I John 3 – Part 5

“By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” I John 3:16

God wants His born-again children to manifest their new righteous nature by living righteously (2:29-3:10a) and loving their Christian brothers and sisters (3:10b-23). This love for one another is not like Cain who took his brother’s life (3:10b-12). It is like Christ Who gave His own life: “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (I John 3:16). Christ is the opposite of Cain. Cain’s behavior was life-taking; Christ’s behavior was life-giving.

Let’s look more closely at Christ’s love. The Bible says He “laid down His life.” Jesus’ love was voluntary. He willingly took the initiative and gave up His life on the cross (Rom. 5:8). Christ’s love was not a response to our love (I John 4:10, 19). He loved us even if we never loved Him. Jesus loves us when our walk of faith is weak or when it is strong. He sticks with us in the good times and the bad. Nothing about us makes Christ love us. He loves us because it is His nature to love. If Jesus waited for us to love Him first, He would still be waiting. Thank God that He loved you and me first. His love does not require that we love Him back.  

Secondly, Christ’s gave His life “for us.” His love was vicarious. 1 He sacrificed Himself on a cross as our Substitute to pay the penalty for all our sins (John 1:29; I Cor. 15:3-4; 2 Cor. 5:21; I Pet. 3:18; I John 2:1-2). He took the punishment we deserved. You may be familiar with the shooting spree on January 21, 2023, in a Monterey Park dance studio that left eleven people dead, and nine others wounded. The suspected shooter, an elderly Asian man, later shot and killed himself. 2 Suppose that man had not killed himself, but, instead, was captured, tried for his crime, and sentenced to die for it. If it were possible, would you take that man’s place and sacrifice yourself so that man could live? I doubt any of us would. But that’s exactly what Jesus did when He took the place of undeserving sinners like you and me. Who else would die for you except Someone Who loves you that much!

Hatred for a Christian brother or sister makes us like Cain. Love for a Christian brother or sister makes us like Christ. Christ’s love for us is intended to motivate us to sacrificially love our Christian brothers and sisters: “And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (3:16b). Christ laid down His life once for us (Heb. 7:27; 9:12, 26-28; 10:10), but we are to lay down our lives repeatedly for one another. 3

“It is easy to ‘lay down one’s life’: martyrdom is heroic and exhilarating; the difficulty lies in doing the little things, facing day by day the petty sacrifices and self-denials which no one notices, and no one applauds.” 4

We may not have the opportunity to express our love for another Christian by dying in his or her place, so John gives us a tangible example of how we can love another believer. “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (I Jon 3:17). The word for “goods” (bios) means “life, livelihood,” 5 or resources to maintain life.” 6  The phrase “and shuts up his heart” (kai kleisē ta splanchna autou) conveys the idea of closing or slamming shut the door of one’s sympathies or compassions toward another person in need. 7 John is saying that when a Christian has the resources to help another Christian “brother in need,” and refuses to give him assistance, God’s love does not “abide in” that believer, that is, he is out of fellowship with God.

During the first year or so in the Philippines as missionaries, my wife and I were often approached by someone asking us for money or food, simply because in their eyes we were “rich” Americans. And by their standards, we were rich. But I had closed my heart off toward those in need. I became resentful of people who would approach me as if I was a bank on two feet.

I must say, however, that my wife and I would eventually make a good team when we would go to the market to buy groceries. She would do much of the shopping while I shared the gospel with others verbally or through the distribution of gospel tracts. During one of those visits to the market, God’s Spirit pierced my heart when I watched my wife gently and graciously give beggars some fruit or vegetables along with a gospel tract. I had been telling people at the market about God’s love for them through Jesus, but my wife was showing them that love. The apostle John would have said that my wife was walking as Jesus walked (2:6), but I, on the other hand, was not. God’s love had made its home in my wife’s heart, but I did not allow any room for God’s love to dwell in mine even though I had shared the gospel with many people there.

John addresses Christians like me when he writes, “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” (I John 3:18). Christian love is expressed primarily with our lives, not just with our lips. Imagine where we would be if Jesus expressed His love for us verbally without any actions. We would still be dead in our sins.

We often tell others, “I love you,” without being prepared to act sacrificially for those to whom we say this. John reminds us that true love involves action (“in deed”) and conformity to the “truth” which involves a genuine concern for the person “as opposed to some self-serving motive.” 8

The apostle John is instructing us to to express our born-again nature as children of God by loving our Christian brothers and sisters (3:10b-18). This love is sacrificial.

“Two Americans were challenged to go to Russia and spend some of their time in ministry to orphanages. They weren’t professionals, and it cost them a pretty penny to leave their jobs and pay their own way. They sacrificed, but as they gave their love, they too found love in return. They came to one orphanage of about a hundred kids where the Christmas story had never been told. So they shared the story of Bethlehem, and the inn, and Mary and the manger, and you know the rest. Then they gave each kid some cut-outs to build their own little manger scene. They used brown flannel to make baby Jesus, some cardboard for the manger, and some yellow scraps of paper for straw.

“As these women went around to look at the work of each child, all went well until one of the women got to the table where little Misha sat. He was about six years old, and everything was in perfect order until she looked into the manger. There were two babies in the manger. She thought, ‘Oh, my gosh. What’s happened here?’ So she asked the translator to come over so she could find out where Misha had gotten mixed up.

“As Misha told the story, everything was accurate. He had all the details in place until he got to the very end, and then he began to ad lib. He said, ‘And when Maria laid the baby in the manger, she looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay. I told her, ‘I have no mamma and I have no pappa, so I don’t have any place to stay.’ Then Jesus told me I could stay with Him. Then I told Him I couldn’t because I didn’t have a gift to give like everyone else did.

“’But I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, I thought, what do I have that I could give as a gift? I thought maybe if I keep Him warm, that would be a good gift. So I asked Jesus, ‘If I keep you warm, would that be a good gift?’ And Jesus said, ‘If you keep me warm, that would be the best gift anyone gave me.’ So I got into the manger, and Jesus looked at me and told me I could stay with Him in the manger … always.’”

“As little Misha finished his story his eyes brimmed with tears and they began to splash down his little cheeks. Then he put his hand over his face, his head dropped down to the table, and his shoulders shook as he sobbed and sobbed. The little orphan had found Someone who would never abandon or abuse him, Someone who would always stay with him. The American finished her story by saying, ‘And I learned it’s not what you have in your life, but who you have in your life, that counts.’” 9

As believers in Jesus Christ, we have the most loving Person in the universe living inside us. He guarantees to never leave us nor abandon us. This amazing love of our Savior motivates us to love others sacrificially as Christ has loved us. We then discover that when we love, we live. That is, we experience Christ’s life in a deeper and more fulfilling way as we continue in fellowship with Him.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we are eternally grateful that Jesus did not express His love merely with words, but also with actions. He voluntarily laid down His life on a cruel cross that all who believe in Him may have everlasting life. O Father, fill us with Jesus’ love so we may love our Christian brothers and sisters with compassionate hearts. Lead us, we pray, to those You want us to love with our lives and not just with our lips. Forgive us for closing off our hearts toward those in need and please renew our love for them. In the matchless name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2944.

2. Retrieved on January 31, 2023, from J. David Goodman, Amy Harmon, and Adeel Hassan’s January 24, 2023, New York Times article entitled, “‘Tragedy Upon Tragedy’: January Brings Dozens of Mass Shootings So Far,” at https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/24/us/mass-shootings-january.html.

3. Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on 1 John, 2022 Edition, pg. 85.

4. Ibid., cites David Smith, “The Epistles of St. John,” in The Expositor’s Greek Testament, Vol. 5 (1910), 4th ed., edited by W. Robertson Nicoll, 5 vols., (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1900-1912), pg. 186.

5. Archibald Thomas Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament [with Bible and Strong’s Numbers Added!], 6 Volumes (E4 Group, 2014 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 206300.

6. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 177.

7. Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament, Kindle Location 206346.

8. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 171.

9. Ibid., pp. 172-174.

I John 3 – Part 4

“Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” I John 3:15

The book of I John is about cultivating fellowship or intimacy with God and other believers in Jesus (1:1-4). The apostle John has addressed barriers to this fellowship with God which include sin (1:5-2:11; 2:29-3:10a), the world (2:15-17), and the Devil and his false teachers or antichrists (2:18-27).

Beginning in 2:28, John talks about how Christians can have more confidence and less shame before Christ at His coming (2:28-4:19). John wants his Christian readers (2:12-14; 5:13) to see themselves as children of God who possess a sinless born-again nature (God’s “seed”) at the core of their being so they will manifest God’s righteous nature by living righteously (2:29-3:10a). This righteous behavior is more than human kindness and morality that even non-Christians can manifest. It includes believing in Christ for new birth and loving one’s Christian brother or sister (3:24).

John now wants to expand upon the idea of manifesting our born-again nature (3:9) through loving fellow Christians (3:10b-23). Just as we can conceal our born-again nature by not practicing righteousness (2:29-3:10a), so we can also conceal our born-again nature by refusing to love our Christian brother (3:10b-23). In this section, John will talk about what love is not (3:10b-15) and what love is (3:16-23). Today we will look at what love is not.

“In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.” (I John 3:10). Last time in our study, we learned that only Christians can be called “children of God” since the Bible clearly says that a person who believes that Jesus is the Christ is “born of God” (5:1). The way to make their born-again nature visible to others is through practicing righteousness and loving one another as Christ commanded. Nowhere in the Bible are we told that a person is “born of the devil.” Whenever a Christian or a non-Christian sins, he or she is behaving like children of the devil since all sin is sourced in him (3:8).

When John says, “Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother” (3:10b), the genitive phrase “is not of God” (ouk estin ek tou Theou) simply means that a Christian who does not practice righteousness nor love his Christian brother does not have actions that are sourced in God. 1 Sin can never be traced back to God regardless of who commits it. God is never responsible for sin whether it is committed by a Christian or non-Christian.

Unfortunately, the NIV translation of 3:10b does not reflect the Greek text when it says, “Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.” (I John 3:10b). Nowhere in the Greek text does it say, “God’s child.” This has been added by the translators and reflects their theological point of view, not a careful study of the Greek text.

“There is nothing in this text about not being a child of God. How could there be? One must be a child of God before one could hate his brother. An unsaved person has no Christian brother to hate (cf. 2:9) … John also moves from a broader to a narrower theme. The words whoever does not practice [lit. ‘do’] righteousness can refer to anyone who lacks righteous conduct, whether saved or unsaved. But the words he who does not love his brother introduce a specific kind of righteousness that only a Christian can manifest or fail to manifest.” 2

“By joining together the idea of righteousness (mentioned in 1 John 2:29-3:7) with love (not mentioned in vv. 2-9), John formed a bridge to a new discussion. He now considered love as the appropriate expression of the regenerate life of which he had been speaking. Love is righteousness in action.” 3

One of the biggest barriers to fellowship with God is dealing with our Christian “brother” or sister.Failure to love other Christians breaks our fellowship or closeness with the Lord. Why? Because Christ commanded us to love one another as He has loved us (John 13:34-35), and when we don’t keep that command, we have sinned against God which interrupts our fellowship with Him (I John 1:5-2:11). We cannot claim to have fellowship with God and hate our Christian brother or sister at the same time (I John 2:9-11).

John writes, For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” (I John 3:11). From “the beginning” of their Christian experience, John’s readers heard “the message… that we should love one another.”

It is important to understand the context in which John and the other apostles heard the original command to “love one another.” It was the night before Jesus’ crucifixion when the Twelve disciples had gathered with Jesus in the Upper Room. After their supper and the washing of the disciples’ feet by Christ (John 13:1-17), Christ identified Judas as His betrayer and told him to do his work quickly (John 13:18-29), and then Judas “went out immediately” to betray the Lord Jesus (John 13:30). Judas was the only unbeliever among the disciples (cf. John 6:64, 70-71; 13:10-11; 17:12). Christ removed Judas at that time because what He was about to say was only for the ears of those who had believed in Him.

Jesus said to the believing disciples, A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35). The apostle John who wrote I John was also the author of the gospel of John. He wants us to understand that the command to love one another is meant for believers, not nonbelievers. Loving one another is a condition for discipleship, not salvation.

Those who claim that I John was written to a mixed audience of believers and nonbelievers to help separate the true professors from the false professors are mistakenly saying that Judas was still in the Upper Room. No. Judas had been sent out.  The truth Jesus shared in the Upper Room about loving one another was given only to believers. 4

“The Upper Room truth and 1 John truth is unadulterated truth for an unadulterated audience of believers.” 5

Evans writes, “Imagine a patient claims to have the flu but has no symptoms. A doctor would say, ‘You don’t have the flu.’ Similarly, the ultimate ‘symptom’ or proof of your vertical intimacy with God is your horizontal love for his children.” 6 This is why Christ said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35).

Why is this command to love one another a barrier to fellowship with God and other Christians? Anderson writes, “Why is it so hard to love our brother? Could it be that our brother has more potential to hurt us than the world? Could it be that we expect evil from the world, but not from our Christian brother? It hurts when a Christian brother does us wrong. It hurts deeply. And we go out of our way to avoid pain.” 7

Before focusing on what love is, John now states what love is not by sharing an example of brother-to-brother hatred: “Not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.” (I John 3:12). Biblical love is not like the hateful and murderous behavior that Cain exhibited toward his brother Abel (Gen. 4:2-8). When John describes Cain as “of the wicked one” (ek tou ponērou), he is not suggesting that Cain was unsaved (3:12a). 8 As with the previous genitives in 3:8, 10, this is a genitive of source which means Cain’s behavior was sourced in the “wicked one,” since Satan was “a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). All sin, whether by a believer or unbeliever, is traced back to the Devil since he “sinned from the beginning” (3:8).

“John uses the physical relationship between Cain and Abel as an illustration of the spiritual relationship between Christian brethren. And just as it is possible for one brother to murder his biological brother, it is possible for one Christian to murder another.” 9

Hatred toward another person is not confined to the unsaved population. Christians can also hate one another. James accused his Christian readers (James 1:1, 16-18; 2:1; et al.) of murder: “You murder and covet and cannot obtain.” (James 4:2). Why would James accuse his Christian readers of murder if it were not possible for them to commit murder? Likewise, Peter warns his Christian readers (I Pet. 1:2-9, 18-23; 2:10; et al.), “But let none of you suffer as a murderer…” (I Pet. 4:15). If it were not possible for a Christian to commit murder, then Peter just wasted his time warning them not to do so.

Christ even taught that hatred toward another believer (“his brother”) was the spiritual equivalent of spiritual murder (Matt. 5:21-22). 10 Those who deny that a Christian can hate a fellow brother or sister in Christ lack the realism of the Lord Jesus Christ and the New Testament authors.

Why did Cain murder his brother Abel (Gen. 4:8)? John tells us, “Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.” (I John 3:12b). Cain imitated Satan’s hateful and murderous behavior when he became envious of his “brother’s righteous” behavior and “murdered” him. God had accepted Abel’s more excellent sacrifice (firstborn of his flock of sheep which was a foreshadowing of Christ’s more excellent sacrifice – Heb. 9:11-10:18) that he offered “by faith” to please God (Heb. 11:4, 6) as opposed to Cain’s fruit of the ground offering (Gen. 4:2-5) which was not offered by faith.

Hatred is often prompted by a feeling of guilt about one’s own life compared to another person’s life. Whenever Christians feel guilty because their behavior is contrary to God’s will, they find it easier to experience hatred toward those whom they know God approves. 11 Often conflicts within churches are between those who have God’s approval and those who don’t. God uses those conflicts to manifest or make evident those who have His approval – those who are not causing the division but are promoting peace and unity (cf. I Cor. 11:19). John reminds us that such hatred toward another Christian is “of the wicked one” (I John 3:12a) in that Satan is behind such unrighteous behavior, not God.

How do we respond when another brother or sister in Christ receives a blessing from God like a new car or house, a promotion or raise at work, or public recognition? 12 Are we rejoicing with our fellow Christians when God uses their giftedness to lead many people to Christ or build up the body of Christ with their teachings or services? Or do we respond with criticism, envy, or judgmentalism? John would say the latter is “of the wicked one” (3:12). It is not “of God.”

Cain’s hateful and murderous behavior was worldly, and it should not surprise Christians to see the world hate them when they live righteously and lovingly. John writes, “Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you.” (I John 3:13). The world hated Jesus and Christ warned His followers that they can expect the world to hate them when they live according to His values and not the world’s (John 15:18-19). That is a normal response to anticipate from the world. But what is abnormal is for Christians to hate one another.

“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.” (I John 3:14). The only other time John used a similar phrase “have passed from death to life” (metabebēkamen ek tou thanatou eis tēn zōēn) is in John 5:24 which speaks of conversion. There Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” (John 5:24). The phrase “has passed from death into life” (metabebēken ek tou thanatou eis tēn zōēn) is the same Greek text as in I John 3:14 except for the perfect tense verb which is third person singular in John 5:24 as opposed to the first person plural in I John 3:14. Hence, some interpreters believe that I John 3:14 is saying that the way to “know” you are saved is to love your Christian brothers and sisters.

“But a phrase which is used only twice in John’s writing can hardly be said to have a fixed meaning. The context here must decide its significance. The statements of 1 John 3:14b-15 suggest that the spheres of ‘death’ and ‘life’ are here treated as experiential and determined by one’s actions. If so, the issue of conversion is not in view here.” 13

The word “know” (oida) in 3:14 is different than the word (ginōskō) John used previously in I John 2:3-5 and 3:6. Anderson writes:

“The verb ‘to know’ has numerous OT parallels parallels in which it either speaks of a special intimacy or a deeper kind of understanding. In Gen 4:1 Adam ‘knew’ his wife Eve and she conceived. Obviously, he had more than a casual knowledge of her. ‘To know’ in this case is an example of physical intimacy.

“Hosea gives us several examples of spiritual intimacy. Gomer has been unfaithful and exemplifies the unfaithfulness of Israel. Both Gomer and Israel are in covenant relationships, one with a prophet and the other with Yahweh, respectively. But after she (Gomer/Israel) has played the harlot, God claims He is going to woo her back and says to her in Hosea 2:19-20,

“’And I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, In lovingkindness and in compassion, And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know the LORD.’

“This use of ‘know’ speaks of a deeper experience with the Lord than she had known before, that is, spiritual intimacy.

“And Gen 22:12 gives us another example of ‘to know’ as a deeper experience of understanding. God has asked Abraham to offer his son on the altar as a sacrifice. Abraham is obedient. Just before the knife is plunged into Isaac’s heart, the Angel of the Lord says, ‘Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.’

“Wait a minute, didn’t the Lord know before Abraham went up the mountain what was in Abraham’s heart? Sure, He did; He was omniscient, all-knowing. But after Abraham raised the knife, God experienced Abraham’s faith on a deeper level. There was a deeper kind of understanding.

“Obviously, ‘to know’ in the OT had many uses which took the knower beyond a superficial experience. That may well be what’s going on with the meaning of know in 1 John 3:14. A new believer can have assurance that he will spend eternity with God when he dies based on God’s promises (1 John 5:13). But when he has an experience of outrageous, triumphant love (loving someone who has hurt him), he enjoys the fact that he has passed from death unto life in a fuller, deeper way.” 14

What John is telling us in I John 3:14a is that when a believer loves his or her Christian brother or sister, the passage from death into life which occurs at salvation (John 5:24) can be experienced. That is, when Christians love one another, they can experience God’s “life” or fellowship in a deeper way.

It is important to remember that eternal life emphasizes the quality not just the quantity of one’s existence. All people exist forever. But it is the quality of their existence that differs.Christians can experience an increase in the quality of their eternal life when they love other Christians now. 15

But what happens when believers do not love one another? What happens when Christians hate one another? John tells us, “He who does not love his brother abides in death.” (I John 3:14b). When a believer in Jesus refuses to “love his” Christian “brother,” it plunges him into the sphere of “death” or darkness devoid of God. Hatred toward another Christian places us in the sphere of death experientially which is the same place in which the world abides (cf. 3:13), 16 so we are no longer sharing the light with God. We are out of fellowship with God and other believers when we hate one another. As Paul stated, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die.” (Romans 8:13). The longer we hate another Christian, the more we will experience death or broken fellowship with Christ.

Remember the Greek word “abides” (menō) which means “to remain, stay, dwell, continue,” 17 is one of John’s favorite terms for fellowship or intimacy with God. In this case, abiding in the sphere of death means one is remaining out of fellowship with God. When Christians hate one another, they are no longer remaining in Christ (“life”), they are remaining in death which is devoid of Jesus. 18

When a Christian hates another Christian, that hateful “believer is out of fellowship and experiences the living death of the Christian widow who lives for pleasure (1 Tim 5:6), or the Christian miserably aware of the battle within himself between his sin(ful) nature and his desire to do what is right (Rom 7:24), or the believer whose mind is filled with things of the flesh (Rom 8:6). The believer who walks around with hatred in his heart is miserable and often depressed.” 19

Hatred of one’s Christian brother is not only an experience of “death” (3:14b), but also of murder: “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” (I John 3:15). Some think this verse is teaching that a Christian cannot commit murder. They argue if he or she does, then they either lose their salvation or they were never saved to begin with.

I believe there is a better way to understand this verse. In the context, John is talking about how Christians can manifest their born-again righteous nature to have more confidence and less shame at the coming of Christ (2:28-29). One way is to practice righteousness (2:29-3:10a) and the other way is to love our Christian brothers and sisters (3:10b-23). In this section (3:10b-3:15), John is talking about what love is not. It is not like Cain who envied his brother Abel and murdered him (3:12; cf. Gen. 4:2-8). When a Christian hates another Christian, he is not only abiding in the realm of death or broken fellowship with God (3:14b), but he is also a “murderer” like Cain (3:12). When a Christian hates another Christian “brother,” he may not physically murder him, but he has a spirit of hatred that wants to be rid of his Christian brother, so he would not really care if he died. 20

Verse 15 does not say that “no murderer has eternal life” (as the NIRV paraphrase reads), but “that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” Why is this an important distinction to make? Remember, for the apostle John, eternal life is nothing more than Jesus Christ Himself. John wrote of Jesus, 1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— 2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us.” (I John 1:1-2). This eternal life could be “heard… seen… looked upon” andtouched and was “with the Father and was” physically “manifested to” the apostles (1:1-2).In case you are still not convinced that eternal life is Christ, John writes, “And we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” (I John 5:20b).

Hence, John is not saying that a hateful Christian has lost his salvation or was never saved to begin with. He is saying that a hateful Christian is not “abiding” in Christ, that is, he is not in fellowship with Christ Who is eternal life. The moment a Christian hates another believer, he breaks experiential contact with Christ and plunges into the sphere of “death” or darkness where Christ is not. Eternal life (i.e., Christ) is not at home in his heart as long as the spirit of hatred is there. He loses his closeness with Christ, not his relationship with Him. Christians cannot abide in Christ or be close to Him and hate another believer at the same time.

Dillow writes, “Can a true Christian ‘hate his brother’? Of course, he can. David is a good example of a justified man who not only hated but followed up the murder in his heart with murder in reality by killing Uriah the Hittite (2 Samuel 12:9).” 21

Even though David had committed adultery and murder, the Bible refers to David as an example of those who are justified (declared totally righteous before God) by faith alone in Christ alone apart from any works. 5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: 7 ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin’ ” (Romans 4:5-8; cf. 2 Sam. 12:9, 13; Psalms 32:1-2; 51). Paul quotes David (Rom. 4:7-8) who wrote in Psalm 32:1-2 of the blessedness of forgiveness as he looked ahead to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ which would pay the penalty for the sin of the world (John 1:29), including David’s adultery and murder (cf. Psalm 16:8-11; Acts 2:24-36; Col. 2:13-14).

Paul is saying that the righteousness of Jesus Christ was credited to David and all who believed in His coming death and resurrection in the Old Testament (Rom. 4:5-8; cf. Gen. 15:6; Isaiah 61:10; John 8:56; Heb. 11:26). So, when a person in the Old Testament or in the New Testament believes in the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, he or she is covered with the righteousness of Jesus Christ so that God no longer sees their sin, He sees the perfect righteousness of His Son (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 3:21-4:25; 2 Cor. 5:21).

“When we harbor anger in our hearts, John says, we are in effect murderers, and we abide in death, the very sphere from which we were delivered when we became Christians. We walk as ‘mere men’ (1 Corinthians 3:3), that is, as if we were still unregenerate. We are ‘carnal Christians’ who are ‘walking in darkness’ (1 John 2:11) and are in danger of losing our reward (2 John 1:8); losing what we have (Mark 4:25) and shrinking back in shame at the Judgment Seat of Christ (1 John 2:28). Jesus Christ is not at home in such a heart. He does not abide there.” 22

The love that will increase our confidence and decrease our shame at the coming of Christ (2:28) is not like Cain’s envious and murderous behavior (3:12) and the world’s (3:13), which breaks a Christian’s fellowship with Christ Who is eternal life (3:14-15; cf. 1:1-2; 5:20). When hatred occupies a Christian’s heart, it is a miserable existence. Lord Tennyson would agree:

“He that shuts Love out, in turn shall be Shut out from Love, and on her threshold lie Howling in the outer darkness.” 23

The sobering thing about harboring hatred in our hearts toward another Christian is we tend to become like the one who hurt us. The more we review the hurt that was caused to us, the more we become like that person who wounded us. This is Satan’s strategy – to get Christians to hate one another. He knows that if he can accomplish this, he will greatly diminish the church’s impact on the world for Christ.

Jesus Christ came to destroy the works of the Devil which includes hatred toward another Christian (3:8b). Christ gave us a born-again nature the moment we believed in Him for eternal life (3:9; cf. 5:1). This new nature cannot sin (3:9). The way we can express this new nature is by not hating our Christian brothers and sisters (3:10b-15). When we do hate another believer, we are abiding in darkness and death (I John 2:11; 3:14b), and out of fellowship with Christ Who is eternal life (I John 3:15; cf. 1:1-2; 5:20). To remain in this condition does not jeopardize a believer’s salvation, but it does interrupt his or her fellowship with God (I John 1:5-2:11; 3:14-15) and puts them in danger of losing eternal rewards in the future (2 John 1:8; cf. I Cor. 3:8-15).

Prayer: Gracious heavenly Father, we praise You for giving us a born-again nature the moment we believed in Jesus so You could destroy the works of the Devil. Please enable us to visibly manifest that nature by loving our Christian brothers and sisters as Jesus loved us. We cannot be close to Jesus when we harbor hatred in our hearts toward other brothers and sisters in Christ at the same time. Please O Lord, increase our love for other Christians so we can grow closer to Christ and one another. Use our love for one another to draw the unsaved to Yourself. In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. This is known as an ablative genitive of source in the Greek language. See Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 3855 and Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings: Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 500.

2. Zane C. Hodges; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 596.

3. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Location 3856 to 3861.

4. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 166.

5. Ibid.

6. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 2943-2944.

7. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pp. 166-167.

8. Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pg. 84.

9. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 596.

10. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3883.

11. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 596.

12. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 167.

13. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3872 to 3877.

14. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pp. 168-169.

15. Ibid., pg. 169.

16. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3892.

17. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pp. 630-631.

18. Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 2944.

19. Anderson, pg. 169.  

20. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 597.

21. Dillow, Final Destiny, pg. 501.

22. Ibid.

23. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 170.

I John 3 – Part 3

“Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.” I John 3:9

Barry Bremen, an insurance and novelty salesman and marketing executive became known as The Great Imposter in the the sports world. From 1979 to 1986, the 6’ 4” athletic Bremen concealed his true identity and posed as a Major League Baseball umpire in the 1980 World Series, a player in the 1979 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, a player in the 1981 National Basketball Association All-Star Game, a National Football League referee in 1981, a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader in 1979, and a professional golfer in 1979-1980 and 1985. He also posed as an Emmy Award accepter in 1985 on behalf of actress Betty Thomas who was awarded the best Supporting Actress statue for her role on the police drama “Hill Street Blues.” Later Bremen apologized to Thomas, informing her he had really thought she was not there to accept her award. 1

Bremen’s stunts landed him on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, the David Letterman Show, and the Today Show. Bremen died of cancer in 2011 but that’s where the story begins in many ways. More than three dozen people have now learned that Bremen is their biological father, through sperm donation. They found out about each other – and Bremen – through genetic testing and the painstaking efforts of one of the children to track their lineage. 2

While Bremen was skilled at concealing his identity outwardly, his biological children discovered his true identity through genetic testing and tracking their lineage back to him. Bremen’s life is comparable to Christians who conceal their true identity as children of God by sinning, but inwardly they all possess the righteous nature or spiritual DNA of their heavenly Father.

The apostle John does not want his Christian readers to be deceived by the teachings of the antichrists (2:18-27) which said you could commit sin and still be close to God. 3

“Perhaps the antichrists felt free to sin while at the same time denying their guilt and claiming to behave righteously.” 4

He writes, “Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.” (I John 3:7). John’s point is that “he who practices righteousness,” not sin, is what manifests that a person has an inward “righteous” standing before God through faith in Jesus (2:29; cf. Rom. 4:5). Only “righteousness” arises from a “righteous” nature.

John wrote “that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” (1:5). This is God’s nature – perfect holiness and perfect righteousness. God has absolutely no sin or “darkness at all.” Since God’s divine nature “is righteous,” when someone “practices righteousness,” you can know that it must be coming from God’s “righteous” nature inside that person (3:7). That is, that person must be born of God. 5

In I John 2:29, we learned that the phrase, “he who practices righteousness” is not referring to humanistic kindness or morality which even non-Christians can manifest. This “righteousness” (“what is right” translates tēn dikaiosynēn) 6 is not possible apart from believing in Christ for new birth and loving one’s fellow Christians. 7 John writes, “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.” (I John 3:23). When someone practices Christ’s “righteous” behavior it means two things: they are born of God through belief in Jesus Christ and they are loving one another as Christ commanded.

John is telling us in I John 3:7 that a person “who practices righteousness” has been given a part of God’s divine “righteous” nature. Peter states something similar when he writes, 3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature.” (2 Pet. 1:3-4).

Commenting on these verses, Anderson writes, “Having His divine nature does not mean that we are exactly like God. We are not omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, immutable, and so on. But we have some of His nature, a nature given to us when we were born again, born of God. Some of His attributes cannot be passed along to us, as mentioned. But some of them we can share and He can produce through us: love, truth, holiness, and so on. His divine love (agapē) is produced by His Spirit (Gal 5:22) in our new, born-again-with, divine nature.

“The principle should be clear: Divine roots produce divine fruits. This is what should characterize the child of God.” 8

The apostle John is saying to us, “Do not rationalize sin!” Rationalizing sin has been around since the fall of mankind in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-7). It is a lie for Christians to think we can remain close to Christ and deliberately sin without confession or repentance. Because God is righteous and we are His children who possesses His righteous nature, we are to live righteously. We are not to be deceived into thinking we can express our born-again nature by sinning because all sin is sourced in Satan.

“He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose, the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” (I John 3:8). Satan’s sinful career dates from “the beginning” of creation. This is not a reference to eternity past since the Devil is a created being like all the angels (Gen. 2:1; Ex. 20:11; Psalm 104:4; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:7) and therefore is not eternal. 9 Sin originated with the Devil when he introduced sin into (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezek. 28:11-15) God’s perfect creation (Gen. 1:31), and sin is his constant practice. 10

To be “of the devil” (ek tou diabolou) does not mean a Christian “who sins” is not saved (3:8a). John is saying that all sin, whether a Christian or non-Christian does it, is sourced in Satan. 11 Just as all genuine righteousness is sourced in God (“of God”) Who is righteous, so all sin is sourced in the devil (“of the devil”) who sinned from the beginning. To believe anything less is to prepare the grounds for tolerating sin. John wants us to understand that all our behavior either flows from heaven or hell.

“When a Christian is ‘of the devil,’ John means that, when he commits even one sinful act, in the doing of that act, even though the ultimate source was his sin nature, he has yielded to satanic influence. Or, more simply, he is acting like Satan would want him to act; according to his values. Christ exhorted us to pray that we might be delivered from the ‘evil one’ (Matthew 6:13), and Paul warned us that our battle is not against flesh and blood but against ‘principalities and powers of darkness,’ and the flaming darts of ‘the evil one’ (Ephes. 6:12, 13). Even though the source of all sin is the heart and our own lusts (James 1:14), it is possible for Christian behavior to be inspired and enabled by Satan who pours gasoline on the flame.

“For example, Ananias’ and Sapphira’s hearts were ‘filled’ by Satan. They were ‘of the devil’ when they lied to the Holy Spirit. When Jesus told Peter, ‘Get thee behind me, Satan’ (Mark 8:33), it was evident that Peter’s behavior was ‘of the devil’ (characterized by Satan’s influence) in that one act.” 12

If we are honest with ourselves, we have all tried to rationalize specific sins in our lives. We may try to justify sin by saying to ourselves, “God made me this way.” “It is only a weakness.” “It won’t hurt anyone.” “No one has to know.” “Everyone is doing it.” “This is the only way I can endure stress or face pain.” “I cannot change.” No matter how we attempt to rationalize our sin, John wants us to realize that when we do sin, we are imitating the devil who sinned from the beginning.

“How, then, can a believer do what is right (3:7b) and commit sin (3:8a) in the space of a few seconds? Consider Peter. He boldly confessed that Jesus is the Christ, and Jesus blessed him because God had revealed it to him (see Matt 16:13-17). However, in no time, Jesus told Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan,’ when he denied that Christ must suffer (Matt 16:21-23).

“Throughout each day, your actions will either be influenced by God or the devil. Satan can’t make you sin, but he can entice you. So, to whom will you listen? Will you be ‘of the devil’ so that he gets credit for your deeds? Or will you live by the truth, come to the light, and do works for which God gets the credit (see John 3:21)? Turn to Christ who can render powerless the devil’s works in your life (1 John 3:8). To avoid living a life that is not of God takes more than merely carrying your Bible and saying, ‘hallelujah.’ It requires doing what is right and loving fellow believers in submission to the Holy Spirit (3:10).” 13

John also wants us to realize that when we sin, we are opposing Christ’s work: “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” (3:8b). What are “the works of the devil”?  In the context, we are told that “he who sins is of the devil” (3:8a) and the person “that does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother” (3:10b). Hence, Satan’s works include all sin, especially refusing to “practice righteousness” by loving one’s Christian “brother.”

The primary way Christ destroys the works of the devil is seen in the next verse: “Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.” (I John 3:9). The way that Christ destroys the work of the devil (3:8) is to give believers a new sinless self (“seed”) which cannot sin. Since God cannot sin, the divine nature He places inside His children cannot sin either. A sinless Parent cannot beget a sinful child. So, sin is never an act of the born-again nature inside us because it is incapable of sinning (3:9) and because all sin is sourced in the devil (3:8).

However, some Bible teachers and translators interpret the Greek present tense of 3:9 to mean no Christian sins continually or habitually (see discussion of 3:6). According to this view, prolonged continuation in sin does not take place if one is truly born again. The NIV translation reflects this view inserting the words “will continue” and “go on” in front of the present tense verbs: No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.” (I John 3:9 NIV). As pointed out previously in 3:6, this view is not plausible because habitual or continuous action is not inherent in the Greek present tense.The translators have added these additional words based on their theological point of view, not a careful study of the Greek grammar. 14

J. P. Louw has demonstrated convincingly that the present tense in John’s first epistle does not mean continuous or habitual action. 15  It is best to understand the present tense in I John 3:9 in an absolute sense (“Whoever has been born of God does not sin… he cannot sin”) because the present tense (“does not sin… cannot sin”) in the New Testament never bears the habitual meaning (“will continue to sin… cannot go on sinning”) without the assistance of qualifying words like diapantos (“continually”- Luke 24:53; Heb 9:6; 13:15); eis to diēnekes (“continually”- Heb 7:3; 10:1); 16 or pantote (“always”). First John 3:9 has no qualifying words.

This use of the absolute present tense is consistent with John’s refutation of the antichrists’ tolerance of sin. John has already said there is absolutely no sin in God (1:5), in Jesus (3:5), and in the born-again nature of the believer (3:9). 17

In 3:9, John states that the person “born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him.” “His seed” refers to God’s nature.

“His divine nature is passed down through His divine seed. The new birth places His seed in us. Just as my physical seed cannot produce something outside its genetic code, so God’s seed cannot produce something contrary to His nature, that is, sin. God’s nature cannot produce sin. God’s nature in us (His seed) cannot produce sin.” 18

It is important to realize that sin is never an act of the true born-again nature that a person receives from God when they believe in Jesus Christ (cf. John 1:12-13) because it is incapable of sin (I John 3:9) and because all sin is sourced in the devil (I John 3:8). The apostle Paul refers to this born-again nature as the “new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephes. 4:24; cf. Col. 3:10), “the inward man” (Rom. 7:22), or “the law of the mind” (Rom. 7:23).

Many have wondered how this understanding can harmonize with John’s statement in I John 1:8 that Christians who say they have no sin are self-deceived. Hodges explains:

“In 1:8 John warns, ‘If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.’ But in 3:9 he says, ‘whoever has been born of God does not sin.’ As total persons, believers do sin and can never claim to be free of it, but their ‘inward self’ that is regenerated does not sin.

“In describing his struggle with sin Paul notes that two diverse impulses are at work. So, he can say, ‘For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members’ (Rom 7:22-23). Previous to this he had concluded, ‘Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells in me’ (v 20). His conclusion is simple; ‘So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin’ (v 24). At the core of his being (in his inward man) he does not and cannot sin. The inward man (the ‘regenerate self’) is absolutely impervious to sin, fully enslaved to God’s will. If sin occurs, it is not the inward man who performs it.

“Sin does exist in the Christian, but it is foreign and extraneous to his regenerated inner self, where Christ dwells in perfect holiness. Since Christ is eternal life (1 John 5:20), the one who possesses that life cannot sin because he is born of God. The divine seed (sperma) of that life remains (menō, ‘abides,’ ‘stays’) in him who is born again, making sin an impossibility at the level of his regenerate inward self.” 19

Comparing John’s statements to Paul’s in Romans 7:14-25, Anderson writes, “The evil which I do is done by me, but not really; it is done by my sin(ful) nature. So, the divine good which I do is not done by me; it is done by my divine nature. Both of these Natures dwell in the child of God simultaneously. However, even though the sin(ful) nature from our ‘B.C. days’ stays with us after we are born again (as does our physical body, our personality, our core intelligence, et cetera), the addition of God’s divine nature with the indwelling Holy Spirit changes our identity forever. We are radically, fundamentally different from the Old Man (all we were before we met Christ or were born-again). We now have the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16). ‘For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man’ (Rom 7:22). When I obey the lusts of the flesh, my new inner man (the divine nature) is disgusted and repulsed. I can only cry out with Paul, ‘Oh, wretched man that I am!’ when I choose to follow the lead of my sinful side.

“This inner disgust was not present in my Old Man. Conviction from the Holy Spirit, yes; disgust and anguish such as Paul was reeling from in Rom 7:24, no. The new creature in Christ (2 Cor 5:17) knows that when the believer knowingly sins, he is not acting in accordance with this fundamental change which has taken place within him when he was born-again. He longs with the mind of Christ to act in harmony with his new identity. In fact, that is the only way he can manifest or make visible who really is a child of the King.” 20

After years of studying the New Testament, I have not been able to find any verses which explicitly say our new, regenerate self needs to be transformed into the likeness of Christ before being translated into God’s presence at death or the Rapture of the Church. Why? Because our regenerate self is already sinless (I John 3:9; cf. 2 Cor. 5:8; Ephes. 4:24; Phil. 1:21-23). But our physical bodies in which our born-again self dwells are still unredeemed and will not be transformed into the glorious likeness of Jesus’ resurrection body until He returns for His Church (I John 3:2; cf. Rom. 8:23; I Cor. 15:51-54; Phil 3:20-21; I Thess. 4:14-17). Then and only then will our bodies fully manifest our regenerate self.

The apostles John and Paul want us to understand that sin is foreign to who we are in Christ (I John 3:9; cf. Rom. 7:17-20; Gal. 2:20). But Satan wants to convince us that we are sinners. Why? Because sinning is accepted as natural and normal. But if we realize we are children of God at the core of our being (I John 3:1-9), then we will conclude that sinning is abnormal and unnatural to our Christian lives. Sin is inconsistent with who we are at the core of our being. It conceals our true identity in Christ which is what John addresses in the next verse.

“In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God.” (I John 3:10a). This part of the verse makes the most sense if we understand it to be the conclusion of what John said previously. Hence, the words “in this” refer back to I John 2:29 – 3:9 where John talks about expressing or manifesting our born-again nature by practicing righteousness. The last part of verse 10 looks forward to expressing our born-again nature by loving our Christian brother (3:11-4:19). Both discussions are intended by John to motivate his Christian readers to prepare to have more confidence and less shame at the time of Christ’s coming (2:28).

The key word in 3:10a is the word translated “manifest” (phanera) which means to be “visible” or “plainly…seen.” 21 According to I John 2:29-3:9, a Christian can “manifest” or make visible the “righteous” born-again nature given to him or her at new birth by practicing righteousness. On the flip side, a Christian can conceal his or her born-again nature by not practicing righteousness. 

Hodges writes, “Because a child of God is sinless at the core of his being, he can never be ‘manifest’ through sin as can a child of the devil. While an unsaved person can display his true nature through sin, a child of God cannot. When a Christian sins, he conceals who he really is rather than making it manifest. If the readers perceive someone doing real righteousness, then-but only then-can they perceive this action as a true product of new birth (2:29) and can thus behold God’s love (3:1). This consideration is crucial to John’s advancing argument” 22 whereby he defines “righteousness primarily in terms of Christian brotherly love and to show how such love properly expresses itself.” 23

John is saying to Christians in 3:10a, “Express your true self!” The phrase “children of the devil” can refer to both saved and unsaved. Nowhere does the Bible say one is “born of the devil,” “for ‘the devil begets none, nor does he create any; but whoever imitates the devil becomes a child of the devil by imitating him, not by proper birth’ [Augustine, Tract, 4. 10].” 24

“Those who are of the devil, either saved or unsaved, do the devil’s work by opposing the truth (cf. Matt. 13:38; 16:23; John 8:44; Acts 13:10; 2 John 9). One form of opposing the truth is disregarding it. Saved people are of the devil in the sense that sometimes they follow the devil’s leading and do his work, though they no longer belong to the devil. An example of those who are of the devil is the antichrists (plural) that John previously warned about (2:22-23). Jesus called the unbelieving Jews the children of ‘your father the devil’ (John 8:44)” 25 because they opposed the truth Jesus revealed to them about their sinfulness and His identity as the Son of God Who can set them free from bondage to sin (John 8:32-47).

Whenever we sin, we are behaving like children of the devil, since all sin is sourced in him (3:8). The phrase “children of God” can only refer to saved people because the Bible does say only those who believe that Jesus is the Christ are born of God (I John 5:1). Children of God can only express who they really are when they live righteously.

This does not mean, however, that when a Christian sins he is not a child of God regardless of how long or often he sins. But when he does sin, he is only revealing what he was before he was born again through faith in Christ. It does not mean he was never born again with a divine nature. But it does mean he is keeping the divine nature hidden. 26

“A psychiatrist thought he would do an experiment on self-image, so he got ten volunteers, brought them into his office one at a time, and briefed each on his assignment. He explained to them, ‘I want to see how people will respond to someone with a hideous, ugly deformity.’ Then the psychiatrist brought in a make-up artist who put an ugly scar on the right cheek of each volunteer. Before sending the volunteer out, they got a chance to look at themselves in a mirror. After the volunteer had gotten a good look, the mirror was taken away and the make-up artist was told to put the final touches of make-up on the scar. But, unknown to the volunteer, the makeup artist was instructed to pull the scar away before sending the volunteer out. The volunteer did not look any different when he left than when he had come in.

“Each volunteer was told to sit for twenty minutes in the waiting room with other patients to observe their reactions to the phantom deformity of the volunteer. Then their job was to come back into the psychiatrist’s office after observing the reactions and report how people had treated them. Ten different volunteers, with ten different perspectives resulted in reports that were all the same. According to the volunteers who thought they had ugly scars on their cheeks, the other patients in the waiting room were rude to them. People shunned them, and worst of all, if you can believe it, the other patients stared straight at the scars—the scars that weren’t actually there.

“The point of the experiment was to demonstrate that other people react to us in response to how we see ourselves. When you look inside yourself, what do you see—a big, hideous scar, or the Lion of the Tribe of Judah? When you look into the mirror, do you see a prairie chicken or a golden eagle?” 27

How we see ourselves determines how we live. The apostle John wants his Christian readers, including you and me, to see themselves as children of God who possess a sinless born-again nature (God’s “seed”) at the core of their being so they will manifest this righteous nature by living righteously. This type of Christian is represented by the image on the left. He or she is visibly manifesting God’s righteous nature inside them by doing what is right. However, this is not what gets them to heaven. Only believing that Jesus is the Christ makes us born of God (I John 5:1). But manifesting our true identity by practicing Christ’s righteous behavior will give us more confidence and less shame before Jesus when He returns for His church (2:28).

On the other hand, a Christian who is yielding to his or her sinful flesh is hiding their new born-again nature inside them. This type of believer is represented by the drawing on the right. He is behaving like a child of the devil when he sins, since all sin is sourced in Satan (3:8). Failure to manifest their new nature through their actions does not jeopardize their salvation, but it does disrupt their fellowship with God and other believers. It will also reduce their confidence and increase their shame before Christ when He returns for His church (2:28).

Remember Barry Bremen? He concealed his identity from others by wearing disguises. But he was unable to hide his identity from his children who possessed the same genetic code as his. Likewise, Christians can conceal their born-again nature from others by sinning. But this in no way erases the spiritual genetic code or divine nature God gave them the moment they believed in Jesus for His gift of eternal life. Such a nature cannot be lost; but it can be hidden from others when we fail to live righteously for our Lord.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the righteous born-again nature You gave us the moment we believed in Jesus for His gift of eternal life. Please help us manifest this nature by living life on Your terms and not our own so others can be drawn to Christ living in us. Too often we can yield to our sinful nature instead of relying on the Holy Spirit to express our new nature through righteous living. When this happens, the evil one would like to trick us into thinking that we are not really Your children after we have sinned, thus leading us into more sin. Help us to know and embrace the truth found in 1 John 3:1-10 – that we are Your children at the core of our being – so we can avoid the devil’s deception and rise from our confession to You knowing we are the same inwardly holy children we were before we sinned. In the matchless name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Retrieved on January 20, 2023, at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barry_Bremen.

2. Episode 221 of the Sports Media Podcast entitled, “The Amazing, Incredible Story of Barry Bremen, The Sports Imposter. As told by guests ESPN’s Russell Dinallo and Jeremy Schaap” at https://podcasts.apple.com/de/podcast/the-amazing-incredible-story-of-barry-bremen/id1366264191?i=1000569498767.

3. Zane C. Hodges; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 595.

4. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 3824.

5. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pp. 156-157.

6. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3771.

7. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 594.

8. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 157.

9. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 595.

10. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3827.

11. The Greek phrase ek tou diabolou is an ablative genitive of source which is the use of the genitive throughout verses 3:8-10. Hence, the genitive phrase “is not of God” (ouk estin ek tou Theou) in 3:10b means that a Christian who does not practice righteousness nor love his brother does not have actions that are sourced in God – see Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3855 and Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings: Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 500.

12. Dillow, Final Destiny, pg. 500.

13. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2943.

14. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pp. 146, 151. 

15. Ibid., pg. 151 cites J. P. Louw, “Verbal Aspect in the First Letter of John,” Neotestamentica 9 (1975): 99-101); cf. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3804 to 3809 who cites Sakae Kubo, “1 John 3:9: Absolute or Habitual?” Andrews University Seminary Studies 7 (1969):47-56; C.H. Dodd, The ]ohannine Epistles, Moffatt New Testament Commentary series (New York: Harper and Row, 1946), pp. 78-81; I. Howard Marshall, The Epistles of John, New International Commentary on the New Testament series, Reprint ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), pg. 80.

16. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 151; Dillow, Final Destiny, pg. 493 cites Zane C. Hodges, The Epistles of John: Walking in the Light of God’s Love: A Verse-by-Verse Commentary (Irving, TX; Grace Evangelical Society Theological Society, 1999), pg. 143.

17. Dillow, Final Destiny, pg. 491.

18. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 159.

19. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pp. 595-596.

20. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pp. 159-160.

21. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 1047.

22. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3844 to 3849.

23. Ibid., Kindle Location 3849.

24. Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pg. 76 cites Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset; and David Brown, Commentary Practical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, Reprint ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1961), pg. 1504.

25. Ibid., pg. 81.

26. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pp. 160-161.

27. Ibid., pp. 162-164.

I John 3 – Part 2

“Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.” I John 3:6

In the body of his epistle the apostle John explains how we can have more confidence and less shame at the time of Christ’s coming (2:28-4:19). He begins by providing some practical teaching about our new identity in Christ (3:1-10). Since God is righteous by nature (2:29), we can now share in His righteousness through the new birth which has changed who we are at the core of our being. We are now God’s children (3:1a). The world does not understand this new nature because they have not experienced the new birth (3:1b). John goes on to explain that the time is coming when this new nature will be the only nature we manifest because our sinful nature will be taken away and we will receive a new glorified body like that of the Lord Jesus at the time of His return (3:2; cf. Phil. 3:20-21). The certainty that we will be completely conformed (both spiritually and physically) into the image of Christ in the future motivates us to live for the Lord now (3:3).

John wants his Christian readers (2:12-14; 5:13) to change the way they think about sin (3:4-6) because sin can rob Christians of the abundant life Jesus came to give them on earth (cf. John 10:10). Notice I did not say that sin can rob a Christian of heaven. 1 Entering heaven is based on believing in Jesus Christ and His death on the cross which finished paying our sin debt to God in full (I John 5:1, 13; cf. John 3:5-18, 36; 19:30). The book of I John is about how to have fellowship or intimacy with Christ (1:3-4), not about how to get to heaven. John’s concern is that the antichrists or false teachers (2:18-27) were trying to “deceive” John’s readers not to take sin seriously (3:7), 2 which would disrupt their fellowship with God. Hence, John begins this section by addressing the character of sin.

He writes, “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.” (I John 3:4). Sin is the very opposite of Christ’s purity and the hope believers have of becoming like Him (3:2-3). All “sin” (hamartia) is “lawlessness” (anomia) 3 or wickedness. 4 When a Christian (or non-Christian) sins, he or she becomes a lawbreaker. It does not matter if you sin once or a thousand times; sin is an act of rebellion against God. 5

The apostle wants to open our eyes to the wickedness of sin. It is revolting to God whether it is a little white lie or a violent murder. It sickens God to look at our sin because He is completely holy, and sin is the exact opposite of His holiness. It also sickens God to see Christians tolerate sin in their lives as though it were no big deal. We may justify our sin by telling ourselves, “No one is perfect.” “Everyone is doing it.” “No one will ever know, so it won’t hurt anyone.”

Look at the contrast between man’s rationalization of sin and God’s repulsion of sin:

Man calls it an accident; God calls it an abomination.

Man calls it a blunder; God calls it blindness.

Man calls it a defect; God calls it a disease.

Man calls it a chance; God calls it a choice.

Man calls it an error; God calls it enmity.

Man calls it a fascination; God calls it a fatality.

Man calls it infirmity; God calls it iniquity.

Man calls it luxury; God calls it leprosy.

Man calls it liberty; God calls it lawlessness.

Man calls it a trifle; God calls it a tragedy.

Man calls it a mistake; God calls it madness.

Man calls it a weakness; God calls it wickedness. 6

Instead of rationalizing our sin, God want us to confess and forsake it (Prov. 28:13). Again, this is not to get to heaven, but to have intimate fellowship with the Lord on earth. The consequences of not taking sin seriously can be deadly. Anderson illustrates this:

“There is a small tree which grows in SE Asia known as the Judas-tree. Long before its leaves appear, gorgeous blossoms grow on its branches. Looking like scarlet sunbeams caught among the boughs, the brilliant beauty of the crimson flowers attracts thousands of tiny insects. The wild bees also seek to draw honey from the exquisitely shaped cups.

“But every insect—bee or butterfly—that comes to rest upon the edge of its blossom is overcome by a fatal, curious sort of opiate, or drug, which the flower- juice contains, and drops dead upon the ground below! So, when walking around Judas-trees, a person sees the soft grass covered with dead and dying, bright-winged insects.

“The Judas-tree reminds us of sin. Sin may look bright, pleasant, and attractive to our eyes; it may appear harmless to indulge in it. But lurking behind the “pleasure of sin” is a fatal poison. And sin is a poison, a wickedness that acts as a drug to take away all our motivation for the Christian life, or worse. Wickedness: that’s the character of sin.” 7

Failure to take sin seriously conflicts with the purpose and purity of Jesus Christ Who came to completely remove sin from our lives. Sin is antichrist. John writes, “And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.” (I John 3:5). Jesus not only came to save us from the full penalty of our sins when He died on the cross (John 19:30; Rom. 5:9a, 10a; 6:23a; I Cor. 15:3), but He rose from the dead to live inside us to save us from the power of sin in our daily Christian lives (Rom. 5:9b, 10b; James 1:21-25). The day is coming in eternity when Christ will deliver us from the presence of sin in our lives forever (I John 3:2; Rev. 21:4).

The reason Jesus is qualified to do all this for us is because “in Him there is no sin” (3:5b). There was absolutely no sin in the perfect Son of God because He is fully God (I John 5:20; cf. John 1:1, 34, 49; 5:16-47; 6:69; 8:57-59; 11:27; 20:28; Rom. 9:5; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8; et al.) and fully Man (I John:1:1-2; 4:2-3; cf. John 1:14; 4:6; 11:35; 12:27; 19:28; I Tim. 2:5).It took a perfect sacrifice to satisfy God’s holy demand to punish the sins of the world. And Jesus was the only Person qualified for the job (I John 2:1-2; cf. John 1:29; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; I Pet. 3:18).

Although every Christian has sin in their lives (I John 1:7-8, 10), sin is abnormal and unnatural to the Christian life (Rom. 6:1-4). In fact, it is contrary to the purity of Jesus Christ (I John 3:3, 5). Therefore, it must not be condoned or tolerated in a believer’s life.

A few years ago, my family and I visited a church in North Dakota during the summer that was part of a German community. I was so impressed with how everyone seemed to be concerned about the cleanliness of their town. All the lawns were neatly mowed, and the sidewalks were swept and free of grass trimmings. Flowers were strategically planted without a weed in sight. There were no beer cans laying around nor any garbage on the side of the roads. People seemed to take a lot of pride in keeping their community looking clean and tidy.

When we left that place, I wondered what would happen if I showed more concern for the cleanliness of my heart than those people showed for their community? Inward cleanliness leads to outward cleanliness in the eyes of the apostle John. The righteous nature of God which was given to us the moment we believed in Christ (Rom. 4:5; I John 2:29; 5:1, 13), is to be manifested outwardly in our practice – not so we can get to heaven, but so God is glorified before people on earth (cf. Matt. 5:16).

Failure to take sin seriously is contrary to abiding in Christ Who is a sinless Person. “Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.” (I John 3:6). John has just said there is absolutely “no sin” in Jesus(3:5). It follows that a Christian who “abides in” Christ (a sinless Person), absolutely “does not sin” (3:6). John is saying that sin is never the product of having fellowship or intimacy with Christ (“abides in Him”).Remember “abides” (menō) is one of John’s favorite words for fellowship or intimacy with Jesus.

Unfortunately, many Bible interpreters fail to see this logical connection between the absolute present tenses in verses 5 and 6.They conclude that verse 6 means if a person who claims to be a Christian continues to sin, he or she is not truly saved. The NIV translation conveys this interpretation by inserting the words “keeps on” and “continues” in front of the present tense verbs: “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.” (I John 3:6 NIV). However, continual action is not inherent in the Greek present tense. The translators have added these additional words based on their theological point of view, not a careful study of the Greek grammar. 8

“For example, Jesus refers to His single act of coming to the earth at His incarnation in the present tense in John 6:33 when He says, ‘For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ Is there anyone who would like to tell us that the present tense here means continuous action, that is, that Jesus is continually coming down from heaven? I don’t think so. The present tense can mean continuous action, but that is only one of its ten different uses, and it’s a fairly rare usage. There need to be other indicators in the context of the verb before we conclude that the meaning is continuous action.” 9

“It cannot be shown anywhere in the New Testament that the present tense can bear this kind of meaning without the assistance of other words.” 10

It is best to understand I John 3:6a in an absolute sense (“no one who abides in Him sins”) because the present tense (“no one… sins”) in the New Testament never bears the habitual meaning (“no one keeps on sinning”) without the assistance of qualifying words like diapantos (“continually”- Luke 24:53; Heb 9:6; 13:15); eis to diēnekes (“continually”- Heb 7:3; 10:1); 11or  pantote (“always”). First John 3:6a has no qualifying words.

In the immediate context John affirms that “in Him (Christ) there is no sin” (3:5). Clearly this is an absolute denial of sin in God’s Son. Therefore, the present tense in 3:6a is also an absolute denial of sin in the person who abides in Christ. One cannot abide in a sinless Person (3:5) and sin at the same time.  

To say that verse 6 means a genuine Christian will not continue to sin contradicts I John 1:8 which says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Since John includes himself and the other apostles with the use of the word “we” in this verse (1:8; cf. 1:1-7), he must be referring to genuine Christians who say they have no sin and are thus self-deceived. 12 Both I John 1:8 and 3:6 refer to genuine Christians.

But what does John mean when he says, “Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him” (I John 3:6b)? To properly understand John’s meaning, we need to turn to the Greek grammar like we did in I John 2:3-4. Once again, the apostle John uses the Greek perfect tense with the verbs “seen” (heōraken) and “known” (egnōken). You may recall that with “verbs describing a state of being (to know) as opposed to verbs of action (to hit), the perfect tense expresses an intensified state. In other words, ‘to know’ in the perfect tense becomes ‘to know intensively’ or intimately. ‘To see’ in the perfect tense becomes ‘to see very closely.’” 13

John is telling us that “whoever sins” (a Christian or non-Christian) – whether it is once or a thousand times – means he or she “has neither seen” Christ closely “nor known Him” intimately. These verbs describe close fellowship with Christ. Sin is never the result of having intimate fellowship with Jesus. When a person “abides” in Christ, he or she has “seen” Him more closely and “known” Him more intimately. Sin is never the product of seeing and knowing Christ in a fellowship sense.

John is not saying that a person who sins has “never” seen or known God. For example, if you see a person with a starving look on his or her face, you can conclude they have not eaten recently, but you cannot conclude they have never eaten. A person sins in the “darkness” (1:6) where he or she is not seeing or knowing God more intimately. Sin is a result of blindness or ignorance toward God. But this does not mean he or she has never walked “in the light” (1:7) where God is seen or known more intimately.

Someone may argue that this absolute denial of sin in the person who abides in Christ also contradicts I John 1:8 which says a Christian who denies he has sin is self-deceived. Hodges comments, “First John 1:8 makes it clear that no Christian can ever claim to be experientially completely free from sin in this life. But at the same time the experience of ‘abiding in Him’ is a sinless experience. One area of obedience is not ‘contaminated’ by the presence of sin in other areas. If a person obeys the command to love his brother, that obedience is not tainted in God’s sight by some different sort of failure in the life, such as a lack of watchfulness in prayer (cf. Eph 6:18).

“When a believer is walking in fellowship with God, He is able to look past all his failures and sin and see the actual obedience that is there. In 1:7 John explained that even while walking in the light, there is cleansing going on by virtue of the blood of Christ. As a believer walks in the light and does what God commands, God sees him as one who is totally cleansed and is without any charge of unrighteousness.

“Thus, when a believer abides in Him, the positive obedience is what God takes account of and recognizes. The sin that still remains is not in any sense sourced in the abiding life, and that sin is cleansed in accord with 1:7. The experience of ‘abiding’ is therefore equivalent to obedience.” 14

Hodges also writes, “The fact remains, however, that Christians do not experience the sinless life perfectly on this earth; hence 1:8, 10 remain true. The two ideas are not really incompatible. The Christian still experiences a genuine struggle with the flesh and overcomes its impulses only by the help of the Holy Spirit (cf. Gal. 5:16-26).

“Paul’s thinking also conforms with this view. In his struggle with sin, he was able to conclude, ‘Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it’ (Rom. 7:20). In this way Paul could perceive sin as not a real part of what he was at the most inward level of his being (cf. Rom. 7:25). When he wrote, ‘I no longer live, but Christ lives in me’ (Gal. 2:20), he implied the same thing. If Christ alone really lives, sin can be no part of that experience. Insofar as God is experienced by a believer, that experience is sinless.” 15

In summary, God wants us to take sin more seriously because…

  • The character of sin is repulsive to God (3:4).
  • Sin conflicts with the purpose and purity of Christ (3:5).
  • Sin is contrary to abiding in Christ (3:6).

To knowingly and willfully sin makes us a stranger to Jesus Christ because Christ is sinless. One cannot abide in a sinless Person and sin. Sin is never the product of abiding in Christ. That is, one cannot deliberately sin and be close to Christ at the same time. A believer in close fellowship with Christ wants sin out of his life. But a Christian who takes sin lightly in his life does not know Christ intimately. If he did, he would take sin more seriously.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for wanting us to take sin more seriously because it can rob us of the joy of seeing You more closely and knowing You more intimately. Too often we can take sin lightly because we are not in fellowship with You. If we were close to You, we would be sickened by our sin as You are. Please help us to see You more closely and to know You more intimately so we will want sin out of our lives. Our sin is a big deal because it caused Jesus to suffer and die in our place on a cross so we could be forgiven when we believe in Him. By Your grace, may each of us abide in Christ and have close fellowship with Him so we can live a life that is honoring to You. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 145.

2. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 3795.

3. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 85.

4. Anderson notes, “This Greek word is used to translate twenty-four different Hebrew words in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew OT). Most frequently it is used to translate the Hebrew word ‘awon, which means “wickedness” or “iniquity” (Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 147).

5. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2942.

6. Anderson, Maximum John, pp. 147-148.

7. Ibid., pg. 148.

8. Ibid., pg. 151.

9. Ibid., pp. 146-147.

10. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3805 to 3809.

11. Anderson, pg. 151.

12. Ibid., pg. 145.

13. Ibid., pg. 150; cf. K. L. McKay, “On the Perfect and Other Aspects in the New Testament Greek,” Novum Testamentum, Vol. 23, Fasc. 4 (Brill: 1981), pp. 289-329.

14. Zane C. Hodges; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 595.

15. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3818 to 3822.

I John 3 – Part 1

“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” I John 3:2

The apostle John has just spoken about how a born-again person can make himself visible by practicing righteousness (2:29). The thought of new birth brings an exclamation of wonder from John: “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore, the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.” (I John 3:1). When John uses the word for “Behold” (Idete), he is saying to “stop whatever you are doing and pay attention” 1 to or “look with wonder at the amazing love that God has toward us in that we should be called His children.” The Greek word for “what manner of” (potapēn) sometimes conveys a sense of intensification, like “how great,” “how wonderful,” or “how glorious.” 2John wants us to pause and focus on how glorious the love of God toward us is. 3

God “the Father” expressed His “love” toward us by placing us in His family the moment we believed in Jesus “that we should be called children of God!(cf. John 1:12). Believers in Jesus are “called children of God” because they are born-ones (tekna) of “the Father.” 4 If we see a child of God manifesting Christ’s righteous behavior (2:29), we can look at him as the recipient of God’s marvelous love (3:1a).

Few verses in the Bible are as beautiful as this one. For believers to experience victory in their Christian lives, they need to know Who their Daddy is! God is their perfect heavenly Father, and He does not share any of the failures or weaknesses of their earthly fathers. In addition, He is the King of creation which makes us royalty. 5

“John is slowly getting around to the new nature we have in Christ. He is saying that God’s nature is righteous. So, we can be born of God and share in His nature. We can be righteous. It stupefies John that God would love us enough to let us share in His nature. This is the same nature that came into Mary in the form of Jesus and was born on Christmas. Part of this same divine nature was passed along to us at new birth. It has changed our entire character and make-up. Now we are truly the children of God. That’s who we really are.” 6

It is an awesome privilege to be called God’s child. When we stop to ponder our new identity in Christ – that we are God’s children – it will take our breath away. When you believe in Christ, you are born of God and share in His divine righteous nature (cf. John 1:12; I John 2:29; 3:9; 5:1). At the core of your being you are God’s child no matter what you or others do, say, or think.

Many of us may believe the lie that says, “I am what I do.” We tell ourselves that what I do determines who I am. So, if I sin, I must be a sinner. What Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44), tries to do is deceive us to believe this lie. Hence, when I sin, he whispers the lie that I am a sinner so I will perceive that sin is the normal and natural outgrowth of who I truly am at the core of my being. But listen to what God says: “We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him” (I John 5:18).

Our born-again self (“whoever is born of God”), John tells us, “does not sin.” Sin can never be traced back to my new identity in Christ. At the core of my being, I am now God’s dearly beloved child through faith alone in Christ alone (I John 5:1; cf. John 1:12). I am defined by what God says about me, not by what I do. Satan cannot “touch” or defeat our born-again nature (I John 5:18). This is important to remember especially after being humbled by our sinful failures.

The evil one would like to trick us into thinking that we are not really God’s children after we have failed, thus leading us into more failures. But if we know and embrace the truth found in I John 3:1 and 5:18, we can avoid the devil’s deception, and rise from our confession of sin to the Lord (cf. I John 1:9) knowing we are the same inwardly holy children we were before we sinned.

God is righteous and we can now share in His righteousness. This new birth has changed who we are. We are now God’s child having been begotten by Him. However, it should not take us by surprise when the world looks at us and fails to perceive that we are children of God. Why? Because the world did not “know” (ginōskō) Christ (or God the Father) experientially, 7 they cannot recognize His children either (I John 3:1b). Since they do not know the Divine Parent, they do not know His children either. 8

The world does not know what it is like for a Christian to be given a new righteous nature from God because the world has not experienced God in this way. Anderson explains, “Until someone has experienced the new birth, it’s even hard to explain what it is like to have this new nature within. But in verse two John goes on to explain that one day this new nature is the only nature that we will manifest.” 9

“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (I John 3:2). The word “Beloved” (agapētoi) connects back to the thought of verse one where Christians are described as the recipients of the glorious love of God the Father who regards them as His children. 10 Verse two informs us that believers in Jesus now have a new spiritual nature (“now we are children of God”) that is invisible to the world (“it has not yet been revealed what we shall be”).This suggests that there is no physical transformation from the new birth.

Believers in Christ will not undergo a physical transformation which outwardly manifests their spiritual birth until Jesus “is revealed.” The word translated “revealed” (phaneróō) twice in this verse is also the same word translated “appears” (phanerōthē) in I John 2:28. When Jesus “appears,” what believers “shall be” will “appear” too. Since “we shall be like” Christ physically when He returns for His church (cf. Phil. 3:20-21),Christians do not want to “be ashamed before Him” now (2:28; cf. 4:17-19). 11

The reason we “shall be like” Jesus physically when He appears is because we shall see Him as He is.” The moment we see the Lord Jesus in all His glory when He returns in the air for His church, our sinful nature will be taken away and Christ will automatically transform our physical bodies into the likeness of Christ’s glorious resurrection body (Phil. 3:20-21; I Cor. 15:51-54). 12

Could anyone but God miraculously transform a person physically into His own glorious likeness who looks at Him? This argues for the deity of Jesus Christ. If Jesus were a mere human, how could He miraculously transform another human being into His glorious likeness!?! It would not happen. But the fact that Christ is God (I John 5:20; cf. John 1:1; Titus 2:13) explains how seeing Him when He returns in glory can change us physically into His own glorious likeness.

Looking at a mere human being does not change our physical bodies. If I was to behold President Biden or evangelist Franklin Graham in person, my physical body would not be changed into their likeness. There is no human being on earth that could do that to us. But Jesus Christ can and will when He returns for His church at any moment because He is Lord of all!

Such a transforming look agrees with what Paul taught about our present spiritual transformation which takes place as we behold Christ’s glory in the Scriptures: 13 “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Cor. 3:18). In the context, the “mirror” Paul has in mind is the Scripture (2 Cor. 3:12-16; cf. James 1:21-25). As a Christian approaches the Bible openly with the eyes of faith (“with unveiled face”), he or she sees the reflection of Christ’s glory in the “mirror” of the Bible which transforms him or her “from” one stage of Christ’s “glory to” to the next stage of Christ’s “glory” through the power of God’s “Spirit.” 14

“Can you think of anything more wonderful than seeing Jesus? We have sung about Him, talked about Him, studied about Him, communicated with Him, but the grand climax will be when we see Him.” 15

The prospect of being physically transformed into the glorious likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ when we see Him at the time of His appearing can have a purifying effect on a Christian’s life now. John writes, “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (I John 3:3). One of the best ways for Christians to purify themselves from sin now is to focus on “this hope” of Christ’s return at any moment and the accompanying physical and spiritual transformation that will occur with it. 

Anderson writes, “That John speaks of this hope as a purifying hope is one of the reasons we believe the rapture will occur before the Tribulation begins. If the rapture takes place after the Tribulation, as many teach, I could wait until the middle of the Tribulation to start cleaning up my act. I could just wait around until the Man of Sin reveals himself, and then I could start getting serious about my Christian life. After all, I could count the days until His appearing. It will be 1260 days from the revelation of the Antichrist.

“No, we believe the NT teaches Christ can come for His bride at any moment. We don’t know when that will be.” 16

To illustrate this, let’s say you are a close friend of President Biden and he said he planned to drop in to see you on one of his frequent trips to Delaware. You ask, “Do you know when that will be?” “Why?” he asks, “Well, I want to make sure the house is clean when you come.” “Oh,” he says, “Well I want to surprise you. Just keep it clean.” 17 That’s what the apostle John is saying in I John 3:2-3.

The promise that Jesus Christ could return for His church at any moment is one of the greatest reasons for us to live for Jesus now. Focusing on Christ’s any-time-return “purifies” us inwardly so we can have confidence and not be ashamed before Him when He appears.

Prayer:  Precious heavenly Father, thank You for the amazing way You have given Your love to us by declaring that at the core of our being we are Your dearly loved children no matter what we or others say, think, or do. Since we are Your children, we have all we need (Your nature, Your Spirit, and Your Word) to manifest Your righteous and loving nature. The world does not know what it is like for us to be given a new spiritual nature because they have not experienced You in this way. The day is coming, however, when we will undergo a physical transformation which outwardly manifests our spiritual birth at the time of Christ’s coming for His church. Help us focus on this hope of Christ’s return at any moment which purifies us inwardly from sin now so we can have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. Lord God, please lead us to those without Christ so we may share the gospel with them so they may believe in Him for His gift of eternal life. Then they too can prepare to face Christ with confidence at His coming. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.   

ENDNOTES:

1.Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 720.

2. Ibid., pg. 856.

3. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 137.

4. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 3780.

5. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2941.

6. Anderson, pp. 137-138.

7. The Greek word translated “know” (ginōskō) refers to experiential knowledge (see Archibald Thomas Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament [with Bible and Strong’s Numbers Added!], 6 Volumes (E4 Group, 2014 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 205650 to 205667.

8. Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pg. 69.

9. Anderson, pg. 138.

10. Zane C. Hodges, Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 594.

11. Ibid.

12. Ibid.

13. Ibid.

14. See Zane C. Hodges’ helpful discussion on 2 Corinthians 3:18 in his book Six Secrets of the Christian Life (Corinth, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2016 Kindle Edition), pp. 15-19.

15. Constable, pg. 70 cites J. Allen Blair, The Epistles of John: Devotional Studies on Living Confidently (Neptune, N.J.: Loizeaux Brothers, 1982), pg. 92.

16. Anderson, pp. 138-139.

17. Adapted from Ibid., pg. 139.

I John 2 – Part 14

“If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.” I John 2:29

During the first quarter of the Monday night NFL game on January 2, 2023, between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills, twenty-four-year-old Damar Hamlin of the Bills made a tackle and hopped up to his feet only to collapse to the ground a second later. Immediately, Bills’ assistant athletic trainer, Denny Kellington, jumped to action after Hamlin’s heart stopped beating and began administering CPR on the football field while players from both teams formed a wall around Damar. Eventually Hamlin’s heartbeat was restored after a defibrillator was used on him on the field.

Physicians at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center where Damar was taken after his collapse Monday night, stated on January 6th that his “breathing tube was removed overnight” and that “he continues to progress remarkably in his recovery. His neurologic function remains intact, and he has been able to talk to his family and care team.” 1

At a recent press conference Bills head coach, Sean McDermott, said, “For an assistant to find himself at that position and needing to take the action that he did and step up and take charge like he did … is nothing short of amazing… The courage that that took … talk about a real leader, a real hero, in saving Damar’s life, and I just admire his strength.” 2

McDermott also praised the Bills entire medical team for their quick response. “Our medical team, they go through mock exercises for things like this, but we are never around to see that when they do that,” he said. “As they say, practice pays off, and it did in this case.” 3

Wellington’s quick response is truly amazing. One of the doctors treating Hamlin at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, Dr. William Knight IV, states, “There are injuries occasionally that happen on sports fields, be it in football or others, but it is incredibly rare to have something be this serious (and) that quickly recognized. Meeting the standard of what we would expect in that scenario is what has allowed us to be able to discuss these good outcomes today.” 4

Another of Hamlin’s doctors, Dr. Timothy Pritt, also said, “had Hamlin’s care on the field been delayed by minutes or even seconds, his prognosis could’ve been quite different.” 5

Praise for Kellington’s life-saving actions has been overflowing on social media. Several fans are calling for him to be formally honored by the NFL. 6

Denny Kellington manifested that he was a hero through his actions. He, along with the Bills’ entire medical team, had practiced mock exercises for scenarios like Hamlin’s but it was Kellington who experienced this training at a much deeper level when he stepped up in the time of crisis. No doubt, the Bills have many athletic trainers on their team with impressive credentials, abilities, and knowledge regarding medical emergencies like Hamlin’s, but it was this specific trainer who manifested heroic character through his quick decisions and actions.

Why do I draw attention to this? Because I believe the author of I John would appreciate such a perspective. In our study of the book of I John, the apostle John introduced a new theme of having “confidence” or boldness before the Lord Jesus “at His coming” to motivate his Christian readers (2:12-14; 5:13) to continue to cultivate fellowship or intimacy with Christ (2:28). He uses one of his favorite terms for fellowship with God (“abide”) in verse 28 to emphasize the importance of cultivating intimacy with Christ in preparation for His return. Starting with verse 29, John begins to tell us how to prepare to have boldness at the prospect of Christ’s coming at any time (2:29-4:19). More specifically, in I John 2:29-3:10, John wants to talk about how to manifest with our actions that we are children of God. 7

John writes, “If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.” (I John 2:29). Some students of the Bible conclude that John is saying a true Christian will always practice righteousness. But let’s be clear. John does not say this.

“We must not make this verse say more than it does. John certainly does not say, ‘Whoever does not do righteousness is not born of Him.’ That would be an inference in no way justified by John’s statement. He is not talking here about how we can decide if a person is saved. If we know that a person believes (cf. 1 John 5:1 …), we can know he is saved. But here, John is clearly concerned with the deduction which we can make if we know that God is righteous. If that is known, it follows that one who to any extent reproduces His righteous nature is actually manifesting that nature and can rightly be perceived as born of Him.” 8

“This verse does not say that everyone who is born of God practices righteousness. Believers can walk in darkness and sin (1:6, 8; 2:1). The point here is that when a child exhibits the nature of his or her father, he or she is perceived as the child of the father.” 9

John first says, “If you know that He is righteous” (Ean eidēte hoti dikaios estin). This is a third-class condition in the Greek language which conveys probability. 10 The first Greek word translated “know” (eidēte) in this verse refers to intuitive or absolute knowledge. 11 The second word translated “know” (ginōskete) refers to experiential knowledge. 12 Hence, John is saying, “If you know intuitively or absolutely from the Scripture that Christ is righteous, and you probably do, then you know from experience that everyone who practices or does righteousness is born of Him.”

The only way children of God can be manifested is through Christ’s “righteous” behavior. When we see someone exhibit Christ’s righteous behavior, we can be sure they are born of God. This righteous behavior is not referring to humanistic kindness or morality which even non-Christians can manifest. This “righteousness” (“what is right” translates tēn dikaiosynēn) 13 is not possible apart from believing in Christ for new birth and loving one’s fellow Christians. 14 John writes, “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.” (I John 3:23).

“John is not talking about how one can decide if a person is regenerate. John is clearly concerned with the deduction one can make if a person knows that God is righteous. If that is known, it follows that one who reproduces His righteous nature is actually manifesting that nature and can rightly be perceived as born of Him.” 15

Does I John 2:29 mean that all children of God will manifest Christ’s righteous behavior or that all people manifesting Christ’s righteous behavior are children of God? Perhaps it would be helpful to illustrate using the NFL motif. Since our opening illustration involved a Buffalo Bills football player, let’s talk about Buffalo Bills football fans. Are all football fans Buffalo Bills fans? No. But are all Buffalo Bills fans football fans? Yes. Hence, are all Christians practicing Christ’s righteousness? No. But are all those practicing Christ’s righteousness Christians? Yes.

First John 2:29 does not say, “Everyone who does not practice righteousness is not born of Him.” John has already stated that Christians can walk in darkness and sin (1:6, 8, 10-2:1). John’s emphasis here is that when a child manifests the righteous nature of his or her father, he or she is perceived as a child of the father.

Getting back to the Damar Hamlin story involving the athletic trainer. I think we can safely assume that all the athletic trainers for the Buffalo Bills had a thorough knowledge of how to treat a player in Hamlin’s situation. But Denny Kellington manifested or experienced that knowledge when he sprang into action and helped save Damar’s life. The other trainers were still trainers even though they did not share Kellington’s experience. But Kellington manifested his trainer’s knowledge through his actions. And he has become a hero in the eyes of many people.

Not all Christians manifest Christ’s righteous behavior to the same degree. Practicing Christ’s righteousness is not automatic for Christians. We must choose to abide in Christ, to walk in the light as He is in the light to manifest His righteous behavior (1:5-2:6, 28). Those believers in Jesus who do will have more confidence and less shame when they stand before the Lord Jesus at His Judgment Seat (I Cor. 3:8-15; 2 Cor. 5:10; I John 2:28; 4:17-19). It is there they will hear Jesus say to them, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” (Matt. 25:21).

But those believers who do not manifest Jesus’ righteous behavior in their Christian lives “will be saved, yet so as through fire” at the Judgment Seat of Christ where they “will suffer [the] loss” of eternal rewards (I Cor. 3:15). They will hear Jesus say, “’26 You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed… 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. 29 ‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt. 25:26, 28-30).

Notice the contrast of rewards between the faithful believer and the unfaithful believer in Matthew 25:14-30:

Faithful Believer’s Rewards Unfaithful Believer’s Loss of Rewards
Commendation – “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Matt. 25:21aReprimanded – You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed.” Matt. 25:26
Promotion – “you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.” Matt. 25:21bDemotion – So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents… but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.” Matt. 25:28-29
Included in the joy of co-ruling with Christ – “Enter into the joy of your lord.” Matt. 25:21cExcluded from the joy of co-ruling with Christ – “And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matt. 25:30

In a manner of speaking, faithful Christians will be perceived as heroes because they manifested the righteous character of God their Father and God the Son through their actions on earth. These overcoming believers will receive special recognition throughout eternity when they enter the main gates of the New Jerusalem on the new earth (Rev. 22:14b). Each time they enter one of the main gates of the New Jerusalem, they will be given special honor perhaps before the angel at that gate (Rev. 21:12).

Jesus promised, “Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God.” (Luke 12:8). It may be when an overcoming believer who faithfully “confessed” Christ “before men” especially in hostile contexts (Luke 12:1-12; cf. Matt. 10:16-42) during his Christian life on earth, enters one of the main gates into the New Jerusalem in the life to come, the Lord Jesus will give a good confession (special recognition) about that believer to the angel of God at that gate. Jesus wants us to know that if we testify of Him in the face of hostile persecution during our Christian lives on earth, He will testify about us before the angels of God and God the Father in the life to come on the new earth (Luke 12:8; Matt. 10:32).

This confession by Christ may include the declaration that this faithful believer is fit to rule with Him because he or she endured opposition when speaking up for Christ throughout their entire Christian lives (cf. 2 Tim. 2:12; Matt. 10:16-32). 16 Believers on the inside of the city at that gate will stop what they are doing to welcome this overcomer into the city. Since overcomers will rule with Christ in His eternal kingdom (Rev. 2:25-27; 3:21), they will be honored as royalty each time they enter the New Jerusalem.

Those believers who do not faithfully confess Christ before hostile people in this life will still be on the new earth because the only condition for that is to believe in Christ for His gift of eternal life apart from any works, including confessing Him before men (cf. John 3:5-16; Ephes. 2:8-9; Rev. 21:27b). However, Jesus will “deny” giving them a good confession before God the Father and the angels of God because they refused to testify of Him in the face of opposition during their Christian lives on earth (Luke 12:9; Matt. 10:33). Hence, they will still be on the new earth, but they will not have the honor and privilege of entering through one of the main gates into the New Jerusalem. Christ has informed us now of this reward to motivate us to speak up for Him even though the cost may include losing our lives for Him.

Prayer: Gracious Father in heaven, we thank You for the gift of eternal life that we received the moment we believed in Your only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. It was our faith in Christ that resulted in being born into Your forever family. We praise You today for explaining how we can prepare to have more confidence and less shame before the Lord Jesus when He returns for His church. Please help us manifest Your righteous nature through our actions – especially loving one another – so others can perceive we are Your children, and You are our Father. In the matchless name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Lindsay Lowe’s January 6, 2023, article originally published on Today.com entitled, “Fans want the trainer who saved Damar Hamlin’s life with CPR in the Football Hall of Fame” at www.news.yahoo.com.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid.

7. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 3767 to 3775.

8. Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on I John, 2022 edition, pp. 67-68 cites Zane C. Hodges, The Epistles of John: Walking in the Light of God’s Love (Irving, Tex.: Grace Evangelical Society, 1999), pg. 127.

9. Constable, pg. 68 cites The Nelson Study Bible, Edited by Earl D. Radmacher (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997), pg. 2144.

10. Archibald Thomas Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament [with Bible and Strong’s Numbers Added!], 6 Volumes (E4 Group, 2014 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 205650.

11. Ibid.

12. Ibid., Kindle Location 205650 to 205667.

13. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3771.

14. Zane C. Hodges, Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 594.

15. Ibid.

16. Hal Haller, Jr., Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 58.

I John 2 – Part 13

“And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.” I John 2:28

In I John 2:28, the apostle John introduces a new theme of having “confidence” before the Lord Jesus “at His coming” to motivate his readers to continue to cultivate fellowship or intimacy with Christ despite the increase in false teachers or “antichrists” (2:18-27). 1 The Greek word translated “confidence” (parrēsia) refers to a state of boldness and confidence, courage, confidence, boldness, fearlessness, especially in the presence of persons of high rank.” 2 John will focus on how to have boldness at the prospect of Christ’s coming throughout the body of this epistle (2:29-4:19). 3

Verse 28 is known as “a Janus that looks in two directions: backward to summarize the preceding section” 4 “and forward to introduce the following section. Janus was the Roman god of beginnings and endings who supposedly guarded portals. He had two faces, one on the front and the other on the back of his head. The month of January gets its name from him. It is the month in which we look backward on the past year and forward to the new year.” 5

John has looked back at his readers’ spiritual advancement (2:12-14), and he has warned them of enemies to their fellowship with God: personal sin (1:5-2:11), the enticements of the world (2:15-17), and the Devil and his false teachers (2:18-27). Now John looks forward at how to prepare to have boldness before Jesus at His imminent coming (2:28-4:19). The Greek phrase translated “that when He appears” (hina nean phanerōthē), is a third-class condition about the coming of Christ which could take place at any time. 6Itemphasizes the fact of Christ’s coming, even though the time of it is indefinite. 7  

The apostle John expected the return of Christ in his lifetime when he writes, “that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming” (2:28). This expectation of Jesus returning at any moment in one’s life is called imminency and is common throughout the writings of the New Testament authors (Matt. 24:42-44; Luke 12:37-39; John 14:1-3; Acts 20:31; 1 Cor. 1:8; 4:5; 15:51-52; 16:22; Phil. 3:20; 4:5; 1 Thess. 1:10-12; 4:15-17; 5:2-10; James 5:7-9; I Pet. 1:13; Jude 1:21; Rev. 2:25-27; 3:2-3, 11; 16:15; 22:7, 12, 17, 20).

As we look back at the Year 2022 and prepare for the New Year tonight, those of us who believe in Jesus for His gift of eternal life can also expect Him to return at any moment in our lifetime. Even though eternal life is a free gift which can never be lost (John 4:40-14; 6:35-40; 10:28-29; Rom. 6:23b; Ephes. 1:13-14; 2:8-9), the New Testament makes it clear that every believer must give an account of his or her Christian life at the Judgment Seat of Christ (Rom. 14:10-12; I Cor. 3:8-15; 2 Cor. 5:10) which takes place after the Rapture or sudden removal of the church from the earth.

It is important to understand that the New Testament speaks of two different judgments separated by the Millennium or one-thousand-year reign of Jesus Christ on earth. The first judgment is for believers in Jesus at the Judgment Seat of Christ which takes place in heaven after the Rapture of the Church (Rev. 4:1-4; cf. Rev. 22:12; John 14:1-3; I Cor. 15:51-52; 2 Cor. 5:10; I Thess.1:10; 4:13-5:11). The second judgment is for nonbelievers after the Millennium (Rev. 20:1-10), and it is called the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11-15).

Those who appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ (I Cor. 3:8-15; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 22:12) and the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11-15) are judged “according to their works,” not according to their faith or the lack thereof. Since every person is judged “according to their works” at both these judgments, there will be differing degrees of punishment for nonbelievers in the lake of fire as determined by the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11-15; cf. Matt. 11:20-24; 23:14; Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47), just as there will be varying degrees of rewards for believers as determined at the Judgment Seat of Christ (I Cor. 3:8-15; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 2:25-27; 4:1-4; 22:12).

In I John 2:28, the apostle John has the Judgment Seat of Christ in mind when he writes, “that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.” It will be possible for transformed Christians (3:2-3) to experience shame before the Lord Jesus when He evaluates both the “good or bad” things we have done in our Christian lives (2 Cor. 5:10). Keep in mind that Revelation 21:3-6 which speaks of their being no more more death, nor sorrow, nor pain, takes place after the Judgment Seat of Christ (Rev. 4:1-4) and the Millennium (Rev. 20:1-10). In our transformed bodies (Phil. 3:20-21; I John 3:2), we will probably be more sensitive to sin because our sin nature will be gone along with its excuses and rationalizations for sin (I John 3:2-3). We will have a greater capacity to feel holy shame over sins that we committed on earth.

How can we reduce our shame and increase our boldness (“confidence”) before the Lord Jesus at His Judgment Seat? John instructs us to “abide in Him” (2:28a). Again, John refers to fellowship with God using the Greek verb menō (“abide”) which has already occurred 10 times in 2:6-27. “(John used menō 66 of the 112 times it occurs in the New Testament: 40 in John, 23 in 1 John, and 3 in 2 John.) In accord with his basic theme about fellowship (1 John 1:3), John once more enjoined the ‘abiding’ life.” 8

The believer who abides in fellowship with God, who seeks to walk in the light as God is in the light and obey His commands (1:5-9; 2:3-11; 3:24) during his or her Christian life, will “have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.” But for the Christian who has not been abiding in Christ during his or her Christian life, there will be less confidence and more shame before the Judgment Seat of Christ.

“Yes, there will be shame at this time for His children who have lived their lives for the flesh and in the flesh. Does this threaten their eternal destiny? No. No more than you may be more proud of some of your children than others. Maybe one of your children has taken the gifts he has been given, worked hard to develop them, and is doing something productive with his/her life. You are proud of that child, and rightly so. Perhaps another child even more gifted has buried his gifts in the sand, has not worked hard to develop his God-given abilities, and is not doing anything productive with his life. Of that child you may be ashamed. Is he still your child? Yes, but you probably would not wish to reward him for his slothful life.” 9

The Christian who lacks the “abiding” life will still be in heaven because that was already determined the moment he or she believed in Jesus for eternal life (John 5:24). But they will have less rewards because they did not abide in Christ. That is why John says to confess your sins now. Abide now. 10

Prayer: Father God, as we close out this year (2022) and begin a new year tonight (2023), we pause to confess our many sins to You because You are faithful and just to forgive the sins we confess to You. We want to begin the new year with a clean slate and a clear conscience. We look forward to the day when You come to meet us in the clouds at any moment to be with You forever. May You find us abiding in You at that time so we may have confidence and not be ashamed before You at Your judgment Seat.  Please use us to share Your gospel of grace with those who are currently alive and destined for the lake of fire due to their unbelief.  May Your Holy Spirit prepare them to hear and believe the gospel so they may also enjoy an eternal life of fellowship with You and receive eternal rewards with which to honor You. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pg. 65.

2. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pp. 781-782.

3. Zane C. Hodges, Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 593; Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 3752 to 3762.

4. Constable, pg. 65 cites Henry Alford, The Greek Testament, Vol. 4, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Deighton, Bell, and Co., 1883, 1881, 1880, 1884), pg. 457.

5. Constable, pg. 65.

6. Archibald Thomas Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament [with Bible and Strong’s Numbers Added!], 6 Volumes (E4 Group, 2014 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 205608 to 205629.  

7. Constable, pg. 66 cites Gerald B. Stanton, Kept from the Hour, ch. 6: “The Imminency of the Coming of Christ for the Church,” Fourth ed., (Miami Springs, Fla.: Schoettle Publishing Co., 1991), pp. 108-37.

8. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3757.

9. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pp. 135-136.

10. Ibid., pg. 136.

I John 2 – Part 12

“But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.” I John 2:27

One of the primary reasons the apostle John is writing his first epistle is because he is concerned that the enemies of God may jeopardize his readers’ fellowship with the Lord. We have learned there are three enemies to our fellowship with God: personal sin (1:5—2:11), the world (2:15-17), and the Devil and his false teachers (2:18-23).

John wants his readers to know that false teachers or antichrists defected from the apostolic churches of Jerusalem and Judea and sought to spread deception among John’s Gentile readers (2:18-19). John reassures his readers that they are not defenseless against these antichrists because they had the anointing of the Holy Spirit which enables them to understand and apply the truth of God’s Word and detect deception (2:20-21).

The primary deception of these false teachers denied that Jesus was the Christ Who guarantees a future resurrection and never-ending life to all who believe in Him (2:22a; cf. John 11:25-27). Denying that Jesus is the Christ is also a denial of “the Father and the Son” (2:22b) because to deny One is to deny the other and to acknowledge One is to acknowledge the other since Jesus is God and perfectly reflects God the Father (2:23; cf. John 5:24; 10:30, 38; 12:44-45; 14:9-11; et al.).

John then explains how his readers could continue to enjoy fellowship with God and experience victory over these false teachers: “Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.” (I John 2:24). John once again utilizes his favorite word for fellowship or intimacy with God – “abide” (menō). This Greek word means to “to remain, stay, dwell, continue” 1  in fellowship. John uses this word twenty-four times in I John (2:6, 10, 14, 17, 19, 24 [3], 27 [2], 28; 3:6, 9, 14, 15, 17 24 [2]; 4:12, 13, 15, 16 [3].

If John’s readers were going to continue to enjoy fellowship or closeness with God “the Son” and God “the Father,” they must “abide” or remain in the truth they “heard from the beginning” of their Christian experience about God’s Son (2:24). False teaching leads believers away from fellowship with God and other Christians. This is why John tells them to abide in the truth about Jesus. Truth is what gives us new life in Christ. And truth is what enables us to enjoy this new life of fellowship with God. 2

What had John’s readers heard about God’s Son from the beginning of their Christian experience? 1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— 2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us.” (I John 1:1-2). While John makes it clear that Jesus Christ is “the true God and eternal life” (5:20), he wants to emphasize the realities of eternal life itself 3 as it relates to “the beginning” of the gospel proclamation by Christ which John and the other disciples (“we”) witnessed (1:1-2; cf. 5:11-13; John 1:14). The phrase “Word of life” refers to the message about the life Jesus offers. This “life” is what John and the other apostles witnessed in Jesus. 4

When John writes, “If what you heard from the beginning abides in you…” (2:24b), the “if” in the Greek language means they might do what he asks of them, and they might not. 5 They might abide in the truth they heard about Jesus from the beginning of their Christian lives, and they might not. John says if they do abide in the truth about Jesus that gave them new life, namely, they believed in Jesus as the Christ to be born of God and possess eternal life (5:1, 13) – they will continue to enjoy fellowship with Him and the Father.

“John’s point here is that the Holy Spirit’s ministry always remains available to teach Christians, but the truth (‘what you have heard from the beginning’) must remain in us. Think of it like satellite TV. The satellite communicates, but your satellite dish must receive the signal. The power of the Holy Spirit is available to every believer, but many believers do not operate in a position of dependence on the Spirit because their satellite dishes only function on Sunday mornings.” 6

John’s readers were being told by the antichrists that Jesus was not the Christ Who guarantees a future resurrection and never-ending life to all who believe in Him. But John refutes this by saying, “And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life.” (I John 2:25). Instead of listening to the falsehoods of the antichrists, John redirects his readers to the unchanging “promise” of God which guarantees “eternal life” to all who believe in Jesus (cf. 5:1, 13; John 3:15-16, 36; 5:24; 6:35-40, 47; 11:25-27; 20:31). This is the message they heard from the beginning of their Christian experience. This is how they began a personal relationship with God. Assurance of eternal life is found in God’s promises, not in the lies of false teachers which denied that eternal life is through simple faith in Jesus.

There is much confusion today about assurance of salvation. Some insist that assurance of going to heaven is based on our performance and whether we measure up to certain tests concerning the quality of our Christian experience. 7 But if we look to our performance or experience, we will never be certain we have eternal life because we always fall short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23; I John 1:8, 10). Whenever we take our focus off Christ and His finished work on the cross (John 19:30), we are more likely to doubt our salvation. Even on our best day, we still fall short of God’s glory.

John wants his readers to look to the unchanging promises of God for the assurance of their salvation. “God’s promises don’t change. That’s why the promises of God are the foundation for our assurance of salvation. People who want to teach that 1 John is a book of tests to determine whether you are a Christian or not have gone completely against what John himself uses as his source of assurance: the promises of God.” 8

Why does John remind his readers of their secure relationship with Jesus? “These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you.” (I John 2:26). John did not want his readers to be deceived by the false teachers who tried to undermine their assurance of salvation. Knowing they have eternal life simply be believing in Jesus for it would enable them to effectively resist these antichrists who taught John’s readers they were not genuinely saved because they lacked a secret knowledge which only the false teachers could give them to have eternal life. John understood if a Christian doubts his or her salvation they are more vulnerable to losing their fellowship with God and the apostles.

John reminds his readers they were not dependent upon the antichrists or any human teachers. “But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.” (I John 2:27). Since John’s readers had “the anointing” of the Holy Spirit to teach them to correctly understand and apply God’s truth as long as they “will abide in Him,” they did not need the teaching of the antichrists or any human teacher. The anointing of the Holy Spirit or “Spirit of truth” (John 16:13) teaches them what “is true and is not a lie.” The Spirit’s teaching is always consistent with what “it has taught” previously. God’s Word will not contradict itself.

This suggests that John’s readers were spiritually mature since only the immature need human teachers. The writer of Hebrews states, 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Heb. 5:12-14). John’s readers not only had a knowledge of God’s Word, but they also had the skill to put it into practice. This enabled them “to discern both good” or truthfulteaching from “evil” or false teaching.

Am I suggesting it is possible for Christians not to have a need to be taught by other Christians? Yes and no. Keep in mind that we can always benefit from the teaching of others, but must we be dependent upon their teaching for our own spiritual maturity? First John 2:27 is just as true today as it was when John wrote it. All Christians at the beginning of their Christian life need human teachers to teach them the truths of God’s Word to help them become more like Christ. This is known as discipleship (Matt 10:24-25; 28:19-20; John 8:31-32). But as new believers learn to depend upon the Holy Spirit to teach them the Word and obey it, they can eventually learn to discern truth from deception without the assistance of human teachers.

God has given spiritual gifts to equip believers for the work of the ministry (Ephes. 4:11-12). Hence, someone with a gift of teaching will equip believers without this gift how to teach themselves. Spiritual gifts are meant to help others in areas where they are weak until they can to it independently of the gifted person.

According to I John 2:27, the ongoing teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit is always consistent with what the Holy Spirit has already taught. For example…

  • If the Spirit has taught that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully Man (and He has – Isaiah 9:6-7; 44:6; Matt. 8:24; 9:11; Mark 6:3; John 1:1, 14-18, 34, 49; 2:12; 4:6; 5:16-47; 6:69; 7:3, 5; 8:57-59; 10:30-33; 11:27, 35; 12:27; 14:7-9; 19:28; 20:28, 31; 21:12; Acts 16:31, 34; 20:28; Romans 1:3-4; 9:5; Phil. 2:6-8; I Tim. 2:5; 3:16; 4:10; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8; I John 5:20; Rev. 1:17; 22:13), then He would not say centuries later that Jesus was not God nor human.
  • If the Spirit has taught that believing in Christ for eternal life apart from any works is all that is necessary to go to heaven (and He has – John 3:15-16; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26; 14:1-3; 20:31; Acts 16:31; Rom. 4:5; Gal. 2:16; Ephes. 1:13-14; 2:8-9; I Tim. 1:16; I John 5:1, 13), then He would not teach that one must do more than believe in Him such as turn from sins, be baptized with water, live a good life, keep the Ten Commandments, and confess Jesus is Lord.
  • If the Spirit has taught that the only way to God is through faith in Jesus Christ (and He has – John 3:15-16, 36; 6:40, 47; 14:1-6; Acts 4:10-12; 16:31; I Tim. 2:3-5), then He would not say centuries later that all religions lead to God.
  • If the Spirit has taught that the Bible is the inspired Word of God without any errors in its original manuscripts (and He has – 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:20-21), then He would not teach centuries later that the Bible is full of errors.

The gospel promises of God never change. Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah-God, the Son of God, Who came from God the Father (John 1:18; 3:16). Jesus guarantees a future resurrection and never-ending life to all who believe in Him (John 11:25-27; I John 5:1, 13). The Antichrist and his false teachers deny that Jesus is God or the Son of God. They also deny that eternal life is through simple faith in Christ alone.

Islam denies that Jesus is the Son of God Who came from the Father. They also deny that eternal life is through simple belief in Jesus Christ. For the average Muslim, if he does more good than bad, he can hope for Allah’s merciful judgment to permit him to enter Paradise. For the outstanding Muslim, if he dies in battle against the infidels, he gains an instant entrance into Paradise. 9

The apostle Paul wrote, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” (Gal 1:8). Paul warned his readers that if he and the other apostles (“we”) or “an angel from heaven” preached a different gospel than what Paul preached to them, he is to be “accursed” or under God’s displeasure. Paul used the words “believe” and “faith” fifteen times when referring to justification before God (2:16; 3:2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, 22, 24, 26) in the book of Galatians. He used no other words as a condition for justification. He warned the Galatians not to support or join those who do not preach a “believe / faith alone” gospel (1:6- 9; 4:12, 21-30; 5:1-12; 6:17). It does not matter how kind or helpful a person is who teaches a different gospel. They are “accursed” by God if they preach a different way to heaven other than faith alone in Christ alone. This is very strong language!

With this said, the New Testament advises Christians to “correct” or “avoid” those who teach doctrine contrary to Jesus and the apostles (Matt. 15:10-14; 16:5-12; Rom. 16:17; Gal. 1:8-9; I Tim. 6:3-5, 20-21; 2 Tim. 2:23-26; Titus 1:9; 3:9-11), but we are in no way commanded to resort to violence against those who embrace other faiths. Unfortunately, Christians have not always followed God’s instructions for dealing with false teachers.

Anderson writes, “During the days of the Reformation, all the parties in western Christianity were guilty of the destruction of people for false teaching. The Pope, Martin Luther, Melancthon, and Calvin—all of them sanctioned torture and killing of false teachers. The Anabaptists were killed by other Protestants because they did not believe in infant baptism. Zwingli was viewed by Luther as a heathen because he believed the elements in the Lord’s Supper were symbolic. Thousands and thousands were burned at the stake or beheaded. Though Luther and Calvin believed Christ fulfilled the Law and the New Covenant superseded the Old Covenant, they retreated to Old Covenant laws to rid themselves of anyone who did not believe as they did.” 10

Nowhere in the New Testament are we instructed to murder or kill false teachers inside or outside the church. We are to correct them or shun them if they do not repent and embrace the truths of the Bible.

According to the apostle John, false teaching about God the Father and God the Son is one of the greatest enemies to fellowship with God (2:18-27). Thankfully, the anointing of the Holy Spirit gives Christians the ability to correctly understand and apply biblical truth and detect deception. The primary lies of false teachers deny the equality of God the Father and God the Son, and the free gift of eternal life through belief in Christ alone. All Christians throughout church history need to abide in the anointing of the Holy Spirit to protect them from those who seek to distract and derail them from pursuing Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You so much for the anointing of the Holy Spirit which enables every Christian to correctly understand Your truth and apply it to our lives. This same anointing also empowers us to detect deception, especially as it relates to God the Father and God the Son, and the free offer of eternal life to all who believe in Jesus. Help us continue to abide in the internal ministry of the Holy Spirit so we may remain faithful to Your Word which You have entrusted to us. In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pp. 630-631.

2. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 126.

3. Zane C. Hodges, Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 588.

4. Ibid. pg. 589.

5. The Greek phrase Ean en hymin meinē is a third-class condition and conveys probability, not certainty, about the future. See Anderson, pg. 126.

6. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2941.

7. Anderson, pg. 15 cites cites John MacArthur, Jr., Saved without a Doubt (Colorado Springs: Cook Communications, 1992), pp. 67-91; Constable, pg. 46 cites James Montgomery Boice, The Epistles of John (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1979); Raymond Brown, The Epistles of John, Anchor Bible series(Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1982); F.F. Bruce, The Epistles of John (London: Pickering & Inglis Ltd., 1970; reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1986); John Calvin, The First Epistle of John, Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries series, Translated by T. H. L. Parker. Reprint ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959-61); John F. MacArthur Jr., The Gospel according to Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1988); John R. W. Stott, Basic Introduction to the New Testament, 1st American ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1964); Brooke Foss Westcott, The Epistles of St. John (1883. Reprint ed. England: Marcham Manor Press, 1966); and Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, 2 vols. (Wheaton: Scripture Press Publications, Victor Books, 1989).

8. Anderson, pg. 128.

9. Ibid., pp. 126-127; cf. Nabeel Qureshi, No God but One: Allah or Jesus? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016 Kindle Edition), pp. 30-34; Daniel Janosik, THE GUIDE TO ANSWERING ISLAM: What Every Christian Needs to Know About Islam and the Rise of Radical Islam (Christian Publishing House, 2019 Kindle Edition), pp. 142, 148, 153-154, pp. 163-164. 10. Anderson, pg. 127.

IMMANUEL IS GOD WITH US

“’Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us.’” Matthew 1:23

I never grow tired of hearing the Bible’s perspective about the birth of Jesus Christ. It truly is good news! In the gospel of Matthew, we learn of the humanity of Jesus as proven by the fact that He is a legal Descendant of King David (Matt. 1:1-17; 2 Sam. 7:16). But Jesus is also God as proven by His names and manner of conception (Matt. 1:16, 18, 20-21, 23, 25). 1

When Joseph discovered Mary became pregnant while engaged to him, he assumed the worst and sought to put her away to avoid public disgrace for them both (Matt. 1:18-19). Before Joseph could act, God showed up to him and addressed him as a descendant of David (“son of David”) through whom the Messianic King would come, telling him not to be afraid because Mary’s pregnancy was supernaturally produced by God the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:20). This Son Whom Mary would bear was to be named “Jesus” (Yahweh is Savior) “for He will save His people,” Israel, “from” the physical (Zech. 9:9-10) and spiritual (Acts 10:43; 16:31) consequences of “their sins” (Matt. 1:21). 2

Jesus’ virgin birth fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 7:14) that a virgin shall be with child – a supernatural sign that would indicate an unusual “Child” was to be born because of His divine nature and presence (Matt. 1:22-23a). A virgin birth through the Holy Spirit explains Jesus’ sinless nature (2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15). The sin nature is passed on through the human father. Romans 5:12 states, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (cf. Rom. 5:18).Although Eve sinned first in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:1-6), Adam is held accountable for sin’s entrance into the world.

The Bible also teaches that God visits “the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations” (Exod. 20:5; cf. Deut. 5:9). Generational sins are passed on through the fathers, not the mothers.This implies that the sin nature is transmitted through the fathers, not the mothers or both parents.

“Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes: one member of each pair inherited from the mother and the other from the father. This suggests that when the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary (Luke 1:35), and Jesus was conceived in His mother, God miraculously supplied the other 23 chromosomes to make the matched pair with Mary’s. These would normally have come from a human father.” 3

“And the angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.’” (Luke 1:35). Since God the Holy Spirit took the place of the human father and brought about the conception of Jesus, His 23 chromosomes “overshadowed”Mary’s, causing Christ to be the only human being ever to be conceived since the fall of Adam and Eve without a sin nature. The Greek word translated “overshadowed” (episkiazo) occurs in all three accounts of the Transfiguration where the cloud overshadowed those present (Matt. 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:34). 4 The Holy Spirit “overshadowed” Mary with His presence to bring about this supernatural conception.

“This delicate expression rules out crude ideas of a ‘mating’ of the Holy Spirit with Mary.” 5

“The deity and preexistence of the Son of God required a miraculous conception. His virgin birth resulted in His assuming a human nature, without giving up His divine nature.” 6

The virgin birth qualifies this infinite Person (Jesus) to bear an infinite number of sins for all humanity on the cross 7 (cf. John 1:29; I John 2:1-2). Only a perfect sacrifice could remove the sins of all humanity forever. In the Old Testament, emphasis is given to “perfect” animal sacrifices “without blemish” (Exod. 12:5; 29:1; Lev. 1:3, 10; 3:1, 6; 4:3, 23, 28, 32; 5:15, 18; 6:6; 9:2-3; 14:10; 22:19, 21; et al.) as foreshadows of the perfect Lamb of God Whose shed blood on the cross would perfect forever those who believe in Him (John 1:29; 3:14-18; Rom. 4:5; 8:31-39; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 9:1-10:18; I Pet. 3:18)!   

Since Jesus is fully human (John 1:14; I Tim. 2:5), He can empathize with our human struggles (Heb. 4:15). And since He is fully God (John 1:1, 18; Titus 2:13; I John 5:20), He can heal our brokenness (Exod. 15:26b; Psalm 147:3). Jesus is “Immanuel” which means “God with us” (Matt. 1:23b). We often focus on this verse to emphasize that Jesus is “God,” but in so doing we can easily skip over the word “with.” The Greek word translated “with” (meta) refers to God being “among” or “in the company of” someone in a supportive way. 8 

Jesus Christ is not “God against us,” “God condemning us,” “God judging us,” “God punishing us,” “God pushing us,” “God shaming us,” or “God shoulding us.” The God of the universe is saying, “I am God WITH you.” The Lord is with us in our pain and struggles. He moves toward us with compassion and love so we can feel safe from being criticized, judged, or shamed. This can help us relax and let Jesus heal the deep wounds that we have buried deep within our souls to protect us from rejection and ridicule.

Jesus is “God WITH us.” He is“God HELPS us.”He moves toward broken humanity with compassion, not against them with condemnation (Matt. 11:28-30; 12:20; John 3:17).

Unfortunately, Christians may not experience Christ in this way when it comes to their “church” experience. When they struggle with anxiety, depression, loneliness, rejection, sadness, or suicidal thoughts, well-meaning Christians may move against them by saying, “You shouldn’t feel that way. Just trust God.” Then they quote a Bible verse to support their should’s. What this communicates to the struggling believer is that it is not okay to feel that way. It also reinforces the lie that says, “Good Christians don’t have negative emotions.”

I believe when a hurting believer gets exhorted by other Christians with should’s, it is often because the exhorting believer is uncomfortable with their own feelings that are activated when they hear someone else talk about negative emotions. But instead of facing their own feelings, the exhorting believer focuses on the feelings of the hurting person in a critical or judgmental way to get them to stop talking.

The result is the struggling Christian learns that it is not safe to talk about their negative emotions in a church setting. So, they work extra hard to know the Bible and have all the right answers. They faithfully attend prayer meetings, volunteer to teach Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, and go on mission trips so they don’t upset God and other believers. It is not wrong to do these things per se. But when we do these things out of fear instead of love, it causes more isolation and pain. We can do all these right things without any close connection with God and others.  

You probably realize that I am speaking from my own experience. I have been on both sides of this equation. I have been the exhorting Christian who moves against the hurting believer with should’s and lots of Bible verses. And I have also been the hurting believer who has been the recipient of many Bible verses and should’s from well meaning believers who unknowingly moved against me.

This serves as a reminder that all people, including Christians, need Jesus Christ. Only Jesus can move toward us with perfect love and compassion regardless of our condition. Perhaps you are struggling with anxiety, depression, loneliness, rejection, sadness, self-doubts, stress, or suicidal thoughts. You can draw near to Jesus this Christmas season with confidence that He will help you and heal you. He wants all people to experience “God with us” both now (Matt. 28:20) and forever (Rev. 21:3)!!!

How can you experience God’s loving presence in your life if you are not a Christian? Jesus wants you to understand your need for Him. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). All people (except Jesus) are born with a sin nature that desires to live our own way instead of God’s way. All of us are like sheep who “have gone astray; we have turned, everyone, to his own way.” (Isaiah 53:6a). All people have rebelled against God and disobeyed His laws.

Since God is absolutely holy and righteous, He cannot be around our sin. Therefore, the Bible says, “The wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23b). The word “death” means separation. Our sins separate us from God. Jesus tells us that the final punishment for our sins is death in hell or the lake of fire forever (Mark 9:43-48; cf. Rev. 20:15). I think you will agree this is bad news.

But Isaiah’s prophecy also has good news!  “And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6b). Hundreds of years before Jesus came to earth, the prophet Isaiah tells us that Christ would be punished for all the sins of the world through crucifixion (“pierced through for our transgressions” – Isaiah 53:5).  

God loved you and me so much He gave His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die in our place on the cross and rise from the dead over two thousand years ago (John 3:16a; I Cor. 15:1-6). Jesus is alive today and He invites you to come to Him on His terms when He says, “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16b). What are Jesus’ terms? He says, “whoever believes in Him.” He does not say, “whoever lives a good life… prays… has religion… turns from sin… meditates… loves God… surrenders… gives his or her life to God… is baptized with water, etc.” Christ says simply to “believe in Him.”

To “believe in” (pisteuōn eis) Jesus means to be persuaded that He is speaking the truth and is therefore worthy of your trust. 10 Are you convinced Jesus was speaking the truth when He said, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”? If you are, then believe or trust in Him alone to give you His gift of everlasting life so you will not perish in hell.

If you believed Christ’s promise, He wants you to know with absolute certainty that you now have eternal life (I John 5:13)! Jesus now lives inside you forever through His Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39; Gal. 2:20) and He promises never to leave you nor forsake you (Heb. 13:5). You can now experience “God with us” every day of your life as you learn to talk to Him in prayer (John 15:7) and obey His Word (John 15:4-5; I John 3:24).  

The best part is we will experience God dwelling with us in perfect harmony on the new earth in the eternal state where there will be no more barriers to fellowship with Him (Rev. 21:3-4). Anything associated with the fallen world will “have passed away,” never to return (Rev. 21:4). The sin that caused tears, pain, and death will be forever removed! We can enjoy uninterrupted fellowship with God and with His people for all eternity.

Prayer: Hallelujah Lord God Almighty! Thank You for giving us Immanuel that first Christmas season so we can experience God with us both now and forever the moment we believe in Jesus for everlasting life. Thank You Jesus for moving toward us with compassion and love so we can feel safe from criticism, judgment, rejection, and shame. Use us to move toward other broken sinners with the same love and compassion You have moved toward us so they can discover You alone are the Giver of eternal life. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

 ENDNOTES:
 
1. Hal Haller, Jr., Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 14-15.

2. Ibid., pg. 15. 

3. Randy Alcorn’s and Julia (Stager) Mayo’s August 26, 2013, article entitled, “Did Jesus Have a Sin Nature?” at eternal perspective ministries (https://www.epm.org).

4. Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on Luke, 2022 Edition, pg. 46.

5. Ibid., cites Leon Morris, The Gospel According to St. Luke, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries series (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), pg. 73.

6. Ibid., pp. 46-47 cites Erwin W. Lutzer, Christ among Other gods (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), pp. 64-74.

7. Haller, pg. 15. 

8. When meta (“with”) occurs with the genitive (hēmōn – “us”), it expresses supportiveness as in “God with us,” “God stands by us,” or “God helps us.” See Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 636. 

9. Archibald Thomas Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament (with Bible and Strong’s Numbers Added!), 6 Volumes (E4 Group, 2017 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 567. 

10. Bauer, pg. 816.

I John 2 – Part 11

“Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.” I John 2:18

A few years ago, when I was at a travel agency’s office in a mall near Metro Manila in the Philippines, I met a Muslim man who was also there to purchase plane tickets. As I conversed with him, he made a statement that shocked me. He told me that America’s government leaders orchestrated the 9/11 bombings of the World Trade Center in New York City to cause the rest of the world to turn against Islam and its leaders. When he said this, I thought at first that he was joking. But he wasn’t. He was serious. He told me that there was no evidence whatsoever that the bombings of the WTC were linked to Osama Bin Laden and Islam. At that time, I did not understand how extensively Islam brainwashes its followers from an early age to believe such things.

Anderson illustrates this from the life of former NBA star Chris Jackson, now known as Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf: “He had broken the single game scoring record of Pistol Pete Maravich at LSU and went on to lead the Denver Nuggets for several years. Then he converted to Islam, changed his name, and refused to stand during our national anthem. He walked over and sat on the bench in protest. After several trades he is out of the NBA. He has built his own mosque in Louisiana where he leads prayer to Allah five times a day. In an interview he claimed there is no evidence that Osama is responsible for the New York tragedy. He said, ‘As a matter of fact, there were thirteen Jews found standing on top of a building filming the event, and I think the Jews are responsible.’ The interviewer looked at Chris Jackson and said, ‘You know, you’re crazy.’ And this American citizen said, ‘Well, that’s what they said of our great prophet Mohammed, and I am glad to identify with him.’” 1

With Islam growing in popularity around the world, we will see more people sharing Chris Jackson’s views. 2 Please understand I am not just talking about the refusal to stand for our national anthem or attributing the terrorism of 9/11 to America or the Jews. I am also speaking of Islamic teachings which reject three of the most important fundamentals of the Christian faith:

1. The Bible is the inerrant Word of God (Matt. 5:18; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:20-21). Islam teaches that the Judeo-Christian Bible is corrupt and untrustworthy except for the portions which support Islam. 3 The reason Muslims make this accusation is “because the Qur’an says it teaches the same thing as the Bible, confirming the Torah and the gospel, yet the teachings of the Bible are clearly different.” 4

2. The deity of Jesus Christ. Islam’s sacred Scripture, the Qur’an, denies that Jesus is the Son of God or God Himself. According to the Qur’an: “No son did Allah beget, nor is there any god along with Him” (Sura 23:91; cf. 25:2); it is blasphemous to say that Allah (God) is the Christ (Sura 5:19, 75); Allah cannot have a son because he has no consort or partner (Sura 4:171; 5:101). “Say: He is Allah, the One and Only; Allah, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him.” (Sura 112:1-4). The Qur’an also teaches that anyone who says Allah has begotten a son will be driven to hell (Sura 19:86-88). According to Islam, since God cannot have a Son, He cannot be a Father. So, Islam also rejects the Trinity – one God in three Persons. 5

3. Christ’s death and resurrection. The Qur’an rejects that Jesus died on the cross and therefore rejects His resurrection. “That they said [in boast], ‘We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah’; but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no [certain] knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:” (Sura 4:157). 6

Should these Islamic teachings surprise us? Not if we have read the apostle John’s first century letter known as I John. We have already learned in our study of this epistle that there are different barriers to our fellowship with God: personal sin (1:5-2:2), an example of which is hatred for our Christian brothers or sisters (2:3-11), and the world (2:15-17). Now we will begin to look at a third major barrier to our fellowship: the Devil and his false teachers (2:18-27).

It is not surprising that John’s warning against the enticements of the world (2:15-17) is followed by a warning against the antichrists (2:18-27). These antichrists or false teachers were promoting a worldly lifestyle which would entice his readers no matter how spiritual they may have been (2:12-14).

John writes, “Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that theAntichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.” (I John 2:18). Once again John addresses his readers as “little children” (paidia) which means “taught ones” 7 and can refer to “one who is open to instruction.” 8 His readers need to learn what he is about to reveal.

One of the signs that “the world is passing away” (2:17) is the appearance of false teaching or “antichrists” and “the Antichrist” (2:18). While the Greek word for “hour” (hōra)can refer to a part of a day (e.g., John 1:39; 4:6; 11:9), it also is used in reference to an undetermined length of time (e.g., John 2:4; 4:21, 23; 5:25, 28; 16:25; etc.). 9 The phrase “the last hour” refers to a climactic era in history between the First and Second Comings of Jesus Christ.

Throughout the New Testament the writers regarded the present inter-advent age, after the Incarnation and before the Lord’s return for His own, as the last hour or the last days. This is the final period before the Lord Himself breaks into history again and raptures the church. Then the first stage of the new era will be judgment (the Tribulation), and the second stage, blessing. In the second stage, Jesus Christ will rule directly over human beings, first in the Millennium, and then in the new heavens and the new earth.” 10

John and the other authors of the New Testament believed Jesus Christ would return for His own in their lifetime (cf. Matt. 24:36-51; Luke 12:39-40; I Cor. 1:7; 15:51-52; Phil. 3:20; I Thess. 1:10; 4:13-5:11; Titus 2:13; Heb. 9:28; I Pet. 1:13; 2 Pet. 3:10; Jude 1:21), thus John refers to this period of time before Christ’s return as “the last hour.” Two thousand years later Christ still has not returned for His church. Does this mean the Bible has errors because the writers of the New Testament believed Jesus would return in their lifetimes, and they were obviously wrong?

Zane Hodges points out in his commentary on 1 John, that the Bible predicted that scoffers would come “in the last days” who would deride believers for their doctrine that Christ could come at any moment 11 like “a thief in the night” (2 Pet 3:3-4, 10). 3 Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, 4 and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.’” (2 Pet. 3:3-4). Peter notes that the coming of “scoffers” is a sign of “the last days.” This is similar to what John is saying in I John 2:18-19. The appearance of “antichrists” or false teachers is indicative of “the last hour” leading up to the manifestation of the ultimate “Antichrist” who will claim to be God and rule the world during the last three and a half years of the Tribulation period (Dan. 9:27; Matt. 24:15-22; 2 Thess. 2:3-4; Rev. 13:1-10).

The skeptics Peter mentions erroneously assume that “all” the processes we observe in our present world are the way “things” have always been (2 Pet. 3:4). This is also known as uniformitarianism. Such false assumptions overlook the fact that God has supernaturally intervened in the past when He spoke the universe into existence (2 Pet. 3:5; cf. Gen 1-2) and judged humanity through a global flood (2 Pet. 3:6; Gen. 6-8). The “same word” that supernaturally intervened in the past will also intervene in the future when God destroys the present heavens and earth with fire (3 Pet. 3:7).

Peter responds to these skeptics who doubted Christ’s coming by saying God does not view time as we do. “But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Pet. 3:8). God is not limited to our linear view of time since He created time. Time for God may be a different dimension. 12 So, when Peter refers to “the last days” and John speaks of “the last hour,” they are not in conflict with God’s view of time. An hour or day to God may be two thousand years for us.  

John and his readers knew that “the Antichrist” was destined to appear on the world stage more than three-and one-half years prior to Christ’s return to earth to set up His kingdom. His readers now needed to be aware of the “many antichrists” who had already appeared. The Greek compound word translated “antichrist” (antichristos)means “against” (anti) + “Christ” (christos). These are people who oppose Jesus Christ and His teachings, or they claim to be the Christ or Messiah. 13

“An ‘antichrist’ opposes and replaces Christ with the goal of distracting and derailing Christians from pursuing Christ.” 14

Speaking of these antichrists, John writes, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.” (I John 2:19). The word “us” (hēmōn) is used four times in this verse and most likely refers to the apostolic eyewitnesses (cf. 1:4-5; 4:6). It stands in contrast to the “you” in I John 2:20-21 which refers to John’s readers. Here we see for the first time the “we”“you”“us” contrast (cf. I John 4:4-6). 15 John wants his readers to know that these false teachers defected from the apostolic churches of Jerusalem and Judea (“They went out from us”) and sought to spread deception among John’s Gentile readers.

“It does not make sense that the false teachers had left the churches to which the readers belonged. If they had, how were they still a problem? On the other hand, if, like the legalists of Acts 15, they had seceded from the apostolic churches of Jerusalem and Judea, then they were a particular threat to the readers because they came to them claiming roots in the soil out of which Christianity arose. Thus, John was eager to deny any connection with them.” 16

John wants his readers to know the antichrists were not in agreement with apostolic teaching (“they were not of us… none of them were of us”). If they had agreed (“if they had been of us”), they “would have continued with the” apostles (“us”) and their teaching. But since God’s truth could not be changed among the apostles, these false teachers departed. They were unwilling to submit to the final authority of God’s Word, so they went out to deceive John’s readers by claiming to be from the same fellowship as the apostles. John wants his readers to know this so they will not listen to them and be deceived.

Were these antichrists believers in Jesus? It is possible they were saved and then denied the truth they once believed (cf. I Tim. 1:18-20; 2 Tim. 2:17-18). A person can still be saved after falling away from the faith. We can lose our faith, but God never loses us. If He did, then Jesus would have failed to do the Father’s will (John 6:38-39).

John’s readers were not defenseless against these antichrists: “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.” (I John 2:20). The “anointing from the Holy One” is God the Holy Spirit since we are told that the anointing “teaches” (I John 2:27). This strongly suggests that the anointing is a Person. 17 Christ promised that the Person of the Holy Spirit would “teach” His disciples “all things” (John 14:26; cf. 16:13-14).

“’The anointing’ is not some special gift shared by only elite clergy. John is addressing spiritual ‘children’ (2:18). Every Christian has the anointing: the internal teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit who illuminates the believer’s mind to understand and apply God’s truth, as well as to detect deception. Paul refers to it as having the ‘mind of Christ’ (1 Cor 2:16).” 18

When does one receive this anointing? The moment he or she believes in Jesus for His gift of eternal life (John 7:37-39; cf. Acts 10:43-45; 19:2; I Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:2, 26-27; Ephes. 1:13-14). God the Holy Spirit takes up residence in a person’s body when he or she comes to faith in Christ (I Cor. 6:19-20).

The result of this anointing is “you know all things.” The Holy Spirit enables believers to adequately know and understand Christian truth. The antichrists may have told John’s readers that they or their church leaders lacked a special knowledge which only they could give them.

John assures them they had adequate instruction in the truth of God. “I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth.” (I John 2:21). John does not write to his readers because they are ignorant of the truth as the antichrists may have told them. The apostle writes to them precisely because they do “know” the truth and they know “that no lie is of the truth.” This suggests that the false teachers may have told John’s readers or the church leaders that their understanding of the truth was inadequate, and they needed to be enlightened by them. But John says, “You already know all things. You know the truth. And you know that the truth is never to be confused with a lie. So, there is no need for any of you to listen to these false teachers. Your church leaders are competent to teach the whole body of Christian truth.” 19

It is important to recognize that the word John uses for “know” (oida) in I John 2:20-21 is different than the experiential knowledge (ginōskō) he spoke of earlier (2:3-4, 12-14). In the New Testament the word oida almost always refers to “direct insight into spiritual or divine truth” although it may not be truth that has been experienced yet. 20 This truth is the result of the teaching and convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit.” 21

The key to resisting false teaching is to “know the truth” of God’s Word and depend upon the Holy Spirit to do what the Word says. Jesus said, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” (John 16:13). God the Holy Spirit gives us direction from the Word of God. “The Spirit of truth” guides us “into all truth.” The Spirit communicates to us through the written Word which is the truth (John 17:17). Walking in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16) means to depend on the Spirit to do what the Word says. We are to depend upon the anointing of the Holy Spirit to help us understand the Word and obey it as we expose ourselves to it. So, as we become more familiar with the truth of the Bible, we can detect the deceptions of the antichrists by contrast.

There are some who try to cast doubt on the truth of the Bible to make the church more open to doctrinal deviations. For example, Islam does this by telling Christians that the New Testament was corrupted by the apostle Paul and therefore is no longer trustworthy. 22 The Jehovah Witnesses have retranslated John 1:1 in their New World Translation to say that the Word, Jesus Christ, is “a god” instead of “God.” 23 John would have had zero tolerance with anyone who praises a false idea as “insightful” or “worthy of dialogue” no matter how far it is from the truth of God’s Word. 24 Christians today also need to have the same zero tolerance for anyone who rejects or distorts the truth of God’s Word.

What lies will these antichrists teach? 22 Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. 23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” (I John 2:22-23). The main lie that John has in mind is the denial “that Jesus is the Christ.” For the apostle John, belief “that Jesus is the Christ” is saving: “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” (I John 5:1a; cf. John 20:30-31).

Believing “that Jesus is the Christ” in John’s thought means to believe that Jesus is the One Who guarantees a future resurrection and never-ending life to all who believe in Him (John 11:25-27). The person who denies this truth about Jesus “is a liar” who undermines the very basis on which anyone is saved. 25 Hence, these false teachers were denying that John’s readers had eternal life (cf. I John 2:25). If Jesus is not the Christ, as the antichrists taught, then John’s readers had no assurance that they possessed eternal life by believing in Christ. If their assurance disintegrated, so would their fellowship with God. 26

Denying that Jesus is the Christ is also a denial of “the Father and the Son” (2:22b) because “whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” (2:23). To deny One is to deny the other and to acknowledge One is to acknowledge the other because Jesus perfectly reflects God the Father. Both the Father and the Son are God.

If we apply this lie detector test to Islam, we can quickly see that Islam denies that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and it also denies that God is the Father (see previous comments). According to I John 2:18-23, what do we learn about any religious system that denies Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and denies God is the Father? First, we learn that it is a lie. And second, it is from the Antichrist. To put it bluntly, any religious system that denies Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and denies God is the Father is from the Devil. 27

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for providing tests to help us discern truth from error. We are living in a world that is filled with deception and false teachers who claim to be Christians but deny that Jesus is the Christ Who guarantees a future resurrection and never-ending life to all who believe in Him. Thank You for the anointing of the Holy Spirit which enables us to understand and apply the truth of Your Word, and to detect deception. Any religious system that denies Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and denies God is the Father is a lie and is from Satan. Grant us the courage and discernment to apply these truths from I John to our daily lives. In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 119.

2. An April 2, 2015, Pew Research Report entitled, “The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050” at https://www.pewresearch.org states that Islam is projected to grow faster than any other religion. “Between 2010 and 2050, the world’s total population is expected to rise to 9.3 billion, a 35% increase. Over that same period, Muslims – a comparatively youthful population with high fertility rates – are projected to increase by 73%. The number of Christians also is projected to rise, but more slowly, at about the same rate (35%) as the global population overall. As a result, according to the Pew Research projections, by 2050 there will be near parity between Muslims (2.8 billion, or 30% of the population) and Christians (2.9 billion, or 31%), possibly for the first time in history.”

3. See Nabeel Qureshi, No God but One: Allah or Jesus? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016 Kindle Edition), pp. 117-118 and Daniel Janosik, THE GUIDE TO ANSWERING ISLAM: What Every Christian Needs to Know About Islam and the Rise of Radical Islam (Christian Publishing House, 2019 Kindle Edition), pp. 7, 34.  When witnessing to a Muslim, show them that the Bible claims to be the perfect Word of God (Matthew 5:18; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21), encouraging them to read it. If Muslims say they cannot read the Bible because it is corrupted, remind them that the Quran promises, “there is no change to the word of God” (Sura 10:64). If God can preserve the Qur’an, He can preserve the Bible which the Qur’an encourages Muslims to read (cf. Sura 3:3; 5:36-38, 66; 12:111; 20:37; 29:46; 35:31; and 10:94). Surely Allah would not command his people to read the Bible if it was corrupted. In Sura 10:94, the Qur’an tells Muslims that if they are in doubt about anything in the Scriptures, they should ask those who have received the book that was given before, such as the Tauret (the books of Moses), the Zabur (the psalms of David), and the Injil (the Gospels). – See Janosik, pg. 44.

4. Qureshi, pg. 117.

5. When witnessing to a Muslim about the deity of Christ, explain to them what the term “Son of God” means in its historic and biblical context. Never does it mean that God has a wife and produces offspring as Muslims believe. “Son of God” is an analogical term that indicates the relationship that the Second Person of the Trinity has with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Jesus is not inferior to the Father; for He claims that He and the Father are one (John 10:30), as well as if they have seen the Son then they have also seen the Father (John 14:9). Jesus also performed unique miracles that confirmed that He was the Son of God (John 20:31). Thus, the Son is not “another” god, but rather the second Person of the One God. In addition, Christians should realize that the reference to Jesus as the “Christ” is a title given to the heavenly, eternal Son Who is equal to God the Father (John 5:18-24). Christians should also explain the limitations that the Son took on Himself in order to become a Man. If He did not become fully Man (John 1:14; I Timothy 2:5), then He could not truly die in our place and bring us redemption from our sins (Phil. 2:5-8) (Janosik, pg. 271).

6. When witnessing to a Muslim about the death and resurrection of Christ, Christians need to understand that from an historical point of view, the claim by Muslims that Jesus Christ was not crucified was made 600 years after the event and has no historical support from the first century. (Janosik, pg. 284). Perhaps one of the best ways to help Muslims understand the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ would be to use Dr. Gary Habermas’ “minimal facts” argument (Janosik, pg. 284 cites Gary Habermas and Mike Licona, The Case for the Resurrection [Kregel, 2004]). The five essential facts to relate are:

a. Jesus died by crucifixion. Most historians accept the fact that a man named Jesus Christ lived in the first century and died by crucifixion.

b. His disciples believed that He rose and appeared to them. Whether or not Jesus actually rose from the dead, His disciples were so persuaded of this fact that they spent the rest of their lives telling this story. None of them ever denied what they had witnessed firsthand.

c. The church persecutor Paul was suddenly changed. The apostle Paul first tried to destroy the early church, but after his encounter with the risen Jesus Christ he became the chief evangelist for the church.

d. The skeptic James, brother of Jesus, was suddenly changed. Something transforming happened to James that turned him completely around so that he became one of the great leaders of the early church. Experiencing his half-brother, Jesus, resurrected from the dead could do this.

e. The tomb was empty. There have been many attempts to discount this fact, but they all fall far short of the simple explanation that Jesus, who had been crucified and died, had risen from the dead and exited the tomb (Janosik, pg. 284). 

7. Tom Constable, Notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pp. 45, 55.

8. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 749.

9. Zane C. Hodges; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 592.

10. Constable, pp. 55-56.

11. Anderson, pg. 121 cites Zane C. Hodges, The Epistles of John: Walking in the Light of God’s Love (Irving, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 1999), pp. 106-107.

12. Anderson, pp. 122-123 cites Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Comos (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1993), pg. 76. 

13. Constable, pg. 56.

14. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2940.

15. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 593.

16. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 3719 to 3723.

17. Ibid., Kindle Location 3728.

18. Evans, pg. 2940.

19. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 593.

20. Anderson, pg. 124.

21. Ibid.

22. Qureshi, pp. 196-198.

23. The translation of John 1:1c, “And the Word was God” (kai Theós ēn ho Lógos), is based on the Greek rule of grammar (Colwell’s rule) which states that the definite predicate nominative, “God” (Theós), in front of the verb “was” (ēn) will not have the article. See E. C. Colwell, “A Definite Rule for the Use of the Article in the Greek New Testament,” Journal of Biblical Literature 52 (1933), pp. 12-21. In Greek, word endings determine the subject. But since both “Word” (Logos) and “God” (Theos) have the same ending, John added the article (ho) to Logos to identify it as the subject of the sentence.

24. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 593.

25. Ibid.

26. Ibid.

27. Anderson, pp. 124-15.