lives in us."  We know that "God lives in us, "because he has given us of his Spirit."  Our relationship with God is uniquely different from every other relationship that we have.  For, it is not just a relationship with God, but it is an internal relationship with Him-for He is in us.  God through His Spirit is in us!

As we continue in these verses, John will reveal how we can know that God's Spirit lives in us-that we "live in him and he in us."  God wants us to know that He lives in us.  That is how John ends this book: "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life." (I John 5:13) 

"And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.  If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God."  Who is the "we" who have "seen and testify" that Jesus is God's Son and our Savior?  John could be talking about the other apostles and of himself.  They saw who Jesus is; and after His death and resurrection, they preached to the world that He was God's Son and the Savior of the world.  But, from verse thirteen on it appears that the "we" refers to all Christians: "we know that we live in him, and he in us" "and "we have seen and testify about who Jesus is."

How is it that we who are Christians see Jesus differently than the rest of those in our world?  Many see Jesus as an interesting man; but just a man.  We see Him, as John says here, as God's Son and the "Savior of the world."  Why do we and all Christians who ever lived see Him so differently Him than others?  God's Spirit enables us to see who He is.  "We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God that we may understand what God has freely given us." (I Corinthians 2:12)

Even the Apostles who were physically with Jesus Christ could only understand who He was when it was revealed to them by God's Spirit.  "Simon Peter answered, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'  Jesus replied, 'Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in Heaven." (Matthew 16:16-17)

As John says here, we see that Jesus, God's Son, is the "Savior of the world."  Here, John is talking about the gospel.  At this point we could be thinking, "What is so significant about believing the gospel?"  In I Corinthians, Paul explains that the world does not believe the gospel, but rejects it: "We preach Christ crucified; a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles."        (I Corinthians 1:23)  How can we believe that Jesus is the Savior?  God's Spirit enables us to see, understand, and believe what the world spurns and rejects.

John calls Him "the Savior of the world."  It implies, obviously, that the world needs a Savior.  It implies that the world is in desperate shape and it necessary that God send His Son to save us.  There was a sign that was often on Rescue Missions: "Jesus saves."  The world, in their pride, resented that sign.  At Lord's Table, around the world, we who are Christians celebrate that Jesus saves and that He has saved us! 

It is important for us to notice in verse fourteen that John does not say that Jesus became God's Son when He was born in a manger, but that the Father sent His Son to the world.  He was the Son before He became a man.  He is the eternal Son of God.

"If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God."  Those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God and Savior of the world have been enabled to do so by the Holy Spirit.  Thus, when we acknowledge that we believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior and God's Son, we show that we have this unique relationship with God.  He lives in us and we live in Him.  We are organically and spiritually united and related to God. See Romans 10:9

The Greek word for "acknowledges" in this verse is the same word used for confessing our sins in I John 1:9.  It means in 1:9 to agree with God about our sin.  Here, it means that we agree with what the apostles believed and testified about Jesus Christ.  We also have seen and testify that Jesus is God's Son and the Savior of the world.

"And so we know and rely on the love God has for us."  How are we able to "know and rely on the love God has for us"?  The answer to this question is found in the verses just before this verse.  What we find is a mixture of the objective and subjective aspects of Christianity.  The objective aspect is Jesus, God's Son, living as a man and dying on a cross in physical history.  The subjective aspect is God's Spirit enabling us in the spiritual part of us to be able to see that He is the Son of God and our Savior.  The objective truths of Christianity without the Spirit produce a cold-doctrinal type of Christianity.  The subjective without the objective history and doctrine of the Bible produces a dangerous "I-believe-it-because-I-feel-it" emotionalism and mysticism.  Without God's Word, there is no way to test the subjective aspect of Christianity-to determine what actually is coming from God and what is not coming from God.

John gives a test in this book whereby we can determine or test whether or not our spiritual experience is from God or from some other source.  What are the tests?  One test is whether or not we recognize that Jesus is God's Son and the Savior of the world.  Another test is whether or not we love each other as God loves us.  We truly know God in a deeply spiritual way only if we love each other.  Spiritual or mystical experience without love is not a spiritual or mystical experience that comes from God.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones asks this question:  "How do I know that God loves me?  Is it because of some sensations or feelings?  No!"  "Taken from The Love of God by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1994 by Crossway Books."  He goes on to say that we know of God's love because of Jesus Christ and what he did for us on a cross in Jerusalem.

8. God's circle of love takes away our fear of God's judgment (4:16b-18)

John has been describing true Christianity.  It is a relationship with a God who is light (1:5), who is love (4:8, 16b), who is Spirit (4:13).  When we have a genuine relationship with Him, we will be affected by His absolute holiness; we will be enlightened, and directed and motivated by his Spirit; and we will love!  We will not have part of these three.  They are one package.  Now, John focuses on how God's love will affect each true Christian.

a. God's circle of love leads us to become like him (4:16b-17)

"God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.  In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him."

Thought Question:  What do these verses tell you about what you can do today that will enable you to be confident when you stand before Jesus Christ one day? (No small question)

 

 

Vital Christianity, based on a living relationship with God who is love, will be characterized, above all else, with love!  What kind of love?  True Christianity will exhibit the same type of love for others that God has shown toward us.  What kind of love?  I repeat: true Christianity will exhibit the same type of love for others that God showed toward us.  He loved us when we were totally unlovable, full of hate, and in rebellion toward Him.  We are living in His type of love when we also love those who are unlovely, hateful toward us, and antagonistic toward us.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out that living in love means that it is not something that we do on occasion, but it is something that we live in as a characteristic attribute of our everyday pattern of life.  It becomes the type of life we regularly live.  It becomes our home, our residence.  If we live in God as our home, we will also reside in love for "God is love."  He loves us; then, we love Him and love each other.

"In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him."  What will produce boldness in us?  The answer is given in this verse: it is when God's love has come full circle and we love others like He has loved us and loves us.

One day, every person will come face to face with Jesus Christ.  Those who do not know Jesus Christ will come before Him at the Great White Throne Judgment described in Revelation 20:11-15.  There, each man and woman will face the ultimate consequence for their rejection of God and His ways: eternal judgment in the lake of fire.  But, the Christian will also stand before Jesus Christ one day.  "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done in the body, whether good or bad." (II Corinthians 5:10)  It will not be a place of punishment, but a place of rewards.  But it can also be a place where we discover that our works are selfishly motivated and worthy only to be burned up. See I Corinthians 3:10-15  See also John 5:27; Matthew 25:31-46; Acts 10:42, 17:31; Romans 14:10-12

How can we prepare for that day, so that we will not be ashamed, but confident before Jesus Christ?  The answer is found in these verses in I John.  When "l o v ei s  m a d e  c o m p l e t e," then, we can be assured that our lives will be acceptable to Jesus Christ when we stand before Him.  Then, we will "have confidence on the day of judgment."  What will make us confident on the Day of Judgment?  It is when we are like Him "in the world."  When can we be confident?  It is when God is making us like Him.  He will be pleased with us because he is the One who is fully supportive of us being like Him.  We cannot be like Him without Him enabling it to take place.

Ray Stedman tells this story that highlights when God is pleased with us:  "Some years ago a group of us were in Newport Beach, California having a Prayer Breakfast together.  I recall that at the close of the breakfast, which was one of those times when it was very evident that the Spirit of God was working in unusual ways, I overheard two men speaking together.  They were strangers to me, but evidently they were Christians because one of them said, 'Oh, wasn't this wonderful!  You know, I think God was really pleased at what happened this morning."  And the other one said, "Well, he ought to be; he did it.'" "Taken from a message by Ray Stedman. Discovery Publishing."

b. God's circle of love drives out all fear (4:18)

"There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love."

Thought Question #1:  What is the "perfect love" that drives out fear?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How does "perfect love" drive out fear?

 

 

Certainly every Christian desires that that which is promised in this verse would be true for him or her.  I have often wondered, over the years, what is meant by perfect love.  It is certainly desirable to have, for it results in fear being driven out of one's life.  John even says that if you or I fear, it shows that we have not been "made perfect in love."

What, then, is "perfect love"?  The context of I John clearly explains to us what "perfect love" is.  It is explained in the verses previous to verse 18, but it is even more completely explained in verses 19-21.

Our love is "perfect" or completed love when the following ingredients are present.  First of all, it is essential that we truly believe in God's love for us.  We need to believe that God has shown us in history how much He loves us.  His Son, Jesus Christ, laid down His life for us!  "For God so loved us that He gave His one and only Son . .  ." (John 3:16)  The apostle Paul, at the end of Romans 8 expressed his confidence in God's love when he said that nothing could separate him from the love of God in Jesus Christ. See Romans 8:31-39  So, first of all, "perfect love" is God perfectly loving us.  We can be freed from fear because the Sovereign and Almighty God fully loves us and desires to take care of us.

Second, love has been perfected or completed when we love others as He has loved us.  If we hate others, can we be free from fear?  If we are self-centered, can we be confident before God?  Love, then, becomes our fortress to shield us from fear when we are both trusting in God's love for us and dedicated to loving others as He has loved us.  This is the "perfect love" that "drives out fear." 

It is also like the perfect light that drives out darkness.  It is also similar to the perfect love of a mother who jumps into a raging river or a raging fire to pull out her child.  Her love drives out fear as she perfectly thinks only of the child's safety and is not fearful for herself.  She is so filled with concern for her child that there is no room for fear.  There is also no room for fear when we do not think of ourselves, but out of love become completely or perfectly absorbed with the needs of others.

Adam and Eve hid from God after they had sinned.  Now, because of the cross, we can come out hiding and boldly enjoy fellowship with God.  For fellowship to be true, complete, or perfect fellowship requires that we love others as He has loved us.  The circle of love must be completed for love to be complete.

9. God's circle of love began with Him first loving us and needs to lead to

us loving each other (4:19-21)
In theses verses we find a summary of the type of love that has made a complete circle and has become completed or perfect love.

"We love because He has first loved us.  If anyone says, 'I love God,' yet hates his brother, he is a liar.  For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.  And he has given us this command:  Whoever loves God must love his brother."

Thought Question #1:  John says that it should be easier to love someone that you see than to love God whom you cannot see; why is this true?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why can't we love God and hate our brother at the same time?

 

 

a. Our love comes in response to His love for us. (4:19)

"We love because he first loved us."

God is the sole initiator of love.  We did not love Him first and then, because of our love for Him, He then loved us.  He actually loved us when we hated Him.  Jesus loved those who were crucifying Him.  "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)  All true love is a response to the One who started the circle of love going.

 b. We cannot love God and hate our brother. (4:20)

"If anyone says, 'I love God,' yet hates his brother, he is a liar.  For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen."

It appears that the false version of Christianity of John's time, the Gnostics, taught that they loved God, but that did not require them to love other people.  They focused on growing close to God, without the necessity of loving people.

During the late 60s, I was a college student at San Jose State College in northern California.  I was a new Christian during the time of the hippies or love generation.  They said that they believed in love and yet they hated the police.  They called them "pigs."  My conclusion at the time was that you cannot be the "love generation" if you are filled with hate for policemen.

Is it possible for you to love God and hate a fellow Christian?  John says that this is impossible.  Why, then, is it impossible for you to love God if you do not love your fellow Christians?  John says that this is impossible.  Why, then, is it impossible for us to love God if we do not love our fellow Christians?  John says that we cannot love God whom we do not see if we do not love people whom we can see.  Now, at this point, you and I might observe that it is much easier to love a thoroughly lovable and loving God than it is to love our fellow Christians who can at times be annoying, stubborn, harsh, judgmental, and a host of other unpleasantries.  But, John says that we are a liar if we say we love God and hate our fellow Christians.  

Why, then, can you not both love God and hate a fellow Christian?  One reason is that if you love God you will keep His commandments.  One of His primary commandments is that we love our fellow Christians: "This is my command: Love each other." (John 15:17)

Secondly, if you do not love your Christian brother, you hate one whom God loves. You hate one whom Jesus died for.

Thirdly, if you do not love a fellow Christian, you hate one who is part of God's eternal family.  How can we love God, when we hate one of His family members-a family member we will spend eternity with?

Furthermore, John's point is valid (of course): if we cannot love someone we can see; how can we love God whom we cannot see?  It is easier to love someone whom we can see: (1) for we can see what they need;  (2) we can see when our love helps them.  It is easier to love those who desperately need our love, than love the One who has no needs.

So, we must agree with John's words.  If we say we love God, but do not love our fellow Christians, we are lying.  For loving God and loving Christians is part of God's circle of love.  If part of the circle is missing, it is all missing!!

c. If we love God, we must also love our brothers (4:21)

"And he has given us this command:  Whoever loves God must also love his brother."

Loving other Christians, even those we find unlovable, is not an option for any of us who are Christians.  John makes it clear that God has commanded us to love our fellow Christians.  If we love Him, certainly obeying this command will be one of the highest priorities of our lives.  This command is found throughout the Bible. See Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22:37-40; Luke 10:27; John 13:34-35, 15:17; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14

GOD'S GLORIOUS CIRCLES SHOW US THAT WE ARE BORN OF GOD (They give us assurance that we are Christians who are born of God) (5:1-12)
The primary purpose of I John is stated clearly in 5:13: "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life."  What has John written in I John that will help us to know that we are an eternal member of God's family?  It is what I have call "glorious circles."  He is light and we appropriately respond to Him who is light by confessing our sin and wanting to be like Him.  God is love and we respond to His love by loving others.

What John has been leading up to throughout this book is that a genuine relationship with God who is light and love is made possible by God's Spirit.  As we genuinely live in this new relationship with God, made possible by God's Spirit, we gain assurance that we are Christians who are born of God.  How will we get this assurance?  It will come as we experience God's eternal type of life.  It is a life of humility before Him and a life of expressing the type of godly qualities from Him that have been described throughout I John-a life of righteousness and love.

"Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome,"

Thought Question:  What do you find in these verses that you can use to test yourself to see whether or not you have been born of God and have His eternal life indwelling you?

 

 

1. Our belief that Jesus is the Christ shows us that we are born of God

(5:1a)
"Every one who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God."

The Greek verb translated "believes" is in the perfect tense.  The perfect tense in the Greek language describes something that happened in the past and continues to be true.  In other words, John is saying that we were born of God in the past and are now still in the state of being born again.

So, what John is saying is that the reason that we are continually believing that Jesus is the Christ is because we have been born again of God and remain in a state of being born again of God.  We are enabled to believe that Jesus is the Messiah promised by God because of the new life from God that we received when we were born of God and that continues to be in us.  Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God---God in the flesh?  Why are your able to continue to believe that Jesus is God's Son?  In this portion of this verse, John explains why we continue to believe.  God's life in us enables us to continue to believe!  God's life enables us to believe that the historical Jesus Christ was not just a simple human carpenter, but God's Son in the flesh. See John 3:3-18; James 1:18; I Peter 1:3; II Peter 1:4

2. Our love for God and His children shows that we are born of God (5:1b)

"and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well."

Another way that we can tell if we are born again Christians is by our attitude toward God and toward other Christians.  There are many reasons that this is true.  First of all, we are now all in the same family.  As God's children, we love our Father who has demonstrated by the sacrifice of His Son that He loves us.  We also love those who are also His children-those who are born of God as we are.

Also, John says in 4:7, "Everyone who loves has been born of God."  We love because we have been given a new birth by God who is love.  Love is a family trait in our new spiritual family.

Also, we love God's children because we have so much in common with them.  They and we were lost sinners.  They and we became members of God's family totally by God's grace.  At the Lord's Table, we remember the bond we share as we acknowledge together the price that Jesus paid for all of us.  Furthermore, we are together heading toward the very same destination.  For as John said earlier in the book: "We know that when he appears, we shall be like him." (3:2)

"That is how we know we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands."

Here, we see a perfect example of the glorious circle.  Basically, if we do one, we must also do the other.  How can we tell if we love God's children?  We will love God.  How can we tell if we love God?  We will love His children. See 4:20  It is a one-piece outfit.  You cannot truly put on the bottom of the outfit without also putting on the top of the outfit.  Love for God's children and for God cannot be separated from each other.  They are together necessary parts of a loving and vital relationship with God.  Remove love for God or love for God's children and you do not have a genuine relationship with God.

Also, loving God cannot be separated from obeying His commands.  Jesus said, "If you love me, you will obey what I command." (John 14:15) 

John's point is that you cannot separate any one of these from the other without losing authentic Christianity.  What if someone says that they love God, but they can't stand to be around Christians (or even a particular Christian)?  Or, what if someone says that they love God, but they show that they do not obey what He commands us to do.  Undoubtedly, the false teachers of John's time were teaching or living out a counterfeit Christianity that promoted the belief that you could love God without loving others.  Or they may have separated one of the other essential elements from their version of a relationship with God.  John says, "No, you must have all of these ingredients to have an authentic relationship with God."  It is only when you love God, obey His commandments, and love His children that your relationship with God is authentic and you truly know God.

"This is love for God: to obey his commands.  And his commands are not burdensome."

Thought Question:  Why do you believe that God's commandments are not burdensome to those who are God's children?

 

 

A Christian who loves God will not see God's commands as a burden to him or her.  There was a song some time ago that contained the refrain, "He's not heavy, he's my brother."  The true Christian life is not a tiresome task done by reluctant but dutiful persons, but the type of Christian life that John experienced is a task done out of love for God.  Obeying God is not heavy, for I am doing it for the One who loves me more than anyone else loves me and who is carrying the heavy part of the burden for me.  Psalm 119 is a picture of someone who finds obeying God a great joy.  To him, God's commandments are light and are not a burden.  Instead, they are his greatest source of joy: "The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold." (Psalm 119:72)  If God's commandments are a great burden to you and to me, then we also do not love God.  For, if we truly loved God, we would also truly love to obey His commands. See Matthew 11:28-30; Psalm 19:11

3. Our faith that overcomes the world shows that we are born of God

(5:4-12)

a. Our faith that Jesus is the Son of God overcomes the world (5:4-5)

"For everyone born of God overcomes the world.  This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world?  Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God."

Thought Question:  How does our faith overcome the world?

 

 

John tells us that those who are born of God overcome the world.  What is the world that we overcome?  John described it in 2:15-17.  It is a system that caters to fleshly lust, greed, and pride, and is basically godless in its viewpoint.  How can we overcome these selfish desires and the world system that promotes them?  God gives us a new set of desires; He gives us the desire to love and obey Him, and to love others.  If we are pursuing these holy desires, we will conquer worldly desires such as greed and pride.  It is only those who are born of God who can overcome the world with its unholy desires. 

John next says that we overcame the world when we believed in Jesus Christ-it is "our faith."  For it was when we believed in Jesus Christ that we were "born of God."  At the very minute that we believed in Christ and became "born of God," we overcame the world.  For our new birth enabled us to desire what God desires rather than what the world desires.  We became those who now find the world and its filthy ways disgusting and God's holy ways appealing.  We are those who dramatically conquered the world and its desires when we were born of God.  We began, then, to have a whole new set of desires.

The world is also a system that rejects God.  It is godless and defiant toward the God of the Bible.  If we are living in this new life from God, we are overcoming the world's godless ways as we are living in constant faith that Jesus is the Son of God. 

Overcoming the world is a very important part of the Christian life.  The key question, then, is how do we do it?  The monks and others (ascetics) sought to overcome the world by isolating themselves from it.  But as Martyn Lloyd-Jones observes, the world is not only on the outside of us, it is also on the inside of us.  So, we really overcome the world when we victoriously deal with the worldly desires within us.

To overcome the world, we must first see that it needs to be overcome.  Someone put it this way, "I am sinking deep in sin.  Whoopee!"  Because that person has no desire to overcome the world, he is completely unlikely to overcome the world.  It is exciting, though, when we see some worldly individual like this person become a Christian and begin to see the world in a completely differently way.

But, the battle does not end there for each of us who are Christians.  We must continue in this vital relationship with God which has dramatically changed our way of looking at life and has completely changed the central desires of our life.  Throughout the book of I John, John has been describing the type of relationship with God that will enable us to conquer the world's pull on us.  For example, walking in the light of God's presence enables us to see what is holy and what is filthy.  Hating what is worldly helps us to conquer the world's pull on us.

John explains that it is our continuing belief that Jesus is the Son of God that enables us to continually overcome the world.  As a non-Christian we closed our moral eyes and did not see who Jesus Christ is.  As Christians we now clearly see who Jesus is.  As the Christian hymn says, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus and the things of the world will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace."  Our continued faith that Jesus is the Son of God will enable us to overcome the pull of the world.  We know He is real and that He will come again: "we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.  Everyone who has this hope purifies himself just as he is pure." (3:2-3)  This "world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever." (2:17)

b. We have three witnesses that give us evidence to believe that Jesus is

the Son of God-the water, the blood, and the Spirit. (5:6-8)
"This is the one who came by water and blood ---Jesus Christ.  He did not come by water only, but by water and blood.  And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is truth.  For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement."

Thought Question:  Why do the three witnesses who testify---the water, the blood, and the Spirit---give us who are Christians sufficient witness to satisfy us that Jesus is the Son of God?  (Remember the words right before this verse, 5:7, says: Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.")

 

 

It is clear that John is bringing in, at this point, three witnesses that give evidence that Jesus is truly the Son of God.  The Bible teaches that Jesus is fully God and fully man and yet one undivided Person.  The false teachers had other views of who Jesus Christ is.  Jesus told us that following Him requires walking a narrow path.  Part of following Him on that narrow path necessitates that we believe exactly and narrowly what the Bible tells us about who He is.  False teachers would rather that we have a broader view of who Jesus is.

Cerinthus was a Gnostic teacher of John's time.  It is said that John walked out of a bathhouse in Ephesus when he heard that Cerinthus was there.  He feared that God would strike that bathhouse with His judgment on Cerinthus while John was there.  Cerinthus was a heretic who believed that Jesus was a mere man whom "the Christ" descended on as a dove at his baptism.  He further believed that "the Christ" left him before he died on the cross.

John is saying that Jesus was God in the flesh throughout His entire earthly life.  Here is what he said in 4:1-3:  "Dear friends, do not believe every Spirit [for example, the spirit who indwelt Cerinthus], but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.  This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God:  Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.  This is the spirit of the antichrist." 

John says that Jesus "came by water and blood."  These words tell us that there was a time in history when Jesus came.  He came to the world by "water"-referring to His baptism.  His baptism at a historical time marks the beginning of the earthly ministry of the God-man Jesus Christ.  He came to the world by "blood"-referring to His death on the cross.  His death on the cross is the fulfillment of His ministry.  He identified with us as a fellow man when He was baptized.  When Jesus was baptized, God fully identified Himself with man through the God-man Jesus Christ.  This God-man died for us when He was nailed on the cross.  He needed to be fully man so that God could and can fully identify with us. See Hebrews 4:15  He needed to be fully man so that a man could pay the penalty for man's sins.  He needed to be fully God for only an infinite God could pay the infinite price of all of man's sins before an infinite and holy God. 

Some believe that "came by water and blood" refers to the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper.  John Stott cites Luther and John Calvin as two who held this view.  But the "came" refers to a past event that happened once and does not continue to happen.  Those who believe what Lutherans, Reformed churches, and Roman Catholics call the Sacraments believe that Jesus continually comes to us through the church's practice of the baptism and the Lord's Supper.  It needs to be mentioned that a large proportion of the Christian church believe that baptism and the Lord's Supper are symbolic remembrances of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection that were ordained by Jesus Christ.  Those who hold these views call baptism and the Lord's Supper Ordinances rather than Sacraments.  These verses cannot refer to something that continually happens today, but must refer to a past way that Jesus "came" to us.  Also, there is no mention here of baptism and the Lord's Supper.

John continues with his three witnesses by giving us the third of his witnesses: "And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is truth."  How does the Spirit testify to us?  John has already answered that question throughout his book, but particularly in 4:4-6: "You dear children are from God and have overcome them [the false teachers who are guided by the spirit of the antichrist], because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.  They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world and the world listens to them.  We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us.  This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood."

God's Spirit in us enables us to recognize what is false and what is true.  "But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth." (2:20)

Three significant historical events for the church are Jesus' baptism, Jesus' death and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  Listen as Peter tells us about what happened when the early church expanded through new people believing that Jesus is the Son of God:  "We are witnesses of things, and so is the Holy Spirit who God has given to those who obey him." (Acts 5:32)  Most of us who are Christians can remember a time when we knew of the story of Jesus Christ, but only thought of it as a religious story.  Then, God's Spirit enabled us to see that Jesus is indeed the Son of God.  God's Spirit opened our blind eyes and we began to really see.  The early disciples needed to have their eyes opened so that they could understand how Jesus' death and resurrection were predicted in the Scriptures:  "Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures." (Luke 24:45)  God opened our minds to understand, just as he opened Lydia's eyes as described in Acts 16:14: "The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message." See also Matthew 16:16-17

God's Spirit is the "spirit of truth." (John 15:26)  "But when he comes, he will guide you into all truth . . ." (John 16:13) See also I John 4:4  God's Spirit opens our fleshly-darkened minds and enables us to see what is real and true.  God's Spirit enables us to see that Jesus was not just a man, who was for a time used by God, but God's Spirit enables us to see the truth---Jesus is the God/man.

So, we have three witnesses.  Two are historical events and the third---God's Spirit---is the Divine witness within us that enables us to see that Jesus' life was not just a historical event, it was God visiting earth!

Before we leave this section, there are two issues that need to be addressed.  First of all, some believe that "came by the water and the blood" refers to Jesus being pierced by a spear while on the cross "bringing a sudden flow of blood and water." (John 19:34-35)  According to John Stott, the ancient Christian teacher Augustine held this viewpoint.  The Greek expert W. E. Vine also interprets these verses in this way.  But, it does not say that blood and water came out of Him but that "he came by water and blood."  The view that "water and blood" refer to the historical baptism and the death of Jesus is held by the Greek scholars Wuest, Robertson, and Vincent, as well as by Bible teachers Martyn Lloyd-Jones, John Stott, William Hendricks, and Ray Stedman.

Finally, the King James Version of I John 5:7-8 contain some words that you will not find in other translations: "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one.  And there are three that bear witness in earth . . ."  If these words were a part of the original Bible, they would be the clearest teaching of the Trinity in the Bible.  The only problem is that these words are not found in the oldest manuscripts.  In other words, there were hundreds of years when these words were not in the Bible of the early Christians.  Then, in the fourteenth century, it suddenly appears in Bible manuscripts.  It is clearly an example of someone adding some words to the Bible hundreds of years after it was written.  The Trinity, by that time, was an important belief of the church; as it is today.  Someone appears to have thought it would be helpful to have the Bible give a clear statement of the Trinity, and so they added it to I John at this point.  It seems clear, though, that it was not written by John in I John, and it is, therefore, not a part of the Spirit-led writing of the Apostle John.

It is important that we know something about these added verses, for there might be those who will tell us about it.For example, the Jehovah Witnesses who do not believe in the Trinity enjoy informing us that this part of I John is not found in the ancient manuscripts. 

Let us conclude and summarize these verses with John's words in 5:8: "the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement."  John has lined up three witnesses who together agree that Jesus Christ was the God-man who came to identify with us through baptism and to die for mankind on the cross.  God's Spirit now reveals these truths to us.  Each of us who are Christians knows that He was God's Son who lived, ministered on this earth, and died for us!

c. God's testimony is greater than man's testimony (5:9)

"We accept man's testimony, but God's testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son."

Thought Question:  Why do the testimony of water, blood, and Spirit provide a greater witness that Jesus is the Son of God than man's testimonies could ever give us?

 

 

John is saying that if we accept the testimony of men in this way, how much greater is the testimony that God Himself has given to us?  And God's witness is that Jesus Christ is His Son.

The word, "it is the testimony," is in the perfect tense which means that God has testified in the past and that testimony continues to testify to us today.

What is God's three-fold witness to us today?  It, again, is the two historical witnesses of Jesus' baptism and His death plus the inner witness of the Holy Spirit that these historical events actually occurred.  The Father testified at Jesus' baptism, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. (Matthew 4:17).  The Father testified that Jesus was His Son at Jesus' death by striking the earth with darkness for three hours (See Matthew 27:45), by tearing the curtain of the Temple in two (See Matthew 27:51), and by raising Jesus from the dead (See Matthew 27:52-53).  God's witness to us in history and His witness to us through His Spirit that Jesus is the Son of Godis much greater than any testimony made by men!

God spoke to us using events in history and the moving of God's Spirit inside of us.  God testified at two specific times in history that Jesus was His Son.  Then, He moved in our hearts to reveal to us that Jesus is His Son.  And we still have His Spirit revealing to us that the Jesus Christ of history is His Son today.  Could any number of men testifying to people that Jesus is God's Son have brought so many individuals to the life-changing confidence that Jesus is God's Son that so many Christians have?  No, the confidence that millions of Christians have and have had that Jesus is God's Son has come to us supernaturally from God Himself!

d. Some believe God's testimony about His Son and some reject His

testimony, even calling  it a lie (5:10)
"Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart.  Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son."

Thought Question:  How are those who choose not to believe that Jesus is the Son of God calling God a liar?

 

 

If a jury heard the testimony of someone in court and rejected it, they would be calling the person who gave the testimony a liar.  A person cannot be neutral with regard to the testimony of God about His Son.  We either accept it and believe that Jesus Christ is God's Son, or we reject it and are, therefore, calling God a liar.  John is clearly saying that those who receive or reject God's testimony about Jesus Christ are making a moral choice.  They are choosing to believe what God has revealed to us about His Son or they are calling God a liar.

There are those who call themselves agnostics.  They say that they do not have enough knowledge about whether or not there is a God to make a decision on whether to believe in God or not to believe in Him (agnostic; a means "no" + gnostic means "knowledge" = "no knowledge").  They say that they are, therefore, not responsible for not believing in God.  John says, "No!"  God has given us a clear witness about His Son.  It is up to us, what we do with this knowledge.  If we receive Jesus Christ, God will make Him real to us.  If we reject Jesus Christ, we are calling God a liar.  Jesus said, "If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own." (John 7:17)

Another moral choice is described in I John 1:10:  "If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives."  Rejecting God's truth about our sin and about Jesus Christ is a choice to receive or reject the truth.  God says that we all have sinned and that Jesus Christ is God's Son.  Anyone who chooses to reject God's words is, therefore, also at the same time choosing to call God a liar!  On the other hand, when we choose to believe what God says is true, He reveals even more to us about Himself.  "For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance . . ." (Matthew 25:29).  "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”" (John 14:21)

We, who have chosen to believe that the Jesus Christ of history is indeed the Son of God, have the testimony that John has been describing throughout this book.  We are now experiencing God's eternal life.  We are confessing our sins; we are seeking to be righteous as He is righteous; we are loving God by keeping His commandments; and we are loving others as He has loved us.  This is God's eternal quality of life.

e.  Those who believe the testimony about Jesus Christ have God's Son and

also have the inner and personal testimony of eternal life.
(5:11-12)
"And this is the testimony:  God has given us eternal life, 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."

Thought Question:  According to what we have learned in
I John, eternal life is not only ours after we die, but it is also ours today.  How can we tell if we have this eternal life?

 

 

In the very beginning of this book, John wrote:  "That which was from the beginning, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched---this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.  The life appeared and we have seen it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and appeared to us." (I John 1:1-2)  Jesus is the "Word of life."  He is the "life" that was "from the beginning."  He is "eternal life."  Now, in these verses, John applies this truth that Jesus Christ, the Eternal One, is the source of "eternal life" to us who have believed in Him.  If we have Him in our lives, we also have eternal life.

This truth can be illustrated in this way: Someone gives you a one thousand dollar bill.  You put the thousand dollar bill in your wallet.  Now, if you have the wallet, you also have the one thousand dollar bill.  John tells us here that God had given us His Son.  Eternal life is in His Son.  If we have the Son, we also have the eternal life!

Now, is John speaking of a life that we will receive after we die?  No!  He says here quite clearly:  "He who has the Son, has eternal life."  He does not say He who has the life Son will someday have eternal life.  He says that if we have the Son, we have eternal life right now.  What is that "eternal life" that we have right now?  It is what John has been talking about throughout this book.  It is a life-giving fellowship with God.  Jesus' prayer in John 17 puts it this way:  "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." (John 17:3)

How can we know if we have this "eternal life"; the same type of life that we will have for eternity?  John has been describing what this type of life and fellowship with God is like throughout this letter of I John.  We will know and believe that God loved us so much that His Son laid down His life for us.  If we have true fellowship with God, we will love others as He has loved us. See 3:16-20  We will not love the world. See 2:15-17  We will admit our sins and seek to obey God's commands. See 2:3-6, 3:6,24, 5:3  John describes throughout this book what true fellowship with God looks like.  If we have this type of fellowship which is made possible only through Jesus Christ and our belief in Him, we now are enjoying fellowship with God.  As John said at the beginning of this book: "We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you may have fellowship with us.  And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.  We write this to make our joy complete."  Again, Jesus, in His High Priestly prayer to the Father, clearly reveals to us what eternal life is- "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." (John 17:3)  It is a living and real fellowship with God.  We will experience this fellowship to the fullest in heaven, but every true Christian is also experiencing it in this life.

John closes these verses with these words: ". . . . he who does not have the Son of God does not have life."  At the beginning of verse 12, John says, "He who has the Son has life."  He appears to be emphasizing that those who reject Jesus Christ do not realize that they are not rejecting a man, but they are rejecting God's Son.  On the cross, Jesus said, "Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."

THE PURPOSE OF JOHN'S LETTER (5:13-21)
It is a pattern in the New Testament letters to explain some portion of reality from God's perspective, and then to give the practical application to the readers of the letter. We find the practical application of what John has been saying in this letter up to this point, in these verses.

1. The purpose of John's letter: so that those who believe in the Son of

God may know that they have eternal life. (5:11-13)
"And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, 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. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life."

Thought Question:  Some people will say that it is arrogant for us to be confident that we have eternal life-we should be humble and admit that we do not know whether or not we have eternal life.  According to these verses, why is it acceptable to say that we know that we have eternal life?

 

 

 

What was the primary practical application of this letter to John's readers?  Also, what is the primary practical application of this letter to us who read this letter today?  John wanted the readers of his letter to know that they had eternal life.  God wants the readers of this letter today who believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God to know that we have eternal life.

Some will say that it is arrogant for us to say that we know that we have eternal life.  But, John says here that it is important that we know that we have eternal life.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones observed that we cannot be bold in our Christian life until we know that we have eternal life.  Could the early Christians have boldly given up their lives as martyrs if they were not sure that they had eternal life.

Listen to the Apostle Paul's confidence that he had eternal life: "I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day." (II Timothy 1:12)  "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39)  "The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children." (Romans 8:16)

Martyn Lloyd-Jones also observes that we cannot in this life ever know real joy if we are ever uncertain about whether or not we really know God or are uncertain about whether or not we have eternal life.  At the beginning of the letter, John said that he wanted his readers to share in their fellowship with God and the joy that comes from it. See 1:1-4

God wants us to know that we have eternal life.  How can we know that we have eternal life?  We are often encouraged to give someone assurance that they have eternal life because they have participated in a salvation prayer.  Most of us know, however, someone who prayed that prayer, who later became a Christian.  A close friend of my wife and me prayed that prayer with me primarily because I was eager to have him pray it with me.  But, as it turned out, he had not deeply considered what the decision involved for him.  Some weeks later, after he and his wife had participated in Bible Study with my wife and me, he and his wife fully chose to believe in Christ as their Savior and Lord.

We can know that we have eternal life if our walk with God is like that which is described in I John: we confess our sins; we do not love the things of the world; we desire to obey God; and our love for our fellow Christians is shown by our loving actions toward them.  Notice that John does not make perfection a requirement of our salvation.  One aspect of a true relationship with God is that we admit our imperfection-we admit our sins.  One characteristic of a true relationship with God is a constant awareness of how far we fall short of what we should be like.  Also, as we learned in I John 2:12-28, if we have an authentic relationship with God, there will be growth in our relationship with God.  We start in this world as physical babies; so, we start out our Christian lives as spiritual babies.  As Martyn-Lloyd Jones points out, Christian babies still have eternal life.  Throughout the rest of I John, we have found other evidences of an authentic relationship with God, such as a pursuit after righteousness, a genuine love for our Christian brothers and sisters, and the enabling life of the Holy Spirit within us to give us His type of life.  John says, "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life."  His purpose in writing this letter was so that they and we will know with certainty that we have eternal life.
If John's purpose has been accomplished for us, we now are certain that we have eternal life.  With this certainty also comes another purpose of John's letter.  We know the joy that comes from that certainty.  For, we now are beginning to experience the eternal life that we will experience eternally with God.  We are even now truly fellowshipping with the eternal God who is the one and only source of life eternal.  We are certain that we will see Jesus Christ face to face.  There is nothing the world offers that can compare with what is ours by God's amazing grace!

John's purpose in the Gospel of John was to convince non-believers to believe: "But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing you may have life in his name." (John 20:31)  This letter from John---I John---was written to believers in Jesus Christ, so that we "may know that [we] have eternal life."

The King James Version adds some words to this verse: "and you may believe on the name of the Son of God."  These words do not appear in the best manuscripts.  It is similar to the words John wrote in John 20:31 that were just quoted.  These words appear to be man's addition to God's Word.

 2. The second purpose of John's letter: so we may have confidence in our

prayers (5:14-17)

a. We can be confident in our prayers when we ask according to God's will.

(5:14-15)
"This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears---whatever we ask---we know that we have what we asked of him."

Thought Question:  According to these verses, what can we do so we can be sure that we will have what we pray for?

 

 

The key word in these verses is "confidence."  John tells us we can have "confidence" in two ways.  We can be "confident" that God "hears us."  And we can "know that we have what we asked of him." See also I John 3:21-22; Hebrews 4:16

How can we have this "confidence"?  We can have this "confidence" when we "ask anything according to his will."  How do we know God's will?  The previous chapter in I John gives us the key.  We know God's will as we come to know God by the type of fellowship with God that John has been describing throughout his letter.

It is interesting that exhortations to prayer often come at the end of New Testament letters. See Ephesians 6:18-20; Philippians 4:6-7; Colossians 1:2-4; I Thessalonians 5:17; and James 5:13-18  We must first learn to walk with God and then we will know how to pray.  In the New Testament letters that end with an exhortation to pray, we are first taught on how to walk with God; and, from this walk with God, we learn how to pray according to God's will.  We can only know how to pray according to God's will after we have walked with God and know God's ways.  As John says here, we can be bold in our prayers when we know what God desires to happen.  Then, we can boldly ask for what we know He desires to do.  As our two children got to know me, they also began to know what they could confidently ask of me.  As we get to know God, we also can begin to know what we can confidently ask of Him.

Contained in these verses is a very important key to understanding how we should pray.  As someone has said, "Prayer is not getting our will done in heaven, but it is getting God's will done on earth."  Listen to Ray Stedman's words on how many people misunderstand prayer:  "There are many people who regard prayer as some kind of mysterious device by which human beings get God to do what we want him to do, a kind of Aladdin's lamp which, if we rub it in the right way, will cause the great Genie of heaven to appear and give us our requests.  God becomes a kind of heavenly bellboy rushing to our aid when we push the button of prayer."

Ray Stedman goes on to give some distortions that come from this way of looking at prayer:  "There are faith healers whom we can see on television today, who make arrogant, blasphemous demands upon a patient and longsuffering God, commanding Him to do things which they insist are right to ask, though it is very evident that God is regarded as a junior partner in their business relationship.  But that is not prayer and never was prayer.  Prayer is a means of obtaining the will of God, and is limited always by the will and purpose of God."  "Taken from a message on these verses by Ray Stedman.  Discovery Publishers."

According to these verses, what can we ask God for and be confident that He will do it?  We can confidently ask God for anything that is within His will.  It is very much like looking at a menu in a restaurant.  We can be confident that we can order anything that is on that menu and receive it (generally speaking, but there are times when they run out of items that are on the menu).  We can be even more confident, as John says here, that we will receive anything that we ask for that is within God's will.

As Ray Stedman points out, though, we cannot be certain when we will receive it: "What he is saying is that when we pray, and the request is made in the will of God, then the answer is absolutely sure and it is only a question of God's timing as to when it appears."  "Discovery Publishers" 

Is prayer a necessary part of the Christian life?  Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out that Jesus spent all night in prayer before He chose His disciples. See Luke 6:12-13  If even Jesus found prayer essential to His life and ministry, can we conclude it is not essential for our lives and our ministries?  The Scriptures are clear; prayer for God's will is the way in which God has chosen to get His will done!

Some believe that we are to convince ourselves that we will get what we ask and, then, we will get our prayers answered.  But, as Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out, this is ". . .  nothing but sheer psychology, not only is it psychology, it is something even worse.  It ultimately means that what determines God's answer to my prayer is my persuading myself that I have already got it."  "Taken from Life in God Volume Five by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1955 by Crossway Books."

b. We can be confident in our prayers when we pray that a sinning brother

is restored to life. (5:16-17)
"If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life.  I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death.  There is a sin that leads to death.  I am not saying that he should pray about that.  All wrongdoing is sin and there is sin that does not lead to death."

Thought Question #1:  What do you believe is the "sin that leads to death?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why should we not pray for those whose sin leads to death?

 

 

How do we know when something is within God's will or out of God's will?  John, in these verses immediately following his statement about praying according to God's will, gives us an example of what is not within God's will---and if we pray for it, God will not answer our prayer.

First of all, if a Christian brother or sister is struggling in some area of sin and desires to be free from that area of sin, is it God's will that they be freed from that sin?  Yes!  Can God free a person from this sin?  Yes!  This is an area that we can pray for a Christian friend and expect that God will rescue him or her.

Now, what is the "sin that leads to death"?  Ray Stedman points out that Roman Catholicism has concluded that these verses are referring to the differences between venial sins and mortal sins.  Mortal sins such as adultery and murder are sins that they believe cause you to lose your salvation.

What, then, did John mean by the "sin that leads to death"?  There are a number of possibilities.  John could be speaking of the sin of hardened unbelief that leads to eternal death.  The "sin that leads to death," then, would be the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit that Jesus talks about in Matthew 12:31-32: " . . . and so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.  Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks a word against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or the one to come." See also Hebrews 6:4-8 and 10:26-31  But, a possible problem with this interpretation is that the blasphemy of the Spirit describes someone who rejects God and does not even become a Christian.  It can be argued that John in 5:16-17 is talking about Christians. 

Is John speaking of Christians when he talks about a "sin that leads to death"?  It is clear that those whose sin does not lead to death are Christian brothers: "If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life."  But, there is nothing in the description of those whose sin leads to death which requires that John is speaking of Christians.  "It is the one whose sin is 'not unto death' who is termed a brother; he whose sin is 'unto death' is neither named nor described."  "The Epistles of John by John R. W. Stott.  Copyright 1964 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  So, the sin that leads to death could be the sin of hardened unbelief that leads to eternal death.

Another possibility is that the sin that leads to death is a Christian's hardened sin that leads to his or her physical death.  There are a number of examples in the Bible of sins that lead to physical death.  Achan who stole some of the plunder from the conquering of Jericho, in blatant disobedience to God's command not to do this, was stoned to death. See Joshua 7  Ananias and Sapphira died because of their sin of lying to gain a high reputation in the early church. See Acts 5:1-11  Some of those in the early church at Corinth died because of being defiantly selfish and unloving during the meals celebrating the Lord's Supper. See I Corinthians 11:28-30

Could the "sin that leads to death" be describing those types of sin that led and lead to physical death?  Martyn Lloyd-Jones asked this question with regard to this possible interpretation: "If sinning unto death means physical death, how do I know the man is going to die?"  "Taken from Life in God Volume Five by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1995 by Crossway Books."  The point of John's words is that we are to pray for those in one category because our prayers will be answered.  But, he is saying that we are not to pray for those in the other category.  So, there must be some way that we can tell the difference between those whose sin is not leading to death from those whose sin is leading to death.  Lloyd-Jones is right.  We cannot tell whether someone's sin will result in God taking their physical life until it takes his or her life.  In fact, can we really tell whether or not someone's sin led to their death even after that person died?

When, then, can we tell if someone's sin is a "sin that leads to death"?  The answer is obvious throughout the book of I John.  Those who had been in the church but rejected the doctrine of the apostles and instead chose the message of the antichrist, were those whose sin of hardened unbelief led to eternal spiritual death.  "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us.  For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us." (I John 2:18-19)

What is the "sin that leads to death"?  Within the context of I John, the most likely answer is that it is the sin of those who had became Gnostic in their belief and turned away from the Christianity of the apostles.  The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is when someone clearly and adamantly turns from God's truth and chooses a lie.  John is saying that praying for people who are in this category will not result in answered prayers.  But, praying for Christian brothers who are sinning will produce results.

John Stott believes that both people that John mentions are non-Christians; the brother who commits a sin that does not lead to death and the one who commits a sin that does lead to death.  His reason for his viewpoint is that praying for the brother whose sin does not lead to death results in God giving "him life."  He argues that the Christian already has life.  But, when we are out of fellowship with God because of our sin, we are not enjoying the life that we have.  Also, his viewpoint leaves us, again, with no way of know who we can pray for and expect results.  We cannot expect that every non-Christian that we pray for will become a Christian and receive life.  Again, the only ones who are obviously and clearly rejecting God are those who were once part of the church and then have, in a hardened way, chosen a lie over the truth.  It is these that John does not urge us to pray for.

Peter and Judas give us a clear picture of the difference between the brother whose sin did not lead to death and a person whose sin did lead to death.  Peter denied Jesus, but humbly confessed and was restored to His relationship with Jesus.  Judas betrayed Jesus and never turned from it. He also went out from the disciples and never returned to them.  We should pray for the Peters, but John does not encourage us to pray for the Judases. 

3. The third purpose of John's letter: so that we may have confidence that

we are God's children and that he will protect us from the evil one.
(5:18-19)

"We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin, the one who was born of God keeps him safe and the evil one cannot harm him.  We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the evil one."

Thought Question #1:  What does John mean when he says that those born of God do not continue to sin?  (Does not everyone still sin?)

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why are John's words that those who are born of God do "not continue to sin" important to us who are Christians?

 

 

 

Thought Question #3:  In what ways are children of God different from those who are under the control of the evil one?

 

 

The key words in these verses are "we know."  The book of John is about assurance, but another way of describing assurance is "confidence."  We who are Christians have every reason that John has been describing throughout his letter to be confident!  We know certain things to be true.  First of all, in these verses, we know that since we are born of God, we will not continue in a life of sin.

Before we were Christians, we sinned because in our most basic nature we wanted to sin.  Now, because we have been "born of God" we have within us God's pure desires instead of our old impure desires.  In the depth of our new being, we want what God wants.

In Romans 7, Paul describes his struggle with his flesh.  He learns that his flesh is stronger than his own human ability to overcome it.  But he also says in these verses the following:  ". . . for in my inner being I delight in God's law." (Romans 7:22)  Even though he at that time was being conquered by sin, in his innermost being he desired to be like God and to not sin.  Then, as he describes in Romans 8, he discovers that God's Spirit within him gave him the ability to choose the desires of the Spirit over the desires of the flesh. See Romans 8:1-13  God gave us a new nature when we were born of God, and He also gave us His life so that we now have the power to obey Him.  In Galatians 5:16 he summarizes how the new life is to be lived:  "So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature [flesh]." 

John goes on to explain further why we as Christians can "know" that we will not live a life of sin like those in the world.  ". . . the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him."  The "one who was born of God" is most certainly Jesus Christ.  Jesus, the One who died to satisfy God's judgment for our sins, is now with us to protect us from our archenemy the devil.  Hebrews 7:25 describes how he protects us: ". . . he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them."  He is always actively on our side.  "'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."  So we can say with confidence, 'the Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?' " (Hebrews 13:5-6) See II Thessalonians 3:3

What is the practical value of these words in I John 5:18?  Why is it important for you and I to know that we are able to not continue to sin?  It is important to us, because we are concerned that we may go back to living as we did before we knew Christ.  We may fear that temptation will be too much for us.  But, as those born-again in Christ and protected by Jesus Christ, we are now able to continue in a walk with God; unless, of course, we deliberately choose to give in to sin.  We can be confident in our new life with God.  We can know that we no longer need to live a sin-dominated life as those in the world live it.  We are not gutting it out and trying not to sin; we are empowered and protected by God so we can live His new type of life.  Even the supernatural evil one cannot draw us away from God or grab hold of us if we stay close to God.  "While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. . . My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one." (Jesus' words in John 17:12,15)  "To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy…." (Jude 24) See John 10:28; Romans 6:4; I Corinthians 10:13; I Peter 1:5; II Timothy 2:19; I John 3:8

"We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one."  When we became a Christian, we also became aware that we left our old life behind and began a new life.  Furthermore, we became aware that we are now very much different from those who do not know Jesus Christ as we now know Him.  We have learned that we are of God and they are still ruled by the evil one.  "For he [God] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves." (Colossians 1:13) See also Ephesians 2:1-10; Galatians 1:4; I Peter 2:9; II Peter 1:4

The world, on the other hand, is in the power of the devil.  The devil is called "the prince of this world" (John 12:31) and "the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient." (Ephesians 2:2) See Ephesians 6:12  Everyone is either a child of God or is under the control of the evil one.  We who are Christians know that it is a reality that all men are divided into two categories: those who are "children of God" and those who are "under the control of the evil one."

We who are Christians realize how different we are from those who do not know Jesus Christ.  There is a profound and great spiritual difference between us who are of God and those who are of the evil one.

4. We know that God's glorious circles have led us to believe that the Son

of God has come to us and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true:  Jesus Christ who is the true God and eternal life." (5:20)
"We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we know him who is true.  And we are in him who is true---even in his Son Jesus Christ.  He is the true God and eternal life."

Thought Question:  What is there in this verse that you, along with John, do personally also know with confidence and are joyful about what you know?

 

 

Our fellowship with God will result in our having confidence.  As John says in this verse, part of our confidence is that we who are truly in fellowship with God know that Jesus Christ is God's Son.  How do we know this is true?  As John says, God has opened up the eyes of our hearts so that we can see and understand that which is actually true.  Jesus is God's Son whether men see and understand that He is God's Son or are blind to this reality.  We who are born of God see that which is real.  God has opened up our once blind eyes so that we can see the truth that Jesus is God's Son.

"The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake.  For God who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness; made the light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." (II Corinthians 4:4-6) See also John 3:3; Acts 16:14; Ephesians 4:18

John goes on to say that not only do we now know Him; we are now "in him."  We were once "in Adam," and in the realm of Satan.  But, now we live in Christ and in all that it means to be in Christ.  It means we are forgiven, have eternal life, are indwelled by God's Spirit, and are joint-heirs with Christ.

In Ephesians 1:3, Paul has this to say about what it means to be "in Christ":  "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realm with every spiritual blessing in Christ."  Then, Paul goes on in one very long sentence to celebrate what we have in Christ. See Ephesians 1:4-14  Furthermore, he prays that the Ephesian Christians' spiritual eyes would be opened so that they could see and understand their riches "in Christ." See Ephesians 1:15-33  He continues this theme in Ephesians Chapters 2 and 3.

In the book of Ephesians, then, Paul expands on what John summarizes in this verse.  We who are Christians know we are in Christ.  We are just at the beginning point, though, of understanding all that it means for us to be in Christ.

John concludes this verse with "He is the true God and eternal life."  If this verse is referring to Jesus Christ, it is the clearest statement in the New Testament that Jesus is God.  In the flow of the verse, however, it appears to be referring to "him who is true" which is referring to the Father.  We "are in him who is true" and are, therefore, now experiencing His eternal type of life.  As Jesus Himself prayed: "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." (John 17:3)  I John is in many ways John's expanded commentary on these words of Jesus in His prayer to the Father in John 17; which is often called His High Priestly prayer. 

When John says, "He is the true God," he is saying that we know the true God as opposed to the false god of the Gnostics.  We know the true God as opposed to the false gods of the humanists, cultists, occultists, pantheists, and others.  Do we really understand the significance of our great privilege?  How many millions are there who do not know the true God?  But, we know the "true God"!

It is possible, though, that John is talking about both the Father and Jesus Christ when He says that "He is the true God."  For John says that we are "in him who is true---even in his Son Jesus Christ," implying that to be in the Father is to be in His Son Jesus Christ.  John may be referring to both the Father and the Son as "the true God."  This would be a statement that can only be true if God is both one and a plurality – the Trinity.

POSTSCRIPT:  "KEEP YOURSELVES FROM IDOLS" (5:21)

"Dear children, keep yourselves from idols."

Thought Question: Why do you believe John ends this book with "keep yourselves from idols"?

 

 

"Dear children, keep yourselves from idols."  John now addresses that which Satan will use to try to get us to lose the wonder of all John has been telling us throughout this book.  "Idols" are Satan's counterfeit options providing non-believers in God a way to worship something else other than God.  An idol is anything that we worship instead of God.  Satan desires that we become devoted to something else besides God.  There are many idols that can become the focus of our lives and the focus of worship even for us who are Christians-such as money, success, and false versions of God.

The Roman Catholics worship Satan's version of Mary.  She is not the humble and very human mother of Jesus, but a sinless and all-seeing dispenser of God's grace to those who worship her.  We can worship the American dream, a political party, a sport's figure, our athletic ability, our home, our children, and many others.  For each of these entities can become what we live for and can take the place in our lives that should be reserved for God alone.

John tells us to "keep yourselves from idols."  In I Corinthians, Paul says, "flee from idolatry." (I Corinthians 10:14).  In I Corinthians 6:18, Paul says, "flee from sexual immorality."  In Corinth, at Paul's time, idolatry and sexual immorality were often combined---the temples of the idols had temple prostitutes.  Idolatry and sexual immorality must be fled from because they both have an allurement that can entice us away from our total devotion and fellowship with God.  So, John urges his readers, the Christians of his time "to keep ..[themselves]..from idols."

We also need to actively keep ourselves from what the world worships and is devoted to, so we can devote ourselves fully to our fellowship with the living God.  And, we can tell when our fellowship with God is just like the fellowship with God that was experienced by John the apostle and the very first Christians.  John has given us, in this letter, what their fellowship with God was like.  If our fellowship with the God who is light and love is like their fellowship with Him, we also will confess our sinfulness and confess our individual sins.  We also will seek to be righteous as He is righteous.  We will love each other for the following reasons: we know God is light; God's Spirit lives in us; God has loved us by sending His Son to die for us; and God is love.  We will be growing in our relationship with God by resisting false teaching and by seeking to be like the One we love above all.  We will keep ourselves from all that will pull us away from this wonderful relationship with God.  And, our joy will be full!

 

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. ®   NIV ®   Copyright ©  1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission.  All Rights reserved.

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Paul's Life And Ministry: Triumph Through Weakness II Corinthians 1-7
Paul's Life And Ministry: Triumph Through Weakness II Corinthians 8-13
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How To Finish Strong In The Lord II Timothy
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