The Epistles of John
By Pastor Christopher W. Burke
Taught on Wednesday Evenings at Calvary Baptist Church, Ashland, Kentucky
The First Epistle of John
Lesson 1 (verses 1-4) Introduction/John the Eyewitness of Jesus
Lesson 2 (verses 5-10) God is Light/Christian Confession & Forgiveness
Lesson 1 (verses 1-6) We have an Advocate/Walking in Obedience
Lesson 2 (verses 7-17) A “New Commandment”/Love One Another
Lesson 3 (verses 18-29) Dealing with Error in the Churches
Lesson 1 (verses 1-3) God’s Great Love for His People
Lesson 2 (verses 4-10) True Believers do not Practice Sin
Lesson 3 (verses 11-24) Love In Action
Lesson 1 (verses 1-6) Try the Spirits!
Lesson 2 (verses 7-16) Knowing We Know that God Dwells in Us
Lesson 3 (verses 17-21) Love Made Perfect
Lesson 1 (verses 1-5) Faith, Love, and Obedience
Lesson 2 (verses 6-10) The Witnesses of Jesus
Lesson 3 (verses 11-21) Assurance of Eternal Life
The Second Epistle of John
Lesson 1 (verses 1-6) Walk in Truth
Lesson 2 (verses 7-13) How to Handle Deceivers
The Third Epistle of John
Lesson 1 (verses 1-8) Testimony of the Truth/Support of Missionaries
Lesson 2 (verses 9-14) Outside Influences/Power Struggles in the Church
Please understand that the following lessons were taught almost verbatim by yours truly at Calvary Baptist Church. They are by no means intended to be comprehensive, verse by verse expositions of the epistles of John. We taught and preached as we felt lead of the Lord at the time of each study. We even chased a few rabbits that weren’t there! Furthermore, we did not attempt to go back and fine-tune these lessons or supplement content that is lacking. We did go back and make several formatting and typographical changes and corrections. You may, however, still find some typos and grammatical issues that we missed.
Having made this long apology, I hope that these lessons will be a help and an encouragement to all who will make use of them. We did make an effort to address the “difficult” verses, especially in 1 John, and provide some extra discussion in these areas. Above all, we hope these lessons will bring honor and glory to God and to our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 John Chapter 1
Lesson 1 (verses 1-4)
John the Eyewitness of Jesus
Introduction to 1 John:
1 John was probably written from Ephesus, where John is believed to have pastored in his later years. Therefore, 1 John was written towards the end of John’s life, somewhere between AD 60 and AD 90 to be safe.
The main purpose of the book perhaps is found in 5:13 (read). There is nothing more important than knowing that we have eternal life, and that we can believe in the Name of the Son of God for the eternal salvation of our souls. Yes, we can know now in this life that we are saved and that we have eternal life.
The book also addresses several heresies that were prevalent at the time of John’s writings. We will deal with these heresies as we go through our study.
Several themes are intertwined throughout the book such as the love of God and love for one another, obedience to the commandments of God, the assurance of salvation, the holiness and consecration of believers, and of course the exposure of various heresies.
Our study tonight is about John, the eyewitness of Jesus Christ.
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;”
John heard Jesus, he saw Jesus, and he handled Jesus; all implying the literal, physical incarnation of Christ, or the Word of God made flesh.
John was an eye witness to the humanity of Christ. Contrary to the teaching of the Gnostics, who taught that all matter is evil, Jesus became a real man and had a real body, just like we do. He was not just a spirit, as some were falsely teaching in John’s day.
John refers to Jesus as the “Word of life” (compare to John 1:1-4, 11-14). Jesus is the incarnate Word, or the Word of God made flesh.
As the incarnate Word of God, and the Word of life, Jesus is the “Way, the truth, and the life: and no man cometh to the Father but by Him” John 14:6. Therefore all men who would go to God, must go through Jesus Christ His Son. And all who will go to Heaven to dwell with God, must go through the cross of Jesus.
The way to life eternal is through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus for our sins, and there is no other way. Therefore, it was imperative that Jesus have a real, physical human body, in order to die as the sacrifice and substitute for our sins.
“(For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)”
The life was manifested, or that is, made known through the earthly, human life of the Son of God. Again, John was an eye witness to the virgin born Son of God. As an eyewitness of the life of Christ, John’s desire was to show or declare to others the life of Jesus so that they would believe on Him.
This verse also teaches us that Jesus is eternal life, and therefore He gives eternal life to His people. That is the only kind of life that He has to give. And Jesus was with the Father, that is, in eternity. Again, as we read in John 1:1, Jesus is the eternal, preexistent Son of God. He was with God the Father for eternity before His incarnation (incarnation means God made flesh).
“That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.”
Here again we see that John, as an eyewitness of Jesus, desired to declare Jesus unto men, so that we might have spiritual fellowship with him and other believers. This fellowship is with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, and in particular, it is in the truth of the incarnation of Jesus, and His subsequent work of redemption on the cross. This is the only grounds for true spiritual fellowship.
And this fellowship in the truth of Jesus is one of the reasons why John wrote the book. We must conclude then, that true Christian fellowship is very important to the Christian life. Fellowship with fellow believers around the truth of Jesus is vital to a prosperous and joyful Christian life and Christian experience.
This is one of the reasons why church attendance is so important. Through attending the Lord’s House we share Christian fellowship around the common truths of our Saviour, and through this fellowship we are encouraged and exhorted to serve the Lord with patience and perseverance, and with joy in these troubled times.
And our fellowship that we have is not only with one another, but also with the Father and with His Son the Lord Jesus Christ. When we meet in the Lord’s house, this a time of fellowship of believer with believer, and believer with God, and God with believers. Oh, that all professing believers would see the importance of this fellowship. What an important time this is for our souls as God’s children, to be uplifted, and taught the things of God, and to have that sweet and precious fellowship with one another, and with the Lord.
“And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.”
Another reason why John wrote this book is so that our joy might be full. There is only true spiritual joy found in the truth about Jesus. Only the truth about the Person and Work of Jesus will bring lasting joy in the Lord.
Joy is important, according to John. So important that he wants our Christian joy to be full, or complete, and lacking nothing. He wants our joy to be deep rooted, and grounded in the truth as it is in Jesus.
Joy is important for enduring hardships. “The joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). It is our strength to continue on in the fight of faith. When we lose our joy in the Lord, we lose our strength to keep on fighting in the battle for truth.
When we lose our Christian joy, then will we sit down by the rivers of Babylon and hang our harps on the willows and weep. Then we will give up hope in the salvation of the Lord, and lose our expectation to see good days again. Then our minds are focused on earthly things, and not on heaven where our citizenship is.
Beloved, there are so many things today that could rob us of our joy. There is war, sickness and disease, and death. There is unbridled sin throughout every facet of our society. Our nation and our world have fallen into grievous immorality, and murder of the unborn, and spiritual heresy of every imaginable sort, and then there is the pride of man and the selfishness that goes with it. It is a wonder that sober, God fearing people can even experience the joy of the Lord today in this wicked, ungodly world.
But beloved, we can have joy as believers in these trying times. In order to have joy as believers, we must get our focus off of the world and all of its allurements, and all of its discouragements, and get our focus off of the problems of life, and off of all the dreadful circumstances, and get our eyes focused on Jesus, Who is eternal life.
If those two words “eternal life” would get a hold on our hearts and minds, all of our sorrows would flee away. Eternal life is victorious over all. Eternal life is victorious over sin, death, hell, and the grave. Eternal life is victorious over war, illness, sorrow, and all other troubles and trials of this life. The very thought and prospect of eternal life with Jesus ought to renew our joy in the Lord.
We need to bear in mind that we won’t have true joy if we are dabbling in sin. We might experience the pleasure of sin for a season, but this is not the joy of the Lord. The pleasure of sin will turn to bitterness and anguish of soul and spirit, and bring the chastening of the Lord upon us. The fact is, if a professed believer continues living in sin, this is evidence that he is not truly saved. No, to have the joy of the Lord we must depart from sin and iniquity and practice holy, righteous, and godly living.
This book was written that we might know that we have eternal life, and so that we can have fellowship around the truths of Jesus Christ, and so that believers can have the joy of the Lord. Do we have these things in our lives tonight as God’s children?
Lesson 2 (verses 5-10)
God is Light/Christian Confession & Forgiveness
“This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”
“…God is light…” Light depicts several things, which all are true of God. We want to notice four of these this evening.
1) First, there is physical light.
God is observed to be physical light in the book of Revelation 21:23:
“And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.”
God the Father and Jesus His Son shall be the light of New Jerusalem.
2) Secondly, light is the purest form of energy. Energy is power, and God is all-power.
The earth receives its energy from the light of the sun. The light of the sun drives the winds and the hydrologic systems of the earth. Therefore, all the energy of the oceans, and the rivers, and the winds from which we get much of our energy, all comes from the light of the sun.
All of our natural energy reserves including oil, natural gas, and coal, all come from plant and animal life that derived their energy from the light of the sun thousands (not millions or billions) of years ago.
The heat that makes life on earth possible, also comes from the light of the sun. And where did the sun get its light? From God on creation day 4 when God created the sun, moon, and the stars in Genesis 1:16:
“And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.”
Therefore, the majority of the energy that drives our planet, comes from the light of the sun.
God is light, and all light comes from Him, and therefore He is all-power, and it is Jesus Christ who gives all things the power to exist and to consist. Paul said concerning Jesus in Colossians 1:17:
“And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”
The word “consist” in this verse means “held together”. The entire universe is held together by the power of Jesus Christ!
3) Thirdly, light is pure and contains no corruption or impurities.
Like light, the Scriptures teach that God is pure and holy. There is no corruption or sin found in God. This is the primary sense of our text in 1 John. Because God is pure light, He is morally and ethically pure and holy.
4) Fourthly, light in the Bible represents truth.
God is truth; and God is all-truth. There is no error found in Him, nor lies nor falsehoods. God is the Author of all truth, and all truth is derived from Him.
He gave us His inspired, God breathed Word, which contains only truth, and therefore it is infallible. God’s Word is also called a light in the Bible, which David said lightened his path for him to walk in. Notice Psalm 119:105:
“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”
Christians, of all people, are to walk in the light of the truth of God’s Word. We are to believe it in its entirety, and live in accordance to its precepts and laws.
In “light” of what we have just said, lets notice verse 6…
“If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:”
“If we say…” John wasn’t impressed with empty professions. All who walk, or live in the moral darkness of sin, are not in fellowship with God. Make no mistake about that! We may say that we are in fellowship with God, but if we are living in sin, we are liars!!!
The antinomian crowd, who say that God isn’t concerned about how His people live, and that we are not obligated to keep His moral laws, are all liars, according to 1 John.
In addition, all those who don’t believe, and obey, and walk in the truth of God’s Word, are liars. They don’t have fellowship with God because God only fellowships with His people according to truth. When we believe and practice contrary to His truth, then He will not fellowship with us.
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”
“But if we walk in the light…” That is, in the moral light of God’s Word, and in the truth of His Word. You see, God is concerned with both our doctrinal beliefs and our practical godliness. That is why most of the church epistles consist both of doctrinal truth for faith, and practical truth for godly living. Both are very important to the Lord!
If we walk in the light of truth and in moral purity of life, then and only then do we have fellowship with the Lord. Not only that, but the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all our sins.
Of course, if we are walking in the light of God, we will be conscious of our sins, and sensitive to them, and consequently we will confess them to God and thereby find daily cleansing of our sins.
This is the blessed life of fellowship with the Lord.
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
“If we say…” What we say and what is true, may very well be two different things, especially if we say we have no sins. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived said “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20).
Yet there are entire denominations today, which believe that they are completely sanctified and therefore cannot sin. Of course they do not understand the Scriptural meaning of sanctification. Here in verse 8, the Bible tells us that all such people have deceived themselves, and the truth is not in them.
This is a very strong statement concerning these religious groups, but they are living on very dangerous ground to think they have no sins.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
“If we confess our sins…” How important it is to confess our sins!!! If we will be honest enough, and humble enough, and desire fellowship with God enough, we will be willing to confess our sins. And if we do, we will have forgiveness and cleansing of our sins.
Notice 2 Chronicles 7:14:
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
“If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
“If we say that we have not sinned…” Beloved, this again is dangerous ground. Not only do we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us, but here we see that we make God a liar, and His Word is not in us.
Some people, by their own testimony, accuse God of being a liar. How? Because God said that we are all sinners, and that we all still sin. So when people say that they don’t sin, they are saying that God lied when He said that all are sinners, even after we are saved.
To say that His Word is not in us, is a fearful thought. It could imply that His “logos”, that is, His incarnate Word, which is Jesus Christ, is not in us. This could be meant to say that all such people are not truly saved.
But at very least, John is saying that the truth of His Word is not in people who say that they have no sin. This is also a scary thought. This suggests that such people hear the Word, yet don’t understand it. This also may infer that such people don’t have the Holy Spirit, and therefore are not truly saved. In any case, this is dangerous ground to be on.
Are we walking in the truth of God’s Word, and in the moral light of His Word? May God help each of us to do so as His people.
Do we confess our sins to God each and every day, and find forgiveness and cleansing from all of our sins? May God help us to find daily cleansing in the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Are we saved here tonight? Have we trusted in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins, and for eternal life? May God be pleased to save any one who is here and lost in their sins tonight.
Lesson 1 (verses 1-6)
We have an Advocate/Walking in Obedience
“My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: 2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”
These verses go along with the end of chapter one. John writes to believers that they sin not. This again tells us that Christians can and do sin. As we discussed last time, all believers are still capable of sinning, and we still do sin. We sin more often than we like and that we should. But here John is telling us that it should be our goal and our desire not to sin.
Sins, as we studied in the book of James, may be categorized into sins of commission and sins of omission. Sins of commission consist of breaking the moral law of God by the things that we do. Sins of omission consist of breaking God’s moral law in the things that we neglect and fail to do.
The moral law of God is comprehended in the ten commandments (notice 1 John 3:4). The moral law of God is further abbreviated in the two great commandments of “love thy neighbor as thyself”, and “love God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength”. These two commandments, along with all that they imply, are far more than any of us are able to keep. But as believers, this should be one of our goals in life, to keep God’s holy law out of love for Him.
We don’t keep the law to be saved, for we are saved by grace without the deeds of the law. We are taught this truth in Romans chapter 3, Galatians chapters 2 & 3, and other places in the Scriptures. But because we are saved, we should endeavor to keep all of God’s moral laws because we love Him (notice 1 John 5:3).
John instructs believers to endeavor not to sin. Again, this defeats all forms of antinomian doctrine, which teaches that Christians do not have to keep the law of God. But to say that we are Christians, and yet we can live ungodly, sinful lives, is contrary to the teachings of the Bible. We might backslide and fall into ungodly sins, but this same passage encourages believers not to sin. And if we do sin, we are encouraged to confess our sins and to find forgiveness for our sins, and be restored back into fellowship with the Lord.
John goes on to say that we have an advocate with the Father. The word advocate here is the same Greek Word translated “comforter”. Jesus Christ is our comforter, and our intercessor, to plead our case, as it were, with the Father. As our sin advocate, Jesus “propitiates” or “appeases” the guilt of our sin. This He does according to His vicarious, substitutionary work on the cross for the sins of His people.
Therefore, our only plea before God the Father is the sacrificial work of Christ on the cross, and the blood that He shed for us. Never is our hope of forgiveness found in ourselves or in what we can do. Our prayers cannot earn our forgiveness, and no other works of retribution on our part, can pay for a single sin; either before we are saved or after. All forgiveness can only and ever be in the Person and work of Jesus for us.
Jesus is not only the comforter, and mediator, and judge advocate for the Jewish people, such as John and many of his readers, but also for the whole world, or all Gentile believers in addition to the Jews. It would be unscriptural and out of context to make the word “world” in verse 2, to mean every person of Adam’s fallen, sinful race. Lets notice a few reasons why the word “world” here cannot be referring to every man without exception.
1) First, John’s writings refer to the Gentile nations as the world, as opposed to the Jewish nation.
2) Secondly, we can be sure that Jesus isn’t pleading and interceding for any of the lost in hell.
3) Thirdly, Jesus is not interceding for all the lost souls who are certain to be damned. Jesus knows them for which He died, and He knows them that shall perish in their sins. There is no basis for Jesus appeasing God’s wrath and justice for those He didn’t die for, who will certainly perish in the lake of fire.
4) Fourthly, in the context of this passage, John clearly is writing to saved people, and not to all of lost humanity. We know that the whole world is not saved, nor will all men ever be saved.
5) Fifthly, the context of this passage is daily cleansing and forgiveness that believers need when we sin. The “whole world” without exception doesn’t need daily cleansing, but they need salvation and redemption through the blood of Christ. The foot washing lesson in John 13 pictures the believer’s need for daily cleansing. Beloved, lost sinners don’t just need their feet washed, but they need the whole body washed, or that is, they need salvation.
But we who are saved do have an advocate, Jesus Christ the righteous, who pleads our case. Therefore, let us go to Him, and receive the forgiveness and cleansing of our sins through His precious blood, which is our only plea.
“And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. 6 He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.”
Here is another way, according to John, that we can be convinced and assured of our salvation, that is, if we keep His commandments.
If professing Christians live in deliberate disobedience to the Lord’s commandments, should we have a strong confidence and assurance of our salvation? I don’t think so. Christians who are clearly living outside of the revealed will of God, should question their salvation. We should have doubts when we as Christians backslide into the slough of sin. And if professing Christians continue in that life, more than likely they are not saved.
John said that, if we say we know Him, and yet we don’t keep His commandments, then the truth is not in us. Therefore, to continue to live in disobedience to the Lord’s commandments, is a testimony that one is not saved.
On the other hand, if our lives are marked by obedience to Christ and His commandments, and by service to the Lord according to His Word, and we love His commandments and they are not grievous to us, then we have another good reason for assurance that we are saved.
John goes on to tell us that if we are keepers of His Word, then God’s love is perfected in us. Those who do not keep God’s Word and His commandments, are in no position to talk about the love of God. How many people have you known who like to talk about the love of Jesus, yet show no evidence of obedience to His Word in their lives? Beloved, all such people are deceived. They know nothing about the love of God. According to John, believers who really know the depths of God’s love, are those believers who keep God’s Word and His commandments.
Finally, John tells us that we are to walk as Jesus walked. What a wonderful and blessed thought! How did Jesus walk? In the context of 1 John 2, Jesus walked in obedience to God His Father. We want to conclude tonight’s message by reading some passages that speak about Jesus’ obedience to His heavenly Father:
John 4:34 Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.
John 5:30 I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.
John 6:38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.
John 8:29 And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.
John 15:10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
John 17:4 I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.
Isaiah 42:21 The LORD is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable.
Heb 4:15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
We’ve seen in our lesson tonight that we are to strive not to sin. When believers do sin, however, we have an advocate and a comforter who is Jesus Christ the righteous. It is Jesus who pleads our case before His Father, on the merits of His shed blood.
We also saw that believers need to strive to keep the Lord’s commandments, and to live in accordance to His Word. This is one way that we will know that we are truly His children. By keeping His Word, we will experience greater and greater depths of His love, as we grow in His grace and knowledge.
Finally, it should be our goal and desire to walk as Jesus walked, in obedience to His heavenly Father. We are not saved by following Jesus’ example, but certainly His life was given to us for an example and a perfect pattern for us to follow. If believers would try to model and pattern our lives after Jesus, we would surely be the best Christians that we could possibly be.
This message has been to believers tonight. Are you a believer? Have you believed that Jesus died on the cross for your sins, that He was buried in the tomb, and that He rose again the third day for you? Have you followed Him in Scriptural baptism, and membership in His local, New Testament Baptist Church? If not, we encourage you to do so even now…
Lesson 2 (verses 7-17)
A “New Commandment”/Love One Another
The subject in this passage is love for one another, especially for fellow believers in the church. This is one of the major themes throughout the book of 1 John.
Love is perhaps the most important doctrine in the Bible, when considered in all of its various aspects. Love is essential to salvation, and love is a powerful evidence of true conversion. The lack of love is powerful evidence of a false profession, as we will see in this study. Love is the life of the church, or the death of a church if it is lacking. Love is our testimony to the lost world, without it our evangelistic efforts will be fruitless. Love is the strength and bond of the church. Love is what holds the members of a church together.
“Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning. 8 Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth.”
The commandment John is referring to in this passage is “love one another”. This is not a new commandment in the Word of God. Notice Leviticus 19:18, 34:
“Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.”
“But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”
The old commandment is said to be new in verse 8 (see John 13:34-35; 15:12-14). How is this commandment new? Lets notice two reasons.
1) It is new in its continual and perennial freshness.
Godly love doesn’t grow old but is new and fresh everyday, just like His Spirit, and His Word, and His mercies are new every day. That is why our love for Christ stays fresh, or at least it should. When our love for Christ grows old and cold we are on dangerous ground (see Revelation 2:4).
Also, the continual freshness of love that believers have for one another is what keeps us together serving the Lord in His Church. Otherwise our services would soon grow old and stale, and our churches wouldn’t stay together for long.
2) This commandment is also new because it is made new by the Spirit in regeneration, as opposed to the dead letter of the law.
People can know the commandment, but until we are saved, it is just external and lifeless. When we are saved the love God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5), and it becomes a part of us, and it takes on a new meaning, and a new power in our lives.
Love, therefore, is as old as eternity, but it should always be new in our lives, both for the Lord, and for one another. In addition, our love should grow as we grow in the Lord.
“He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. 10 He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. 11 But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.”
The imagery that John uses here makes a distinct contrast. Those who hate (or fail to love as may be meant), are in darkness. Those who love are in the light. There is no middle ground.
John is saying that those who love their brothers and sisters are saved, and those who do not love their brothers and sisters are not saved. Therefore, love is an essential characteristic of the Christian faith, and will be manifested in the life of true believers. Without the manifestation of love, there is no true salvation. Love, therefore, is one of the tests of true salvation. If we don’t have the love of God, then we are not saved.
We are not to use this test to judge others, but to judge ourselves. This truth will either condemn us, or it will give us greater assurance of our salvation, which is the purpose of this book.
“I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake. 13 I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father. 14 I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.”
In verse 12 John is speaking to all of God’s children who are saved by His sovereign grace. In verses 13 and 14, John is speaking about the different levels of Christian maturity within the church.
“Fathers have known Him that is from the beginning”. In other words, the older more mature saints have known God and the love of God by experience. They haven’t just heard about it with their ears, but they have seen if with their eyes, and experienced it with their lives.
Of all believers, they ought to know the importance of the love of God in the believer’s life, and in the life of the church. They have come to depend on God’s love to get them over pitfalls and hurdles of life. They have learned the importance of love between believers. The have been comforted and lifted up by their Christian brothers, and they have done the same for others. If any one can relate to John’s words, it ought to be the “fathers” of the faith.
“I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one.” The young men are strong both physically, and in faith and knowledge of the Word, and they are strong in their minds and in their wits. They battle in the kingdom of darkness, and by the grace of God they win the victory over Satan. They are the leaders of the younger believers, and they are the strong hands to support the weak and feeble in the church. If anyone needs to know the importance of love, and needs to manifest the love of God in their lives, it is the young men.
They are also the ones who are more prone to neglect the love of God. They are prone to glory in their own strength, and to be ambitious and self-seeking. Because of their proud and ambitious spirits, it is more difficult for them to bend down to help and guide the younger, and to hold up the weak. Those of you who are young men and women, who are still in the prime of your strength, listen to what John is saying. Love one another with the strength and abilities that God has given you. Use your strength to help others along the way.
“I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father.” John writes to the children because they have known the Father. Beloved, to know God the Father is to know the love of God in the Person of Jesus Christ His Son. If children in the faith know anything, they know the love of God in salvation. That is where salvation begins, with the love of God.
There is no greater joy in the Christian life, than in knowing that we are saved, and that our sins are forgiven, and that God loves us, and that Jesus loved us and died for us on the cross. And though children may not be able to relate to the deeper doctrines of the Word of God, they can relate to the love of God.
Those of you who are children in the faith tonight, grow in the love of God. Grow in love for one another. Grow in showing your love to others by your works. You have started your Christian journey in the love of God, now continue your journey in the love of God.
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”
A counter test of love, is found in the things that we are to love not. If we love evil things and sinful ways, and ungodly practices and traditions of the world, then the love of the Father is not in us.
This again is another test of our faith. The opposite of loving God and other believers, is to love the world and the evil things of the world. Those who profess Christ, and yet continue to love the world, ought to re-examine their faith.
We want to notice what John means by “all that is in the world”:
1) The lust of the flesh:
This includes all the carnal appetites that the old flesh lusts after. These are especially common among the youth and the middle-aged.
2) The lust of the eyes:
This is mainly speaking about the sin of covetousness, which is the over desire to have things and wealth. This is especially common among the middle-aged.
3) The pride of life:
This might include positions of high honor and dignity, and high titles. We are made to think of the Scribes and Pharisees who prided themselves in their high positions. This might also include luxurious and sumptuous living. We think of the rich man who died and lifted up his eyes in hell. The pride of life would also include the pride of one’s successes and achievements in life. All these things are most common among the older generation.
All these things, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life are not of the Father. If we are controlled and possessed by these things, then we ought to examine our faith.
The world passeth away, and all the lusts thereof. All the things that worldly people desire and lust after, and live for, will all pass away. Its all going to burn up, and that I believe will be soon.
Our love for these things is at best vanity, and at worst it is an evidence of being unregenerate. May our love and affections be on the things of God. And may our love and affection for Christ be manifested in our love and affection for one anther.
I believe that this is the key to personal success as Christians, and as a church. All the truths of God’s Word are important, and many other things are good and important, but love makes a difference. Love is what makes a church strong. Love is what the lost world will see in us, and cause them to desire what we have.
Lesson 3 (verses 18-29)
Dealing with Error in the Churches
“Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.”
The “last time” that John was referring to here, probably was not the end of the age, or the second coming of Christ, as these things were 2,000 years or more away. The “last time” that John was speaking of, was probably the end of the apostolic age.
John was probably about 90 years old at this time, and he was the last of the apostles still living. He saw many errors, and the wicked men that taught and preached them, already creeping into the churches. He knew that after the departure of apostolic powers, there would be a barrage of false prophets and false apostles invading the Lord’s churches, teaching and preaching all manner heretical religious views.
John knew that the antichrist, or the man of sin, was going to come at the end of the age. But he foresaw many antichrists who were already in the world, and that many, many more would follow. The prefix “anti” in antichrist, doesn’t mean an “impersonator” or “imposter”, but it means one who is against or opposed to something or someone.
Antichrists are people who are opposed to Christ and His doctrines, and the various truths of His Word. They are not the unreligious people of the world, but they religious people, and even avid church goers. Beloved, I have seen a few antichrists in Baptist Churches in my day. That is, people who constantly opposed the leadership of the church, and the doctrines of the church, and who were constantly stirring up divisions and strife among the brethren in the church.
These are the same kind of people that Peter wrote about in 2 Peter, and that Jude wrote about. These are the same kind of people that Paul wrote about in Acts 20. Notice Acts 20: 28-32:
“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. 29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. 31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. 32 And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.”
About every church that has been around very long, is familiar with this sort of church member. Perhaps many of us can think of such persons that we have known in our experience in Baptist Churches over the years.
“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.”
Eventually, these sort of people will leave the church. If they can’t lead other church members into error, and get a large enough following to overthrow the leadership and doctrine of the church, then they will eventually move on, in hopes of finding another church to pervert.
I believe this verse also includes any person who doesn’t come to believe the truths of the Word of God, or who makes a false profession of faith. This includes people who will not believe in the doctrines of God’s sovereign grace, or the many other precious truths of His Word. It also includes those who make a false profession of faith, who had a religious or emotional experience, but never truly believed in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.
Beloved, we shouldn’t be too discouraged when people leave the church. The first thing that comes to our mind is, “what did I do?” or “what did someone else do?” or “what did the church do as a whole?” More often than not, no one did anything, but these people just were not truly of us!!! In most cases we should be thankful to the Lord for taking care of a problem for us.
I am not saying that everyone who leaves a church is an antichrist. Many, if not most of us, have been members of more than one of the Lord’s Churches, and I don’t consider any of us to be antichrists. There are legitimate reasons to leave one church and join another, and there are Biblical examples of believers leaving one church to join another. I think you know what I mean this evening, without further explanation.
“But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. 21 I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.”
The unction from the Holy One is, of course, the Holy Spirit that abides within our very being. What does the Holy Spirit do in our lives? For one, He teaches and leads us into the truth. This is so important! The Holy Spirit doesn’t lead God’s people into error, but into the truth.
The Holy Spirit doesn’t lead us into all truth all at once, but He leads us in our Christian growth in the truth. Once we’ve learned a truth by the revealing of the Holy Spirit, we won’t forsake that truth, because the Holy Spirit writes it and burns it into our hearts. People who say that they once knew a truth and yet they later forsook it, never really learned that truth from the Holy Spirit. That is not to say that we will never waiver or question the truth, but the Holy Spirit will not allow us to utterly forsake the truth that He has taught us.
I’m thankful, beloved, for the unction of the Holy Spirit this evening. Without Him in our hearts and lives, we would surely forsake the Lord and all the truths of His Word. It is only because of Him that we remain true and faithful to the Word of God.
“Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. 23 Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.”
To deny Jesus as the Christ means more than what we might think at first. For example, to deny the sufficiency of Jesus Christ to “save to the uttermost, all that come unto God by Him”, is to deny that Jesus is the Christ of the Bible.
To deny that Jesus is the substitutionary Lamb of God, Who literally and actually suffered, bled, and died for the sins of His people, is to deny that Jesus is the Christ.
To say that we are saved by our own works of any kind, and not by the works of Jesus Christ alone, is to deny that Jesus is the Christ of the Bible.
We could go on and on, but I trust we have sufficiently made the point. There are many truths about Jesus Christ that are denied in the religious world today. That is why counterfeit churches baptize babies and partake of the “sacraments”, as they call them, in order to merit salvation. All such errors are a denial that Jesus is the Christ of the Bible.
It is clear from these verses, that all such people that deny that Jesus is the Christ, also deny God the Father, and therefore they are not saved. Jesus said “I am the door” (John 10:7), and “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). If people won’t come to salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, then they will not come at all!
“Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life. 26 These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you.”
That which “abides with us from the beginning” is the Word of God, and especially the word of the Gospel, which we believed for salvation. This is another “test” and evidence of true salvation. If we abide in the truth of the Gospel, and in the grace and faith of the Son and the Father, then we are truly His children. In 1 John we see this test of saving faith from two aspects. On one hand John speaks about overcoming the world and the wicked one, and on the other hand, he speaks about the believer’s continual and persistent abiding in Jesus. It isn’t enough to just abstain from evil beloved, but we must also abide in Jesus and His love, and in the truth of His Word.
Of course, the promise to all true believers, is eternal life, which most of Christendom plainly denies today. Sad to say that eternal life, which is one of the greatest promises and blessings of being saved, is denied by most people who profess Christ as their Saviour. This is amazing to me!
John has written these things to true believers, because of those who try to seduce us (verse 26). They try to seduce us through their Armenian teachings and other false beliefs, which deny the doctrines of sovereign grace, and the blessed teaching of eternal life in Christ.
“But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.”
The anointing that John mentions here, is also referring to the Holy Spirit, just as the unction of the Spirit in verse 20. The anointing of prophets in the Old Testament was symbolic of the anointing of the Holy Spirit, which they were anointed with by the Lord. Every true believer has been anointed with the Holy Spirit, and this anointing abides with us forever. It is by the Holy Spirit that we were “sealed unto the day of redemption” (see Ephesians 1:13-14, and 4:30).
John isn’t saying that, because we have the anointing of the Holy Spirit, we don’t need to be taught the truth by God given pastors and teachers. This would contradict many other passages in the Word of God. I think what he means is that we don’t need false teachers to teach us things that don’t agree with the Holy Spirit, and the doctrines that He has taught us from the Word of God. We don’t need the “new light” of new age prophets and modernistic preachers.
It is the anointing of the Holy Spirit that enables us to discern and understand the truth that is taught by true men of God in His true churches. As the truth is taught and preached, the anointing of the Holy Spirit enlightens our hearts and minds to understand it, and to receive and believe it, and to love and embrace it. The same anointing will cause our spirits to reject error when we hear it.
This is the anointing that teaches us all truth. Again, without the anointing of the Holy Spirit, we would not understand or know any truth from the Word of God. And because it was the Spirit that taught us, we shall abide in the truth. Therefore, if we are saved, we have the Holy Spirit, and because we have the Holy Spirit, we have assurance that we shall continue to abide in Him.
“And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming. 29 If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.”
John exhorts us to abide in Him. That is, to abide close to Him in fellowship, and in love for God and for one another, and in faith and obedience to His Word, which is His revealed will. In this way we will have confidence at His coming. We will have confidence of hearing “well done my good and faithful servant, enter thou into the blessings of the Lord”. And we will not be ashamed at His appearing, standing in the ashes, as it were, of a wasted life.
We know that Jesus is righteous, only an unregenerate person would deny that. We also know that anyone born of Him doeth righteousness. This is speaking of the righteous deeds of the saints, and not the righteousness of Christ that He give us in salvation. Therefore, John is encouraging the children of God to live righteous lives in this world, against the day of the Lord’s second coming.
This concludes our study of chapter 2. We learned that there will arise antichrists in the Lord’s churches. They were common in John’s day when apostolic powers were still in effect. How much more in our day? We shouldn’t get discouraged when people depart and fall away from the faith, and leave the church. This has been happening ever since the beginning of the church age!
We also saw that all true believers have the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Because of this anointing we will not only learn the truth from Him, but we will also abide in the truth, and in the salvation that Jesus gave us, which is eternal life. Finally, we saw the importance of abiding close to the Lord in fellowship, and in the truth, and in obedience to His Word, that we might have confidence at His coming, and not be ashamed.
“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.”
“…Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us…!”
The highest honor to be bestowed upon men is to be called the sons, or the children of God. Think about that! This is a higher honor than doctor, congressman, president, or even king!
Why is it such a high honor to be called the children of God? Are not all men the children of God? No, not in the true spiritual sense! (Read John 8:44). Here Jesus was talking to the Pharisees, who were the natural seed of Abraham, and of the children of Israel, yet Jesus called them the children of the devil.
To be called a child of God is such a high honor because all people by nature are dead in trespasses and sins, and we are by nature the children of wrath, and we were all led by the prince of the power of the air, who is the devil (Ephesians 2:1-3). We were all by nature enemies of God (Romans 5:10). We were all unworthy of His loving favor and tender mercies. This is what grace means, that is, the unmerited favor of God. Not one of us deserved the honor of being called the sons of God. We all deserved divine justice and wrath. In view of these truths about us, what manner of love would love rebel sinners like you and I?
The love of God was bestowed upon us, and by His love we were changed from sinner slaves to sons of God. It was bestowed upon us. We didn’t work for it or earn it, but it was freely bestowed upon us! His love was given to us in Christ in eternity past, and was bestowed upon us in salvation when we were born again by the Spirit, and faith in the Gospel.
“…that we should be called the sons of God…”
1) By new birth:
The new birth was given to us by the sovereign will of Almighty God (John 1:12-13). The new birth is an internal work in the soul, performed by the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8). The new birth is by God’s will, and His Word (James 1:18, 1 Peter 1:23).
2) Secondly, we are made children of God by adoption:
Adoption is made possible through redemption in Christ Jesus (Galatians 4:4-5). We were predestinated unto the adoption of sons in eternity past (Ephesians 1:4-6). We receive the Spirit of Adoption in salvation (Romans 8:15-16).
What manner of love! That we should be born again, and adopted into God’s family!
“…and the world knoweth us not, because it know Him not.”
The world can’t understand about this new birth, nor the relationship between the believer and God and His Son. They are spiritually discerned and thus spiritual things are foolishness to them.
They think that we are crazy! They can’t understand our spiritual relationship with Christ, anymore than they can understand Christ and His dying love on the cross of Calvary.
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”
Also, notice Romans 8:15-16:
“For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:”
Both passages are clearly written in the present tense! We don’t have to wait until we get over to the other side to find out if we are God’s children, but we can and must know now. The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the sons of God. The witness of the Spirit, beloved, is another assurance of salvation. May God give each of us the confidence and assurance of the Holy Spirit’s witness in our hearts!
And we know that God will not cast out or forsake one of His children for whom Christ died, but He will surely keep us to the end.
We want to call attention to the word “shall” in this verse. It is used three times; two times it applies to believers and the other time it is speaking of Jesus and His second coming. This is the strongest word used to state that something is definite. There is no stronger language to describe the believer’s present standing and future hope, than John used in this passage.
We know that He shall appear. We have no doubt that Jesus shall come again. This is part of our faith that He gave us in salvation. Faith in the second coming of Christ is vital to our hope of salvation complete in the future.
“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” 1 Corinthians 15:19.
Therefore our faith in His second coming is as crucial as our faith in His first coming! We don’t doubt His second coming, but we believe that He shall come, and we believe soon!
Not only do we know that Jesus is coming again, but also that…
Notice the following verses that speak about our new bodies: Philippians 3:20-21; 1 Corinthians 15:50-58; 2 Corinthians 5:1-5.
“…for we shall see Him as He is.”
Again, we shall see Him! We know that everyone shall see Him, but the saved shall see Him in the resurrection of the just. And the only way that we will be able to look upon the glory of Jesus Christ, is in a new spiritual body. We could not look upon the glorified Lord in this old sinful flesh.
We must be made like Him in glorification. If we could only begin to understand what this means, we would fall upon our faces in awe and reverence to our God. We were created a little lower than the angels, but we are going to be glorified to a state above the angels!!!
Our old flesh is weak and feeble, but in glorification we will be strong and powerful. Our old flesh is sinful, but in glorification we will be perfectly holy. Our old flesh is corrupt and vile, but in glorification we will be incorruptible. Our new bodies will never decay or wear out. Our old bodies are subject to sickness, pain and death, but in glorification our new bodies will be perfect and eternally healthy.
We will also be like Him internally as well as externally. In glorification our minds and thoughts will also be like Christ. Our minds will be illuminated to understand and know all things that now we can only see through a glass darkly. We won’t be subject to forgetting, or misunderstanding, or misinterpreting the truth of God’s Word, but we will know even as are known!
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”
Just as surely as all of those things that we studied in verses 1 & 2, we will surely purify ourselves in view of this blessed and glorious hope.
Do you have the assurance and confidence that you are a child of God by the new birth and by adoption. Does His Spirit bear witness with your spirit that you are a child of God? This witness is imparted when we come to faith in the Gospel of Jesus.
Do you believe Jesus died, was buried, and rose again for you? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved!
Lesson 2 (verses 4-10)
True Believers do not Practice Sin
“Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.”
In this verse John gives us a definition of sin: “…sin is the transgression of the law”; or “sin is the breaking of God’s law”, or “living lawlessly”.
What law is John speaking of? John is speaking of the moral law of God, or the ten commandments; and also the two great commandments of “love thy neighbor as thyself, and love God with all of your being”.
God’s moral law is very extensive and comprehensive, and includes many specific laws, which all may be categorized under the ten commandments. The 10 commandments are then summarized under the two great commandments of loving God and our neighbor.
Obviously, no mortal man can keep the moral law of God perfectly, either before he is saved, or after. We are so inherently sinful by nature that we transgress God’s law without even knowing it. Therefore, it is impossible to keep the law perfectly.
As we studied in previous lessons in 1 John, we have an advocate and a mediator, Jesus Christ the righteous, Who intercedes in our behalf. By the virtues of His shed blood we receive the forgiveness of our sins; both eternally and daily as we walk through this lower life of sin.
Only a blind and deceived man could possibly believe that he has reached a state of sinless perfection in this life. “There is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” Ecclesiastes 7:20. I am sure Solomon, a saved man, was including himself in that passage.
In light of these thoughts, let us move on to verse 5…
“And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.”
Jesus was manifest, that is through His virgin birth, in order to live a perfect sinless life, and to go to the cross of Calvary to pay the sin debt of His people through His death, burial, and resurrection. In this way He took our sins away, by paying the price required by the law for our sins, which is eternal suffering and eternal death. Jesus was able to do this in our behalf, because He was God in the flesh. Only He could suffer eternal punishment for our sins in the time that He was on the cross.
When his suffering for our sins was complete, and the price of our salvation was paid, Jesus said “it is finished”, and He gave up the ghost and died. And because “in Him was no sin”, death, hell, and the grave could not hold Him. To show openly that God was satisfied with His offering for our sins, He was raised again on the third day, just as the Old Testament types and shadows foretold. All who will come to believe that Jesus did all of these things for you personally, are eternally saved from all your sins, and Jesus gives unto you eternal life!
“Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.”
Now John begins a discussion in which theologians have debated for centuries. Here in verse 6, and later in verse 9, John tells us that all those that abide in Christ, and who are born of God don’t sin. But we’ve been saying throughout this study that believers do sin, according to 1 John 1:8-10, and other places. Is John trying to confuse us? Is he contradicting himself? The answer is NO!
We want to consider two common interpretations of this passage, that are both theologically correct and consistent with the context of this book, and with the rest of the Bible.
1) The first interpretation is that the new man, or that new spiritual man that was created within the believer in regeneration, cannot sin. This we must agree with. We are taught in the Scriptures in Romans 7 and Galatians 5 and other places, that the believer has within his being two distinct natures. The first is the old sinful “Adamic” nature that we were born with. This nature is the enemy of God, and it can do nothing but sin and rebel against the Lord. The other nature is the new nature received in salvation, which is born by the Holy Spirit of God. This nature is created in righteousness and true holiness (Ephesians 4:24). This nature cannot sin. Therefore, in the context of this passage, John may be speaking about this new nature that is created within every true believer.
2) The second interpretation that is also acceptable within the context of this passage, and the entire Bible, is that every true born again believer can not and will not live a life of habitual sinning. This interpretation I believe to be true, whether this is John’s meaning here or not.
There are several reasons why this later interpretation is true. We’ll notice 3 of these:
1) First, the new man created in every believer is certainly grieved with our sins because it hates sin and loves righteousness, and therefore it will war against the old man, as taught in Galatians 5:17 and other places. I believe that every true believer can bear witness to this internal warfare that is waged within the heart, mind and soul of every believer.
2) Secondly, we are told that Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ abide within every believer. This truth is taught in several passages including Romans 8, Ephesians chapters 1 and 4, Colossians 1, and other places. The divine presence within the life of every true believer, is grieved with us when we sin against the Lord, and certainly will not allow us to be “happy” and content in a continued life of sin, but will surely convict us and chasten us for our sinful ways.
3) Thirdly, God has promised to chasten His people when they sin and backslide, and get out of the right way of holy and righteous living. This is taught in Job 5:17, Proverbs 3:11, and Hebrews 12:5-11. Therefore, even if our “old man” could win the battle over our new man, the Lord will chasten us with His rod of correction, and bring us back into the right way. This is not the most pleasant way, however, to be brought back from our back-sliding ways. The Word of God tells us in Hebrews 12:11 that the chastening of the Lord is not “joyous, but grievous” at the time! But afterwards it yields the “peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”
What do I believe concerning the interpretation of these verses in 1 John? I tend to believe that John is using both of these arguments to make his point. The believer does not lead a habitual life of sin for the reasons that we’ve mentioned; namely, because we have a perfectly holy new nature, because we have the indwelling Spirit of God, and because the Lord chastens us out of love for His children and brings us back to Himself. This logically leads us to verse 7…
“Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.”
“…he that doeth righteousness is righteous…” Here is another one of the several “evidences” that John gives of true salvation. He qualifies this statement by saying “let no man deceive you”. In other words, anyone who teaches that you can be “saved and sin all you want to,” is a deceiver. We can safely say, based on this passage, that all antinomians are deceivers!!!
Here John is saying in essence, “that he that practices righteousness is righteous because Jesus their Saviour is righteous”. In other words, only people who are righteous are capable of practicing righteousness. It can be deduced that all who are righteous shall practice righteousness, which is the point that John is making.
As opposed to practicing sin, where we studied in verse 6, the true believer will practice righteousness. This, I believe, is the proper context of these verses. Therefore, the professing believer who doesn’t live a life of righteousness, that is, who doesn’t live right according to the Word of God, is not righteous, and therefore is not a true believer!
What does it mean to be righteous? It means that you have received Christ’s righteousness by faith in the Gospel. The righteousness of Christ is imputed when we believe in Jesus as our Saviour. If we are saved, and therefore made righteous by the blood of Jesus, then we will practice righteousness in our lives- its just that simple.
“He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.”
Again, he that commits or practices sin is of the devil. We no that no sin is of God, and here we find that all sin originated with the devil, who not only sinned himself by rebelling against God and was cast out of heaven, but also he instigated sin in the human family in the Garden of Eden. Thus there is a sense in which Satan is responsible for all sin. Therefore, all who follow after Satan by practicing sin and continuing in sin are “of the devil”, according to John.
John’s argument for holy and righteous living is the fact that Jesus was manifested for the very purpose of destroying the works of the devil. When believers practice sin, we are taking sides with the devil, and by practicing sin we oppose the Son of God who saved our wretched souls from sin, and from Satan, and from eternal death and hell!
These are all good and powerful arguments for believers to live godly and righteous lives, and to forsake the practice of sin.
“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”
We have already addressed this thought and so we won’t belabor the issue. However, in behalf of the view that the child of God cannot sin because of the new man imparted in salvation, we notice that John said here that “his seed remaineth in him”. We must understand this to mean the new man that was born of God in salvation.
Again, the true believer doesn’t habitually practice sin because of the new nature that resides in his soul. The new nature cannot sin because it was born of God.
“In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.”
I believe John is saying that the distinction between true believers and lost sinners in the world, is the believer’s manifestation of a righteous, godly life. We are not justified before God by our outward works of righteousness, but our righteous lives ought to be manifested to the world. All who profess to be saved, and yet do not practice righteousness in their lives, are still lost in their sins, if I understand John correctly.
And finally, we notice that John added the phrase “neither he that loveth not his brother.” Loving brothers and sisters in Christ is one of the major themes of this book, and according to John, it is the most crucial and important of all the commandments; both love for the Lord, and for the brethren.
John is saying here, as he already said previously in this book, that anyone that doesn’t love his brothers and sisters in Christ, is not a child of God, but is a child of the devil. This is very strong language, and therefore we all should take it to heart.
In conclusion, do we live righteous lives this evening? I didn’t say perfect lives. No one can honestly say they live perfect lives. But do we habitually practice living according to the Book? Is this our supreme goal in life, to live godly in Christ Jesus?
And do we love the brethren? Do we support them, and encourage them. Are we faithful to the Lord’s House? How can we say that we love the brethren if we love not the Lord’s Church, which is made up of His people!
Lesson 3 (verses 11-24)
Love In Action
“For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.”
The message John is speaking of here is loving the brethren, where we studied in verse 10.
“…From the beginning…” or since the days of Christ in His flesh, when Jesus re-instituted brotherly love as a characteristic and quality of His new church. Not only this, but even back under the Old Testament law the Jews were commanded to love their neighbors and the strangers within their gates, which we pointed out in a previous study.
Love must be a very important doctrine, for John to bring this out so many times in such a short epistle. The churches in those days must have been true Baptists. It sounded like they had a real problem with feuding and fighting, and hatred among themselves!
“Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.”
In this verse John uses Cain as an example of not loving your brother. Why did Cain hate and slay his brother Abel? Because he was envious and jealous of him, because Abel’s offering and sacrifice to God was righteous, and accepted of the Lord. Cain’s works and offerings, on the other hand, were evil in the sight of the Lord, and therefore Cain slew his righteous brother Abel out of jealousy, envy, and hatred.
This is still going on in churches today. Church members who don’t live right and do right in the eyes of the Lord, are jealous and envious of their brothers and sisters in the church who are obedient to the Lord, and blessed of the Lord, and so they grow to hate them. The evil brother commits murder in his heart, and goes about hurting the righteous brother and defaming their name out of jealousy, envy, and cruel hatred.
Beloved, this ought never to be so in a Baptist Church, yet it happens more than we would want to admit.
“Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.”
But we should not expect those of our own number to hate us, who profess faith in Jesus as their Saviour. We should not expect those who profess to know and love Christ to hate us, but rather we should expect them to love us with a love unfeigned (1 Peter 1:22)!
“We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.”
This is another way that we know that we have spiritual life. One of the greatest manifestations of an unregenerate person, is their hatred for the people of God. Consider Judas Iscariot. He went right along with the crowd. He blended right in for three and a half years, and no one but the Lord knew any difference. But finally his unregenerate heart was made manifest when he betrayed the Lord of glory.
Judas didn’t love the brethren, or the Church, and he especially didn’t love Christ; but it all came out in the end. And, as we will see in the next verse, Judas was a murder. He was a murderer in his heart long before he every betrayed the blessed Lord Jesus Christ.
“Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.”
All those who hate their brothers are murderers. The murder that John is speaking of in this verse is murder that is committed in the heart. Outwardly it may not seem so harmful, but the judgment and penalty of God is still as severe as if the very act were committed.
Therefore, no murderer, or brother hater, has eternal life abiding in him. This is serious business. Those who spend most their church life hating their brothers and sisters are living on dangerous ground.
“Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
Here John gives the greatest illustration of true brotherly love. He compares the unselfish sacrificial love of Jesus Christ for His people, with the kind of love that His people should have for one another.
If we truly love the brethren as Christ loved us, we would be willing to sacrifice our lives for them. We should be willing to die for one another if need be. Brother, can you just imagine that?!! I think I hear someone saying…“Hey, I’ll see you-all later. I’m going to that other church down the road where its safer. I love you-all and everything, but I ain’t quite ready to die for you!”
“But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.”
Well, we may never have the opportunity to see if we would be willing to die for our brothers and sisters in the Lord. On the other hand, we do have opportunities to show our love by sacrificing our substance and our earthly goods to help a brother or sister.
“Now hold on preacher, now you are going to far.” “When the time comes I’ll die for old brother or sister so-in-so, but your asking too much of me, to expect me to get way down into my wallet and give of my hard earned cash to help a needy brother or sister along the way.”
Well, rest assured beloved, if we won’t help a brother or sister in life, we won’t be willing to help them with our death. If all we do is love in word and tongue, there is no love of God abiding in us, but we are just hypocrites. This is what John is saying in these verses.
“And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. 20 For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. 21 Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.”
We have assurance of genuine salvation and conversion, when this kind of sacrificial love for the brethren abides in us. By our love for the brethren, we find assurance that the love of God dwells in us, and that we truly are saved.
If our heart condemns us for our lack of love for the brethren, and we have a guilty conscience, then we can rest assured that God knows us even better than we know ourselves, and we will give an account to God for our hatred of His people. But if our heart doesn’t condemn us in this matter of love for the brethren, then we have confidence toward God that we are His children, because His love abides in us, and that love is manifested toward the brethren.
“And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.”
The result of this confidence toward God will be answered prayer and the manifold blessings of God in our lives. Yes, beloved, this is the gooooood Christian life!!!
“And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. 24 And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.”
In these verses we are commanded to “believe on the Name of God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ”. Faith in Jesus Christ, my friends, is not an option, or a suggestion, but it is a commandment of God. To repent and believe, and then follow the Lord in Scriptural baptism and service in the Lord’s Church are the commands of God.
If we keep His commandments, we know that we dwell in Him and He in us. And this is how we know that He abides in us, because the Spirit of God within us bears witness when we keep His commandments.
Have you obeyed the Lord tonight? Have you repented and believed the Gospel. Have you followed the Lord in obedience to His commands of baptism and church membership?
How about your love for the brethren tonight? Does your heart condemn you for you lack of love toward the brethren? Be assured, if your heart and conscience condemn you, that God condemns you even more!
What you might need to do, if you do not love the brethren, is repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for the saving of your soul!!!
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”
John is not speaking about disembodied spirits in this passage, but of men who speak according to the spirits in the world. These spirits might be the spirits of men, or the spirits of demons. Wicked men might speak according to their own spirits, or the spirits of demons that possess them. They might merely be speaking what they have learned from other men, or from the evil demon spirits, which spread their filthy and perverse teachings whenever and wherever they can in the world.
Beloved children of God tonight, there are many, many evil spirits in the world. And consequently, there are many, many perverse teachings that are being pawned off as truth in our land today. All you have to do is listen to the many preachers on the radio and TV, and you will hear every imaginable false teaching, which are peddled under the banner of Christianity and the Bible.
As we studied previously in this book, there are many “Christs”, or rather “antichrists” in the world. The devil’s most powerful and effective tool is counterfeiting the truth of God’s Word, by transforming himself into an angel of light, and his ministers as ministers of righteousness, we are taught in 2 Corinthians 11:14-15. Beloved, they look so holy and pious. They sound so lofty and eloquent. They sound so righteous and true. But many, if not most of them are liars and deceivers. If you listen long enough and hard enough, they will betray themselves for what they really are.
Only be careful, for they are as subtle as their father the devil. They will allure you and seduce you with their lies. Again, I warn you to be careful who you hear, and how you hear, and what you believe to be the truth from the Word of God, as taught by the “spirits” of this world.
John said here in verse 1, that there are many false prophets that are gone out into the world. If there were many already in John’s day, just imagine how many there are in our day!!!
“Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.”
The Spirit, or that is the Holy Spirit, will certainly confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. Therefore, any spirit not confessing that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is not of God, but is an antichrist. This is the simple and surficial teaching of this passage.
As we mentioned before, this was a particular error of the Gnostics of John’s day, who taught that all matter was evil, and therefore Christ could not have a real, physical body according to them. But there is much more implied in these verses than first meats the eye of our understanding. Let’s notice some of these possible implications:
1) First, Jesus was pre-existent to His virgin birth.
The phrase “is come”, signifies that Jesus did not come into existence at His conception, but He is the “incarnate” Son of God, that is, the pre-existent Son of God was made flesh and dwelt among us. John 1:14, Philippians 2:5-8, and many other passages teach this truth.
2) Secondly, Jesus is eternal.
Jesus was with the Father in eternity. Like the Father, Jesus had no beginning and shall have no end. John 1:1, 17:5, and many other passages teach this truth.
3) Thirdly, Jesus is the Son of God, and God the Son.
He is, and always has been, the second Person of the Holy Trinity, and therefore He is God. This truth is taught in our text in 1 John, and in many other passages of Scripture.
4) Fourthly, because Jesus is the Son of God, He could not sin.
Jesus, by virtue of His glorious Personage, is absolutely perfect and sinless, or impeccable as theologians like to say, and therefore He could not sin.
5) Fifthly, Jesus is the promised Messiah, Who was to come in the flesh.
Jesus fulfilled every “jot” and “tittle” of Old Testament prophecy concerning Himself. If this were not true in any point, He would not have been a fit sacrifice for our sins. This is taught in Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 53, Matthew 1, and many other passages.
6) Sixthly, as the Messiah, Jesus would accomplish the work He was sent to do.
There are many Christs being preached in the world today. But what did they accomplish? Did they build a church? If so, what kind of church did they build? What about the work of redemption? Did they die to make salvation possible for all, but certain for none? Did they ineffectively die for the vast majority of humanity, including the multitudes who are presently burning in hell? Beloved, not only do the Arminians in “Christian” circles believe this lie, but also the Mormons, and the Jehovah false witnesses, and most of the other cults also believe the same lie.
So then we should ask, what did Jesus Christ come in the flesh to do? If the answer that the “spirits” give is contrary to the true teachings of the Bible, then they really don’t believe that the Jesus Christ of the Bible has come in the flesh.
7) Seventhly, as the God-man, Jesus would be bodily resurrected in His glorified state.
Upon His glorification, Jesus still possesses His glorified earthly body. That is why He still bears the scars of Calvary (Revelation 5:6), and shall bear those scars throughout eternity.
So then, with these considerations in mind, who can we think of today that deny that the Christ of the Bible is come in the flesh?
It goes without saying that all of the major non-Christian religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Confucianism, Islam, and even Judaism, deny Christ in every point given above, even though some of these consider Jesus to be a prophet, among other things.
There is the Jehovah false witness cult. They deny most of the afore mentioned teachings concerning Christ, including His eternality, His equality with God the Father, His impeccability, His substitutionary death on the cross, His bodily resurrection, and the list goes on.
Then there is the Mormon cult. They are so far off in the depths of darkness, that we don’t have time to discuss their errors here, but we’ll just say that many of their errors are similar to the Jehovah false witnesses, only they are much worse if that is possible.
There are all the other cult religions, which claim to believe in the Bible and in Jesus Christ, but by their teachings they deny that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. Some of these include 7th day Adventism, Christian Science falsely so called, Spiritism, Unitarianism, The Unity School of Christianity, and several others.
Finally, we won’t mention all the denominations that claim to be of the Christian faith, who essentially deny that Jesus is come in the flesh by their erroneous beliefs that they attribute to Him.
To some-up this discussion, practically every religious organization that errs in other aspects of faith and practice, also err in their beliefs about the Person and work of Jesus Christ. Therefore, rather than debate with people about the hundreds of other differences in our beliefs, we would do better to get right to the point…“What do you believe about Jesus?” Error about Jesus is at the heart of all spiritual errors. And no doubt, this is why the Holy Spirit led John to cut right to the heart of the matter here in 1 John 4.
“Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. 5 They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.”
Thank the Lord for the Holy Spirit, Who is in us, and causes us to overcome all of these false spirits with all of their doctrines of devils. If left to ourselves to sort out all of the errors from the truth, we would never be able to overcome the devil and his innumerable deceits and falsehoods. This lesson should make us all the more thankful for the blessed Holy Spirit of God, Who is exceeding greater than Satan, and all his ministers and all their treacherous errors.
Yes beloved, these deceivers will attract a following, as the natural man loves to be fooled. They speak with the human reasoning of the world, and therefore the world will hear them and love them, and many will follow to their own destruction. But we who are truly saved by the grace of God, should be eternally thankful for the Holy Spirit in us, Who keeps us and protects us from the errors of the devil.
“We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.”
This is another test for those who profess to know the Lord. John said “he that knoweth God heareth us”. It is amazing that so many who profess Jesus, refuse to hear the truth of His Word. They speak according to human reasoning, and religious creeds and the beliefs of their churches, but they become angry when you try to discuss the Bible with them, which is the only true foundation of the Christian faith!
I am often made to wonder when professing believers refuse to discuss the Bible. I am more appalled when professing believers refuse to talk about Jesus! Upon what do they base their faith, and their hope of salvation. Well, I don’t think that I am alone in my concern. John said plainly that, those who will not hear us, are not of God! Those who will not hear God’s Word, especially concerning salvation through the Person and work of Jesus, they stand in question as to what they are trusting in for salvation.
Again, we who know the truth about Jesus, thank the Lord and praise His Holy Name. And thank the Holy Spirit for leading us into all truth. And thank the Father, because His grace made all the difference. We aren’t any smarter or wiser than the next person, but we only know spiritual truth because it was revealed to us by the Holy Spirit.
So then, may we never be proud or boastful, but may we always be humble in spirit, and thankful to God for loving us, and saving us, who are most unprofitable and unworthy creatures.
Lesson 2 (verses 7-16)
Knowing We Know that God Dwells in Us
“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”
Conclusive evidence of the new birth is that believers love one another. The opposite must also be true according to verse 8. Therefore, he that loveth not is not born again of God in the new birth, and therefore he doesn’t know God. John states in verse 8 that one of God’s attributes is love, and he implies that all true love originates with God. For Christians to love one another is to be like our heavenly Father, which is strong evidence that we are His children by the new birth.
We need to bear in mind that God is also said to be many other things in the Scriptures. He is said to be Light. He is said to be great, gracious, good, merciful, salvation, wisdom, pure, holy, just, jealous, judge, righteous, faithful, true, mighty, spirit, and a consuming fire. Just because God is described as love in 1 John, don’t think He is not holy and just, and that, as a consuming fire, He will overlook sin; either in the lost, or in His own people!
“In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
The ultimate display of love for all time and eternity, was God sending His Son Jesus to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and to give us eternal life through Him. The word propitiation in verse 10, is speaking about appeasing God’s judgment and wrath upon our sins. Jesus appeased God’s wrath and judgment that was upon us, by shedding His precious blood on the cross for our sins.
In Romans 3:25 the word propitiation means “mercy seat”. In the Old Testament on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest would sprinkle the blood of the atoning sacrifice upon the mercy seat, located within the Holy of Holies inside the tabernacle. This was all a type of Christ, Who sprinkled His blood on the mercy seat in Heaven to make atonement for our sins. Jesus is our Great High Priest, He is our mercy seat, and He is our sacrificial Lamb Who shed His blood on the cross, and sprinkled His blood on the mercy seat in Heaven to make atonement for our sins. All of these things, beloved, speak of the greatest display of love that ever there was, or ever shall be.
John also said in verse 10 that we love Him because He first loved us. Today, modern evangelists urge lost sinners to love the Lord, as though salvation is dependant upon the sinner’s love for God. Beloved, we only love Him because He first loved us, and because He manifested His love toward us in regeneration, and by giving us the gift of repentance and saving faith in His Son Jesus. If not for God’s love toward us, none would love Him!
“Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. 12 No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13 Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.”
God’s great love for His people that He displayed in Christ when He sent Him to die for our sins, is the greatest reason why we should love one another. If God so loved us, then we ought to love one another.
No man has seen God at anytime, but if we love one another, this is the greatest evidence that God dwells in us, and that we dwell in Him. This is great evidence to others that God dwells in us, but perhaps equally important, it is great evidence to us that God dwells in us. God’s love gives us confidence that we are His children. John also said in verse 13 that God has given us of His Spirit. One of the greatest evidences that the Holy Spirit dwells inside the believer, is the manifestation of the love of God in our lives.
“And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.”
Again, John was an eyewitness to Christ. He saw the miracles, he heard the wisdom that flowed from Jesus’ lips. Not only this, John also witnessed the death, burial, resurrection, and the ascension of Christ back into glory. We weren’t so privileged to witness these things, but John wants us today to believe his report about Jesus. As an eye witness, he has assured us with many proofs that we can believe on Jesus for salvation.
By the word “world” in this verse, John does not mean every individual person in the world, for there are many that will go into everlasting punishment. Christ is not the Saviour of all the human race, and therefore He was not sent to save all of lost humanity; for if He was, then He did not completely accomplish His mission.
The word “world” in our text, is intended to mean Jews and Gentiles, and not just the Jews. It also means all the elect of God, or His people, His sheep, His friends, His church, and the sons of God. It may also be said of all that believe in him throughout the whole world, without any distinction of nation, age, sex, or any other natural condition.
“Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. 16 And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.”
The word “confess” in verse 15 does not mean to merely confess with the mouth. But this word means “to say the same thing”, or “to agree with another person.” In other words, everyone that agrees with, or truly believes in their heart that Jesus is the Son of God, including all of His attributes of humanity and deity, and all the prophesies concerning the promised Saviour; God dwells in them and they dwell in God.
In verse 12 John said that by our “love” we will know that God dwells in us. Here in verse 16 he says that by our confession of faith in Jesus we will know that God dwells in us and we in God. These are both essential attributes of the child of God. We must have the love of God, and faith in the Son of God, if we truly are His children.
Do we know God this evening? Does He dwell in us, and do we dwell in Him? Can we know these things?
Yes, we can know. We can know God, and we can know that He dwells in us and we in Him. According to our text in 1 John 4, there are two ways that we can know these things. First, we can know by our love for God and our love for one another.
Of course, John is talking about an unselfish, sacrificial, agape love. He is speaking of a love that is the same in spite of the other person’s faults and failures. In other words, he is speaking of an unchangeable and unconditional love. This is the kind of love that God loves His people with.
The second way that we can know that we know God, and know that He dwells in us, is by confessing that Jesus is the Son of God. In other words, we agree in our hearts, and believe that Jesus is the Son of God that came into the world to save His people from their sins. This He did by His sacrificial death on the cross to pay the sin debt for His people, and by His burial and resurrection from the dead on the third day.
Do you believe this testimony about Jesus this evening? Have you confessed Jesus before men, and have you followed Jesus in Scriptural baptism, and membership in His Church?
Lesson 3 (verses 17-21)
Love Made Perfect
“Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.”
This is one of those sort of difficult passages to understand. This is evident from the diverse interpretations by various commentators. We don’t claim to have it all figured out, but I believe we can draw some conclusions about this verse that are consistent with the context of the Scriptures as a whole. The verse consists of three parts, which we will study one part at a time.
1) The first part says “Herein is our love made perfect…”.
John is speaking of our love for God. God’s love for us is perfect and never changes. It doesn’t increase or diminish. In other words, God’s love for His chosen people is immutable and everlasting, and therefore cannot be made perfect, because it is perfect. Therefore, John must be speaking of our love; whether to the brethren, or to God, or both.
Some might ask whether John is speaking about the perfection of love, or the perfection of the believer in the love of God. This is a matter of semantics, and practically it doesn’t make any real difference. But we should point out that the love of God that was shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5), is already perfect and therefore cannot be made more perfect. So John must be speaking about perfecting our human love and affections for the Lord and the brethren.
This interpretation is consistent with other Scriptures that speak about the various aspects of Christian growth. Our love for God is one of those areas that we are to grow as believers. Love is the great subject emphasized in this book. Paul and Peter emphasized growth in grace and knowledge of Jesus, whereas John emphasizes growth in love.
This may be due to his age. Perhaps as we grow older in the faith, love becomes more important to us, or at least we can better understand that true love is at the heart of all truth and doctrine, and love is at the heart of all the graces of the spirit, and of true God-honoring service for the Lord. If love isn’t the basis for all of our service, then our service is faulty, and doesn’t glorify God as it should.
John tells us that our love is made perfect when we cultivate our love for one another through Christian fellowship around the things of God, and our love for the Lord through communion and fellowship with Him, as we studied last time.
In the process of our Christian growth, our love should grow as well. Again, as we pointed out in past lessons, our church membership and relationship with other members of the church, is so very important to this process of perfecting our love. In fact, this would be impossible without the Lord’s Church.
I want to bring out something here that might surprise you. I believe that our differences, and even our occasional spats and heated discussions, work together to perfect our love. Now, these things should be avoided whenever possible, but in the all things of God’s providence, even these negative things should cause our love for one another to grow and abound.
2) The second part says “…that we may have boldness in the day of judgment…”.
The perfection of our love also increases our boldness in the day of judgment. For the Christian this is the judgment seat of Christ. John already spoke about the prospect of Christians “being ashamed before Him at His coming”. But as our love for one another and for the Lord increases, our fear of judgment at the judgment seat of Christ decreases.
Practically speaking, as our love increases, so will our faithfulness and good works increase. Conversely, so should our sinfulness and worldliness decrease. Both of these things will tend to increase our boldness in our day of judgment.
And as our love increases so will our knowledge of the Lord increase, and the sweet spirit of fellowship and communion with the Lord shall increase, and this growth increases our boldness against the day when we will meet the Lord face to face.
3) The third part says “…because as he is, so are we in this world…”.
This is speaking about manifesting our love in the world. God’s love is manifested in the world in many ways, but we are the human representatives of God’s love to the world. This last part of verse 17, is an exhortation for us to perfect our love, and display our love in the world. As we do this, we shall receive confidence and boldness against the day of judgment in return. So we might conclude that our growth in love comes with a promise of boldness as an added incentive to develop in this area of our Christian experience.
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”
There is no fear in love. There is no fear of man or what flesh and blood can do unto us. There is no fear of the devil or of all the powers of darkness. There is no fear of hell or of the second death. This fear was removed in salvation. But what John is speaking of here is the judgment seat of Christ for believers. From verses 17 and 18, we learn that there is a certain fear of the judgment seat of Christ for believers!!! I think this is left out of most sovereign grace Baptist preaching today.
I know that all of our sins were judged and punished in Christ. I know that we have no fear of the second death, but I also know that God expects His people to fear Him, and obey Him, and grow up in Him in all things, and serve Him, and love Him, and to be an example of His love in this world. And if we don’t do these things, and if we fail Him, then there is a fear to be had of that judgment seat of Christ! And frankly, I don’t care what other preachers may say, because I am convinced by the Spirit of God that these things are true. All of the passages that speak about the Christian’s judgment, give warnings and admonitions to prepare our lives against that day of judgment.
Therefore, the more we perfect our love for the Lord, and manifest that love to others, the less fear we have of the judgment seat of Christ. We also notice that the opposite is true. The less a professing believer perfects his love for the Lord, the more fear he has of God’s judgment; both in this life, and at the judgment seat of Christ.
“We love him, because he first loved us.”
Our love for God is a result of His love for us. There is no boasting in love. Like true saving faith, true love is also a gift of God. The primary teaching of this passage is, because God first loved us, we will love Him. The very manifestation of our love for Him is a genuine evidence that He first loved us. So if there is no love for God manifested in our lives, then it is doubtful that He has manifested His love toward us, at least as of yet.
“If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”
We can’t hate our Christian brethren and love God. According to John this is a contradiction of terms. If we don’t love the Brethren, or if we hate our brothers and sisters in Christ, then we don’t love God. And if we don’t love God, then He has not manifested that He loves us, and therefore we are not saved. All such people, whether they profess to know Christ or not, need to repent and believe in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins.
“And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.”
Again we have the reoccurring command to love the Brethren. If we say that we love God, then we are commanded to love our brother also. Of course, we certainly don’t want to love our brother just because we are commanded to do so! However, from the practical standpoint, knowing that at times, none of us are as lovable as we should be, and therefore at times we might have to love a brother or sister purely out of commandment!
Now, this is not the preferred plan. This is not the best option. But sometimes it might be the only option. But one thing for certain, it is always an option. Some options are not always available, but this one is. Therefore, there is never an excuse for not loving that cantankerous brother or sister.
Although not directly mentioned in this passage, I hope that our study will get us thinking about the judgment seat of Christ, which is just around the bend.
What are we doing to prepare against that day of judgment? Are we perfecting our love for the Lord and for others? Are we representing the love of God for the world to see? How great is our boldness against the day of judgment? Will you even be there at the judgment seat of Christ, or will you stand before the Great White Throne judgment bar of God and be judged for your sins, and be cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death?!!
May God help us to be about perfecting our love in days ahead. May we be committed to all areas of Christian growth as we soon will face the judgment seat of Christ.
Lesson 1 (verses 1-5)
Faith, Love, and Obedience
“Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.”
He also performed all the works of the Messiah by His gracious miracles, and His blessed and powerful preaching and teaching ministry, and ultimately His sacrifice on the cross as the Lamb of God for the sins of His people. All who believe on this Jesus as their Messiah, are born of God.
Next, all those who love the Father, also love the Son, Who was begotten of Him. In earthly relationships, love for both father and son is traditional in human culture and society. How much more this should be true of the divine family of God the Father and His Son. The fact is, if a person does not love God the Father, he does not love God the Son, and vise versa.
This also could apply to fellow believers, who are sons of God by the new birth. We love Him Who begat us, therefore we love all believers who are begotten of Him. Both of these possible interpretations are true and will satisfy the context of this chapter.
“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.”
So if we do not keep the commandments of God, then we don’t love God, and therefore we don’t truly love one another. Therefore it can be deduced that if we don’t keep the commandments of the Lord, as the tenor of our lives, then we don’t love the brethren. In plain terms, a person that does not obey God and live up to the New Testament standard for godly living and reasonable service to the Lord, does not love the brethren.
Those who love sin and live in sin, who are unfaithful to the Lord’s house, and to His ordinances, and His service, don’t love the brethren. We can say “I love the brethren”, but John says, “don’t just say that you love the brethren, but show that you love them by keeping Jesus’ words. Love is not just some abstract, intangible concept, but it is real, and it works, and it is manifested in our obedience, and faithfulness, and in good works.
“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.”
This is why some professing believers who seem to serve the Lord for a while, who even serve with enthusiasm at the first, by and by they are offended. By and by the drudgery and burden of serving the Lord is more than they can bear, and when coupled with all the cares and troubles of this life, by and by they quit serving the Lord.
The reason they quit serving the Lord is because they really never loved the Lord to start with. They really never believed in the love of God that was manifested in sending His Son to die for them. Only the love of God will motivate true believers to endure in faithful service to the Lord. All other motives will fail sooner or later. Again, this is another possible reason why the aged Apostle John wrote so much on the subject of love.
Notice John 14:21-24:
“He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. 22 Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? 23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. 24 He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me.”
In verse 21 Jesus indicates that we must have His commandments in our hearts. We must hear them and hide them in our hearts and minds, and put them to our memory. Beloved, ignorance of God’s commandments is no excuse not to keep them, but ignorance is an indicator that people really don’t love God. If we love God, we will want to hear what He has to say in His Word. We will want to know His commandments.
Next we are to keep His commandments. First, by keeping His commandments means that we lay them up in our hearts and safeguard them by meditating on them, and putting them in the foremost place of our heart and mind, so that all that we do in life is monitored, and filtered, and approved or disapproved by them.
Secondly, to keep His commandments means to put them into practice in our lives. Whether they be the “thou shalt nots,” or the positive commandments of those things that believers are to do in the New Testament Church dispensation.
And, as Jesus taught in verse 23, if we love Him, we will keep His commandments. So again, we see from this passage that the motive for true obedience to the Lord’s commandments, is love. Not only this, but by keeping His commandments out of love, there is the promised blessing of greater fellowship and a closer walk with God.
What did Jesus mean in verse 23 by “the Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him”? Jesus was not speaking about the eternal, everlasting love of God for His people, but that sweet manifestation of love through close fellowship with His obedient saints. So here we see the conditional nature of close fellowship with the Lord, upon our loving obedience to His commandments.
In verse 24 Jesus said that those who don’t love Him, don’t keep His commandments. Therefore, those who don’t make the Lord’s commandments the rule and guide of their lives, don’t love the Lord. Its just that simple. There are no other options in this matter. Jesus even went on to qualify His statement by saying that these are the Father’s words, Who is the final authority in Heaven and earth.
So then, those who love the Lord will keep His commandments, and His commandments are not grievous.
“For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.”
Overcoming the world by the new birth and by faith. By “the world” is meant Satan and demon spirits, the wicked men of the world, the antichrist world system, the antichrists and false prophets in the world, the sinful lusts that are in the world, as well as our old sinful, worldly natures that we were born with.
“Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world.” This, beloved, is a statement of fact. If you are born of the Spirit of God, you will overcome the world. You will overcome Satan. You will overcome sin and your old Adamic nature. You will overcome! You will keep on keeping on. You will “hold out faithful to the end”. These overcoming graces in our lives are evidence that we are born again.
The Arminians say that believers must “overcome” in order to be saved. But the truth is, because we are saved, or born again, we will overcome. The means by which we will overcome, John tells us, is our God given faith. Now we need to understand that by overcoming is not meant that we overcome in the absolute since. We already saw in our study that we are not perfect. We are not sinless, but we still sin as God’s children. We are not proud of this fact, but the fact is we are only sinners saved by grace.
Overcoming here is a broader term, that accounts for all the humps and bumps, and trips and falls along the way. It accounts for all the set backs, and pitfalls, and snares that take us temporarily out of the good way. It also takes into account our recovery from the errors of our way, when by the grace and mercy of God we are restored after that we have strayed, and after the Lord’s hand of chastening has weighed heavily upon us.
Yes, we overcome through all these things. Though “a just man falleth seven times, he shall rise again!” (Proverbs 24:16). Speaking of a righteous man David said “Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand.” (Psalm 37:24).
In all these things we are never lost and saved and lost again! Eternal life, and saving faith, and the new birth are not affected by the events of this life and of time, whether they be good or evil. These are the eternal works of God in our soul that are deeper and higher than the works of the flesh and the carnal nature.
Nevertheless, our God given faith will give us the victory over the world, and over sin and the deeds of the flesh. Though we fall we will rise again by the arm of faith. We may lose some skirmishes along the way, and suffer heartaches and wounds, but by faith we will come forth shining unto the glory and praise of God.
Like so many other evidences that John gives us in this book, this is another strong evidence that we are the children of God, because we always overcome the world by faith. When we are down, and it appears that we will not rise again, then suddenly the Lord comes to our aid and picks us up, and sets us back on the straight and narrow way.
We conclude that all true believers, who have been given the gift of saving faith in the Gospel, shall overcome the world. We shall overcome Satan, demon spirits, wicked men, and the evil world system that is set against the Lord and His people. We shall overcome antichrists and false prophets, the sinful lusts in the world, and our old depraved natures.
All who are born of the Spirit of God, who have been given true saving faith, shall, not might, but shall overcome the world.
Do faith and love work in our lives this evening? Do we love God and keep His commandments? Are His commandments grievous to us?
Are you born again this evening? Are you overcoming this world by the gift of saving faith?
Finally, have you repented and believed the Gospel of Jesus?
Lesson 2 (verses 6-10)
The Witnesses of Jesus
“This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.”
There are many different opinions and interpretations of this verse as well as the entire passage before us tonight. We want to notice some possible interpretations.
1. First this evening, how is it that Jesus came by water? Lets see some possibilities.
1) First, water is symbolic of the Word of God.
We learn from John 1:1 and 1:14 that Jesus is the incarnate Word, or the Word of God made flesh. Notice John 1:1 and 1:14:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
Therefore, whether or not this is what John means in 1 John 5:6, it is true that Jesus is the incarnate Word, and therefore He is the water of life, and He gives that water freely to whomsoever He will.
2) Secondly, Jesus came into this world by His physical birth.
As miraculous and incomprehensible the virgin birth is to our finite minds, the Son of God was made flesh. He was truly a man in every respect. In fact, Jesus is the best example of a man that this world has ever known, because He was the perfect man. He is, in every respect, the very image of God personified in human flesh. Of course Jesus is God the Son, the second Person of the Holy Trinity, and therefore He is very God. And God became flesh and dwelt among us, and therefore “they shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” (Matthew 1:23).
Some interpret the water in John 3:5-6 as referring to the natural birth. Notice John 3:5-6:
“Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
In the natural birth the protective water bag surrounding the baby in the mother’s womb is ruptured and pours out, and therefore it might be said that we all are born of water. Personally, I believe this interpretation best fits the context of the passage, especially in light of Nicodemus talking of entering the second time into the mother’s womb. In any regard, I have no problem with interpreting the water in this passage as the Word of God. Both interpretations are true whether they are the intended meaning or not.
So that we don’t “miss the forest for the trees”, the point we want to make is that Jesus was literally, physically born into this world. He had a body like us. Hebrews tells us “…but a body hast thou prepared me” (Hebrews 10:5), that is, for the purpose of becoming the sacrifice and payment for our sins. As we studied earlier in this book, one of the main truths that John defended in this book was the physical body of Jesus, which the Gnostics of his time denied, and were thereby deceiving many. John said in chapter 1 concerning Jesus “which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the word of life…”. So truly Jesus came by water in that He was born into this world as a man, and thus He had a human body.
3) Thirdly, there is the water of Jesus’ baptism.
This is the way our Lord began His public ministry when He was baptized of John (Matthew 3:13-17). The significance of Jesus’ Baptism was that it served as His inauguration to public ministry, and it was symbolic of His future death, burial, and resurrection to redeem His people from their sins, and to cleanse them of all their sin and guilt.
We need to be careful not to assign more meaning to the ordinance of baptism than what is Scripturally intended, even in the case of our Lord’s baptism. Water baptism cannot cleanse the soul of sin. Certainly Jesus, the sinless, impeccable Son of God, needed no cleansing, and we know that baptism cannot cleanse sinners from their sins.
4) Fourthly, there is the cleansing virtue of the work of Jesus on the cross.
The water of the Old Testament ceremonial cleansings and purifications, typified the cleansing of sin by Jesus on the cross. As by water, Jesus completely cleanses us from the guilt of our sins. He completely purges our “…conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:14). And thus it could be said that Jesus came by water, in that He, being the water of life, cleanses His people from all their sins in sanctification. He cleansed us from our sins eternally through faith in the Gospel, and in time we are cleansed through progressive sanctification, “…with the washing of water by the Word” (Ephesians 5:26).
No other substance than water could be a more suitable type of the cleansing virtues of Jesus. In chemistry, water is called the “universal solvent.” Most chemicals and elements are somewhat soluble in water. In fact, all substances are measured and classified by their solubility in water. Beloved, spiritually speaking, all sins, and all iniquities and transgressions, are soluble in the water of life. There are no sins so tough that Jesus can’t purge. There is no conscience so defiled that He cannot cleanse.
Fifthly and finally on this thought, when the soldier pierced Jesus’ side on the cross, there came out blood and water. Notice John 19:34-35:
“But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. 35 And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.”
This event was only recorded in John’s Gospel, and it is reasonable for him to make reference to it again in this epistle. This miracle can no more be explained than any other miracle in the Bible. Physically it would be impossible for these two distinct fluids to flow forth from the same wound, so as to be distinguished from one another. I cannot explain it physically. I don’t even know all that it might mean spiritually, other than perhaps it proves all these other things that we have already studied concerning Jesus coming by water, as a seal of this glorious truth.
To sum up this thought, Jesus came by water in that He is the Word of God incarnate, the virgin born Son of God, Who became a real man in order to be the sacrifice for our sins. His ministry was inaugurated by His Baptism, and by His work on the cross He cleanses and washes us from the guilt of our sins. Finally, upon the cross Jesus was pierced, and out of His side came forth water and blood.
2. Secondly, what is meant when John said that Jesus came by blood.
Jesus being a man had blood flowing through His veins as other men do. I believe, however, that His blood was necessarily sinless blood. The Bible teaches that “the life of the flesh is in the blood,” Leviticus 17:11, and thus for Jesus to have a sinless body and sinless life, He must have sinless blood.
I know that there are different beliefs concerning the origin of Jesus’ blood, and whether there is sin in blood at all. I am not an expert on human anatomy, or physiology, or genetics (although I do have over sixty college credit hours in biology), but I do know that Jesus had a sinless body, and therefore of necessity He must have had perfect sinless blood.
I also know that blood is the vehicle that caries oxygen, vitamins, and all the necessary nutrients to all the cells of the body to support physical life. In like manner, blood is also the vehicle that caries diseases, viruses, toxic poisons, and other impurities that cause sickness and other physical ailments of the body. Some of these blood disorders are genetic in origin, at least according to modern medical scientists.
Some theologians might not classify disease, viruses, impurities, deficiencies, and genetic disorders of the blood as sin or otherwise sinful, but these certainly are imperfections that resulted from the fall of Adam, and therefore sin is at the root of their existence. No doubt the blood of Adam and Eve did not possess any impurities before their fall into sin. Whether or not physical impurities and imperfections are sinful in and of themselves is a topic for another study, but no believer can deny that sin at very least is at the root of all sickness, disease, and physical disorders (including death); all of which are in the blood or facilitated by the blood.
Was Jesus ever sick? Did He have any physical ailments during His earthly life? I don’t believe He did! That is because His blood did not contain germs and viruses that make us sinners sick. Would Jesus have ever died physically if it were not for the cross of Calvary? No! Sin is the cause of all death, and Jesus had no sin of His own, and therefore He would not have died if it were not for our sins placed upon Him on the cross. I will go a step further, would the blood of Jesus have been acceptable to God on the mercy seat in Heaven if it contained any of the impurities that were caused by sin? I don’t believe so.
So then you may draw your own conclusions on the subject, but I favor the view that Jesus had a perfect sinless human body that contained perfect sinless blood. Please do not misunderstand me, I didn’t say that sin or its effects are only in the blood, but rather I believe that sin has corrupted mankind from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet, and everything in between. His entire person and nature are tainted and corrupted with sin, and that is one reason why Jesus could not have had an earthly father, because He would have inherited his sinful characteristics and nature.
Again, the Bible teaches that “the life of the flesh is in the blood” Leviticus 17:11. Many Baptist preachers believe that Jesus had the sinless blood of God flowing in His veins, and not the sinful blood of Adam. If this is correct, then Jesus’ blood was probably much the same as Adam’s blood before the fall. It may not be by coincidence that Jesus is referred to as the “second Adam”! We must deduce from the creation account in Genesis that God created Adam’s blood. We also read in the creation account that God said everything He created was “very good”, including the blood of Adam.
Finally on this thought, you will notice in the Bible that the man is accredited with giving life to his posterity, and maybe the reason is because we receive our blood from our earthly fathers. I know that there are “scientific” arguments against this view, but so are their “scientific” arguments against everything in the Bible. Beloved, let us be careful how hard we lean on “modern science” to prove our beliefs about the Bible. More and more “scientific facts” are being disproved all the time. What is a “fact of science” today, might be a scientific blunder tomorrow. Beloved, to be safe, hold to the old views and the old paths of the Word and those who preach it in its simplicity and truth.
The primary teaching of this passage, however, is the death of Jesus on the cross, where He shed His precious blood for the sins of His people. By His shed blood Jesus made atonement for our sins, and wrought the remission of our sins, for “without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22). It was by His shed blood that Jesus made the propitiation for our sins, and expiated God’s righteous wrath and penalty for our sins.
3. Thirdly from verse 6 is the witness of the Spirit.
There are a few possibilities here. At the baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:16), we read that “…he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him…”, that is, upon Jesus. John the Baptist said concerning Jesus in John 3:34:
“For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.”
Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would witness, or testify of Him in John 15:26:
“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:”
The function of the Holy Spirit in the world is to reprove, or convict the world of sin, and of the righteousness of Christ through the message of the Gospel, and of judgment to come. Notice John 16:8:
“And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:”
The Holy Spirit uses human instrumentality to preach repentance and faith in the Gospel. But as we know, the Spirit works in the inward regions of the heart and soul, to convict and convince men of sin, and perform a work of grace in regeneration and conversion. All saints of God are indebted to the work of the Holy Spirit in salvation. Without His witness, there would not one soul be saved!
On the day of Pentecost the Lord’s Church was baptized with the Holy Spirit, and from that time forward the Holy Spirit has witnessed through the church that Jesus built. Notice Acts 1:6-8:
“When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? 7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. 8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
The work and the witness of the Lord’s Churches since Pentecost has been performed by the power of the Holy Spirit that was given unto them. That same power is still with the Lord’s true churches today to do the work of the Lord in the world.
Now we want to return to 1 John 5:6. John concludes this verse by saying that the Spirit is truth. The Holy Spirit is God, the third Person of the Holy Trinity and therefore He also is holy, and righteous, and just, and true, just like God the Father and the Son. Therefore His witness is true. Sometimes God’s preachers may say things that are not theologically correct, and therefore are not true. But if we teach and preach, or if we believe something that is not true, we didn’t learn it from the Holy Spirit because His witness is always true.
We saw earlier in 1 John 2:20 that we have an unction from the Holy One, and we know all things. In verse 27 of that chapter we are taught that we have an anointing that teaches us all things. So then, the Holy Spirit not only witnesses of the truth of the Gospel to the lost, but also of the truth to the saved as we grow in truth. People who profess to be Christians, who follow after error and believe the doctrines of men and of devils, certainly didn’t learn those errors from the Holy Spirit of God.
“For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.”
In this verse we read that there are three witnesses in Heaven. These three witness of the Son of God, as we discussed in the previous verse. This verse is simple enough to understand. We have God the Father, God the Son, who is the Word, and God the Holy Spirit. These three Persons of the Holy Trinity are one in essence, and in attributes, and in purpose, yet they are three distinct Persons. Please don’t ask me to explain that, we must simply receive the doctrine of the Holy Trinity of God by faith.
“And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.”
In verse 8 we see that there are three witnesses on earth. By the Spirit, I believe John is speaking of the Holy Spirit, who witnesses of Christ as we already discussed previously.
By the water might be meant the ordinance of water baptism, which is a picture and a testimonial of the Gospel. John might have in view the water of the Word of God that is preached in the world by the saints of God, whereby men are saved. He might also have in view the cleansing of the conscience from sin and dead works, and sanctification by the washing of the water of the Word. Or, John might be speaking of the water that flowed forth from the Saviour’s side, which testified that He was truly the incarnate Word of God.
By the blood is meant Jesus’ blood that was shed for the remission of sins. His blood is proclaimed and witnessed in the preaching of the cross. By blood some also think is meant the death of the martyrs of Jesus, whose blood was shed as a testimony of their faith in the blood of Christ. Beloved, how much martyr blood cries up from the ground, as a testimony of saving faith in the Son of God. Like that blood of righteous Abel who’s blood cried from the ground. Abel’s faith in Jesus, the Lamb of God, yet speaks to us today (see Hebrews 11:4).
These three agree in one. All of God’s witnesses agree. There are no discrepancies. There are no contradictions in their testimony. They all speak with one voice. There are not two or ten Christs, or ten Gospels, or ten ways to Heaven, but one and only one. And all of God’s witnesses agree in one about the one Jesus, and the one Gospel, and the only way to Heaven, and that is by faith in the Son of God and His work on the cross for the sins of all who will believe in Him.
“If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son.”
The witness of God is greater than the witness of men. Men receive the witness of men concerning things of this earth, and believe that those things are so. Witnesses are required in the Bible in matters of judgment. How much more so can men believe the witness of God Who is holy, just and true, and righteous altogether?
Yes, as we’ve seen tonight, there is great encouragement to believe God’s witness concerning His Son Jesus!
“He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.”
In this verse we see the witness within the believer. All true believers have the witness of the Holy Spirit and of the new nature within, that testifies within that these things are true.
Everyone who does not believe this witness of Jesus is saying that God is a liar, because they do not believe the record that God gave concerning His Son. This is mighty dangerous ground to be on.
Have you believed God’s record concerning His Son? Have you believed His witnesses that He has given in Heaven and in earth, that you might believe and be saved?
Repent, and believe in Jesus this very evening, and you will be saved.
“And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. 13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”
“God hath given us eternal life”. This passage is in the past tense. Eternal life is not something that we will wait to receive if we are found worthy, but if we are true believers, then we have it right now. God hath given it to us. It is the free gift of God. We didn’t earn it, or merit it. We didn’t receive it from God as a payment for a debt. God didn’t owe it to us, but He gave it to us as a free gift of His sovereign grace in Christ Jesus. He gave it to “us”. He didn’t give it to everyone, but to those that He chose to be heirs of salvation, that is, His elect. It is eternal life and not temporal life. Eternal life has no end, just as God’s life has no end. It is not something that can be lost, and God will never take back his gift of life to His people. This beloved, is security if ever there was security.
“And this life is in His Son.” This is so important, and so essential to salvation and eternal life. There is no life outside of Jesus Christ and faith in His redemptive work on the cross. Jesus not only gives eternal life, but He is eternal life. To have eternal life is to have Jesus. If we don’t have Jesus, then we do not have eternal life. If we have Jesus, then we do have eternal life, its just that simple! Of course, this fact rules out all other religions who do not claim to know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. This rules out all so-called Christian religions that believe in salvation by works, because you can’t work to have Jesus. Jesus is a free gift to His people.
Therefore verse 12 tells us that “He that hath the Son hath life (present tense, right now); and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” Its that simple and straight forward. There is nothing mystical about that. There is nothing deep and dark that any child should not be able to understand. The question is, do we have Jesus. Did we receive Him by faith, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day for us? If so, then we have Jesus and therefore we have eternal life.
In verse 13 John said that he wrote these things to us who believe, so that we may know that we have eternal life. Oh, beloved, how many people have told me over the years that we can’t know if we’re saved, and that we can’t know if we have eternal life. What Bible are they using? What do they say to these things written in 1 John?
Beloved, God wants His people to know and to have assurance of eternal life. He doesn’t want us to doubt our salvation, and our eternal life. It is Satan that wants God’s people to doubt their salvation, not God. The Holy Spirit of God inspired John to pen these words so that we might have that “blessed assurance” that “Jesus is mine,” and to know that we are saved, and that we have eternal life right now.
John also wrote these things so that we might believe in the Name of the Son of God. If you are not a believer this evening, you can believe in Jesus. You can trust that He is Who He said that He is, the Son of God from Heaven. You can believe that He did what the Scriptures said that He did on the cross, that is, He paid the sin debt of all the sins of all who will believe on Him. John wrote these things to you, to assure you that you can believe in Jesus and be eternally saved from your sins.
“And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: 15 And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.”
Our confidence and assurance in Jesus is so well founded and so sure, that we can ask our petitions of Him and expect to receive them. Now, John is not suggesting that we test or tempt the Lord, but rather, that we should depend on Him and trust in Him for all things, and seek Him and ask Him for all things that we need. And beloved, we have the confidence that He hears us, and that He will give us those things that we ask for, if of course, we ask according to His will.
Now, if we ask for things outside of His will, He will still answer us, but the answer will probably be NO! Don’t think that just because we ask for something we will automatically receive it. Jesus is not some big Jeanie, or milk cow, Who gives us our every desire. If we ask things that are sinful, or that are contrary to the revealed will of God, then He will not even hear us, at least not with intent to bless us or answer us favorably. The “name it, claim it” folks, who say that you can ask for a million dollars, or a new Cadillac, or a new mansion, that Jesus will give it to you, are just plain ignorant of the revealed will of God!
“If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. 17 All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death. 18 We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.”
We know that perhaps most sins that we might commit are not sins unto death, otherwise we would all be dead a long time ago! But there is a sin unto death, or sins that are of such a nature that God will take our lives for. I believe that John is talking about true believers in the context. If this is the case, then what kind of sins might be sins unto death? We will notice a few Biblical examples.
Adam sinned unto death. He plainly and blatantly disobeyed a direct command of God, and that was, “don’t eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Therefore, committing a direct, willful act of disobedience to God could be a sin unto death.
Moses sinned a sin unto death when he smote the rock the second time, after that God told him to speak to the rock. He didn’t die right away, but he was not allowed to lead the children of Israel into the promised land, but died on top of Mount Pisgah. Like Adam, Moses disobeyed the plain revealed will of God, and out of anger he took matters into his own hands and failed to sanctify God in the eyes of the people Israel. This is a warning to all those in positions of leadership, especially of the Lord’s people. Parents, pastors, deacons, and teachers are all in places of spiritual leadership; especially pastors. We need to be careful that we honor and sanctify the Lord before His people.
Achan sinned a sin unto death, when he took the Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold in the battle against Jericho. God told the children of Israel not to take of the accursed thing, that is, they weren’t to take any of the spoils from Jericho when God gave them the victory. But Achan saw the spoil and lusted after it, and took of it, and disobeyed the commandment of the Lord. As a result, he and his entire family were stoned to death and then burned with fire. We need to be careful!
King Saul sinned a sin unto death, by not obeying the voice of the Lord, and failing to do all the will of the Lord upon the Amalekites. He was to destroy them utterly, and he was not to take any of the spoil. He disobeyed God and spared King Agag, and the sheep, among other things. As a result of his disobedience he lost his kingdom and his life.
In all four of these examples, the sin unto death was a direct act of disobedience to the revealed will of God. All four of these sins also involved the lust of the flesh. Three lusted in desire to have something God forbade them to have, and Moses lusted in carnal anger. Hopefully we can see that giving into the lust and desires of the flesh, might just result in a sin unto death. Again, be careful !
For a New Testament example of a sin unto death there was Ananias and Sapphira, a husband and wife team, who conspired to keep back part of the money from the sale of a piece of land that they agreed to give to the church. They didn’t have to give the money to the Lord’s work in the first place, but they agreed to give the money, and then changed their minds and held part of it back. Be careful beloved, what we say that we are going to do, especially for the Lord’s work, and then not do it as we agreed.
The charge against them was lying to the Holy Spirit. Now they probably didn’t think that they were lying to the Holy Spirit when they agreed between themselves to hold back part of the price of their land. They may not have realized how serious there offense was at the time. They probably thought they were living in 21st century America. I mean, how often do Christians today do what Ananias and Sapphira did? We give them a pretty hard time for their sin of greed. But just because God killed them, doesn’t mean that He is any more pleased with our greed, and our withholding from His work.
Ananias and Sapphira probably gave most of their money to the church. They probably only held back a small part of what they had promised. If God killed people today like He did back then for this same type of sin, I wonder how many of us would be dead today? Oh, beloved, be careful what we say that we are going to do for the Lord’s work. Be careful what oaths and vows we make, that we fail not to keep them. Be careful that we don’t rob God of what is rightfully His; He might just take our lives for lying to the Holy Spirit!
So then, there is a sin unto death. John said he didn’t know that we should pray for such sins that we may see a brother commit, although he didn’t forbid us to pray for it. On the other hand, we are to pray about sins that are not unto death. In other words, we are to be mediators in behalf of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we should seek forgiveness for them in our prayers. We cannot forgive them, but we can bring them in prayer to the One Who can.
“And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness. 20 And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.”
In these verses we find there is something else that we know as believers. We know that we are of God. That is, we were born again of God. Beloved, we can’t be born and alive and not know it. That is just plain silly to think that we can, either physically or spiritually. If we have been born of God, there are manifestations of new life flowing out of our souls.
Not only this, but we can discern by the same Spirit that dwells in us, that the world lies in wickedness, or the wicked one. Not only are we illuminated to see what we are, but also to see what the condition of the world is, and the fact that they are sold out to the devil and his devices.
Not only this, but we know that the Son of God is come and has given us an understanding, that through that understanding we may know him that is true. Our minds and understandings have been illuminated to the truth of Jesus Christ, and to know Him that is true, and to know that we are in Him that is true, even Jesus who is the true God, and our eternal life.
Oh beloved, what assurance we have tonight, of our salvation and eternal life. We have no good reason not to have this assurance tonight, if we are saved by His grace. May He give each of His true children this blessed assurance tonight!
“Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.”
Keep yourselves from idols. Meaning the idols of this world, which John wrote about in this book. And the idols of false religions in the world, and the idols of false teachers and of their false teachings, and the idols of false Christs and antichrists that are not the Christ of the Bible. Keep yourselves from them. Stay clear of them. Have no part with them.
This concludes our study in 1 John. What did we learn from this book? I hope we learned to love one another! I hope we learned the importance of keeping the commandments of Christ. I hope we learned the importance of keeping ourselves pure from sin, and from the world. I hope we learned the dangers of false spirits, and antichrists, and their false doctrines. I hope we learned to have confidence in Jesus, and assurance in the eternal life that He gives. And if you were not saved when we started this study, I hope that you learned to trust in Jesus, and to believe in Him as your Lord and Saviour.
Walk in Truth
Many believe that 2 John was written from Ephesus, at about the same time as the book of 1 John (toward the end of the 1st century). Although John’s name is not mentioned in the letter, it is clear from the literary style, and from the themes and subject matter, that the Apostle John was the author.
Although some believe that John wrote this letter to one of his lady friends in the faith, it is more likely from the over-all context of the letter, that he was writing to another local church fellowship. We’ll see this as we go through our study.
The message of the book is to commend this church and to encourage them in their spiritual progress, as well as to admonish and warn them of the dangers of false teachers and antichrists and their wicked and subversive doctrines.
Two themes of this book are truth and love, and their interdependence. John mentions love four times in the book, and truth five times. John’s emphasis on truth more than on love in this epistle is noteworthy. Love, and all the characteristics of the Christian faith, are founded on the truth.
Much of what John writes about in this little epistle, simply reiterates what he already said in the book of 1 John. There are, however, several additional thoughts that are unique to this book that we can glean along the way.
Verses 1-3 John’s Salutation
Often times in our book studies we tend to skim through or rather “jump over” the salutation. In this salutation there are several special important thoughts that are worthy of special mention.
“The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth;”
John identifies himself as the “elder”. John is an elderly man at this time, possibly in his 90’s. He therefore writes as the aged John the Apostle, who has much wisdom and insight in the things of the Lord. Its good to have wise council of those who have been around, who have been there and done that, so to speak, who have seen the evils in the world and the end results that they cause. Its also good to have such wise counselors in our lives who care about us, and are willing to offer their wisdom out of love for our souls.
John also may have been the pastor of the Church of Ephesus at this time, which in this case “elder” would have been his proper title.
John writes to the elect lady. Again, there is every reason to believe that this elect lady is metamorphic and is actually speaking of another local church (note verse 13). She is a chosen church, or the church of the Lord’s choosing. Not only are individuals chosen unto salvation in Christ, but His Churches are also chosen churches, made up of chosen members in particular.
She is described as a lady. We have been speaking of the Lord’s Church as being His bride, which depicts the church as a woman. But John calls her a lady. I like that. She is lady like. She conducts herself as a lady. She walks, talks, and behaves like a lady. She doesn’t behave like a harlot, or a woman with no etiquette or manners, but she is a lady.
As a lady, she had a proper upbringing in the King’s house, and under the tutorage and training of His schoolmasters. She has been instructed in all of His laws and the councils of His Word, and she behaves and conducts herself accordingly. Yes, she is a lady, as one who is prepared and fit to be the rightful Bride of Christ.
John writes not only to the church as a whole, but to “her children”, or that is, the individual members of the church. His letter is personal to each member, as if it were written only to them. That is how we should receive the Word of God, as if God wrote it to us personally as one of His beloved children.
John said that he loved them in the truth. Beloved, how special is our love for the brethren who love the truth, who worship God in Spirit and in truth, according to the truth of God’s Word. We are to love our enemies, and we are to do good unto all men (Galatians 6:10), and live peaceably with all men as much as lieth within us (Romans 12:18). But beloved, there is a special love that I have for the Lord’s Churches and their members who love the truth, and live the truth, and stand fast for the truth, that I don’t share with the rest of the world. This is a common bond that is only shared between members of the Lord’s true New Testament Churches.
“For the truth’s sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever.”
Beloved, we should love one another for the truth’s sake. If we cannot come up with any other reason to love them, we should love one another for the truth’s sake. Whether within our own church, or those of other sound churches. This is a good and precious reason to love them. I could say it another way; love them for Christ’s sake, Who is God’s truth personified.
I admit that I have been aggravated at times by other pastor’s and churches, but in my heart I always am brought back to this question; are they a true Scriptural Church? Do they love the truth and walk in the truth? If the answer comes back “yes”, then I must brake down in my heart, and love them for the truth’s sake. I may not like some of the things that they do, but I must love them for the truth’s sake.
We also see in this verse that the truth shall dwell in us forever. Beloved, this speaks about the perpetuity of the Lord’s Church. I believe that John is speaking here about the Lord’s Churches, and therefore in this verse we see the perpetual existence of the truth in the Lord’s Churches forever, and therefore the Lord’s Churches must also exist forever in John’s prophetic eye.
“Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.”
We want to notice a few things that stand out in John’s salutation. We notice the words “grace”, “mercy”, and “peace”. These are special blessings given to the Lord’s people, especially members of His Church, to which John is writing. We don’t have time to expound these words this evening, but just to say that each of these words represent a major characteristic of the Christian religion. In this verse we notice that these essential Christian attributes are linked to truth and love.
How important is truth? I believe it is so important that without an understanding of the truth, especially the truth of the Gospel, one cannot possess the grace, mercy, and the peace of God. In other words, salvation is dependant upon knowing the truth of the Gospel of Jesus. Serving and worshipping God as a believer, are also dependant on abiding in the truth. The Lord will not receive our service and worship outside of the truth, if it is not performed according to the system of truth as revealed in His Word! Baptists speak so much about the truth that people may get tired of hearing it. But beloved, the truth is so important to both salvation and service.
Not only this, but the grace, mercy and peace of God must be received by a heart that knows the love of God. Some people speak about the grace, mercy, and peace of God, but they don’t care for the love of God. This also is a contradiction of the faith! If we don’t know the love of God, we certainly don’t know the grace of God, either for salvation or for service. So then all of the attributes and characteristics of the Christian faith are interlinked and interdependent, and one doesn’t exist without the other.
We also see in this verse the equality of the Father and the Son. If there is another doctrine that John emphasized in His writings, it is the deity of Christ, and also the equality of the Holy trinity. These teachings totally destroy the cults such as the Jehovah’s false witnesses, and the Mormon’s, and Christian Science falsely so-called, and the other cults; all of which deny the deity of Christ and the Holy Trinity.
“I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father.”
There is nothing that brings greater joy to a pastor than for his flock to walk, or that is, to live in truth. This includes far more than just making a mental assent to the teachings of the Word of God. Yes, it is important that we believe the many precious truths of the Word of God. Baptists of all people are sticklers on this point. But John has in mind much more. He loved to see the members of the Lord’s Churches living in truth, not merely professing to believe the truth. There is a big difference you see. John rejoiced to see the truth put into practice in believer’s lives. In other words, he rejoiced to see practical Christianity working out in their lives.
He no doubt rejoiced to see such things as believers living honestly in the world, and morally and godly in the world. He rejoiced to see them living lives that were clean and pure, and above reproach, and living in such a way that the Gospel of Jesus was sounded forth for others to see and hear, and be saved as a result. That is what is wanted today, isn’t it? May God help Calvary Baptist Church to walk in truth!
And John said that this is a commandment of the Father. Its not an option, or just a good idea, but a command of God. How many are obeying this commandment today.
“And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. 6 And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.”
Again in verse 5 John refers to this sister church as “lady”. As we studied over and over again in 1 John, John reiterates here the commandment of Jesus that we are to love one another.
But in this passage John defines love as obedience to God. Remember, as we have studied in the past, the Bible teaching of love is not just a gushy, smooshy feeling in the heart, like human love. But Biblical love is an outward manifestation of the love of God in the heart. It is love in action. It is obedience to the commands of Christ. Biblical love is doing, not just feeling.
I have heard people say that they love me and my preaching, and that they love our church, but they never come for services. I have even heard church members say such things, who don’t even attend church. Now beloved, there is something wrong with that kind of love! There is something wrong with a love that says “I love your preaching and I love your church,” but they lay out of church. They are either outright lying, or they just don’t know what the love of God is all about.
True Biblical truth and love are exceedingly important to both salvation and Christian service. May God help us to love the truth, and to speak the truth in love. May we not only know the truth, but may we also walk and live according to the truth. May we put the truth into practice. And may we walk in the love of God by obeying, and walking, and living according to His commandments.
“For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.”
There are many deceivers in the world. There were many deceivers in John’s day, and many more should be expected today. The types of deception have compounded over the years. There are the cults, which deny the eternality and the deity of Christ, as well as His incarnation and His bodily resurrection, etc., etc. These include the Jehovah’s false witnesses, the Mormons (or morons who follow the demon Moroni), the Christian Scientists falsely so-called, and so on.
There are the so-called Christian Denominations that deny the grace of God in salvation. They teach works of various kinds for salvation such as baptism for salvation, church membership for salvation, pray your way through for salvation, repeat a prayer or sign a card for salvation, keep the law of Moses for salvation, do the best you can for salvation, etc., etc.. These all deny the efficacy of the atonement of Christ. They deny that the work of Christ actually saves anyone, but they teach that the sacrifice of Christ only made salvation possible for everyone. This is contrary to the Scriptures, which teach that Jesus “came to save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
These also deny the church that Jesus built. They teach that all believers are in one big universal, invisible church, which the Scriptures do not teach. It would take a large volume to expound all of the many and diverse errors of Protestantism. Just remember that one error requires more errors to explain the first error, and those errors require even more errors to explain them, until before long they have built entire systems of errors, just like the Scribes and Pharisees did in Jesus’ day.
These are deceivers and antichrists, regardless of what they call themselves. They must be called what they are! They must be exposed for what they are. They are dangerous and destructive; both to the lost, and also to true believers. We mustn’t support them, or give place to their cultist religions or the errors they teach.
“Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.”
It can be inferred from this passage that believers can lose rewards. We can not lose eternal salvation, as salvation is not a reward. Salvation, beloved, is not a payment for a debt, Romans 4 teaches us. Salvation cannot be worked for or earned in any way. Therefore, John is not speaking about salvation in this passage.
John is speaking about rewards in verse 8. Rewards are for faithful Christian service, and they will be many and various. Rewards are for the good works of believers, which we are all called unto (Ephesians 2:10).
Deceivers can cause the loss of rewards. False teaching will take us out of the way of truth, and of serving the Lord according to truth. Beloved, if we don’t believe right, we can’t and won’t serve the Lord right. As a result we will lose rewards. We can lose rewards that we have already earned in the past, and we can be hindered from earning new rewards in the future.
“Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.”
Here, John writes about those who abide not in the doctrine of Christ. What is the doctrine of Christ, and what does it mean to abide not in this doctrine? The doctrine of Christ is justification by faith alone in the Gospel of Christ. To abide not in the doctrine of Christ is to abandon the teaching of salvation by grace through faith alone in the Gospel of Jesus.
Therefore, to leave the doctrine of Christ is evidence of a false profession of faith in Christ. One who leaves the doctrine of Christ has not God, and therefore never had God to begin with!
John also writes about those who do abide in the doctrine of Christ. Abiding in the doctrine of Christ is evidence of genuine conversion. No truly saved person will ever leave the doctrine of salvation by faith in Christ. All who have Christ, John tells us, have both the Father and the Son. Therefore, as we learned in the book of 1 John, to have the Father one must first have Jesus the Son.
“If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed:”
The main thought of our lesson tonight is how to deal with deceivers. First, don’t receive them into your house. Never invite them into your house, regardless of who they say they are, unless you know them well personally. Don’t accommodate them or lodge them, or provide for them in any way. Don’t give them money or financial support of any kind. Don’t buy their books and religious paraphernalia.
Be careful who you give money to in the name of religion. This is one purpose of the church, to support the work of the Lord through the tithe and offerings. The world is full of religious racketeers, and religious thieves and robbers. We are called to be good stewards, and the Lord placed this spiritual stewardship in His Church.
Next, John said “Neither bid them Godspeed.” We are not to befriend them. We are not to listen to their heresy and deception. If necessary, we should cut them off and send them on their way. Whatever we do, we are not to wish them God’s blessings. If anything, we should rebuke them for their heresy.
“For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.”
John tells us in this verse not to be a partaker of their evil deeds. If we receive them or accommodate them, we become an accomplice to their evil deeds. As such, we are guilty of sharing in their deception, and their spiritually destructive work. And we will also share in God’s judgment and His hot displeasure.
Secondly, don’t let them in your house, regardless of who they say they are, unless you know them personally. In this day and age it is not a good practice to let strangers into your house. If you feel impressed to talk to them, I recommend doing so from your porch.
Thirdly, don’t panic or lose your head! This is sometimes the first reaction because of fear. We get all excited and start shaking when they tell us they are Jehovah false witnesses or Mormons. Don’t panic. Greater is He that is in you than he that is in them!
Fourthly, if possible try to witness the Gospel of Jesus to them, and the truth about Jesus. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. I believe even deceivers can be saved! Try to tell them about your salvation experience. They may have never heard the true Gospel of the grace of God. The Holy Spirit is able to give them life in Christ also.
Witnessing to them will be difficult, because they don’t want to let you speak. They are trained to dominate the conversation. You may have to demand an audience, but the Lord can cause them to listen. If they won’t hear you, then you certainly should not listen to them.
Remember that they are well trained in their deception, and will try to defeat all your words. They will have ready answers to everything you say. Be sure that they are trained to talk to people like us. They will answer your Bible quotes with their Bible quotes; even from the King James Version.
They will also outright lie to you about what their cult believes. They will pretend to believe just like you do in order to win your confidence. You have to know their writings and their beliefs in order to know they are lying. If you don’t know anything about their beliefs, you are best to avoid a long discussion with them.
Fifthly, always remember it is your house (if they come to your door), and it is your time. You don’t have to spend your time on them. The Lord does not require you to waste your time on heretics! You don’t have to “cast your purls before the swine” so to speak. If your not up to the task, you don’t have to talk with them at all. They will try to make you feel guilty for not talking to them, but don’t let it bother you. At most you are required to “…give a reason of the hope that is in you…” 1 Peter 3:15. To do more than this is “over and above” what is required.
Sixthly, send all false prophets and antichrists away without wishing them God’s blessings. Give them no impression that you respect or regard their cult or its teachings. If possible, try to convey that you are concerned for their souls and that you desire their salvation. You never know how the Lord might use your witness. But don’t give them Godspeed. Don’t send them away with God’s blessings.
Seventhly and finally, don’t take their literature and materials, and especially never buy them. By taking their material, you are supporting them. Only take their materials if they can watch you destroy it. Brother Paul Kirkman used to tell the story about taking the Jehovah false witnesses books from them, and then inviting them into his house to watch him put their books in his wood burning stove. Then he asked them if they had anymore, and told them that he would take all the books that they could give him for his stove. This was a funny story, but it made a good point. I would only take their materials if they could watch me destroy them before their eyes.
“Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full. 13 The children of thy elect sister greet thee. Amen.”
How blessed is Christian fellowship with other believers, and churches of like faith and order. You can’t replace Christian fellowship with radio and TV preachers, including sound Baptist preachers. These can’t replace the fellowship of the Lord’s local New Testament Church.
Church papers, websites, and radio broadcasts (etc.) are good and useful tools to spread the truth, but they can’t replace assembling together with God’s people in the House of God.
In conclusion to our study in 2 John, as we saw last week, the truth of God’s Word is so important to God’s people. We can’t serve and worship the Lord apart from the truth.
The truth is also essential to combating error, and false prophets, and antichrists. It is so important that we know the Bible and its many foundational teachings. It is so important that we know why we believe what we believe from the Word of God.
Beloved, we are in a battle for truth. May we be dedicated and consecrated to learning the truth, and growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in all the truth of His Holy Word.
May we not give place to error. Don’t let it in our homes. Don’t feed it or lodge it. Don’t support it with our money. Don’t listen to it. Don’t be a partaker with it in any way. Don’t bless those false prophets that propagate error, but rather rebuke them, and, if possible, tell them the truth about Jesus.
Finally this evening, are you a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ? Have you repented of your sins, and believed in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus for your justification? Do you have eternal life by faith in Jesus tonight?
If so, have you submitted to Scriptural baptism in one of the Lord’s true, New Testament Baptist Churches? If not, why not do so now?
Testimony of the Truth/Support of Missionaries
The book constitutes John’s letter of commendation to Gaius, his good friend in the faith, for his stand for the truth and his walk in the truth, as well as his faithful help and support to traveling missionaries and other Christian workers.
The book is also a warning to the likes of Diotrephes, who was an enemy of John and other true Christian servants, who excluded those of the church that did receive the brethren.
Although the letter is short, it contains some useful information, especially concerning the help and support of missionaries, and the attitude that churches should have toward supporting missionaries.
As with the previous letter, a prevalent theme of 3 John is the truth. May we regard the truth as the most important and most precious commodity, as one of the Lord’s Churches.
“The elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth.”
“Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.”
John prayed for all aspects of the Christian life. This includes physical and material prosperity, physical health, as well as soul and spiritual prosperity. These are all important to the Christian’s life of service to the Lord.
“For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth.”
John rejoiced greatly when the brethren testified of the truth that was in Gaius. The indwelling truth of the Word of God, is a powerful testimony of the grace of God in salvation, and of God’s working in a believer’s life.
This testimony of truth would include the following:
1) Belief that the Bible is the inspired Word of God.
2) A general over-all knowledge and understanding of the Bible and the system of Biblical truth (referred to in the Bible as “the faith”).
3) The doctrine of the Holy Trinity and all the attributes and operations of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
4) The Person and works of Christ, and the way of salvation by grace through faith in the Gospel.
5) The doctrines of God’s sovereign grace, which include total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, effectual call, and the perseverance and preservation of the saints.
6) The doctrines of the Lord’s local New Testament Church.
7) The literal interpretation of the book of Genesis, including the literal six day creation of the entire physical universe, and all things therein, including all physical life.
Of course, we could mention many other important truths, but these should make our point.
Beloved, if these truths are not important to Baptists, then there is no purpose or point in being Baptists. We might just as well be Catholics, or have no Church affiliation at all!
John goes on to say in verse 3 “even as thou walkest in truth.” John is talking about living the Christian life and about obeying the commandments of Christ. He is talking about living and walking honestly and above reproach, and about living holy, godly, and righteously. He is talking about living the example of Jesus Christ in our lives, and being a living testimony of the Gospel of the grace of God, and bearing the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.
Here we see again, as we brought out in previous studies from 1st and 2nd John, and in James, and in other Scriptures, just saying we believe the truth is not enough, but we must also live lives that testify and exemplify the truth. Otherwise no one will believe what we say we believe.
“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”
John had no greater joy than when his children walk in truth. Nothing makes a pastor happier, than when church members believe and live the truth! We long to see new believers grow in grace, and show forth Jesus in their lives! What a joy this is beloved!
John refers to them as his children. He is speaking of those who are younger in the faith, and also of those who were saved under his ministry. Those who were saved under my ministry I consider to be my children in the faith, and I long to see you grow in the truth, and walk in the truth. Not only you, but all who sit under our ministry, even you who are older in the faith than I am, I long to see you grow in the truth as well. And I believe I have seen some growth in you since I have been here.
2. The Care and Support of Missionaries (verses 5-8).
“Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers;”
John commends Gaius for his faithful care and support of missionaries and other Christian workers. Our ministry and work as a church must reach beyond our community to others who are working to advance the cause of the Gospel, and the truth of God’s Word in the world.
Our home missionary endeavors are important and essential, yet so are those works that are out of the physical reach of our church. This is the New Testament way. It is commendable to faithfully aid and support missionaries, whether they be here in the states or on foreign soils.
“Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well:”
These Christian workers bore witness to the Church where John pastured of Gaius’ love and support of them. To “bring forward” in this passage could imply several things. It could imply providing lodging and food, as well as travel expenses. It could imply giving love offerings to help support the work. It could imply regular financial support of the work, and it could imply helping with whatever immediate needs that they may have.
The New Testament gives churches liberty as to how we support missions, but it certainly teaches that we are responsible to support good, sound missionary works as we are able. Not to support missionaries is a failure on the part of the local church that has the means to do so.
“Because that for his name’s sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles.”
This passage is so important. We believe that the Lord’s missionaries are to be sponsored by local churches, and also supported by local churches as they are led by the Lord to do so.
It is not the place of the world to support the Lord’s work. Our churches and missionaries don’t ask or beg support from the world, as many of the denominations do today. We don’t ask the world for help with our radio broadcast, or our website, or our monthly newspaper. We don’t ask the world to help support our missionaries. And our churches and missionaries don’t ask or beg, or accept support from the state. We never have and I trust we never will.
“We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth.”
It is our place and responsibility as the Lord’s Churches to support His work. It is not an option to support missionaries, but it is our God given duty to do so. It is God’s way that He designed to support the furtherance of the Gospel.
We are to be fellow helpers of the truth. We aren’t obligated to support just anyone and everyone who comes our way. We are only obligated to support those who are of the truth. That is, those who believe and practice the truth of the Word of God as revealed by the Holy Spirit of God. Those who believe and practice the truth as it has been deposited in this church from its inception.
Beloved, there are many people out there who would desire our financial help, who do not believe as we believe. They would gladly take our money. There are also many out there who are worthy, and who are in need of our help. So may we seek the guidance and wisdom of the Holy Spirit in what missions we do support. May we be good stewards, and fellow helpers of the truth, and not of error. May we not fail in our duty to support God called missionaries.
May God help us to love the truth, and believe the truth, and walk in the truth. May God help us to support the truth by supporting good, sound missions as He enables us to do so.
Tonight, have you repented and believed the true Gospel of Jesus Christ for salvation. If not, repent and believe that Jesus died for you’re your sins, was buried, and rose again the third day for your sins, and you will be saved the very moment you believe.
Dealing with Outside Influences/Power Struggles in the Church
1. Helping churches deal with outside influences.
In 3 John there were several outside influences including John, missionaries, and other Christian workers from other sound churches. These were good outside influences. In the book of Galatians and other places, there were evil outside influences that tried to overthrow the faith of true believers and destroy their churches. We need to be careful how we as a church handle outside influences. We need to use proper channels, and do things decently and in order.
What authority or influence do nonmembers, even from other sound churches, have on another church? In reality, NONE!
Even the Apostle John realized his limitations, and he had special Apostolic authority! He didn’t demand or require this church to do anything in particular regarding his concerns. He pointed out his concerns and gave good, Biblical, spiritual council. He also revealed his plans to rebuke Diotrephes, but he was careful not to abuse his authority toward this church; and he had authority.
Other pastors and churches might give council and advice from the Word of God to another church, but that’s as far as they can go, or should try to go! I know of pastors and churches who try to impose their influences on other local churches by various methods of putting pressure on them. This has happened to us since I have been at Calvary. Well, they were wrong and it didn’t work. By God’s grace it never will work. They were wrong in what they were wanting Calvary to do, and they were sinning in the way they were trying to impose upon our local church government. But truth and righteousness prevailed in the end!
How then, should outsiders approach a church for support or to present their work, or to request participation of that church in some activity? The New Testament way is to approach the church through its pastor. He is the spiritual leader of the church, and therefore all petitions from other churches and missionaries, and so on, should be channeled through the pastor.
I don’t mean to say that the pastor has the final authority in all spiritual matters of the church, but he should be aware of all things that are going on in the church, and he should lead the church and have the oversight of all spiritual matters that involve the church, whether these be from the inside or the outside.
Furthermore, any outsider who tries to go around the pastor to influence the church better have very, very, very good reasons for doing so. The Apostle John in our text had such reasons, and he also had apostolic authority. I do not believe, however, that any one today has this kind of authority over another local church in which he is not a member. Personally, I am very reluctant to give other churches advice, much less try to tell them how to run their church, and much less go around their pastor to do so.
I’m afraid today we have a lot of “spiritual” busy bodies in our churches, including some pastors, who butt their noses into the affairs of other churches, which are none of their business, and cause hard feelings between the brethren in churches and between churches. This is what some Baptists are doing today instead of doing their part of the Great Commission. Beloved, we have too much to do as the Lord’s Church to get involved in the affairs of other churches. I hope that none of us at Calvary are guilty of this sin!
Therefore, beware of anyone who tries to influence or persuade your church without going through your pastor as the proper channel.
If they try to by-pass the pastor, chances are there is a reason why they don’t want to approach the pastor first. They probably know the pastor would see a problem with what they are doing, that you might not see or be aware of. Often times this is the case. To be safe in such cases, refer all such situations to your pastor. At very least, inform your pastor of what you have heard. He does have the God given right and authority to know and to have the spiritual oversight. The pastor’s involvement is for your good as well as the good and protection of the church.
I might add that if a church doesn’t feel that their pastor is competent and able to deal with these situations in a spiritual, godly, and Scriptural manner, then the church has a problem with their pastor.
2. Power struggles in the church.
“I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. 10 Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.”
In these verses we see that there is a power struggle going on within the church. We don’t know if Gaius was the pastor of this church, although this was quite possible. It is unlikely that Diotrephes was the pastor, otherwise I believe John would have shown him due honor and respect for his position and written to him personally, and rebuked him privately.
In any case, we have two men in this church who oppose one another. This situation makes for a terrible environment in a church. There was Gaius, who desired to do the right thing and the godly thing according to the truth and love of God, and another man Diotrephes, who worked all manner of evil in the church.
We want to notice the evil character of Diotrephes:
1) He loved the preeminence. He wanted to run the show. He wanted everything his way. Watch out for this kind. I’ve known several of this kind over the years, and they worked much havoc in the Lord’s Churches.
2) He intercepted John’s letters and withheld them from the church (apparently he got the mail).
3) He spoke evil of John and the other true disciples of other churches.
4) In this way he caused division between the brethren of different churches. There is a lot of this that goes on between the churches. Again, I don’t want to get involved unless I have a very good reason to do so! Seldom, if ever, is there such a good reason.
5) He disagreed with John’s teachings concerning Christ, the sovereignty of God, the deity of Christ, the love of God and love for the Brethren, as John taught in all of his writings.
6) He didn’t receive not John and other brethren who were well known to be of the truth.
7) He didn’t allow others in the church to receive the brethren, and he put them out of the church, or excluded them form the membership.
Beloved, the church needs to be very, very careful about giving in and giving place to members of the church who love the preeminence. I am thankful that, to the best of my knowledge, we don’t have any of that kind in our church. But I have been in churches that did have, and they caused tremendous trouble in the church.
“Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God. 12 Demetrius hath good report of all men, and of the truth itself: yea, and we also bear record; and ye know that our record is true.”
John advises Gaius, and the church as a whole, not to follow that which is evil. No doubt John was talking about Diotrephes and his ungodly ways. John was telling the church not to imitate Diotrephes and his wicked practices, or his doctrine. Instead, John told them to follow or to imitate the way that is good. The good way was John’s way, which was God’s way. In his usual fashion, John makes following after good an evidence of the new birth and of salvation. It is doubtful that Diotrephes, or those who followed after him, were even saved.
This is a WARNING to all church members! Be careful who you follow, even within the church. Don’t follow after people who love the preeminence. Don’t follow after people who always doubt and dispute the teachings of the Scriptures, and of the Lord’s Church, and of the pastor.
Don’t cast in your lot with trouble makers, and don’t take their part. As God’s Word puts it: “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.” It is very dangerous and destructive to your faith and life as a Christian to follow after trouble makers in the church. Following after the likes of Diotrephes will shipwreck your life of service to the Lord if you are saved, or it will be a sure evidence that you were never one of the elect in the first place.
Rather, beloved, be a follower of Demetruis, who John said in verse 12 has a good report, or that is, a good testimony. Demetrius was probably a fellow laborer with John, who delivered this letter of 3 John to Gaius. Beloved, follow after saints of God who are well known by God’s people to have a good Christian testimony like Demetrius had. He had a good testimony of the truth. That is, he loved the truth, he believed the truth, and he walked in the truth.
As the old saying goes, a man is known by the company he keeps. Don’t keep company with trouble makers. If we follow and keep company with the likes of Diotrephes, then we are probably just like him. But if we love and follow after men like John, Gaius, and Demetrius, then we show that we are of the truth, and that we truly are born of God.
“I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee: 14 But I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face. Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name.”
The best way to deal with matters of the church is face to face. Matters of church discipline and other matters of great concern to the church, should be resolved and dealt with in person with the appropriate persons involved, and in most cases, with the whole church in church capacity.
Conducting important church communication via telephone, or by mail or email, is usually not appropriate. Convenience is seldom a worthy consideration in conducting church business. Matters of church discipline should always be handled in person, and by the church in church capacity. This new idea of handling disciplinary matters by letters, is just not appropriate in any circumstance in my opinion. John had authority to write and instruct the churches, but even he preferred to deal with churches in person. The apostle Paul in his writings also expressed his preference of dealing with important church matters in person.
John wished peace to Gaius and this church. With all the turmoil they were experiencing, they could use John’s prayer for their peace. John also said to “Greet the friends by name.” This seems to imply that there were others who were not friends of John at this church. Of course, this fact is also evident based on the context of this letter. There were great divisions in this church, and great strife and discord among the brethren. This makes for a terrible environment for worshipping the Lord, and for young Christians especially, it is a bad environment for Christian growth and spiritual development.
As a young believer I was once a member of a church that experienced similar problems that this church experienced. It was very disheartening and difficult for me to endure, but by the grace of God He helped us to continue on the faith and to stay in the Baptist ranks. But I must say that churches certainly do the Lord and new converts especially a great disservice with their divisions and strife that they often allow within their walls.
These things should not be named in our churches. When a church gets into this sort of mess they should repent in sackcloth and ashes. Those who are spiritual should mark the trouble makers who go against the plain teachings of the Scriptures, and then deal with them according to Biblical disciplinary measures, and thereby restore spiritual unity and peace in the body.
This concludes our study in 3 John. In this study we saw the importance of God’s truth in our lives, both in believing the truth and living the truth. We studied the importance of supporting the truth by financially supporting sound and worthy missionaries, who love and preach the truth of the Word and the pure Gospel of the grace of God for salvation.
We have also studied about identifying and properly dealing with outside influences that try to manipulate and influence the business and affairs of other local church governments. We have seen that the proper channel for outside influences is through the pastor, who is the spiritual leader of the church, who watches out for and protects the church.
Finally, we studied about power struggles in the local church between those who want to do what is Scriptural and right in God’s eyes, and those who love to have the preeminence and are only concerned with their own carnal, sinful wants and desires in the church.
All of these issues are very practical and they affect all of us as we endeavor to serve the Lord in His local New Testament Church. I hope that these lessons will help our church to be a better church for the glory of the Lord.