I John 2 – Part 7

“I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one.” I John 2:14b

After reviewing foundational truth about their position in Christ as “little children… fathers… and young men” (2:12-13b), the apostle John repeats the same three stages of spiritual development to assure them that he is aware of their spiritual growth (2:13c-14).

“By repeating the three categories under which he here addressed his audience, John suggested not only that they possessed spiritual attainments worthy of being called children, fathers, and young men, but also that they possessed these attainments in ample measure.” 1

This is not what we would expect if John was writing to provide tests for eternal life as some suggest. Clearly, John does not doubt his readers’ salvation experience or their subsequent spiritual growth. He is writing “because” he is assured of their salvation and their deepening fellowship with God (2:12-14). His concern is that their enemies (“antichrists”) may jeopardize their fellowship with God by questioning the genuineness of their salvation experience (2:25-27; 5:9-13) and their subsequent fellowship with the Lord.

In the first series of three we learned about the minimal experience for each stage of spiritual development (2:12-13b). In the second series of three we are given a description of a more advanced spiritual experience for each stage (2:13c-14). 2

“I write to you, little children, because you have known the Father.” (I John 2:13c). As spiritually “little children” (teknion or “little born ones”), John’s readers had experienced the complete forgiveness of their sins at the moment of faith in Christ (2:12; cf. 5:13a). But now he uses a different word for “little children” (paidia) which means “taught ones” 3 and can refer to “one who is open to instruction.” 4 While it is true that all believers in Jesus have experienced the forgiveness of their sins as part of their salvation experience (cf. Acts 10:43; Ephes. 1:7; Col. 2:13-14), we learn in this second series of three that John’s readers now “have known the Father.” Forgiveness led them to know the Father more intimately. 5

Unlike newborn infants who scarcely recognize their fathers, these believers have come to know their divine Parent more intimately through spending time with Him. 6 They have grown from merely appreciating God had forgiven all their sins at the moment of faith in Christ (2:12) to knowing God as their Father in a more intimate way through shared time and experience with Him (2:13c). Not all believers advance beyond appreciating the forgiveness of their sins to knowing God more intimately as a result of spending time with Him and obeying Him (I John 2:3-4; John 2:23-25; 14:21). John’s readers had, however, and he encourages them with his awareness of their spiritual growth.

Next John writes, “I have written to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning.” (I John 2:14a). Notice that John’s second description of his readers’ spiritual experience as “fathers” is the same (2:13a, 2:14a). This suggests that nothing can be added to knowing the Eternal One (“Him who is from the beginning”) more intimately. The fact that he repeats this same description implies that they had grown much closer to Christ over time. Their intimate knowledge of God was “fully sufficient.” 7 They have persevered over the long haul. Circumstances did not dictate their actions.” 8 They kept their eyes on the Eternal One, and grew better not bitter.

John then adds to his readers’ experience as “young men” in his second description of them: “I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one.” (I John 2:14b). Before repeating what he said the first time about them using the Greek perfect tense (“you have overcome the wicked one”), he adds using the present tense, “you are strong, and the word of God abides in you.” John encourages his readers by telling them they “are strong.” They are ready for spiritual battle. How did they become spiritually “strong”? The phrase “the word of God abides in you” explains how this took place. The word “abides” (menō) is one of John’s favorite descriptive terms for fellowship with God. It means “to remain, stay, dwell, continue.” 9 The reason these believers had become strong spiritually and ready for battle was because God’s Word had made its home in their hearts.

The night before His crucifixion, Christ spoke to His disciples about bearing much fruit to prove they are His “disciples” and glorify God the Father (John 15:8). Christ taught them, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” (John 15:7). Answered prayer was based on abiding in Jesus through obedience (cf. I John 3:24) and His words abiding in them.

How can we let Jesus’ words abide in us? I will share a method I learned a couple of years ago called the SWORD Drill. 10 During your Scripture reading, select a verse(s) to focus on as you step through the SWORD Drill. Using this guided process will help you let Christ’s words abide in you so you can experience His Word in a way that changes your heart and renews your mind.

S is for Scripture. Which verse or verses stood out to you in your Bible reading? Write it/them below.

W is for Wait. Take a few minutes to wait on the Holy Spirit. Put aside any thoughts and worries of the day. Meditate on the Scripture. Read the verse(s) above aloud, slowly and attentively. Then pause to let it sink in. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you.

O is for Observe. What did you notice about the verse(s) from above? Was there something that the Holy Spirit spoke to you? Write your observation below.

R is for Request. Ask God to show you where and how the Scripture and observation apply to your life. Write the application below.

D is for Dedicate Yourself. Looking at how the Scripture applies to you, what is one thing that needs to change? Remember, this is not necessarily about something you need to do (or stop doing). Perhaps the change is in the way you see God, yourself, or others.  

In Ephesians 6:10-18, the apostle Paul instructed Christians in the city of Ephesus to pray and put on the whole armor of God to withstand the attacks of Satan and his demonic armies. Each piece of armor refers to the way we think (cf. 2 Cor. 10:3-5). Paul describes the armor that Roman infantrymen wore in the order they would put it on. He begins with the inner armor the soldier would put on first: their “belt” (6:14a) to hold his breastplate and sheathe for his sword in place, his “breastplate” (6:14b), and his shoes (6:15). Then he puts on the outer armor “on top of all” 11  these other pieces of armor (6:16a): his “shield” (6:16b), his “helmet” (6:17a), and his “sword” (6:17b).

This list of armor only has one offensive weapon. The rest are defensive except the shoes, which are neutral. “The sword is the only weapon that can be used for offense. And the most common shield during the time of Paul was not small and circular, but large and rectangular. If you saw a Roman soldier coming at you, about all you would see would be this shield, some feet, and the top of a helmet. So, how is the enemy to overcome this soldier? Answer: he must knock the sword out of the soldier’s hand.” 12

The sword for the Christian is “the word of God” (Ephes. 6:17b). The Greek word for “sword” (machairan) here refers to a short and two-edged weapon, used to cut and stab in hand-to-hand combat. 13 “The word of God” refers to the spoken “word” (rhēma) 14 of God rather than to the written word.

For example, God’s Word abided in Jesus so He could speak the Word to the devil when he tempted Jesus to sin, and the devil was defeated (cf. Matt. 4:1-11). This is “the sword of the Spirit” (Ephes. 6:17b)in that the Holy Spirit gives us the Scripture to speak to the devil when he attacks us on the battlefield, so that the devil will flee from us (cf. Matt. 10:19-20; James 4:7). The Holy Spirit is our Teacher and He will guide us into all truth daily (John 16:13). Learn to rely on Him and listen to His voice.

The fact that this sword was “two-edged” is significant. One edge represents God speaking to you and the other edge represents you speaking God’s Word to the enemy when he tries to attack you.

“When our enemy the devil can take the Word of God out of the hand of a believer, he is well on his way to victory. Conversely, when God’s young men and women wield God’s Word, there is good reason to expect victory over the enemy.

“Here in 1 John 2:14 John tells us what makes the young men strong. It is the Word of God abiding in them. And when we actually go into battle against the world in 2:15-17, we will see the same temptations the devil put in front of Jesus, and we will be reminded that it was through God’s Word abiding in Jesus that He found victory against the temptations of this world.” 15

First John 2:12-14 reminds us that just because a person has been a Christian many years does not mean they are older spiritually. Spiritual growth begins with us as “little children” who experience the Father’s forgiveness the moment we believe in Christ for His gift of salvation (I John 2:12; cf. Acts 10:43; Ephes. 1:7; Col. 2:13-14), and then after that as we become aware of sin in our lives and honestly confess it to the Lord to restore or maintain our fellowship with Him in the light (I John 1:5-2:2). As we share the light with the Lord it leads us to know the Eternal One more intimately as “fathers” (I John 2:13a, 14a). When we get to know Christ more intimately, we become more acquainted with His Word and allow it to abide in our hearts and minds so we can speak its truth to the devil when he attacks us on the battlefield. Hence, as vigorous “young men,” we must allow God’s Word to abide in us to experience victory over the wicked one (I John 2:13b, 14b) as we face the world and its many temptations (2:15-17).

What spiritual developmental stage are you in at this time? Are you like a little child who has recently experienced the forgiveness of the Savior for the very first time? Has your experience of God’s forgiveness led you to know God more intimately as a result of spending time with Him? Or do you identify more with a father who has come to know the Eternal One intimately over the long haul no matter what your circumstance? And you are ready to mentor other believers to do the same? Or do you see yourself as a vigorous young man who experiences spiritual victory over the evil one by allowing God’s Word to abide in you and make you strong? Whatever stage you find yourself in, it is essential to know God is on your side and no one is greater than Him.

Prayer: Father God, thank You for Your forgiveness which gives us a fresh start in life the moment we believe in Your Son, Jesus Christ. Help us to know You more intimately as we learn to spend time with You in the light by being open and honest with You about what You reveal to us. May Your Word abide in us so we have the strength to speak Your truth to the devil when he attacks us on the battlefield. Regardless of what spiritual developmental stage we are in, we need You every step of our Christian lives, Father. Thank You for never leaving us nor forsaking us. In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. 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 3686.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pg. 45.

3. Ibid.

4. 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.

5. Again John uses the perfect tense of the stative verb “to know” (egnōkeite) which means to know intensely or intimately. See David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 74; 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.

6. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3682.

7. 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.

8. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2938.

9. Bauer, pp. 630-631.

10. Adapted from Pure Desire Ministries at puredesire.org.

11. The majority of Greek manuscripts contain the Greek words epi pasin which mean “on top of all.” See Anderson, pg. 103.

12. Ibid.

13. Bauer, pg. 622.

14. Ibid., pg. 905.

15. Anderson, pp. 103-104.

I John 2 – Part 6

“I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the wicked one.” I John 2:13b

In our study of I John, the apostle John is preparing his readers for spiritual battle (2:12-14) against the world (2:15-17) and the devil (2:18-25) after having addressed their battle with sin (1:5-2:2). To prepare them for warfare, He is reviewing fundamental truth about their position in Christ. Like “little children,” they had experienced complete and permanent forgiveness from their heavenly Father the moment they believed in “the name of the Son of God” (2:12; cf. 5:13a). As “fathers” they now know the Eternal One intimately (2:13a; cf. John 17:3a).

Today John will address the third foundational truth based on their position in Christ. “I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the wicked one.” (I John 2:13b). Their experience as “little children” (forgiveness of sins) and as “fathers” (intimate knowledge of God) renders them as vigorous “young men” who are prepared to do battle with Satan. 1

Once again John uses the Greek perfect tense to describe their position in Christ. The perfect tense describes a completed action in the past that has continuing results to the present. Hence, as “little children” they have been “forgiven” (apheōntai) of all their sins when they believed in Christ for salvation and they remain forgiven at the time of John’s writing (2:12). As “fathers” they “have known”(egnōkeite) God as the Eternal One from the moment of their salvation and they continue know Him in this way (2:13a; cf. John 17:3).

And now John uses the Greek perfect tense when he writes that as “young men” they “have overcome” (nenikēkate) Satan or “the wicked one” (2:13b). The Greek perfect tense conveys a past victory over the evil one which continues to produce fruit in the present. 2 In what sense have all believers “overcome the wicked one”?

John writes, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” (I John 5:1). Every time a person believes in Jesus as the Christ for new birth, a definite victory is made over the world: 4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (I John 5:4-5). John informs us that “the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.” (I John 5:19b).

Satan is actively engaged in blinding people’s minds to prevent them from believing in the gospel of God’s Son (2 Cor. 4:3-6). He uses the world system to teach many false views which desensitize people to their need for a Savior including such things as:

  • Humanity is basically good so people do not need to be saved from sin.
  • Since God is love, all people will go to heaven.
  • Jesus was just a good moral teacher or prophet who provided a good example to follow.
  • God and the Bible cannot be trusted.
  • Sin has no consequences.
  • God does not exist.

But when God breaks through these (and other) lies and a lost sinner “believes that Jesus is the Son of God” to be “born of God” (I John 5:4-5), then Satan is directly defeated (2 Cor. 4:3-6). And since the effects of new birth can never be reversed by Satan, this defeat is decisive and permanent (Luke 8:12). At the very least, John’s readers are viewed as “young men” who had experienced victory over the wicked one when they put their faith in Christ for eternal life, and the results of this victory are still there. They still have a perfect standing before God in heaven (cf. Rom. 8:33-34; Heb. 10:10, 14). This positional truth is intended by John to encourage his readers to move out into battle against this world and its ruler, knowing that their victory in Christ is secure. 3

The author of the gospel of John is the same author of I John. John uses the Greek perfect tense for the same word translated “have overcome” (nenikēka) when he records Christ’s encouraging words to His disciples the night before His crucifixion: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). There are three contrasts in the first half of this verse which have incredible significance:

1. “in Me” versus “in the world”: Jesus depicts the disciples as living in two spheres. The first is spiritual and eternal (“in Me”) and the second is physical and temporal (“in the world”).The phrase “in Me” points back to the intimacy Christ spoke of in the vine and branches imagery (John 15:1-8). Disciples of Jesus can “have peace” in Christ who never changes, not “in the world” which is ever-changing. We are not going to find peace in the world. Only Christ can give us the peace we yearn for. If our focus is on Christ, then peace can be our experience. If our focus is on the world, then we can expect “tribulation.” This word (thlipsin) refers to “trouble that inflictsdistress brought about by outward circumstances.” 4

2. “you may have” versus “you will have”: In the spiritual realm the disciples “may have” peace. The verb translated “may have” (echēte) is in the subjunctive mood which means it is possible or desirable 5 they may have peace, but Christ did not guarantee their peace in this life. If they abide in Christ (“in Me”), then they can have peace. But it is not certain they will abide in Him. But Jesus does guarantee they “will have” tribulation in the world. The verb translated “will have” (echete) is in the indicative mood which conveys certainty 6 that the disciples will experience tribulation in the world. The disciples will not be able to escape the tribulation that is in the world. Perhaps the disciples still did not believe persecution was imminent  (cf. John 15:18-16:4). They expected to rule with Jesus soon in His coming Kingdom (cf. Matt. 16:21-28; Luke 22:24-30). Their expectations kept them from receiving more truth from Christ that they found to be contrary to what they wanted – this is something all of us must guard against. 7

3. “peace” vs. “tribulation”: If the disciples (and we) abide in Christ and stay focused on Him, they can experience internal “peace” (eirēnēn) or a deep-seeded calmness that is given to obedient believers (cf. John 14:21, 23, 27a) even though they will definitely have “tribulation” in the world. This peace of Christ arises from a life of faith in God. It refers to a calmness “that would come to their hearts from trusting God and from knowing that He was in control of all events that touched their lives.8

The world cannot give this kind of peace to believers. The world gives Christians “tribulation” because the world opposes Christ and His followers (15:18-16:4). The word “tribulation” “is used in a general sense to speak of the ‘pressing affliction’ that the disciples must endure as they identify with Christ in an unbelieving world (cf. 15:18-25). This is the pressure believers experience when they take a stand for Christ or speak out on a sensitive moral issue. Yet although believers face intense pressure from the world, they can enjoy internal peace in Christ.” 9

Some teach that if you are doing God’s will everything will go smoothly. This is contrary to what Jesus promises. Even if you are living for Christ “you will have tribulation” because the world hates Jesus and those who follow Him (15:18-21). If the world does not hate a believer, it may be because that believer is being conformed to the world instead of being transformed by the Word.

After the disciples forsook the Lord at the time of His arrest (cf. Matt. 26:56; Mark 14:50), they may have felt ashamed and uneasy whenever they thought of Jesus. But Jesus predicted their desertion in the very saying where He also assured them of the peace He would give them (John 16:32-33). Christ loved them despite their shortcomings. In the future when they looked back on their desertion, they would reflect that Jesus predicted it. And even though He knew full well they would abandon Him, He had promised them peace. That is grace. Christ would give them peace even though they did not deserve it.

The world would definitely bring the disciples distress, but they could “be of good cheer.” The word translated “be of good cheer” (tharsaeite) means “to be firm or resolute in the face of danger or adverse circumstances, be enheartened, be courageous.” 10

Why could the disciples face these upcoming challenges with courage? Christ explains, “I have overcome the world.” As mentioned previously, this is the same Greek perfect tense verb John used in I John 2:13b. The word “overcome” (nikaō) means “to win in the face of obstacles, be victor, conquer, overcome, prevail.” 11 So, Jesus speaks of His victory over the world as though it is an accomplished fact with continuing results to the present!

It was no accident that Jesus spoke these triumphant words, “I have overcome the world” even as the Roman soldiers were buckling on the weapons for His arrest. That is confidence, isn’t it!?! But this is a confidence that would be lacking in the disciples that night. At first, when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, Peter, the ring leader of the disciples, pulled out a sword in Jesus’ defense (Luke 22:50-51; John 18:10). But by the next day, all Eleven disciples had lost faith. Those triumphant words from the previous night must have haunted the disciples as they watched from a distance as Jesus agonized on the cross. It appeared to them that the world had overcome Jesus. But on Sunday morning, their faith would be reignited and strengthened by the resurrection of their Lord.

To an unbeliever, the cross of Christ seems like total defeat for Him. But Jesus sees it as a complete victory over all that the world is and can do to Him. Christ goes to the cross, not in fear or in gloom, but as a Conqueror! Because Jesus won the victory over the hostile world and Satan through His death and resurrection (cf. John 12:31-32; 1 Corinthians 15:51-58; Colossians 2:13-15; 1 John 2:13-14; 4:4; 5:4-5), we can also win against this hostile world and its ruler as we face difficulties with His courage! Because Jesus has already won the battle, we can claim the victory as we face trials triumphantly.

In John 16:33, John wants us to see that victory begins when, through the resurrection power of Jesus Christ, we find peace in living life for Him. In I John 2:13b, the apostle wants us to realize that the moment we believe in Christ for our new birth (5:1), it was our faith that permanently defeated Satan’s and the world’s opposition towards saving faith (5:4-5). Knowing this can give us much courage as we face intimidating challenges.

When we were serving the Lord in the Philippines, I sometimes liked to watch NBA basketball. One of my favorite teams at that time was the Dallas Mavericks. Since we were fourteen hours ahead of CST in Dallas, Texas, I was not available to watch their games in the mornings in the Philippines when they were televised live. So, I watched the replay of their games in the evenings. Before I would do that, I liked to check the final score on ESPN, so I would know if the Mavericks had won before I sat down to watch them. Knowing my team had already won the game, gave me confidence even though I may watch my team make several mistakes and fall behind in the score. I did not give up on them though because I already knew they would win the game.

The same is true in our Christian lives. We already know the outcome of this battle between Jesus and the world and the ruler of the world. Knowing Christ has already won the victory over the world and the devil can enable us to have courage when we face intimidating challenges (John 16:33). Knowing that our faith in Christ at the time of our conversion permanently overcame the world and Satan, gives us confidence going into spiritual battle (I John 2:13b). At times it may seem that the world and Satan are winning the battle when we fail, or other believers fail, but the truth is Christ has already won the war through His death and resurrection! The truth is we can move out into battle against this hate-filled world based on our complete victory in our position through Christ. We can fight “from” the victory Jesus and our faith have already won, not “for” the victory as though it was completely dependent upon us alone.

Prayer: Gracious heavenly Father, thank You so much for preparing us for spiritual battle by reminding us of our position in Christ. As Your little children, we have permanent forgiveness of all our sins so the enemy cannot successfully accuse us or condemn us. As fathers, we know You as the Eternal One and it is this intimate knowledge of You that delivers us from the enemy’s lies. As young men, we have permanently defeated the world and its ruler with our faith when we believed in the Son of God for our new birth. This permanent victory over their hostility toward saving faith encourages us to move out into battle knowing the war has already been won. Thank You for this confidence You have given to us, Lord, based on our position in Christ. In the matchless name of our Lord Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. 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.

2. Ibid.

3. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 102.

4. 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. 457.

5. https://www.blueletterbible.org/help/greekverbs.cfm.

6. https://www.blueletterbible.org/help/greekverbs.cfm.

7. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane C. Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 224.

8. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words and Works of Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pg. 440.

9. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 297.

10. Bauer, pg. 444.

11. Ibid., pg. 673.

I John – Part 5

“I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning.” I John 2:13a

Since the book of I John is primarily about fellowship with God (1:3-4), the apostle John’s main concern is that his readers’ fellowship with the Lord continues. With that said, he knows that believers in Jesus have three enemies which can jeopardize their fellowship with God: sin (1:6-2:2), the world (2:15-17), and the devil (2:18-25). John also understands and believes that our position in Christ is foundational for victorious Christian living. To prepare his readers (including us) for spiritual warfare, the apostle reviews basic truth about our position in Christ.

Last time John addressed his readers as “little children” who had experienced complete and permanent forgiveness from their heavenly Father (2:12) the moment they “believed in the name of the Son of God,” Jesus Christ (5:13a). This positional forgiveness provides the basis for practical or fellowship forgiveness (1:9). While all who believe in Jesus have positional forgiveness which includes past, present, and future sins (Acts 10:43; Col. 2:13-14), they still need practical forgiveness which is based on the confession of their known sin to maintain or restore their fellowship with God (I John 1:9; cf. Matt. 6:12, 14-15).

For example, when parents decide to have children, they already know their children will commit sins. They are aware that their children will be imperfect. But this does not prevent the parents from choosing to have the children. And when the child is conceived, an eternal relationship begins. Nothing, including death, can change the fact that this child will always be the child of his or her parents. So, in a sense, since this relationship will last forever, the child has positional forgiveness for all his or her future sins. And based on this positional forgiveness, the parents are predisposed to fellowship-forgiveness whenever their child sins against them but also chooses to come back to them and seek their forgiveness. God gave us positional or relationship forgiveness when we became His forever children through belief in Jesus Christ (John 1:12; Ephes. 1:7; Col. 2:13-14). Based on that, He will always be “faithful” to grant us fellowship-forgiveness when we confess our sins to Him (I John 1:9; cf. Matt. 6:12, 14-15) to restore our closeness to Him. 

Next John reminds his readers of what he just wrote about in I John 2:3-11: “I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning.” (I John 2:13a). As “fathers,” John’s readers “have known Him who is from the beginning.” The words “Him who is from the beginning” could refer to either God the Father or Christ; “the distinction was not important to John. His readers knew both.” 1 John uses a verb and tense (egnōkeite) we saw earlier in 2:3-4. When the perfect tense is used with a stative verb like “to know,” it means to know intensely or intimately. 2 What this suggests is that as “fathers” his readers have come to know God more intimately which implies they have reached the stage of keeping His commandments (cf. 2:3). 3 There is a big difference between knowing about a person and knowing him intimately.

Why does John use the term “fathers” to describe this experience? As “fathers” they “have known” the Eternal One (“Him who is from the beginning”). Older people know people that go way back. In this case, all the way back to eternity past. God’s “beginning” really has no beginning. It will take all of eternity for us to begin to get to know God because He is infinitely greater than us.

Notice the progression: “little children” (teknia) or “little born ones” experience complete forgiveness from their heavenly Father (2:12). Experiencing God’s forgiveness is one of the first things a new believer appreciates about his or her salvation. 4 This complete forgiveness invites the new believer to get to know God more intimately (2:13). “We all begin as children—both physically and spiritually. And babies get to know their daddies. New Christians come to know God as Father.” 5

One of the most important weapons a Christian can have going into spiritual battle is knowing Christ more intimately. We get to know Christ better by spending time with Him and obeying Him. Jesus said, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” (John 14:21). Observe the progression in this verse – “has… keeps… loves Me.” Before we can “keep” Christ’s commandments, we must “have” them. To “have” Jesus’ commandments, we must spend time with Him to be aware of what He has said. When a believer “keeps” or obeys the Lord’s commandments, God the Father and God the Son will “love” him or her more intimately and Jesus will “manifest”or reveal more of Himself to them.

In Revelation 2, the same author who wrote I John writes to a church whose members had lost their initial love for Jesus. Christ commends this church for their hard work, perseverance, and discernment of false teaching and teachers (2:2-3). But the one thing He had against them is stated in the next verse. “Nevertheless, I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” (Revelation 2:4). The order of words is emphatic in the original language; the clause could be translated, “Your first love you have left” (tēn agapēns sou tēn prōtēn aphēka). 5

While this church had excelled in their service for Christ and their orthodoxy, they had left their “first love.” This refers to their original love and devotion to Jesus. They were doing the right things now, but not with the same love and devotion for Jesus that they had in the beginning of their Christian lives.

This can happen to any church or individual Christian. We start out passionate in our love for Jesus considering all He did for us in saving us from all our sins. But as the years pass by, we can easily shift from passionate love for our Savior to more of a program mentality whereby we function out of duty instead of devotion to Christ. We go through the motions, but our heart is not connecting to the Lord like it was in the beginning of our Christian lives. We can become so familiar with the teachings of the Bible that we become less sensitive to what God is saying to us. Familiarity can produce apathy in our Christian lives.

What was Jesus’ counsel to these Christians who lost their initial love and devotion for Him? Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works…” (Revelation 2:5). Christ is telling them (and us) to go back and do the things we were doing when we were passionately in love with Jesus. For me that would mean spending time alone with Him, listening to His still small voice as I read and meditate on the Bible. Or going on walks through the woods and reciting memory verses from the Bible. When I stop doing these life-giving works with Jesus, my love for Him lessens and can grow cold.

This is especially dangerous when I am serving Christ because Satan does not want me to do that. So, he intensifies his attacks. If am not spending time alone with Christ, I am more vulnerable to failure because I have lost the intensity of my love for the Lord and can be easily led astray.

In closing, I want to share some thoughts from Dr. David Anderson: “One of my favorite paintings of Jesus is called ‘The Good Shepherd.’ It pictures Christ as a shepherd out in a pastoral setting, surrounded by sheep. But what interests me most about this painting is not the Shepherd as much as the sheep. The Shepherd is holding one little lamb in His arms; a couple more are nudging up against His robe. Others are lying in a cluster not far away. Further back in the scene we see some sheep grazing. But it’s the sheep far from the Shepherd who concerns me. Some are looking this way and others that way. They are not at all close to the Shepherd. These are the sheep which are in danger of the wolf and the lion. These are the sheep which could fall off a cliff and break their bones. If you were doing a self-portrait to touch up this painting, where would you place yourself in the picture?” 7

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for John’s words of encouragement in his epistle which prepare us for spiritual battle with our enemies. Like little children, we have experienced Your complete and permanent forgiveness through faith in Christ alone as our Savior so we can approach You now as our Father. Because of Your amazing forgiveness, we can get to know You and Your Son more intimately as we spend time with both of You and learn to obey Your commandments. Knowing You on a deeper level is one of the most important weapons against spiritual attacks. Some of us are like the sheep in the painting who are young or hurting and so we have drawn close to You to be held in Your arms close to Your heart. Others of us are close to You and nudging You to focus on our needs. There may be those of us grazing on the riches of Your grace while being close to You. Some of us are resting in green pastures or being refreshed by the stilled waters You have led us to. There are those of us who have wandered farther away from You. We can still see You and take glimpses of You at times, but we are more captivated by our surroundings. We want to explore the world unaware of its many temptations and dangers. And then there are those of us who have wandered so far from You that we have lost sight of You. Little do we know the hidden dangers that are waiting to pounce on us and devour us. Wherever we may see ourselves in this image of You as our Good Shepherd, may each of us know You are always available to help us if we will take that first step toward You. It may be a cry for help or a simple, “Please forgive me, Lord.” You are waiting to hear from us, and You are eager to be our Good Shepherd. Thank You Lord God. In the mighty name of our Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. 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 3677.

2. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 74; 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.

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. 591.

4. Tom Constable, Notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pg. 44.

5. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2938.

6. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 4950. 7. Anderson, pp. 101-102. While I do not believe the picture I have shared with this article, is the exact painting Anderson had in mind, its similarity serves as an adequate substitute.

I John 2 – Part 4

“I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.” I John 2:12

Weapons of warfare have changed considerably since the day the apostle John wrote his first epistle. While Romans soldiers in the first century fought with swords and spears, they would be no match for our Special Ops today that use the M4 carbine rifle, a shortened version of the standard U.S. M16 with a detachable 40mm grenade launcher mounted beneath the barrel. The weapon can also mount a night-vision sight, and some troops carry night-vision goggles with them. A soldier on sniper duty might lug a heavy Barrett .50 caliber rifle that can hit targets a mile away with a bullet stout enough to pierce armor. Some soldiers carry the M3 Carl Gustav reusable launcher, a bazooka that fires antipersonnel and antitank rockets. 1

But a Christian’s weapons have not changed. Our enemy remains the same in spiritual warfare and so do our weapons regardless of what century we live in. But the tactics of the enemy can vary from situation to situation, but the weapons that bring us victory remain unchanged.

The book of I John is primarily about having fellowship with God, not about going to heaven; it is about our practice, not our position. But understanding and believing our position in Christ is foundational for victorious Christian living. For example, in the apostle Paul’s letter to the Christians in the city of Ephesus, he first presents the truth about our position in Christ (Ephes. 1-3) before addressing our practice of that truth (Ephes. 4-6). Paul knows that it is essential to know and believe our position in Christ if we are to effectively live it out. 2

The apostle John is preparing his readers for spiritual warfare. Christians face three primary enemies: the devil (Ephes. 2:2b; 6:12; I Pet. 5:8; Rev. 12:9), the world (John 15:18-19; Ephes. 2:2a), and our sin (Ephes. 2:3; James 1:14-15). John addressed our sin in I John 1:5-2:2. He is about to deal with our other two enemies: the world (2:15-17) and the devil (2:18-25). To get us ready to deal with these two enemies, he is going to review some basic truth about our position in Christ (2:12-14). 3

In 2:12-14, the terms “children… fathers… young men” refer to all the readers in each case since John addressed all his readers as “little children” (cf. 2:1, 18, 28; 3:7, 18; 4:4; 5:21). If John was referring to different chronological age groups or differences in spiritual maturity, we would expect the sequence: “little children, young men, and fathers.” But instead, we see the sequence: little children, fathers, and young men. 4

“It seems best… to view the terms of address as referring to all the readers in each case. Then each experience ascribed to them is appropriate to the category named.” 5

Anderson writes, “But the words are switched up to look back at ground already covered and look forward to the battle ahead:

Little Children—Forgiveness; ground covered in 1:5−2:2.

Fathers—Intimacy (deep knowledge of God); ground covered in 2:3-11.

Young Men—Victory over the Evil One; ground covered in 2:15-28.” 6

In verses 2:12-14, it is also noteworthy to observe the phrase, “I write to you… because…” “Clearly John does not regard his readers as ‘false professors.’ Viewing this epistle as presenting ‘tests’ by which to determine the genuineness of a person’s salvation misreads the epistle.” 7

John is not writing this epistle to provide tests for eternal life. He is not questioning whether his readers are saved or not. He is writing because he is assured of their salvation and their deepening fellowship with God. His concern is that their enemies may jeopardize their fellowship with God by questioning the genuineness of their salvation experience (2:25-27; 5:9-13) and their subsequent fellowship with the Lord.

John begins with his readers’ experience as “little children.” “I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.” (I John 2:12). Like “little children” (teknia = “little born ones”) 8 John’s readers had experienced the forgiveness of their heavenly Father. That John is referring to his readers’ position in Christ is underscored by using the Greek perfect tense of the word “forgiven” (apheōntai) which refers to a completed action in the past with continuing results to the present. 9 When John’s readers believed in Christ for His gift of eternal life in the past (5:13a), they were forgiven of all their sins – past, present, and future (Col. 2:13-14) – and they remain forgiven in the present when John writes to them.

The word for “forgiven” means “to release or cancel” a debt owed. 10 This is judicial or positional forgiveness whereby God cancels our sin debt to Him the moment we believe in Jesus for His complete forgiveness of all our sins so we can become His forever children (cf. Acts 10:43; Col. 2:13-14; John 1:12; 6:37). We are declared totally righteous before God in His courtroom at the moment of faith in Christ (Romans 3:21-4:5; 8:33). This not only includes our past sin debt, but our present and future sin debt to God as well (Col. 2:13-14). Nothing is more important for a believer in spiritual battle than his secure standing before God. Satan will accuse the believer of wrongdoing, but he cannot do so successfully because Christ has canceled that believer’s sin debt in full and declared him to be totally righteous in God’s courtroom the moment he believed in Jesus (Rom. 8:33-34). This is positional forgiveness.

Another feature in this verse that points to a believer’s position in Christ is the phrase “for His name’s sake.” Why did God grant complete forgiveness to John’s readers? It was “for His name’s sake.” This phrase looks back to the first time John’s readers believed in Jesus’ name. 11 John writes, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” (I John 5:13). God wants people to know that complete forgiveness is connected to believing in “the name of the Son of God,” Jesus Christ. Christ forgives us not because we deserve it but because He wants His name as a forgiving God to become more well known among people all around the world. If Christians lost their positional forgiveness in Christ, it would tarnish Jesus’ name as a forgiving Savior.

First John speaks of two types of forgiveness. One is the forgiveness we receive because of our position in Christ. This is the forgiveness spoken of in I John 2:12 (cf. Ephes. 1:7). The only condition for positional forgiveness is belief in Christ (Acts 10:43). The extent of this forgiveness is past, present, and future sins (Col. 2:13-14). It is permanent as the prefect tense suggests in 2:12 and is therefore unrepeatable. The second type of forgiveness is practical or fellowship forgiveness which was addressed in I John 1:6-2:2. The condition for this forgiveness is confession of sin (I John 1:9). The extent of this forgiveness is the confessed sin. It is temporary and needs to be repeated whenever the believer becomes aware of his unconfessed sin (Matt. 6:12, 14-15). It is important to understand that this practical forgiveness is based on our positional forgiveness.

Anderson illustrates: “When my oldest daughter started to drive, she took Driver’s Ed. She was a good student and did well, but on the day she got her license, she was quite nervous. That night she wanted to go to Young Life, and she borrowed our brand-new family car to do so. I was out that evening myself, so when I got home, I happened to notice that the left side of the car was smashed in, and the left rear-view mirror was missing. I walked into the house and didn’t say a thing. Because I have an eternal relationship with my daughter, she has advanced forgiveness for anything she might do to injure herself, me, or our family. We had insurance on the car, so it was no big deal, but I knew she was going to be feeling very badly.

“I just sat downstairs and turned on the TV, waiting for her to come to me. Well, an hour went by. She didn’t come. She knew I was home because she could hear the TV. But it wasn’t until her older brother called out, ‘Christie, Dad’s home. Don’t you have something to tell him?’ that she came down the stairs. It was hard for her to get up the courage to tell me. But she finally did so and started crying.

“I said, ‘Christie, don’t worry. You are not hurt, you didn’t hurt anyone, and the car can be fixed. But even if we didn’t have insurance on the car and you were hurt, I would forgive you. You’re my daughter. My love for you will last forever. Come here.’

“She came over and I gave her a big hug. Then I said, ‘Hey, why don’t we go out and practice some more.’ So, with me at her side, we went out driving.

“Christie was still somewhat shaken by her first mistake, so she made a second. She drove at thirty miles per hour right through a four-way stop. A policeman saw and stopped us. As he walked up to the car, he had his head cocked with a curious expression on his face. He said, ‘You just didn’t see it, did you, honey?’

“You see, most stop signs are run out of defiance (in which case the car is often accelerating) or with a ‘roll stop.’ But Christie just cruised right through at the accepted speed limit for the area. From this the policeman deduced that she had not seen the stop sign at all. He was merciful and only gave her a warning. Now her second mistake wasn’t as bad as the first, and she learned even another lesson. Slowly she developed her confidence as a driver and hasn’t had any more wrecks (to my knowledge) since then. She is now thirty-one years old.

“But in order for Christie to relax and become a better driver, she had to know that she was forgiven for her mistake. And not only the first big mistake, but she had to know that I wasn’t going to revoke my forgiveness for the first mistake when she made the second mistake. Because of our father/daughter relationship, because of her position in our family as my daughter, she already has advanced forgiveness for any mistake she may make in life. That’s what we call positional forgiveness, forgiveness because of our relationship. But in order to feel close to me, she needs forgiveness not only in her position, but also in her condition. That’s why she needed to tell me what she had done, and that’s why I reassured her of my love and forgiveness and gave her a big hug. It is very important to see that our fellowship is based on our relationship.

“My daughter and I have an eternal relationship. As such, she has advanced forgiveness for anything she might do to hurt me. This is relationship forgiveness. But when she does do something wrong, she needs to come to me and confess that wrong in order to be reassured of my love and forgiveness. This is fellowship forgiveness. The latter is based on the former. Any child needs the assurance of relationship forgiveness over and over!

“In the passage before us, John is reassuring his little children of God’s forgiveness because of their eternal relationship with Him. A knowledge and assurance of this forgiveness is absolutely essential for them to feel confident as they go into battle against the world and the devil. A good soldier cannot operate at his best with the fear that a mistake or two will take him off the front lines.” 12

The challenge for many Christians is they don’t believe they have positional forgiveness. Charles Stanley illustrates this with an experience from his seminary days:

“One of my most memorable seminary professors had a practical way of illustrating the concept of grace for his students. At the end of his evangelism course, he would hand out the exam with the caution to read it all the way through before beginning to answer it. This caution was written on the exam as well.

“As we read through the exam, it became unquestionably clear to each of us that we had not studied nearly enough. The further we read, the worse it became. About halfway through, audible groans could be heard throughout the lecture hall. By the time we were turning to the last page, we were all ready to turn the exam in blank. It was impossible to pass.

“On the last page, however, there was a note that read, ‘You have a choice. You can either complete the exam as given or sign your name at the bottom and in so doing receive an A for this assignment.’

“Wow! We sat there stunned. ‘Was he serious? Just sign it and get an A?’ Slowly, the point dawned on us, and one by one we turned in our tests and silently filed out of the room. It took the rest of the afternoon for me to get over it. I had the urge to go back and check with him one more time to make sure he was serious.

“When I talked with him about it afterward, he shared some of the reactions he had received through the years as he had given the same exam. There were always students who did not follow instructions and began to take the exam without reading it all the way through. Some of them would sweat it out for the entire two hours of class time before reaching the last page. Their ignorance caused them unnecessary anxiety.

“Then there were the ones who would read the first two pages, become angry, turn in their paper blank, and storm out of the room. They never realized what was available. As a result, they lost out totally.

“One fellow, however, topped them all. He read the entire test, including the note at the end, but he decided to take the exam anyway. He did not want any gifts; he wanted to earn his grade. And he did. He made a C+, which was amazing considering the difficulty of the test. But he could have easily had an A.

“This story vividly illustrates many people’s reaction to God’s solution to sin. Many are like the first group. They spend their lives trying to earn what they discover years later was freely offered to them the whole time. They spend years sweating it out, always wondering if God is listening to their pleas for forgiveness, always wondering if they have finally pushed Him too far. They hope God has forgiven them; they suppose He has. They do all they know to do to get forgiven. But insofar as God is concerned, they do not want to be presumptuous. So, they live their lives with doubts.

“Many people respond like the second group. They look at God’s standard—moral and ethical perfection—and throw their hands up in surrender. Why even try? they tell themselves. I could never live up to all that stuff. They live the way they please, not expecting anything from God when they die. Often, they decide there is no God. Their acknowledged inability to live up to His standard drives them to this conclusion. Instead of living under constant pressure and guilt, they choose to completely abandon the standard. What a shock it will be for them when they stand before God and understand for the first time what was available had they only asked!

“Then there is the guy who took the test anyway. I meet people like him all the time who are unwilling to simply receive God’s gift of forgiveness. Striking out to do it on their own, they strive to earn enough points with God to give them the right to look to their own goodness as a means of pardon and forgiveness. They constantly work at ‘evening the score’ with God through their good works. ‘Sure, I have my faults,’ they say. ‘But God does not expect anyone to be perfect.’

“When it comes to forgiveness, there is no room for boasting in one’s own ability. As we will see, forgiveness is not a team effort. It is not a matter of God’s doing His part and us doing ours. Unlike my professor’s test, in God’s economy anything less than 100 percent is failing.” 13

When Christians go into spiritual battle, our enemy, the devil, will accuse us of wrongdoing to get us to focus on our past. He wants to persuade us that our past sins cannot be forgiven. Satan knows that focusing on our past will make it difficult for us to face the enemy in front of us. This will also weaken us when we face the world with its various temptations.

John reminds us that we have been completely forgiven in Christ the moment we believed in Him (I John 2:12; cf. Acts 10:43; Ephes. 1:7; Col. 2:13-14). In Christ, God sees in us absolute holiness… purity… righteousness… and goodness. Everything He sees in Jesus Christ He now sees in us (Rom. 4:5; 8:33; Ephes. 1:4; Heb. 10:10-14). Our relationship with God is eternal and therefore can never be lost (John 6:35-40; 10:28-29; 17:3). This is the first unchanging weapon that all Christians possess going into battle.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we praise You because we are Your little children whose sins are all completely forgiven forever the moment we believed in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ. There is no other name given under heaven by which we could be saved and forgiven forever (Acts 4:10-12). Thank You for this assurance and security that gives us sure footing as we prepare to go into battle against the devil and his world system with its many temptations. Knowing we have an eternal relationship with You strengthens our resolve to stand firm against the schemes of the evil one. No matter what we face, You remain our heavenly Father and we Your children forever. Thank You for this blessed assurance! In the mighty name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 95.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

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 3669 to 3673.

5. Ibid., Kindle Location 3673.

6. Anderson, pg. 96.

7. 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. 591.

8. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3558.  

9. Anderson, pg. 96.

10. 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. 156.  

11. Anderson, pg. 96.

12. Ibid., pp. 97-98.

13. Ibid., pp. 98-100 cites Charles Stanley, The Gift of Forgiveness: Put the Past Behind You and Give… (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1987), pp. 43-45.

I John 2 – Part 3

“He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.” I John 2:10

When we first returned to the USA from the Philippines in February 2020, the Coronavirus was not the only pandemic to deal with. There was also a pandemic of hate emerging.

People expressed extreme dislike toward those who differed with them about COVID-19 and how to manage this public health crisis (i.e., mask wearing, contact tracing, whether to get a vaccine, etc.). Could people trust scientists and policy makers to make decisions based solely on facts? The erosion of trust fueled pandemic frictions.

Racial tensions escalated after the tragic murder of George Floyd during his arrest by Minneapolis police officers in May of 2020. 1 While most of the protests associated with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement (and others) following Floyd’s murder were peaceful and nondestructive, several protests involved destruction of property, looting, arson, and the death of innocent lives across the country. 2

With it being an election year, more hatred was expressed toward those with differing political views. This growing hostility toward political opponents focused on their moral repugnance, not their different views on the economy, foreign policy, or the role of social safety nets. 3 Violent political protests in America not only destroyed property, but human lives as well in the name of politics. 4 Other countries also experienced substantial political unrest including Belarus, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Israel, Kyrgyzstan, Malawi, Nigeria, Peru, Serbia, Sudan, Uganda, and Venezuela. 5

Those of us who spend a lot of time in church might say, “Well, that is the world. We can expect such things from the unsaved population. But surely hatred is not experienced in the church, right?” 

As I read the book of I John, I believe the apostle John would say that even Christians can get caught up in hating one another. We may not destroy one another’s property, but we can destroy each other’s peace of mind and reputation. And while the average Christian may not admit to having any hatred toward a fellow believer, I believe the apostle John would say that hatred toward another Christian can be one of the greatest barriers to our fellowship with God and one another.

All sin is a barrier to fellowship with God. But hating another Christian is one of the most difficult sins to deal with for the following reasons:

1. Satan targets the relationships of Christians because he knows that Christians living in unity with one another is one of the powerful expressions of the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27; John 17:20-23; Ephes. 2:14-18; 3:1-7; 4:1-32). The Devil seeks to deceive Christians to deny their hurts and refuse to forgive one another (cf. 2 Cor. 2:10-11; Ephes. 4:25-32). As the father of lies (John 8:44), Satan tells an offended believer, “Good Christians don’t get angry, they just get even,” and other lies to keep them from being reconciled. If we are going to overcome hatred toward other Christians, we must realize our battle is not with flesh and blood, but with Satan and his demonic armies, and therefore we must wear the whole armor of God (Ephes. 6:10-18).

2. Christians have higher expectations of other believers and themselves. As a believer in Christ, you may not expect non-Christians to act like Jesus, but you do expect other followers of Christ to act more like Him since they have God the Holy Spirit living in them and His Word to direct their lives. But when they don’t resemble Christ (or your image of Christ), you can easily get angry with them. Or you can take advantage of them, thinking they will easily forgive you or accept you if you do mess up. Either way, this can create more tension between fellow believers in Christ. The higher our expectations of one another, the more likely we are to be disappointed or offended. This can also make it difficult to admit when we are offended or have offended someone. We don’t want to be vulnerable with other believers because there is more risk involved. What will they think of me if I tell them I was offended by them? Can I trust them to keep this confidential? Will they think I am too sensitive or ungodly if I talk to them about my hurt feelings or my anger? A third reason why resolving hatred toward another Christian is difficult is because…

3. Hatred toward other Christians is easy to justify. After all they hurt me unjustly. There is no defense for what they did. The Christian father abused his child. The believing husband selfishly deserted his wife and kids. The Christian partner cheated his brother out of the company. The Christian sister lied to others about her conflict. Carrying the burden of hatred toward other Christians is not the way God wants us to live on earth. We can choose to live with hatred or with healing. But if we choose to hate another brother or sister in Christ, we cannot claim to be close to God. 6

In I John 2:3-6, the apostle John emphasized obedience to Christ’s commands as a test of intimate fellowship with the Lord. It is natural to ask what commands did John have in mind? In verses 7-11 the apostle will answer this question.

“Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning.” (I John 2:7). John wrote that if a believer claims to “abide in“ Christ, he must live as Jesus did (2:6). When speaking of God’s commandments and a Christlike walk, John was not speaking of anything new. This is not a “new commandment” but an “old commandment” which his readers “heard from the beginning” of their Christian experience.

The “old commandment” was taught by Jesus years before when He said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:34). 7 To walk as Jesus walked is to walk in love toward other believers. It is “old” in the sense of being no new responsibility and having no new content. Whatever new interpretations the antichrists (I John 2:18-19) were trying to add to Jesus’ original command to love one another, John reminds his readers that their responsibility was to obey the original command they “heard from the beginning” of their Christian experience (I John 2:7). 8 Throughout the centuries, people have tried to add “new” ideas or meanings to God’s Word to avoid responsibility. But Christ’s command has not changed since Jesus first spoke it.

From another point of view, the commandment spoken of in verse 7 as being “old,” can also be called a “new commandment.” John writes, “Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.” (I John 2:8). Loving one another as Christ loved us is “new” because it belongs to a new age that “is already shining.” Christ’s incarnation brought a light into the world which can never be extinguished 9 (John 1:4-5 9; 8:12).The phrase “is passing away” (paragō) is also used by John in I John 2:17 which speaks of the darkness of the world being morally at odds with God the Father. Thus, John is saying the “old” moral darkness of this world is temporary. The “new” reality that will replace it is “the true light” which “is already shining.” This truth was fully revealed through Christ’s love for the world (John 3:16) and is being revealed today through the love of Christians for one another. But the day is coming when this love will shine forth without any hindrance in Christ’s coming Kingdom (cf. 2 Peter 3:13). 10

As Christ’s disciples (including us) obey the command to love one another as Jesus loved us, this command has the character of “truth” both “in” us as we do it and “in” Christ Who gave it. This “truth” was manifested “in” our Teacher (Jesus) as He obeyed His heavenly Father and now “in” those who obey Christ. When we love one another as Jesus loved us, we give others a glimpse of the new age of love to come which is in stark contrast to “the darkness” of hatred all around us. The world does not know this love. It is not a sign of a Christian’s salvation, but of his or her fellowship with Christ, because Jesus said, By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35). Loving one another as Christ loved us is a condition for discipleship, not salvation. 11 It is necessary to have fellowship or closeness with Christ.

The world does not understand the love of Jesus Christ. It is a love that offers forgiveness instead of vengeance when you are wounded. Christ gave us this command “in a Middle Eastern world which only understood an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. They had been taught to love their neighbors but hate their enemies. The concept of turning the other cheek and loving their enemies was completely foreign to them.

“The modern problem between the Jews and the Arabs in Israel did not begin with the Jews taking the lands from the Arabs in 1948. At first the Jews tried to purchase land. Sir Moses Montefiore bought land in 1855 for Jewish settlers at Safed, just north of the Sea of Galilee. Then in 1884 Sir Rothschild bought more land for the S. Russian Jews near Ekron. The Jews were trying to escape false accusations brought against them in Russia, Romania, and Bulgaria that they were using the blood of Christian children in their Passover bread. But before 1900 ever rolled around there were attacks against the Jews by the Arabs in settlements around Jaffa and Tiberias.

“Larry Collins’ book O, Jerusalem, tells how the hatred between these groups escalated until wholesale slaughters of Jewish and Arab villages took place, with raping and castrating on both sides in order to increase the humiliation of the victims. The conflict which continues today knows nothing of the love of Christ. It is a land controlled by Satan and his minions of darkness. Their only hope is the love of Christ.” 12

As we see the pandemic of hate increasing around the world today, Christ’s love can shine brightly through Christians who love one another as Jesus loved them. But why is it so seldom we see this kind of love? It is because Christians, like the world, can be vulnerable to the darkness of hate.

John writes, He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now.” (I John 2:9). The Christian who says, “he is in the light” as God is in the light (1:7) “and hates his brother, is” living “in darkness.” One cannot be sharing “the light” with God if he is hating his Christian “brother.”

“The opposite of love is hate. The opposite of light is darkness. Just as loving each other opens the floodgates of fellowship, so hating one another closes them. Thus, the biggest barrier to deep fellowship with God is to hate one’s brother.” 13

Those who think I John provides tests for eternal life would say this person who hates his brother is not even a true Christian because loving your Christian brother is proof that you are saved. This understanding is unacceptable for the following reasons:

1. The book of I John provides tests for a Christian’s fellowship with God (1:3-7). The proof that we are in fellowship with God is our love for one another (2:3-11).

2. The phrase “his brother” (2:9, 11) could refer to an unsaved person hating his physical kin, but since he has no spiritual kin, he cannot hate his spiritual “brother.” It is more consistent with John’s purpose in writing I John (fellowship with God and other Christians) to understand that he is talking about a Christian’s love for another Christian “brother” (cf. that you also may have fellowship with us” – 1:3; “we have fellowship with one another” – 1:7).

“If John thought that no Christian could hate another Christian, there was no need to personalize the relationship with the word ‘his.’ But the opinion, held by some, that a true Christian could never hate another Christian is naive and contrary to the Bible and experience. Even so great a man as King David was guilty of murder, which is the final expression of hate. John was warning his readers against a spiritual danger that is all too real (cf. 1:8, 10). And he was affirming that a Christian who can hate his fellow Christian has not genuinely escaped from the darkness of this present passing Age. To put it another way, he has much to learn about God and cannot legitimately claim an intimate knowledge of Christ. If he really knew Christ as he ought, he would love his brother.” 14

“If the Bible taught that feelings of hatred were a sure sign of an unsaved condition, then virtually no one in the whole church would be saved! But the Bible does not teach this.” 15

3. In the context of I John 2:3-11, John has in mind Christ’s command (2:5-8) to love one another as He has loved them as a proof of discipleship (John 13:34-35). John’s focus is on Christians loving one another (see especially I John 4:20-5:1). The term “his brother” must also be understood in this Christian sense. 16

The phrase “until now” (2:9) implies that this condition can end. 17 A Christian does not have to live in the darkness of hate. He or she can return to the light of God’s love. Look what happens when a Christian loves another Christian: “He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.” (I John 2:10). First, we see that when a Christian “loves his” Christian “brother” he “abides in the light” of fellowship with God. So, he is not just “in” the light, but he “abides” there. We learned last time that the Greek word for “abides” (menō)is a favorite term of John’s for fellowship with God and other Christians. By loving God and others as Christ loved, he is walking “as He walked” (2:6). The loving Christian is living “in the light” of the new Age which has dawned in Christ (2:8). He is enjoying close fellowship with God and other believers.

Second, the loving believer has “no cause for stumbling in him.” When a believer abides in Christ by obeying His command to love one another, he does not trip himself or other Christians up to fall into spiritual danger. This suggests that hatred is a kind of internal stumbling block that can lead to disastrous spiritual failures. 18 Grudges hurt us more than anyone or anything else. The word “stumbling” (skandalon) refers “to a trap or a snare…  whatever ensnares a person in sin. In the person who loves his brother there is no such trap. This does not mean that this person is sinless (see 1:8), but rather that in walking as Christ walked, he does not create an inner spiritual condition by which he can be ensnared in sin. 19

Hatred sets us up for the entrapment of sin. Sinful words or behaviors can often spring from hatred. Such disastrous results are avoided by the believer who loves his Christian “brother.”

“But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” (I John 2:11). Living in the darkness of hate produces terrible consequences for the believer in Jesus Christ which include:

  • “is in darkness.” The unloving Christian is in spiritual darkness. His fellowship with God is broken. He is living in a sphere where God is not (1:5).
  • “walks in darkness.” He is living in darkness and is unable to see the obstacles ahead of him. He may not see the damage and division his hatred will cause in his relationships with others.

      “Like a man wandering aimlessly in the dark, he faces potentially grave dangers.” 20

  • “does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” Living out of fellowship with God results in a loss of direction. Our hatred blinds us to where our lives are going. The farther we move away from the Lord, the less awareness we have about the direction our sin is taking us. For example, in 2 Samuel 11 when King David sought to cover up his sin of adultery by trying to get Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, to sleep with her, Uriah would not go down to his house. Then David made him drunk. But still Uriah would not sleep with his wife. So, David finally had him killed in battle. Each step that David took led him farther and farther away from the Lord. Sin blinds us and makes us unaware of where our lifestyle will lead us. This is especially true of our hatred for other Christians.  

Back in the 1990’s when we were living in southern Kansas, my family and I went to northern Oklahoma to the Alabaster Caverns. When we took a guided tour into one of the caves, at about a quarter mile inside they turned off the lights so we could experience total darkness. I think (please don’t quote me on this) the tour guide mentioned that a person who lives in total darkness for three days will be almost totally blind when he first comes into the sunlight. But eventually his eyes will adjust back to living in the light. If you go to an afternoon movie matinee for a couple of hours and then walk back into the sunlight outside, it is painful at first to be in the light.

The longer we live in sin, the harder it is to get back in the light. We may not want to let go of our bitterness and resentment toward another Christian who has deeply hurt us because then we will have to face our responsibilities to heal and grow.

You may wonder what is this hatred of which John talks about? How do I know if I have it? Anderson lists the different looks of hatred: (bold print added). 21

1. Cold Indifference—this is what we do to people who hurt us. We give them the cold shoulder. We have no intention of giving them the time of day until they come to us and seek an apology for what they have done to hurt us…

2. Vengeance—oh, we have lots of ways to do this, don’t we? Often this manifests itself in Christians as passive-aggressive behavior. She hurt me, so I won’t take out the trash, help with the dishes, or give her any verbal or physical affection.

3. Unforgiving Spirit—how easily this barb gets under our skin. Have you been hurt? Has someone in your past rejected you in such a way that you still hurt when you think about it? Do you become critical of people in your past the minute their names are mentioned? Have you worked hard all your life not to become like your parents? Are there people in your past upon whom you would enjoy taking revenge? Have you made a pastime out of scheming about how you could get back at them or embarrass them publicly? If you can say yes to any of these questions, then you wrestle with an unforgiving spirit. 22

4. Bitterness (Heb 12:15)—usually beneath an unforgiving spirit is a root of bitterness which Hebrews warns can defile many of those around us and keep us from enjoying the forgiving grace of God. Robert Lewis in his series called Quest for Authentic Manhood challenges every man to look for what he calls the Father Wound and the Mother Wound. According to him an early wound in our lives often explains much of the dysfunction in our adult lives when it comes to personal relationships. 23

5. Hatred has any number of different looks. These are just a few. John makes this much clear. A believer cannot know God’s will for his life while he walks in hatred. He is blind to God’s path for his life. He must be, for God’s path leads him to the brother/sister he hates. Forgiveness leads him back to the light. Indirectly, that’s what verse ten is telling us.”

How does a Christian return to the light if he has been walking in the darkness of hate? God gives us advice on how to resolve our anger in Psalm 4:4-5. The apostle Paul quotes from Psalm 4:4a when he writes, Be angry, and do not sin.” (Ephes. 4:26) when he is talking to believers about not grieving the Holy Spirit with their communications toward one another (cf. Ephes. 4:25-32). Psalm 4:4-5 teach us some important principles for dealing with our anger that will help us return to the light:

1. Admit and feel your anger (“Be angry and do not sin” – 4:4a). Anger is usually a secondary emotion. The primary emotions anger seeks to protect us from are fear or hurt. For example, when Jesus was “grieved” (hurt)by the religious leaders’ hardness of heart toward a man with a withered hand, He responded with anger toward them (Mark 3:5).

The feeling of anger is not wrong in and of itself. Even God feels anger (cf. Exod. 4:14; Num. 11:10; Deut. 7:4; Mark 3:5; John 2:13-16; 3:36; Rom. 1:18; 12:19; Col. 3:6; Heb. 3:11; 4:3; Rev. 6:16; 19:15; et. al). What we do with our anger can be sinful. When we admit our anger, we begin to take control of it.

It is important to use “I feel…” statements which take responsibility for our own anger. Example: “I feel angry when you…” But spiritual perfectionism says, “I’m not angry.” Somehow Christians are not comfortable admitting their deep hurt and anger. Perhaps it is due to the perfectionism that is taught in churches today.

Shame-based statements use the word “You.” Example: “You make me feel so angry!” The last two examples do not honor what God is saying here – “Be angry and do not sin,” because they do not acknowledge or take responsibility for one’s own anger. You could insert any emotion for the word “angry” in this verse. When we admit our hate or hurt, we begin to take control of it. If we do not face our pain in full, we cannot be fully healed. A superficial acknowledgment of our pain will only lead to a superficial forgiveness and healing of our wounds.

But if we are to be more like Jesus Christ, we can learn to admit our anger and release it to God, so He can use it the way He intended – to accomplish His righteousness (cf. Mark 3:5; John 2:13-16; James 1:19-20). If we refuse to address our anger God’s way, it will result in more brokenness in the body of Christ because we are giving the devil an opportunity to lead us into greater sin (cf. Ephesians 4:26-27). We are walking in the darkness which will lead to more destruction in our relationships with others. But if we do deal with our anger God’s way, we can experience what David did, “I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8).

2. Talk to the Lord until you can be still (“Meditate within your heart on your bed and be still” – 4:4b; cf. 4:3). After we have identified our anger, we can process it by talking to the Lord. The word “meditate” (’im·rū) means “to utter, say” (4:4b). 24 In the context David is talking to the Lord (Psalm 4:3). As we talk to the Lord, He can help us identify the source of our anger. Is it our own selfishness, hypersensitivity, or perfectionism? Or is it because we have been wronged?

3.  Do what is right which includes forgiving others and yourself (“Offer the sacrifices of righteousness” – 4:5a). Sacrifices were offered in the Old Testament as a means of forgiveness (cf. Hebrews 9:22). As God shows us the source of our anger, we can seek forgiveness if we were being selfish or perfectionistic (I John 1:9) or we can extend forgiveness to those who have wronged us (Ephesians 4:32).

Jesus taught, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15). Forgiveness is so important because it is connected to God’s forgiveness of us. I cannot enjoy fellowship or closeness with God the Father if I am not willing to forgive those who have hurt me. Being unforgiving connects us to our past hurts and makes it difficult to fully enjoy the blessings of our relationship with God and with other people in the present.

One of the ways we can know we have not forgiven someone is we keep rehearsing bitter and defensive thoughts toward those who have hurt us. We keep going “back to court” in our minds with all the things we wish we had said or want to say to them. 25  God invites us to release “from the heart” the hurt others have caused to us. Forgiveness requires the cancelling of a debt (cf. Matthew 18:21-35). Perhaps the person who has hurt us owes us an apology, justice, money, repentance, restoration, suffering, understanding, etc. 26 God wants us to cancel the debt they owe us.

I am learning that there are three things that can hinder me from forgiving others: judgments, vows, and false beliefs. 27When someone hurts us, we can hold on to judgments about them out of fear. We may judge their motives and try to read their minds. We tell ourselves, “He or she is evil, selfish, and does not care about me or love me.” Christ warns us about making such judgments (Matthew 7:1-2). These judgments can cause heart wounds that keep us from healing and growing. When we refuse to forgive that person, we can bind ourselves to the person we are judging and become more like that person. It is important to repent of our judgments and ask God to release the person and ourselves from the consequences. 27

Not only do judgments about our offenders hinder us from forgiving them, but so do the vows we make. Jesus opposed the practice of distorting vows so they could convey or conceal a lie (Matthew 5:33-35). We can make inner vows to survive the hurts we have suffered. For example, when a person I trusted hurts me, I may make an inner vow that says, “I will never trust anyone again!” Or “If I need others, they will take advantage of me!” These types of vows can become self-curses that result in isolation and loneliness, which cause us even more pain. These inner vows can often become subconscious and do not disappear with time. They are like a contract that must be renounced or broken.  It is important to ask God to forgive us and break these vows we have made.28

False beliefs or lies can also prevent us from forgiving others. We may tell ourselves, “If I forgive them, they will get off the hook and there will never be any justice.” But the truth is, only God knows what is just (Romans 12:19). Or “If I forgive, I will become vulnerable to them again.” The truth is that just because you forgive them does not mean that they are safe, and you must trust them again (Matthew 18:15-18).

If you are struggling with hatred because of unforgiveness, take some time today to ask God to reveal to you the people who have hurt you. You may want to start with those closest to you (e.g., a parent, spouse, sibling, child, close friend, etc.). What wound did he or she cause to you? (e.g., abandoned, abused, betrayed, criticized, lied, neglected, rejected, etc.).

What are the judgments or things you believe about them? (e.g., they are evil, lazy, selfish, stupid, weak, didn’t love me, didn’t care for me, etc.). Repent of these judgments and ask God to release the person and yourself from the consequences (Matthew 7:1-2).

What vows did you tell yourself to survive the wound? (e.g., “I don’t need or trust anyone,” or “whatever I do, it won’t be enough,” or “all men/women are ______,” etc.). Renounce and repent of these vows, asking God to forgive you and to break them.

What effect did the wound have on you (How did you cope)? (e.g., anger, addiction, codependency, depression, food, isolation, stress, workaholism, etc.).

What debt do they owe you? What would they have to do for you to trust them again? (e.g., apologize, change their behavior, justice, make restitution, money, repent or seek your forgiveness, etc.). Talk to the Lord, asking Him to make you both willing and able to cancel their debt.

What false belief or lie is keeping you from forgiving them? Say the following false beliefs below to yourself to see if they feel true. If they do, then focus on the true beliefs until the false beliefs no longer feel true.

False belief: If I forgive them, they will get off the hook and there will never be any justice.

True belief: Only God know what is just (Romans 12:19).

False belief: Forgiveness means I must pretend that nothing ever happened.

True belief: Forgiveness is not denial. You must tell yourself the truth about what they did and how it affected you to really be able to forgive from the heart (Matthew 18:35; John 8:32).

False belief: If I forgive, I will become vulnerable to them again.

True belief: Just because you forgive them doesn’t mean that they are safe, and you must trust them again (Matthew 18:15-18).

False belief: My unforgiveness punishes them and is justified because I am right; they will never see their wrong and repent if I let go.

True belief: The truth is, it is God’s mercy and kindness that leads us to repentance. Only He knows what will change them (Romans 2:4; Ephesians 4:24-32).

If you are ready, insert the name of the person you have chosen to forgive into the following prayer of forgiveness:

Father God, Your Word says that to be forgiven, I must forgive. And so, I come to You in the name of Jesus, in obedience and love, and I bring (name) _____ before You. I cancel _____ debt to me (e.g., apology, change of behavior, humiliation, repentance, suffering, etc.). I choose to forgive this hurt against me, and I ask that You not hold these sins against _____ on my account. I release _____ from any desire on my part to see _____ punished. In fact, as You have told me to do, I bless _____ in Your Son’s name, Jesus. You know _____ desires, needs, and hurts. You know what would bless _____. And so, I ask that You pour out Your love and healing to _____ and bring _____ Your highest good, because Your name is Good and Love, and You are not willing that any should perish. Now also, Father, please heal my heart and set me free to love _____ as You do. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

4. Trust the Lord with the situation (“And put your trust in the Lord” – 4:5b). Many believers struggle with the first two steps the most and skip right over them to forgive and trust the Lord without acknowledging or processing their feelings. But if we do not admit our anger or hurt and turn it over to the Lord, it is very difficult to forgive “from the heart” (cf. Matthew 18:35).

5. If possible, sit down with the one who hurt you and explain what you have been holding inside, and tell them you would like to forgive them.

6. If you cannot sit down with them, forgive them as Christ has forgiven you (Ephes. 4:32). “In Him” is the key. God forgave you “in Him.” You can forgive your brother because of your common position in Him.

7. Don’t confuse forgiving with trusting. You can forgive in a moment based on your common position in Christ, but trust must be rebuilt over time. This distinction has tripped up many people. A Christian wife is commanded to forgive her wayward husband (or vice-versa), but she is never commanded to trust him. He needs to earn her trust. 29

In summary, when a person first gets saved by believing in Christ alone for His gift of eternal life (John 3:15-16), he can enjoy fellowship with God in the light by being open and responsive to what God reveals to him (I John 1:5-2:2). As he learns God’s commands, he can abide in Christ by keeping those commands (I John 2:3-6), especially the command to love one another as Jesus has loved him (cf. John 13:34-35). Failure to obey God’s known commands breaks his fellowship with God and others, plunging him into darkness where God is not (I John 2:7-11).  

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we thank You for Your love for us which You demonstrated by giving Your only perfect Son to die in our place on the cross for all our sins so we could receive eternal life freely the moment we believed in Him. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for giving us a new commandment which is to love our brothers and sisters in Christ as You have loved us, extending forgiveness to one another as You have forgiven us. Forgive us for the many times we have been less than loving to one another. Please keep us from the darkness of hate so we may enjoy sharing the light with You and grow to know You more intimately. Please align our thoughts with Yours so Your radical love for us can flow through us to the children of God. In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Retrieved from Wikipedia article on November 3, 2022, entitled, “2020-2022 United States racial unrest.”

2. Ibid.; cf. May 25, 2021, article retrieved on November 3, 2022, entitled, “A Year of Racial Justice Protests: Key Trends in Demonstrations Supporting the BLM Movement,” from acleddata.com.

3. Retrieved on November 3, 2022, from the October 29, 2020, article entitled, “Why Hatred and ‘Othering’ of Political Foes Has Spiked to Extreme Levels,” at sceintificamerican.com.

4. Retrieved on November 3, 2022, from Lois Becketts’ October 31, 2020, article entitled, “At least 25 Americans were killed during protests and political unrest in 2020,” at theguardian.com; cf. Mike Gonzalez’ November 6, 2020, article entitled, “For Five Months, BLM Protestors Trashed America’s Cities. After the Election, Things May Only Get Worse,” at heritage.org.

5. Retrieved on November 3, 2022, from Benjamin Press and Thomas Carothers’ December 21, 2020, article entitled, “Worldwide Protests in 2020: A Year in Review,” from carnegieendowment.org.

6. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pp. 85-86.

7. Ibid., pp. 86-87; Tom Constable, Notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pp. 39-40; 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. 591.  

8. 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 3634.

9. Ibid., Kindle Location 3643.

10. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 591.  

11. Anderson, pg. 87.

12. Ibid., pp. 87-88.

13. Ibid., pg. 89.

14. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3652.

15. Constable, pg. 41 cites Zane C. Hodges, The Epistles of John: Walking in the Light of God’s Love (Irving, Tex.: Grace Evangelical Society, 1999), pg. 87.

16. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 591.

17. Constable, pg. 41.   

18. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3660.

19. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 591.

20. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3664.

21. Anderson, pp. 89-91.

22. Ibid., pg. 90 where Anderson acknowledges some questions were taken from Charles Stanley, The Gift of Forgiveness (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1987), pg. 23. Anderson, pg. 90 cites Robert M. Lewis, The Quest for Authentic Manhood (Little Rock, AK: Fellowship Bible Church, n.d.), pp. 10-11.

24. Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon OFTHE OLD TESTAMENT at https://biblehub.com/hebrew/559.htm.

25. Michael Dye, The Genesis Process: For Change Groups Books 1 and 2 Individual Workbook (Michael Dye/Double Eagle Industries, 2012), pp. 123-124.

26. Ibid., pg. 124.

27. Ibid., pp. 126-131.

28. Ibid.

29. Steps 5 – 7 are adapted from Anderson, pg. 91 who acknowledges Charles Stanley, The Gift of Forgiveness: Put the Past Behind You and Give… (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1987), pp. 169-170.

I John 1 – Part 2

“Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.” I John 2:3

Anderson writes, “Author and marriage counselor Gary Chapman has suggested that husbands and wives have five general ways in which they perceive love from their partner:

1. Words of Affection

2. Quality Time

3. Receiving Gifts

4. Acts of Service

5. Physical Touch

“Usually one of these ‘love languages’ is primary for a husband or wife. Unfortunately, mates usually don’t have the same ‘love language.’ Like a Russian who speaks only Russian being married to a Chinese person who speaks only Chinese, a husband might be saying ‘I love you’ in his language, but his wife does not get the message because she has a different love language. According to Chapman, marital intimacy is difficult to achieve unless each partner learns to speak the ‘love language’ of his/her mate.” 2

Christians may assume that God’s primary love language is the same as theirs, so they try to express their love to the Lord in a way that is meaningful to them but not as meaningful to God. While it is true that there are many ways to show God we love Him, what if the Lord has a primary love language and we fail to address it? Is it possible we will not be as close to God because we have not learned His primary love language? 3 I think the apostle John would answer this question in the affirmative. Beginning in I John 2:3, John introduces God’s primary love language.

In verses 1:5-2:2, the apostle John referred to fellowship with God as “walking in the light,” that is, being open and responsive to what the Lord reveals to him or her. A Christian can be honest with God about what is revealed to him or her and enjoy fellowship or closeness with God because of the all-sufficient shed blood of Jesus Christ (1:7, 9; 2:1-2). Or believers can be dishonest with God and experience darkness or broken fellowship with Him (1:6, 8, 10).

Beginning in I John 2:3 John introduces the idea of “knowing God” as another term for fellowship with the Lord. It follows that fellowshipping with God in the light will lead to knowing Him more intimately. The more time a believer spends with God in the light, the more he or she will know Him. John writes, “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.” (I John 2:3).

We have already mentioned in previous articles that some Bible interpreters see I John as tests for eternal life or knowing you are going to heaven 4 while others see it as tests for fellowship or closeness with God on earth. 5 Those who understand I John to provide tests for eternal life understand I John 2:3 to teach that you can tell if you know Christ as your Savior by keeping God’s commandments. According to this view if you want to have assurance that you are a genuine Christian and will go to heaven, then you must keep or obey God’s commandments. Hence, if you are not obeying God’s commandments, you are not a genuine believer in Jesus and you will go to hell when you die. This understanding emphasizes that salvation is by faith, but you cannot know for sure if your faith is real unless you keep God’s commandments. But this understanding is contrary to John’s writings: 6

1. John clearly teaches that a person is saved by believing in Christ alone for eternal life (John 3:15-18, 36; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:35-40, 47; 7:37-39; 11:25-26; 20:31; cf. I John 5:1b, 13; et al.). He never mentions obeying God’s commands as a condition for salvation in his gospel which was written to tell non-Christians how to obtain eternal life (John 20:31).

2. The notion that a person can believe in Christ for eternal life without knowing for certain he or she has truly believed in Him is foreign to John’s writings. For example, when Jesus asks Martha if she believes He is the Resurrection and the Life Who guarantees a future resurrection and never-ending life to all who believe in Him (John 11:25-26), she replies, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (John 11:27). Martha did not say, “I think I believe…” nor does she say, “Maybe I believe…” She said, “Yes, Lord, I believe…” Martha was convinced that Jesus was the Christ – the One who guarantees a future resurrection and never-ending life to all who believe in Him. Could Martha believe that Jesus was the Christ without realizing she herself had eternal life? No. To believe that Jesus was the Christ was to believe His guarantee of eternal life. To doubt His guarantee of eternal life was to disbelieve Jesus was the Christ. Christ accepts Martha’s response. He does not tell her to wait and see if her faith is real by keeping His commandments. Since belief in Christ is a conviction that He is speaking the truth and is therefore worthy of one’s trust, 7 we can know we have believed.

Many people today make a distinction between head faith and heart faith. They have told us that we can miss heaven by eighteen inches because we have believed in Jesus with our head but not with our heart. But where does the Bible make this distinction? It does not. Nowhere in the Bible does God distinguish head belief from heart belief. All belief is belief. If we believe in Christ for eternal life, then we know we have eternal life because Jesus guarantees, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47).

To doubt that we “truly believe” is to disbelieve Jesus’ promise. Either I believe Christ’s promise, or I do not. If I do, I have eternal life. If I do not, I stand condemned as one who “has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). The gospel of John does not condition eternal life on whether one has “heart belief” instead of “head belief.” Saving faith is the conviction that Christ died for my sins and rose from the dead, and then believing or trusting in Him alone for His free gift of eternal life. What makes saving faith saving is not the amount or uniqueness of the faith, but Whom your faith is in and What your faith believes. Saving faith results instantly in eternal salvation because it believes in the right object: the promise of eternal life to every believer by Jesus Christ Who died for our sins and rose from the dead (John 3:15-18; 6:40, 47; I Corinthians 15:1-8; et al). Therefore, those who refer to “head belief” or “heart belief” are reading into the word “believe” as the Bible neither does, nor provides basis for doing. 8

When Martha answered Jesus’ question with, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world” (John 11:27), neither she nor Jesus analyzes her faith to distinguish head faith from heart faith. Martha confidently affirms that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of God, Who is to come into the world.” What Martha believes about Jesus is exactly what John says in his purpose statement is all that a person must believe to have everlasting life (John 20:31). She knows she has believed in Christ, the Son of God, and therefore she is certain she has eternal life.

Does Jesus correct Martha’s response? Does He caution her to wait and see if her faith is real (as so many do today) through the manifestation of good works or fruit first before making such a statement? Does He ask her if she believes in her “heart” and not merely in her “head”? He does not because if any sinner comes to believe that Jesus is “the resurrection and the life,” that is, “the Christ, the Son of God,” he or she knows they have everlasting life.

Let’s get back to I John 2:3. Again the apostle John includes himself, the other apostles, and his Christian readers (2:12-14; 5:13) when he uses the word “we.” To say that “we” cannot refer to genuine Christians ignores the entire context and denies the obvious meaning of the text (cf. 1:1-2:1). 9

The Greek word for “know” (ginōskō) occurs twice in this verse. Anderson makes a very important observation concerning the different tenses of this same verb, “The first use of ‘know’ is in the present tense (ginōskamen); but the second use of ‘know’ is in the prefect tense (egnōkamen). If we miss this deliberate shift on John’s part, we miss his intent for the verse. Others have pointed out that this root word for ‘know’ (ginōskō) speaks of ‘experiential’ knowledge as opposed to intuitive knowledge. It is what is called by Greek grammarians a ‘stative’ verb because it refers to a state of being as opposed to a verb of action. In other words, to ‘know’ or to ‘believe’ speak of inner truths but not outward actions.

“Now a Greek grammarian named McKay has written an excellent article dealing with the perfect tense of stative verbs in which he demonstrates that putting a stative verb in the perfect tense has the effect of intensifying the basic meaning of the verb. It’s a deeper state of whatever the meaning of the verb is. In this case, the verb means ‘to know’ in the sense of an experience. So, putting it into the perfect tense means ‘to know intensely,’ ‘to experience deeply,’ or ‘to know fully.’ It’s much like the OT meaning when it says, ‘Adam knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain…’ It’s an intimate knowledge.” 10

None of the commentators who think I John was written to provide tests for eternal life observe this significant change in the verb tenses of I John 2:3 because that would not support their conclusions. Instead of letting the text speak for itself, they read their own presuppositions into the text.

Anderson writes, “The perfect tense in the Greek language has the basic meaning of ‘completed action in the past with present results.’ But according to its use in context, a typical verb can put its emphasis on the completed action in the past or on the present results… But in a stative verb McKay’s point is that it should always be translated with the emphasis on the present results. In other words, ‘have come to know’ [NASB translation] does not recognize the significance of a stative verb in the perfect tense. A more accurate reflection of the emphasis on the intensified state of experiential knowledge here would be, ‘And by this we know that we know Him intensely.’ And what is intense knowledge if not deep, intimate knowledge?” 11

John is not testing to see if his readers have eternal life in I John 2:3. He is writing to test whether a person is having close fellowship with God. He is saying, “By this we know that we know Him intimately if we keep His commandments.”

The phrase “know Him” is more than knowing we are saved and have eternal life. It is knowing Christ intimately in a fellowship sense. While it is true that all Christians know Christ for salvation (John 10:14; 17:3), not all Christians know Christ in depth as a result of spending time with Him.

For example, an infant knows his parents in terms of being able to recognize them, but a teenager of the same parents knows them more in depth. Through shared time and experience, the teenager has become more intimately acquainted with his parents, whereas the infant has not.

In John 14:7-9, we see an example of a believer not knowing Jesus to a certain degree. Philip has just asked the Lord Jesus to show them the Father (14:8) and Jesus rebukes His ignorance, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9). Philip did know Christ in one sense. He was a saved man and possessed eternal life (cf. John 1:43-50; 2:11). Yet he did not know Christ in a deeper sense. He didn’t know how perfectly Jesus reflected the Father.

Continuing in John 14:15 Jesus says, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” Jesus makes it clear that His primary love language is keeping His commandments. The way we show Christ we love Him is to “keep” or obey His commandments. But there is more.

Jesus says, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” (John 14:21). To “have” Jesus’ commandments, we must spend time with Him to be aware of what He has said. When a believer “keeps” or obeys the Lord’s commandments, God the Father and God the Son will “love” him or her more intimately and Jesus will “manifest”or reveal more of Himself to them. The word “manifest” (emphanisō) means “to make visible.” 12 Christ reveals more of Himself to us, including His love, as we show him our love for Him by obeying His commandments.

God’s love is not static or unchanging. It is a growing experience in our relationship with the Lord. “God so loved the world” (John 3:16), but He also loves the obedient believer in a special sense (14:21, 23; cf. 13:23). God rewards obedience with a special experience of His love. Hence, when a believer obeys, Christ will reveal more of Himself to him or her leading to a deeper intimacy with the Father and the Son.

Isn’t this much like a love relationship with another person!?! We don’t usually tell someone everything about ourselves the first time we meet him or her. We share a little of ourselves and wait to see if the other person reciprocates by revealing some of their feelings for us. If he or she does, then we share a little more about ourselves. As we share a little more of ourselves with the other, our feelings for them intensify. Through shared time and experience the other person opens up to the other in a more intimate way.

The same is true of a Christian’s relationship with Christ. Christ will not reveal more of Himself to a believer unless that believer expresses his or her love for Him using His primary love language (keeping His commandments). When Christ sees us expressing our love for Him in this way, He has more confidence that we are ready for Him to share more of Himself with us. So, He reveals more of His love for us.

Verse 3 is telling us how we can know that we know Christ more intimately. If we are growing in our obedience to Christ’s commands, then we can know we are growing closer to Him. But what if a Christian says he knows Christ more intimately while living in disobedience to Jesus’ commandments? John tells us, “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (I John 2:4). Interestingly the word “know” (egnōka) is in the perfect tense, so it could be translated, “He who says, ‘I know Him intimately…’” 13

John explains that a believer in Jesus who claims to know Christ more intimately while living in disobedience to His commands “is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” The reason he “is a liar” is because you cannot know Christ more intimately while disobeying His commandments. Such a claim is false. When a believer is living in disobedience, “the truth” of God’s Word is not dynamically active “in” him. The truth has lost its hold on his heart. When “the truth is… in” a Christian in a controlling way, however, such self-deception is not possible. “On the contrary, the most godly saints throughout church history have also been those most deeply aware of their own sinfulness…”

“The truth is either in me as a Christian or it is not. If it is, then I will be engaged in active obedience to God’s commands. If it is not, I am sadly out of touch with the transforming power of the truth of God.

“Thus, it is altogether appropriate for each of us as born-again believers to ask ourselves: ‘Is the truth really in me? Is it working dynamically in my heart and life?’ On the answer to questions like these depends the reality of our communion with our living Lord.” 14

What happens in relation to God’s love when a Christian keeps His commandments? “But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.” (I John 2:5). In contrast (“But”) to the dishonest claim of verse 4, John now observes that obedience to God’s commands (“whoever keeps His Word”) results in “the love of God” being “perfected in him.” Love for God and obedience to His Word are not tests for eternal life as some often claim. Instead, they are tests for genuine fellowship or intimacy with God. 15

Keeping God’s Word is not a sign you are saved; it is a sign that you love God. This is taken right out of the Upper Room Discourse where Christ’s believing disciples are informed that their Teacher (Jesus) is going to be leaving them (John 13-17). What is their response to this news? “Don’t You care about us? Don’t You love us?” They are not questioning if they will go to heaven when they die. Their hearts are troubled by this news, so Jesus says to them, “Let not your heart be troubled…” (John 14:1). 16

The word “keeps” (tērō) means much more than “has” or possessing God’s Word (I John 2:5). John 14:21 states, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” Loving God is more than having His commands. It is keeping His commands. This is more than obeying God’s commandments. It has the basic idea of “watching over, guarding, and protecting,” 17 much like a shepherd watches over his sheep, or a banker protects and guards his treasure, or a fiancé’ his bride-to-be. 18

Anderson illustrates this with a church member’s experience. “In a trip to visit her parents in Quincy, Illinois, she was looking out the front window and saw a baby bird which had fallen to the ground. The mother bird was coming down to feed it. She would feed the birds still in the nest high above the ground, but then she would swoop down to feed the baby bird on the ground. This went on day after day. Finally, Carol observed that the mother bird was building a protective tent over her baby bird so people passing by wouldn’t notice it. Her ritual was to feed the little birds above and then fly to the ground and stay a few feet from the ’tent’ to watch for predators she might have to ward off should they get near her hidden, baby bird. She was protecting, she was guarding, and she was keeping her little one safe.

“That’s what ‘keeps’ means here. It’s more than just to have a Bible or several of them in your house. It’s to treasure God’s Word, to guard it, to protect it. It’s to realize that many people in this world don’t have this book, have never had a chance to listen to its promises or read it for themselves. Outside of our personal relationship with Jesus, His Word may be the most precious thing we have from Him. The person who ‘keeps’ His Word is the one who has His Word, guards His Word, and cherishes His Word. In this person the love of God is perfected.” 19

John tells us that the Christian who keeps God’s Word in this way “truly” has “the love of God… perfected in him” (2:5). The Greek verb “perfected” (teleioō) is in the perfect tense (teteleiōtai) and means “to bring to completion, to bring to its goal, or to bring to full measure…” 20 While God’s love is incredible to the believer at the moment of salvation (John 3:16; Romans 5:8), it’s goal is not reached until the Christian returns that love by his or her obedience, resulting in a greater understanding and experience of the deeply personal love of the Father and Son as they “make [their] home with him” (John 14:23). 21

When a believer cherishes and obeys God’s Word, he or she becomes more intimately acquainted with God’s love. Since God is love (I John 4:8b), to know God intimately is to know His love more intimately. 22

Anderson suggests that this is a reciprocal experience of God’s love. “John says what is in a state of completeness here is the ‘love of God.’ This could mean our love for God or God’s love for us. We would suppose it means our love for God since this is God’s primary love language, that is, the main way He says we can show that we love Him. But we can’t rule out His love for us here since He promises in John 14:21 to love us back if we demonstrate our love for Him by keeping His commandments. Reciprocal love—our love for Him and His love for us. Love is most complete when it is reciprocated. If it is all one-sided, it is still imperfect and incomplete.” 23

When John writes, “By this we know that we are in Him” (2:5b), he is not referring to the apostle Paul’s concept of being “in Him” (Christ) which describes the permanent position of all Christians. John uses the phrase “in Him” like Jesus did in the Upper Room Discourse (John 13-17), to describe, not all Christians, but the group of believers who “abide” in Christ (John 15:1-8). Abiding in Christ is another term that John uses to describe fellowship with Jesus. 24 Jesus said, “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so, you will be My disciples.” (John 15:8). It is very important to observe that Jesus does not say fruit bearing is necessary for salvation. He says it is necessary to be His “disciples.”

Abiding in Christ is a discipleship experience, not a salvation experience for John. “In I John 2:5-6, discipleship is also in view, as is seen from the reference to the imitation of Christ in verse 6… In short, 2:5-6 continues to talk about the believer’s fellowship with God.” 25

“He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” (I John 2:6). For the first time in his epistle, John uses the phrase “abides in Him” as another way of describing fellowship with God. The Greek word “abides” (menō)means “to remain, stay, dwell, continue” 26in 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]. The emphasis of I John is abiding in Christ so we may have close fellowship with Him. The believer who claims “he abides” or remains in Christ must live just as Jesus lived (“walk just as He walked”). He must live as Christ’s disciple.

In John 8:29, Jesus told His enemies, “And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.” The proof that Christ’s claim to be God is true is that He “always” does “those things that please” His heavenly Father. If we claim to abide in Jesus, we are to seek to do the things that please God the Father. Christ taught that the goal of a disciple is to be like his Teacher (Matthew 10:24). If we claim to be Jesus’ disciple, we must live as our Teacher lived.

“When it comes to making tea, some people dip their teabags in and out of the hot water. Many Christians approach their relationship with Jesus like this—dipping in and out of church on Sunday mornings, with little change resulting. Other tea drinkers place their teabags in the water and let them remain. In time, the tea seeps into the water and transforms it. For Christ to influence and transform your life, you must remain in Him.” 27

Anderson illustrates I John 2:3-6 with this true story: 28 “Boris Kornfeld was a Jewish doctor living in Russia. He grew up with Stalin as his God. He was not a practicing or religious Jew. He did not believe in Yahweh of the OT. He believed in Lenin and Stalin and socialism. But one fourth of the people in the USSR were informants for the KGB. It was a terrorist state. Someone turned Boris in. For what he did not know.

“The KGB whisked him off to one of their prison camps. He was dumbfounded. He had not been unloyal to the state. Lenin and Stalin had been his gods. But there he was, a prisoner of the state. And as he sat in his prison camp and saw the senseless death and destruction, he threw off the shackles of socialism. He deposed the god he was worshipping. He said to himself, ‘This philosophy of life cannot be true.’

“Kornfeld listened to other prisoners who had put their hope in Jesus. For a Jew to give up socialism or communism was one thing, but for a Jew to embrace Jesus was another. But as he kept hearing about the peace and hope Jesus could bring, Boris decided to try Jesus as his Messiah. Not long after trusting Christ he was in a Bible study and listened to this passage, which gives God’s love language: ‘If you love me, keep my commandments.’ Boris Kornfeld knew he wasn’t keeping God’s commandments. On a regular basis he, as a doctor, would sign slips of paper saying a prisoner was fit to go back to work in the mines when he knew this particular prisoner was not fit at all. This is how the prison system thinned their ranks. They just sent an unhealthy person into hard labor. They rarely came out of the mines alive.

“Boris had signed hundreds of these slips, these death warrants. He thought, ‘I’m not going to sign any more slips.’ He knew he was somewhat protected because they needed doctors, but he really did not know what would happen to him.

“Soon after this decision he saw an orderly stealing bread. He could overlook it but decided the right thing to do would be to report it. The orderly was put into the stockade for three days, but when released Boris knew the orderly would be out to get even.

“He began sleeping in the hospital to avoid being caught in the darkness by this vengeful orderly. But he also sensed a new freedom he had not experienced before. He thought, ‘Being willing to die for Christ, being willing to be punished for Christ—all of a sudden, I had a freedom and a peace I had never known in my life. I sensed God was with me and I sensed that He loved me in a special way, and all of a sudden, I had to tell someone. I had never told anyone what had happened to me.’

“A young man came in who had cancer in his intestines. Boris operated on him, and as the young man was coming out of the anesthesia, Boris said to himself, ‘I’ve got to tell this fellow.’ So as the young man was coming out of anesthesia and still in a stupor, Boris began to tell his story of peace and of love and of forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ. The young man missed most of the beginning of Boris’s story because of the drugs lingering in his system, but then he began to understand, and Boris just couldn’t stop talking. He went on talking for an entire day.

“That night the orderly found Boris and hit him on the head six times with a plasterer’s mallet killing him. But the message Boris shared never left the heart of the young man who heard it, the only man who ever heard Boris’s message. This message of good news, peace, and forgiveness burned in his soul until he too trusted in Jesus Christ as his Savior. Ultimately, this young man cured of physical cancer and the cancer of sin was released from that prison. He went out and told the world the story of the Gutlag Archipelago. His name? Nobel Prize winner Alexander Solzhenitsyn.” 29

“If you love Me, keep My commandments.” (John 14:15).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for revealing to us that Your primary love language is keeping Your commandments. We cannot claim to know You more intimately if we are not obeying Your commands. While Your love for us is remarkable the moment we believe in You for eternal life (John 3:16; Romans 5:8), its goal is not reached until we return that love by our obedience, resulting in a greater understanding and experience of the deeply intimate love of the Father and Son as they make their home with us. Teach us to live as You lived Lord Jesus – in willing submission to the Father and total dependence upon Him, always seeking to do what pleases Him. In Your mighty name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 71 cites Gary Chapman, The Five Love Languages (Chicago: Northfield Publishing, 1992).

2. Anderson, pg. 71.

3. Ibid.

4. Anderson, pg. 15 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).

5. Tom Constable, Notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pg. 7; David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 28; 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 Locations 3367 to 3473; 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. 589; Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 2329-2333; Constable, pg. 47 cites other commentators who hold that 1 John offers tests of fellowship rather than tests of life, including J. Dwight Pentecost, The Joy of Fellowship (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1977); Joseph C. Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings (Miami Springs, Fla.: Schoettle Publishing Co., 1992), pp. 156-175; Guy H. King, The Fellowship (London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1954); Charles C. Ryrie, Biblical Theology of the New Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1959), idem, “The First Epistle of John,”In The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Edited by Charles F. Pfeiffer and Everett F. Harrison (Chicago: Moody Press, 1962), pg. 1466; J. W. Roberts, The Letters of John, Living Word Commentary series (Austin, Tex.: R. B. Sweet, 1968); and Karl Braune, The Epistles General of John, in John Peter Lange ed. Commentary on the Holy Scripture, Vol. 12, Reprint ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1960), pg. 15.

6. Adapted from Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 590.

7. To “believe in” (pisteuōn eis) Jesus means to be persuaded that He is speaking the truth and is therefore worthy of your trust. 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. 816.

8. See discussion in Jeff Ropp, The Greatest Need in Evangelism Today is One Word: BELIEVE (Jeff Ropp, 2013), pp. 31-33.

9. Zane C. Hodges’ Grace Evangelical Society article on July 13, 2016, “Is God’s Truth in You? I John 2:4b,” at www.faithalone.org

10. Anderson, pg. 74; 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.

11. Ibid., pp. 74-75.

12. Bauer, pg. 325.

13. Anderson, pp. 78-79.

14. Hodges, “Is God’s Truth in You? I John 2:4b.”

15. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 591.

16. Anderson, pg. 79.

17. Bauer, pg. 1002.

18. Anderson, pg. 80.

19. Ibid., pp. 80-81.

20. Bauer, pg. 996.

21. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 591.

22. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3614 to 3618.

23. Anderson, pg. 81.

24. Constable, pg. 38; cf. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3618 to 3630; Dillow, pp. 488-489; 612-626.

25. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3622 to 3630.

26. Bauer, pp. 630-631.

27. Evans, pg. 1720.

28. Anderson, pg. 81 cites Chuck W. Colson, Loving God (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1983), pp. 19-25. 29. Ibid., pp. 81-84.

I John 2 – Part 1

“My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” I John 2:1

When the apostle John announced the message he and the other apostolic eyewitnesses heard from the Lord Jesus “that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1:5), he then addressed different responses from Christians to this message about God’s complete holiness. Some believers can lie by claiming to have fellowship or closeness with God while living in darkness or disobedience to Him (1:6). Others may walk in the light as God is in the light by being open and honest to what He reveals to them so they can enjoy fellowship with the Lord because of the all-sufficient cleansing blood of Jesus Christ (1:7).

While experiencing true fellowship with God as they walk in the light with Him, a Christian may deceive himself and claim to “have no sin” (1:8a)which would mean he no longer needs the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ. To make such a claim means that God’s “truth is not in us” shaping our thoughts (1:8b). There is never a time in a Christian’s life when he or she does not need the cleansing power of Christ’s shed blood.

When the light of God makes us aware of our sin as we walk in the light, God instructs us to “confess” or agree with His conclusions about those specific sins so He can forgive them and restore our closeness or fellowship with Him (1:9a). Confessing our known sins to God also enables Him “to cleanse us from all” the unknown sins in our lives (1:9b).

But what happens when we discover specific sin in our lives while walking in the light and we claim we have not sinned? The apostle John tells us: “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” (I John 1:10). We are calling God “a liar, and His word is not in us” as a controlling influence when we deny the specific sins we have committed. We elevate ourselves above God and His Word so that we determine what is and what is not sin. We are telling God that His judgment of us is wrong, and He is therefore “a liar.” 1

For example, God’s Word forbids adultery (cf. Exod. 20:14). Jesus even taught that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matt. 5:27-28). But if a believer commits adultery with a woman physically or mentally and justifies it by saying, “Everyone is doing this,“ or “No one will ever know so it won’t hurt anyone,” he is calling God “a liar” and His Word is “not in” him in a controlling way at that point.

No Christian is under the influence of God’s Word when he denies the specific sin God’s Word reveals in his or her life. Since he denies what God’s light shows, he is making God a liar, which demonstrates that he does not have fellowship with God (1:6) Who is Light (1:5). 2

This denial of sin is what causes the burden of guilt in our lives. “Guilt is like the red warning light on the dashboard of a car. You can either stop and deal with the trouble, or you can decide the light is giving a false signal. The latter decision is big trouble.

“… Many a Christian has been stuck on the side of the road with engine failure because of ignoring the warning signal of guilt… When Hymenaeus and Alexander (I Tim. 1:19-20) ignored their consciences, they made a shipwreck of their faiths. It was Leo Tolstoy who said, ‘The antagonism between life and conscience may be removed in two ways: By a change of life or by a change of conscience.’” 3

By ignoring the guilt of sin in our lives, we are desensitizing our consciences to sin and to God. The longer we deny our sin and guilt, the more calloused our consciences become to the Lord and His Word.

The apostle John did not want his readers to think his insistence on the sinfulness of Christians (1:8, 10) or the simplicity of confession and forgiveness (1:9) are encouragements to sin, 4 so he writes: “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (I John 2:1). Notice John’s fatherly love and concern for his readers when he addresses them as “My little children.” The Greek word translated “little children” (teknia) means “little born ones” 5 and is used seven times by the apostle in this epistle (cf. 2:1, 12, 28; 3:7, 18; 4:4; 5:21) and once in his gospel (John 13:33). 6 The word “My” adds a further note of tenderness here compared to John’s “we” statements in chapter 1. This does not require us to conclude John’s readers were his personal converts, but they were very dear to him. 7

All that John wrote in I John 1:5-10 (“these things I write to you”) is meant to have his readers (including us) take sin seriously (“that you may not sin”) and do all they can to avoid it (2:1a). This does not mean he expects them never to ever sin again (cf. 1:8, 10). His intent is not to encourage or excuse sin. The perceptive Christian will allow his sinful tendencies to put him on guard against them, so he does not sin.

John also understood that though we are to vigorously shun sin in our Christian lives, the fact is it can and does take place in the lives of believers. Hence, John writes, “And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (2:1b). The word “if” in the phrase “if anyone sins” introduces a condition assumed to take place for the sake of the argument. 8

John does not want us to sin, but he knows none of us is perfect, so he assures us that “we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” What does the Lord Jesus do for the sinning Christian? Does He plead to God to keep us saved? This would not be necessary because in John’s gospel Christ guarantees that those who believe in Him for eternal life are secure forever (John 1:12; 3:15-16; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:35-40; 7:37-39; 10:28-29; 11:25-26)! Since Jesus’ promises are true and He is faithful to keep them, the believer is eternally secure and there is therefore no need for Christ to plead with God the Father not to cast sinning believers away. 9

The word “Advocate” (Paraklēton) means “one who gets called to the side of another to help” 10 or “one who appears in another’s behalf, mediator, intercessor, helper.” 11 One possible idea in I John 2:1 is of a defense attorney who takes up the case of his client before a tribunal. 12 We are not to give up on our Christian life when we do sin. Satan accuses us when we sin (Rev. 12:9-10), saying to God, “Give him back. He does not love You anymore.”But Jesus steps in and defends us because He is “righteous” – He will do what is right for us.

Anderson notes that “while the use of the word for a ‘lawyer’ is possible, but ‘mediator’ is more likely. When we sin, we don’t need a lawyer (see Rom. 8:33-34), because no one can lay any charge against God’s elect, but we do need an intercessor, a mediator, a High Priest.” 13

How does the Lord Jesus express His advocacy of us? Luke 22:31-33 illustrates how Jesus intercedes for us right now as He sits next to God the Father in heaven. 14 In the context of this passage, the disciples had been arguing with each other at the Lord’s Supper about which of them was the greatest (22:24). Christ then challenged them not to look at greatness as the world does but to pursue greatness before God which involves faithful servanthood (22:25-30).

Before Jesus tells Peter he will deny knowing Christ three times (22:35), Jesus informs Peter that Satan has asked permission to sift him like wheat (22:31). The process of sifting removes unwanted chaff and pebbles from the wheat. There was something in Peter that God wanted to remove. But what is it?

After Jesus tells Peter how He will pray for him (22:32), Peter exclaims, Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” (22:33). Peter was determined to remain loyal to Christ in his own strength. But God must remove or “sift” this self-reliant attitude from Peter before He can greatly use him. Hence, the Lord allows Satan to sift Peter of the “chaff” or “pebbles” of self-reliance from his life.

Christ does offer encouragement to Peter (and us) when He says, “But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” (Luke 22:32). This verse gives us insight about how Jesus serves as our Advocate when we fail Him. Christ prays three things for Peter (and us):

  • “that your faith should not fail” – Jesus knows Peter is going to fail Him by denying three times that he knows Christ. But Jesus prays that Peter will not be so shattered by his failure that he gives up and leaves Christian service. Jesus is not looking for perfect Christians to serve Him. He is looking for faithful believers who get back up when they fall (22:30; cf. Psalm 37:23-24). Although “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29), the faith that appropriates those gifts is nevertheless subject to failure (2 Tim. 2:18). 15 Jesus intercedes for Christians that this will not happen.
  • and when you have returned to Me” – This means Peter would turn away from the Lord. But Jesus prays for Peter (and us) that we will return both to fellowship with Christ and to Christian service. Satan wanted to sift Peter of his faith, but the Lord wanted to sift him of his self-reliance. Jesus prays for us that our faith will not give out completely. It is also important to recognize that Peter’s leadership was not disqualified because he had weaknesses. God does not disqualify us because we have weaknesses. He sifts us.
  • strengthen your brethren” – Christ prays that when Peter is restored to fellowship and Christian service, he will be able to “strengthen” other believers because Satan will be seeking to knock them down and out of Christian service (cf. I Peter 5:8). This informs us that Jesus prays the sifting process will equip us to strengthen others. It is impossible to strengthen someone else unless you have been sifted yourself. Once we have been through the sifting process, we can offer comfort to others who are being sifted.

If you are a Christian who thinks you have failed the Lord so badly that you are forever disqualified to serve the Lord, Jesus wants you to know He has not given up on you nor has God the Father or God the Holy Spirit. In fact, the Holy Spirit also intercedes for you to help you in your weaknesses: 26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” (Rom. 8:26-27). When we encounter failure and pain (Rom. 8:18-25), we may not know exactly how to pray to God, so the Holy Spirit helps us by praying on our behalf (“makes intercession for us”) to God the Father, telling Him exactly what is on our hearts (8:26b). The word “groanings” expresses feelings of compassion for our weak condition. The Holy Spirit requests the Father’s help for us with deep compassion (cf. Ephes. 6:18).

Even though we cannot hear the Holy Spirit’s intercession for us, God the Father can hear and understand Him. So not only does the Holy Spirit pray on our behalf, but we have a heavenly Father “who searches” our hearts and “knows what the mind of the Spirit is” (8:27a).The Holy Spirit makes our hearts understandable to the Father. We can be assured that the Holy Spirit’s prayers for us are effective in securing God’s help for us because the Spirit prays on our behalf “according to the will of God” (8:27b).

For example, when our children were infants, my wife would tune in to each child’s wordless cry. She learned to distinguish a cry for food from a cry for attention, an earache cry from a stomachache cry. To me the sounds were identical, but not to their mother who instinctively discerned the meaning of the helpless child’s cry. The Holy Spirit has resources of sensitivity beyond those of the most discerning mother. The Spirit of God can detect needs we cannot articulate. So as the Spirit prays for us, He gives content and expression to our heavenly Father as to the deep things of our hearts. He makes us understandable to the Father. When we do not know what to pray the Holy Spirit fills in the blanks.

During times of failure, we need to know that God understands us. Even if we can’t express ourselves well, our compassionate Father in heaven will understand how we feel and what we need because of the intercessory work of His Son and the Holy Spirit in us. When we feel understood, we really begin to experience hope. Because if God understands our hearts and our needs, then He can do something about them.

But what assurance do we have that God the Father will listen to the advocacy of His Son after we have sinned? John tells us, “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” (I John 2:2). The word “propitiation” (hilasmos) means “appeasement” or “expiation.” 16 Propitiation refers to the satisfaction God the Father felt when Jesus paid the penalty for all our sins (John 19:30). God’s holy demands were satisfied when He looked at the “Righteous” One’s nail-pierced hands on the cross. Jesus paid the penalty we deserved (“death” – Rom. 6:23b) in full when He took our place on the cross.

Therefore, we do not have to punish ourselves when we do sin because Christ has already taken our full punishment when He died in our place. Some of us may struggle to believe God has forgiven us after we confess our sins to Him (1:9). We may think we have sinned too much for God to pardon us, so guilt feelings persist long after we confess to the Lord. Satan can use such feelings to make believers doubt that their Advocate can secure God’s mercy when they do sin. But John wants us to know and believe that God is fully satisfied no matter how badly or often we have sinned.

Our sympathetic High Priest (Heb. 4:14-16) is seated at the Father’s right hand pointing to His nail-scarred hands and to the mercy seat as He prays for us. It is especially crucial for us to know and believe that the Father is completely satisfied after we have committed sin no matter how often or badly we have sinned. John assures us of this when he writes, “and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (2:2b).

“That’s why John lets us know in no uncertain terms that the death of Christ not only satisfied God’s anger against my sins and the sins of other believers, but also for the sins of the entire world (verses like John 14:19, 27, 30; 15:18; 16:33; and 17:6-26 should make it apparent that the world includes all unbelievers). That means the work of Christ was so great that it not only was sufficient to satisfy God’s anger against the sins of the believers, but also men like Nero, Hitler, Stalin, and Osama bin Laden. If His sacrifice was enough to satisfy God’s justice with regard to their sins, it is certainly enough to take care of mine and yours.” 17

Some erroneously conclude that since Christ’s death was the propitiation or satisfaction not only for the sins of believers but also for the entire world, then all the world (including non-believers) is saved and going to heaven (universalism). But this view fails to understand that verse 2 is only saying the world is savable because Christ died for all people. Only those who believe in Christ and His all-sufficient death on the cross are saved and going to heaven (Acts 16:31; John 3:14-18). 18

“The argument that if Christ paid for all human sin all would be saved is a misconception. The removal of sin as a barrier to God’s saving grace does not automatically bring regeneration and eternal life. The sinner remains dead and ‘alienated from the life of God’ (Eph 4:18). At the final judgment of the lost (Rev 20:11-15), sin as sin is not considered. Instead, men are ‘judged according to their works’ (Rev 20:12) to demonstrate to each that their ‘works’ give them no claim on God’s salvation.” 19

When Christians confess their sins to God, we must not be overwhelmed with our own sin because Jesus’ death on the cross fully satisfied God’s holy demand to punish sin. Christ’s intercession to the Father as our Advocate assures us of this.

Please understand that although Jesus Christ died for all people (I John 2:2; I Tim. 2:5-6), not all people will be saved and go to heaven. We must believe the gospel of Jesus Christ which says Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose from the dead so that “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16b; I Cor. 15:3-6). If you are not sure you have eternal life and a future home in Jesus’ heaven, Christ invites you right now to believe in Him alone for His free gift of eternal life.

To “believe in” (pisteuōn eis) Jesus means to be persuaded that He is speaking the truth and is therefore worthy of your trust. 20 If you are convinced Jesus is telling truth in John 3:16 and is therefore worthy of your trust, then believe or trust Christ alone (not your good life, prayers, or religion) to give you His gift of everlasting life. When you believe in Christ for His free gift of eternal life, you can be just as certain of heaven as the people who are already there. Knowing we are going to heaven is not a guess; it is a guarantee from Jesus Christ (John 14:1-3).

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, thank You for making it possible for sinners to have fellowship with a completely holy God. Thank You for being our Advocate before God the Father when we sin in our Christian lives. Your all-sufficient death guarantees our forgiveness when we confess our sins to God no matter how often or badly we have sinned. Thank You for interceding for us when we do fail so our faith does not fail. And as You pray for us, we can return both to fellowship with You and to Christian service so we can strengthen others who go through similar failures. There is always hope of redemption in You Lord Jesus. Please use us to share this everlasting hope with those who need it the most. In Your mighty name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pg. 28.

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. 590.

3. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pp. 60-61.

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 3553.

5. Ibid., Kindle Location 3558.

6. Ibid.

7. Constable, pg. 30.

8. Ibid. The phrase kai ean tis hamartē is a third-class condition in the Greek text.

9. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 590.

10. Constable, pp. 30-31.

11. 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. 766.

12. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3566.

13. Anderson, pp. 65-66.

14. Ibid., pp. 66-67; Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3566-3575.

15. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 590.

16. Bauer, pg. 474.

17. Anderson, pp. 67-68.

18. Anderson writes, “Theologians usually distinguish between sufficient and efficient. The death of Christ was sufficient penalty to pay for the sins of the entire world, but only efficient for those who believe in Him. It’s like being given a gift certificate to Baskin Robbins. The gift has been paid for. That which was paid was sufficient to cover whatever the certificate says. But that certificate has no real meaning in your life until you go to Baskin Robbins and appropriate what was paid for you. Only then will you enjoy the gift. Before going to the store, the gift certificate was sufficient, but not efficient.” (Maximum Joy, pp. 68-70).

19. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 590.

20. Bauer, pg. 816.

I John 1 – Part 5

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9

A gifted Christian counselor and speaker writes, “I work a lot with brave clients who are struggling with addiction. Even if you don’t deal with addiction all day, you probably know as well as I do that addiction is a cunning and baffling foe. Addiction is the one disease that tells you that you don’t have a disease. It lies and tells you everything is fine and ‘You’ve got this’ and you can go right on ahead and have that drink because ‘You can control it this time.’ 

“Yeah. You so don’t have this. You can’t control it.” 1

Like an addiction, we have a disease called sin that lies to us and tells us everything is fine when it is not fine. Whether we are a non-Christian or Christian, we have the tendency to deceive ourselves. To tell ourselves we are okay when we are not okay.

Each of us has a dark side within us. “Even a religious cynic like Mark Twain said that every man is like the moon; he has a dark side that he doesn’t want anyone to see.” 2

Everything we do is stained with sin (Isaiah 64:6). You may counter, “But a mother nursing her baby is not sin. Nor is sharing the gospel with a neighbor.” While it is true that nursing a baby or sharing the gospel with a neighbor is not sinful, what these statements fail to address is the unknown sins that exist in the nursing mother and person who shares the gospel. Such statements overlook the fact that every person has the same sinful nature as the first man (Adam) who sinned (Romans 5:12-19; cf. 3:9-23). 3

Anderson explains, “Scientists have discovered that the worm does not enter the apple from the outside in, but from the inside out. It’s actually planted there by a huge insect, a little egg in the blossom of the apple. And then as the egg hatches, so to speak, the worm eats away at the apple from the inside out. Satan is like a giant insect. He planted an egg in the flower of humanity, way back there in the Garden of Eden. And it hatched, and the worm of sin has eaten all the way through the human race.” 4

Hence, King David wrote, “In sin my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5b). He is not referring to being conceived out of wedlock. He is saying that from the time he was conceived, there was sin present. 5 Every human being is conceived with a sin nature.

In his first epistle, the apostle John announced the message he and the other apostolic eyewitnesses heard from the Lord Jesus “that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1:5). He then addressed two different responses from Christians to this message about God’s complete holiness. Some believers can claim to have fellowship or closeness with God while living in darkness or disobedience to Him (1:6a). Such a claim is a “lie” and failure to “practice the truth” about God’s holiness (1:6b). But the believer who walks “in the light as God is in the light” by being open and honest with God about whatever God reveals to him, is able to enjoy “fellowship” or closeness with God because of the all-sufficient cleansing blood of Jesus Christ (1:7). So, notice the contrast between deceit (1:6) and honesty (1:7) before God.

John anticipates that when a Christian is experiencing true fellowship with the Lord by being open and honest with Him (1:7), he or she may be tempted to think they are totally free from sin at least in that moment of fellowship with God. He writes, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (I John 1:8). Again, notice that the apostle John includes himself and the other apostles when he uses the word “we” in this verse. Even the apostles would be deceiving themselves by saying “we have no sin.” Denying that we have a sin nature is self-deception. The “truth” of God’s Word teaches us about our own sinfulness (Romans 3:23; 5:12-19). If we deny we have sin, God’s “truth is not in us” as a controlling factor. 6

Constable writes, “If a Christian claims to be enjoying fellowship with God, he may think that he is temporarily or permanently entirely sinless. Yet our sinfulness exceeds our consciousness of sinfulness. We have only a very limited appreciation of the extent to which we sin. We commit sins of thought as well as deed, sins of omission as well as commission, and sins that spring from our nature as well as from our actions. This verse warns against all forms of the heresy of perfectionism… God’s truth, as Scripture reveals it, does not have a full hold on us—it is not controlling our thinking—if we make this claim [‘I have no sin”]. ‘In us’ suggests not that we have the facts in our mental grasp, but that they have control over us. They are in us like alcohol is in the stomach, rather than like a penny is in a pocket. They influence how we behave.” 7

No one in whom God’s truth is fully at home, can even say for one instant, “I have no sin.” To say such a thing would make oneself without need of the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ. Christians are in constant need of Jesus’ blood to cleanse them because there is never a time during their lives on earth that they have no sin. Even if they are not conscious of any sin in their life, it would be a lie for them to say, “I have no sin.”

Some interpret the phrase “have no sin” (1:8) to refer to the sin nature or sin principle and conclude that was done away with at new birth. 8 They refer to Romans 6:6 where the apostle Paul says, “knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.” They understand “our old man” is our sin nature or sin principle which refers to all that you were before you became a Christian.

The problem with this understanding is Paul continues to address the believer’s battle with sin in Romans 6-7 (cf. Galatians 5:15-26). For example, he writes, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.” (Romans 6:12). If the sin nature or sin principle has been done away with at conversion, how can Paul command his Christian readers not to let sin reign in their mortal bodies? And if our sin nature or sin principle is gone, how can Paul write, 17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me… 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.” (Romans 7:16, 20)? It is best to understand that all Christians still have sin to deal with after their new birth. 9

The Greek word translated “done away with” (katargeō) in Romans 6:6, means to “put out of business” or “deposed.” “The idea is that the body of sin no longer has any jurisdiction or legitimate authority over the new believer.” 10

Some understand that when we become Christians through faith in Christ alone, we are no longer sinners, but saints. Those holding to this position argue that Satan wants to deceive us into thinking we have not changed at the core of our being at our conversion, so we are more vulnerable to temptation and sin after becoming Christians. While it is true that we become saints (set apart from our sin and guilt) in our position at the moment of conversion (cf. I Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1; Ephes. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; et al.), we are still sinners by nature.

Near the end of his life, the apostle Paul says of himself, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” (I Timothy 1:15). While some would say Paul was referring to his pre-Christian experience in this verse, the present tense (“I am”) of this Greek verb (eimi) does not allow for it. 11 After decades of being a Christian, Paul still speaks of himself as a “sinner.”

Even Jesus’ half-brother James refers to his Christian brothers and sisters 12 as sinners when he writes, “Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8b).

There may be some of you reading this article who are thinking, “Compared to the terrorists who took down the Word Trade Centers, I have no sin at all.” Or “I am not as bad as him or her.” Both statements of comparison are forms of self-deceit and self-righteousness. God is not comparing our sin natures to the sin natures of other sinners. God compares our sin nature to His only perfect Son Who had no sin nature (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18) and He says we all “fall short of His glory” (Romans 3:23).

For example, Jesus never had a sinful thought, but you and I sin with our thoughts repeatedly throughout the day. Christ never said a sinful word, but you and I sin with our mouths when provoked in heavy traffic. Jesus never hated anyone, but we sometimes can’t stand to be around the people we live with. The bottom line is all of us have a sin nature except Jesus Christ. 13

It would be wise for us to recall the words of G. K. Chesterson when a newspaper editorial asked, “What’s wrong with the world?” Chesterson replied in writing, “I am.” 14

As we grow closer and closer to Jesus Christ (I John 1:1-4), the light of His absolute holiness will expose our lack of holiness (I John 1:5-8). Perhaps this is why the apostle Paul refers to himself as the chief of sinners near the end of his life (I Tim. 1:15). As he grew closer to Jesus, the more Christ’s light of holiness revealed the depths of Paul’s own sinfulness. During this life on earth, there will always be a dark side to our lives that we must face.

While walking in the light as God is in the light, we are exposed to God’s character and Word which by contrast makes us more aware of our own sinfulness (1:7-8). When this happens, John instructs us: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9). As mentioned previously, there are some who understand I John to contain tests to determine if one has eternal life. 15 They think this verse is saying we must confess our sins to go to heaven.

This understanding has several problems. First, it fails to realize John is talking about having fellowship with God and other believers (1:3-4), not salvation. Second, John includes himself and the other apostles with his use of the words “we” and “us” in this context (1:1-8). Surely, no one would conclude that the apostles were not saved at the time John wrote this epistle (cf. John 1:35-2:11). Third, confessing one’s sins to have eternal life is contrary to what John taught in his gospel which emphasized believing in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God to have eternal life (John 20:31). In fact, John uses the word “believe” ninety-nine times in his gospel, 16 but he never says one must confess his or her sins to have eternal life. God’s Word does not contradict Itself. So, I John 1:9 cannot be talking about how to receive eternal life.

First John 1:9 instructs Christians what to do to maintain or restore fellowship with God when they become aware of sin in their lives. We are to “confess” those sins to the Lord. The Greek word translated “confess” (homologeō) is a compound word that literally means “same” (homo) + “to speak” (logeō) or “to speak the same thing” or “to agree.” 17 But with whom are we to agree? In the context the answer is God (cf. 1:5-8). When God reveals unconfessed sin in our lives as we walk in the light, we are to confess or agree with His conclusions. So, when we confess our sins to God, we are agreeing with His view of our sins. He hates our sins (Psalms 45:7). Our sins deeply hurt Him (Ephesians 4:30). 18

“We are admitting that what the light exposes is not just a mistake, a bad habit, or a mere product of our upbringing. It’s sin.” 19

It is important to note that the word “our” in the phrases “confess our sins”and “forgive us our sins” (1:9), is not in the Greek text. The Greek text reads “confess the sins” (homologōmen tas hamartias) and “forgive us the sins” (aphē hēmin tas hamartias). The definite article “the” (tas) in the phrase “forgive us the sins” is what grammarians call “the article of previous reference.” 20 What this means is when we honestly confess “the” specific sin or sins God’s light reveals in our lives, “the” specific sins we confess are forgiven.

This tells us that when we become aware of sin in our lives, it is this awareness that breaks our fellowship or closeness with God. So, if we confess the sins of which we are aware, then God is “faithful and just” to forgive those specific sins. The word “forgive” (aphiēmi) can mean to “cancel” a debt that is owed. 21 This is judicial or positional forgiveness whereby God cancels our sin debt to Him the moment we believe in Jesus for His complete forgiveness of all our sins so we can become His forever children (cf. Acts 10:43; Col. 2:13-14; John 1:12; 6:37). We are declared totally righteous before God in His courtroom at the moment of faith in Christ (Romans 3:21-4:5; 8:33). John is not talking about this kind of forgiveness in I John. In I John the apostle is talking about personal or fellowship forgiveness whereby the barrier that sin creates between a Christian and God is removed so his fellowship or closeness with God is restored. 22

An example of this can be found in Luke 17:3-4 whenJesus said to His disciples, 3 Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.” Two brothers (permanent relationship) are estranged because one brother has sinned against the other. The sin of that brother does not destroy their relationship, they are still brothers, but it does break their fellowship or closeness with one another. This fellowship cannot be restored until the sinning brother “repents” and comes to the offended brother and seeks his forgiveness (17:3). Jesus says the offended brother is to forgive the sinning brother even if he commits the same sin “seven times in a day.” Why? Because they are brothers and always will be. They have an eternal relationship through Christ. 23

This is one of the reasons our heavenly Father is “faithful” to forgive us when we confess our sins to Him because we have an eternal relationship with Him (John 6:35-40; 10:28-29; 17:3). There may be times when we think that going to God for forgiveness of the same sin with no victory in sight presumes upon His grace and mercy. We may ask ourselves, “How can the Lord forgive me over and over for the same sin?” The simple answer is God is “faithful.” His faithfulness is not based upon ours. He has promised to forgive us when we come to Him on His terms. His forgiveness for our fellowship or closeness with Him is based on His forgiveness for our relationship with Him. 24

For example, when parents decide to have children, they already know their children will commit sins. They are aware that their children will be imperfect. But this does not prevent the parents from choosing to have the children. And when the child is conceived, an eternal relationship begins. Nothing, including death, can change the fact that this child will always be the child of his or her parents. So, in a sense, since this relationship will last forever, the child has positional forgiveness for all his or her future sins. And based on this positional forgiveness, the parents are predisposed to fellowship-forgiveness whenever their child sins against them but also chooses to come back to them and seek their forgiveness. God gave us positional or relationship forgiveness when we became His forever children through belief in Jesus Christ (John 1:12; Ephes. 1:7; Col. 2:13-14). Based on that, He will always be “faithful” to grant us fellowship-forgiveness when we confess our sins to Him (I John 1:9; cf. Matt. 6:12, 14-15) to restore our closeness to Him. 25

You may be thinking that this does not seem right to keep coming over and over again to God asking for forgiveness for the same sin. Isn’t that taking advantage of God’s grace and mercy? It seems contrary to God’s holiness. Oh, but it is right for God to forgive His children when they confess their sins to Him. 26 This forgiveness is not contrary to God’s holiness – He is “just” (I John 1:9). The word for “just” (dikaios) is the same word used as a title to Jesus Christ in I John 2:1 where it is translated “the Righteous One.” When Jesus finished paying the penalty of the sins of the world on the cross (John 19:30; I Cor. 15:3-6), He satisfied God’s holy demand to punish sin (I John 2:1-2). So, God is not compromising His holiness when He forgives the sinning Christian when he or she confesses their sin. This forgiveness is not based on our deservedness or performance. It is based on the atoning sacrifice of Christ. 27 Christ’s shed blood is sufficient for the sinning Christian (1:7; 2:1-2).

I am not suggesting that God takes sin lightly nor should we. God hates sin. He is grieved by our sins. The Lord wants His children to gain victory over that sin. But until a believer is open and honest with God about the sin God reveals to him or her, that believer will not be in fellowship with God. Nor will he or she have access to God’s power while living out of fellowship with the Lord.

There are some Christians who teach that a Christian does not need to confess his sins and ask forgiveness because a believer already has complete forgiveness of all his sins including his future sins (Ephes. 1:7; Col. 2:13-14). But this conclusion confuses the believer’s positional forgiveness (Acts 10:43; Ephes. 1:7) with his fellowship forgiveness (I John 1:9). A Christian who does not see his need to seek his heavenly Father’s forgiveness when he disobeys the Lord will not be very sensitive to the multiple ways he grieves God. In addition, the Lord Jesus taught His believing disciples to seek forgiveness of their sins when He taught them how to pray each day (e.g., the expression “give us this day our daily bread” precedes the request “forgive us our debts”Matt. 6:11-12). 28

We have talked about confessing the specific sins in our lives of which we are aware. But what about all the unknown sin in our lives? The last part of I John 1:9 explains that when we confess the specific sins of which we are aware, God is “faithful and just” to not only forgive those specific sins we confessed, but He will also “cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This “all unrighteousness” refers to all the other sins in our lives that we are not aware of. It has been estimated that 90% of the decisions we make are unconscious in nature. 29 There are many sinful choices we all make of which we have no conscious knowledge. We all have far more sin in our lives that we do not know about. But God sees all our sins – the sins we consciously choose (“our sins”) and the sins we unconsciously choose (“all unrighteousness”). We do not need to agonize about the sins we are not conscious of because the shed blood of Jesus Christ “cleanses us” from all of them when we confess the specific sins God’s light reveals to us (1:7, 9). Nothing in our lives is left uncleansed.

In conclusion, the apostle John’s primary concern in I John is a believer’s fellowship or intimacy with God. This is emphasized in the first chapter where the word “fellowship” occurs four times (1:3, 6-7). Present and known sin in the life of a Christian breaks his fellowship or closeness with God, but it does not jeopardize his eternal relationship with the Lord. God is described as a gracious and merciful heavenly Father Who wants to help His children grow in their relationship with Him. He wants to help His children get back up when they fall and hurt themselves. He does not wait for them to mess up so He can stomp on them or punish them. Instead, He comes along side of them to help them get back up so they can continue on the right path.

Anderson illustrates this with something extraordinary that happened at the 2,000 Sydney, Australia Olympic games. “The gun went off for the running of the 400-meter final. Not far into the first turn the runner from Great Britain pulled a hamstring muscle and immediately came to a halt, searing pain shooting up and down the back of his leg. Of course, the people watching in the stands felt his pain and expected him to limp dejectedly off the track. To their surprise he did not limp off the track. He had spent years preparing for that race. It was a dream come true to qualify to represent his country in the Olympic Games. He was not prepared to limp off the track. That wasn’t in his mind. That’s not how the script was written. So, he kept moving forward, limping along, staying in his lane so as not to be disqualified from a race he had no hope of winning.

“As he limped/skipped along, the grimace in his face turned to tears. The race had long since finished, but the fans were on their feet cheering, tears streaming down their faces. The other runners, who had finished the race, turned around to see what was happening. The stands were clapping, cheering, and crying all at the same time for they could see the determination in this Afro-Englishman to finish the race.

“Then there was a disturbance barreling its way through the stands and onto the track. It was a big, burley, Afro-Englishman fighting through the security guards, running toward the Olympic runner. He went up to this limping Olympian and put his arm around him. Suddenly, everyone knew what was happening. This was a loving father coming down to help his son off the track, saying, ‘Son, son, you don’t have to finish this race.’ His son said, ‘Dad, I’ve got to finish this race.’ So, his father responded, ‘Then, son, I’m going to finish it with you.’ So together, arm in arm, they went around the track and finished the race with the crowd cheering and stomping their feet.

“What a picture of the love of our heavenly Father for His wayward children and how He longs to come down from heavenly heights to pick us up when we stumble, to put His arm around us, to help us finish the race, even if we have to limp all the way home. All He asks is that we don’t lie or deny the reality of our pulled hamstrings. Limp if we must, but don’t leave the track. Stay in the race. Don’t try to hide your failure from Him. He’s there to help us home. And someday, after a particularly serious fall, you may look back and realize your most intimate moments with Him were when He was there to pick you up when you turned your face toward Him.” 30

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word which instructs us not to deny the sin Your light reveals to us, but to agree with Your point of view – that it is sin, and it is repulsive to You. All You ask is that we be honest with You about our sin. All of us can deceive ourselves into thinking we are not nearly as bad as Your Word points out to us. We can refer to our sin as a bad habit, a mistake, or weakness, when it is an abomination in Your sight. Knowing that You are faithful and just to forgive our sins the moment we confess them to You, invites us to be honest with You instead of hiding in the darkness of broken fellowship. Thank You, Lord God, for putting Your arm around us when we do fall and walking with us through the pain of our own sinful choices. There are still consequences to face, but we do not have to face them alone. For You are with us and You promise never to leave us or forsake us. Thank You heavenly Father for being faithful even when we are faithless. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Jenna Riemersma, Altogether You (Marietta, GA: Pivotal Press, 2020), pp. 42-43.

2. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 49.

3. Adapted from Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. 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 3519 to 3523; cf. 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. 589.

7. Tom Constable, Notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pg. 25.

8. Ibid., pg. cites Stephen S. Smalley, 1, 2, 3 John, Word Biblical Commentary series (Waco: Word Books, 1984), pg. 29.

9. Adapted from Ibid., pp. 50-51.

10. Ibid., pg. 52.

11. Ibid., pg. 51 says “the grammar here will not allow for the ‘historical’ present because the “historical’ present is never used with the verb ‘to be,” citing Daniel B. Wallae, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996), pg. 529.

12. Throughout the book of James the author refers to his readers as “brethren” (1:1, 16, 19; et al.), as those “brought …forth by the word of truth” (1:18), and as having “the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2:1), all of which are terms or phrases used of genuine Christians.

13. Adam’s sin nature is passed down through the father. Since Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit and not of a sinful human father (Matthew 1:18, 20), Christ’s human nature is perfect and without sin (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18).

14. Anderson, pg. 52.

15. 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).

16. John 1:7, 12, 50; 2:11, 23; 3:12(2), 15, 16, 18(3), 36(2); 4:39, 41, 42, 48, 53; 5:24, 38, 44, 45, 46, 47(2); 6:29, 30, 35, 36, 40, 47, 64, 69; 7:5, 31, 38(2), 39, 48; 8:24, 30, 31, 45, 46; 9:35, 36, 38; 10:25, 26, 37, 38(3), 42; 11:25, 26, 27(2), 42, 45, 48; 12:11, 36, 37, 38, 39, 42, 44(2), 46, 47; 13:19; 14:12; 16:9, 27; 17:8, 20, 21; 19:35; 20:29, 31(2).

17. Constable, pg. 25; Anderson, pg. 53; Zane C. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 590.

18. Anderson, pg. 53.

19. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1719.

20. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3528.

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. 156.

22. Anderson, pg. 54.

23. Ibid., pp. 54-55.

24. Ibid., pg. 55.

25. Adapted from Ibid.

26. Ibid.

27. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3532 to 3537.

28. Ibid., Kindle Location 3537 to 3545.

29. Ted Roberts, Seven Pillars of Freedom Workbook (Pure Desire Ministries International, 2015), pg. 232.

30. Anderson, pp. 56-58.

I John 1 – Part 4

“But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” I John 1:7

As stated in previous articles, the book of I John is not written to non-Christians telling them how to get to heaven, but to genuine Christians instructing them how to enjoy intimate fellowship or closeness with the apostolic eyewitnesses, and ultimately with God the Father and God the Son (1:3-4). Hence, it is not surprising that John begins the body of his letter with a discussion on fellowship. In I John 1:5-2:2 he shares basic principles for having fellowship with the Lord.  

Today we will look at the first condition John addresses for having fellowship with God. This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” (I John 1:5). John speaks of “the message” that he and the other apostolic eyewitnesses “heard from” the Lord Jesus (1:5a) Whom they had heard, seen, and touched (1:1-2). Christ taught the apostles “that God is light” (15b). The nature of God as light determines the conditions for fellowship with Him. 1 If we want to experience close fellowship with God, we must embrace the fact that He “is light.”

When John says, “God is light,” he is probably thinking of Jesus’ words, “The light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19). 2Evans explains, “The function of light is to reveal things as they truly are. Light exposes. If you shine a light down a city alley in the middle of night, you’ll see cockroaches scatter because they want to do their dirty work in secret. If you want God’s personal presence and activity in your life, you must be willing to allow His light to expose your sinful thoughts, attitudes, speech, and actions that are inconsistent with His character.” 3

As “light,” God reveals His absolute holiness which both exposes our sin and condemns it. So, if anyone walks in the darkness, he or she is hiding from the truth which the Light reveals (cf. John 3:19-20). 4

Next John tells us “In Him [God] there is no darkness at all” (1:5c). “Darkness represents sin and anything contrary to the character of God.” 5 There is nothing sinful or deceiving about God’s character. God cannot produce darkness or sin.

And as light, God cannot be contaminated. He cannot be in the presence of our sin. Psalm 5:4 says, “For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, nor shall evil dwell with You.” This is why Lucifer and his fallen angels had to leave when they rebelled against the Most High God (Ezekiel 28:15-19; Isaiah 14:12-14). Evil has no part in heaven and no part of God. 6

The Bible tells us that all people have sinned against God (Romans 3:23). How then can sinful people be close to a sinless God? More pertinent to John’s epistle, how can sinful Christians get close to a sinless God? John will answer this in this section.

John writes, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” (I John 1:6). Notice that John includes himself and his Christians readers (cf. 2:12-14; 5:13) when he uses the word “we” in this verse which means Christians are capable of walking in darkness. When Christians claim to be close to God (“have fellowship with Him”), but they are dishonest and distant from God, they “lie and do not practice the truth.” John understood that Christians can claim to be in fellowship with God while living in disobedience to Him (“walk in darkness”). Such a claim is a “lie” and failure to “practice the truth” because as “God is light and in Him there is not darkness at all” (1:5), it follows that darkness is a sphere where God is not, so to walk in darkness is to move in a realm devoid of God. Walking in darkness is living as though God did not exist. The only place to experience God is in the light, not in theology, not in head knowledge, but in the light. A Christian who claims to be close to God when walking in darkness or sin has lost touch with a completely holy God and is behaving contrary to “the truth” about God’s holiness. 7

The idea of walking in darkness suggests a desire to hide from God and His influence, much like Adam and Eve hid from God in the Garden of Eden after they disobeyed Him (cf. Genesis 3:8-10). Believers in Jesus can rationalize walking in darkness or sin with the best of hypocrites. Anderson lists some of our favorite rationalizations:

1. “Well, nobody is perfect.” Oh, that’s a good one. Since none of us can be perfectly sinless, I might as well raise the white flag and succumb to temptation. Hey, this is my sin and that’s yours. I won’t judge you; you don’t judge me.

2. “Everyone else is doing it.” This is what we hear from so many young couples who live together before marriage and expect God to bless their union. Of course, if everyone else is doing it, it must be OK. And what about drugs and beer? “All my friends are doing it and they go to church. It must be OK.”

3. “It’s a new generation.” Don’t you know the rules change from generation to generation? Really? Does God change from generation to generation? Does His standard of holiness change? I don’t think so.

4. “My needs aren’t being met through the normal channels. Therefore, it must be OK with God for me to get my needs met outside the normal channels.”

5. “The Bible doesn’t address this activity, so there must be freedom.”

6. “My dad makes lots of money. He won’t miss a couple of twenties from his wallet.”

7. “God created us to reproduce in our early teens, but in our culture, people are postponing marriage until their mid to late twenties. Surely God doesn’t expect us to deny ourselves for ten or fifteen years.”

8. “He started it.” Now there’s a good one. I can always blame my sin on being provoked by the sin of another. “Ya, I hit her, all right. But she shouldn’t have made me mad. It’s really her fault.” 8

All of us can be very creative when it comes to rationalizing our sin. But the reality is this type of rationalization can plunge us deep into the darkness 9 where God is not. Believers in Jesus who secretly or openly live in sin will experience misery. The apostle Paul writes, “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6). When Christians set their minds on carnal desires, they will experience the opposite of “life and peace.” They will experience “death” or varying degrees of separation from God. This “death” can include the torment of pain, depression, continual guilt, shame, and fear.

O. Hobart Mowrer, a prolific psychiatric writer in the world states: “Everyone in psychiatric hospitals for other than physiogenic reason is there because of unresolved guilt.” 10 Unresolved sin and guilt can make us miserable. Darkness is death. I think you will agree that this is bad news!

But the good news is seen in the next verse. “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (I John 1:7). One of the conditions for fellowship with God is to “walk in the light as” God “is in the light.” Notice John says to walk “in” (en) the light, not “according” (kata) to the light. Walking “according” to the light would refer to sinless perfection and would make fellowship with God impossible for sinful people. But the preposition “in” refers to walking in the sphere of God’s light where there is no darkness or dishonesty. In other words, to have fellowship with God we must be open and honest with Him, not sinless, as we walk in the light with Him.

“How do we do this? If I enter a lighted room and walk around in it, I am walking in the light; I am moving in a sphere which the light illuminates as it shines not only on me but upon everything around me. If I were to personalize the light, I could also say that I was walking in the presence of the light. Since according to this passage God not only is light (verse 5), but He is also in the light, to walk in the light must mean essentially to live in God’s presence, exposed to what He has revealed about Himself. This, of course, is done through openness in prayer and through openness to the Word of God in which He is revealed. By contrast, to ‘walk in darkness’ (verse 6) is to hide from God and to refuse to acknowledge what we know about Him.” 11

“It [walking in the light] is … to be responsive to the light which God sheds into the heart. It is an attitude of willingness to confess immediately every sin as soon as it is recognized to be sin. Such confession brings the Christian at once into moral agreement with God.” 12

Walking in the light means “to live in God’s presence, exposed to what He has revealed about Himself, and to ‘walk in darkness’ (v 6) is to hide from God and to refuse to acknowledge what is known about Him. The believer who wants fellowship with the Lord must maintain an openness to Him and a willingness to be honest in His presence about everything that God shows him.” 13

Hence, walking in the light has nothing to do with sinlessness, but a willingness to see sin and to treat it for what it really is. So, as we walk in the light in which God dwells (“as He is in the light”), His light will reveal any unconfessed sin in our lives. We then have a choice to make. We can either agree with God and confess our sin (1:9) or we can disagree with God and deny our sin (1:8, 10). Denying our sin will cast us into the darkness of broken fellowship with God. Confessing our sin will enable us to maintain close fellowship with God.

When we are open and honest with God, the Bible says we will “have fellowship with one another” (1:7). As we saw last time, “fellowship” (koinōnia) means a “close association involving mutual interests and sharing, … close relationship.” 14 Being open and honest before God enables us to share the light with Him. As we live in this sphere of light, our experience is illumined by the truth of Who God is. The “one another” refers to God and Christians in the context. 15

How can sinful believers enjoy fellowship with a sinless God? How can sinful Christians be close to a God Who does not allow sin in His presence? The last part of the verse explains. “And the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” Right now, you and I are not aware of all the sin that is in our lives. But God knows about it. And being the gracious and merciful God that He is, He does not reveal all our sin at once. If He did, we would be so overwhelmed by all our sin it would probably kill us on the spot.

But the reason we can enjoy closeness with our holy God even though we have all this unknown sin in our lives is because the blood of Christ “cleanses us from all sin.” Notice the present tense of “cleanses.” We do not need to do acts of penance to be forgiven and cleansed of our sins after we become Christians. 16 We simply keep walking in the light, as God is in the light, and although we remain sinful people, the blood of Jesus Christ keeps cleansing us of all our sins. So, no matter how badly or often Christians have sinned, the blood of Jesus is sufficient to cleanse them of all their sins when they are living openly to God’s revealing truth. Christ’s death on the cross for all our sins (cf. I John 2:1-2; Colossians 2:13-14) provides the basis of fellowship between a sinless God and sinful human beings.

While it is true that those who believe in Jesus for eternal life are positionally cleansed and forgiven of all their sins – past, present, and future (Acts 10:43; I Corinthians 6:11; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 2:13-14; Titus 3:4-7), “they still need ongoing cleansing based on Christ’s blood that enables imperfect children to have a genuine experience of sharing with a perfectly holy heavenly Father.” 17 Hence, the blood of Christ makes provision for both our positional forgiveness/cleansing of all our sins which enables us to enter God’s heaven (cf. Acts 10:43; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 2:13-14; Hebrews 9:22-10:18) and our practical or fellowship forgiveness/cleansing of sins which enables us to enjoy fellowship with God on earth (cf. I John 1:9; Matthew 6:12, 14-15).

It is important for Christians to understand that it is not their responsibility to uncover their own sin. They may have overly sensitive consciences and are worried that they have unconfessed sin in their lives, so they spend a lot of time examining themselves instead of focusing on the Lord. The Bible makes it clear that it is God’s responsibility to reveal our sin to us through the Holy Spirit and God’s Word (cf. John 16:8-11; 2 Timothy 3:16). But it is our responsibility to be open and honest with God when He does point out the sin that is in our lives so we can confess it to Him. The Bible promises that when we do confess our sin to the Lord, “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1:9). 

How can sinful Christians be close to a God Who does not allow sin in His presence? The apostle John tells us we simply keep walking in the light, as God is in the light, and although we remain sinful people, the blood of Jesus Christ keeps cleansing us of all our sins. This is good news that is worth sharing with others!!!

Prayer: Lord God, please help us to perceive You as You truly are. You are light. You are all that is pure, holy, gracious, love, merciful, and true. There is no darkness or deceit in You. As we grow in our understanding of Who You are, we choose to be open and honest with You, Lord, because You are a good, good God who is eager to forgive us and cleanse us, not forsake us nor condemn us. When we focus on our sin and shame, we can so easily retreat into the darkness where You are not. We shut You out of our lives because we perceive ourselves to be too bad for You to love us. But the truth is Lord, You know us better than we do, and You still love us and cherish Your time with us. Please help us to say “good-bye” to the lies that isolate us from You and Your family. Please cleanse us of those lies and hold us in Your everlasting arms of love and mercy. Hold us tight, Lord, and never let us go. We don’t ever want to be alone again. Thank You for letting us be open and vulnerable with You. Thank You for listening to us and loving us as we are. Oh, how we appreciate Your gentleness and graciousness with us. We love You heavenly Father, Lord Jesus, and Holy Spirit. You all are the best. Thank You all for loving us far more than we deserve or can comprehend. In Jesus’ matchless name we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pg. 20 cites Edmond D. Hiebert, “An Expositional Study of I John,” Bibliotheca Sacra (July-September 1988) 145:331.

2. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2333.

3. Ibid.

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 3486.

5. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 39.

6. Ibid., pg. 40.

7. 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. 589.

8. Anderson, pp. 41-42.

9. Ibid., pg. 42.

10. Ibid., cites Orval H. Mowrer, The Crisis in Psychiatry and Religion (Princeton: Van Nostrand Company, 1961), pp. 81-102.

11. Constable, pp. 22-23 quotes Zane C. Hodges, The Epistles of John: Walking in the Light of God’s Love (Irving, Tex.: Grace Evangelical Society, 1999), pp. 60-61.

12. Constable, pg. 23 quotes Lewis S. Chafer, Systematic Theology, 8 vols. (Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1947-48.), Volume 3, pg. 101.

13. 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. 552.

14. Wilkin, pg. 589.

15. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3502 to 3506; Wilkin, pg. 589; Evans, pg. 2333.

16. Anderson, pg. 43.

17. Wilkin, pg. 589.

I John 1 – Part 3

3 That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write to you that our joy may be full.” I John 1:3-4

The next two verses in I John contain the apostle John’s purpose for writing this book which is fellowship or closeness with God and other believers (1:3-4). 1 Some will argue that I John 5:13 is the purpose statement for John’s epistle since the apostle’s purpose statement in his gospel was near the end of the gospel of John (John 20:31).They conclude that I John was written to provide tests for professing believers in Jesus so they could know for sure they have eternal life. 2

But this view fails to understand that “there are five purpose statements in I John (1:3, 4; 2:1, 26; 5:13) plus ten imperatives (2:15, 24, 27, 28; 3:1, 7, 13; 4:1 [twice]; 5:21), any of which could possibly provide John’s purpose for writing.” 3 First John 1:3-4 provides the most comprehensive primary and secondary purposes in writing this epistle. 4

Wilkins notes that the words, “These things” in I John 5:13 do not refer to the entire book of I John, but to the verses immediately preceding it (5:6-12), observing that this near reference is consistent with John’s style throughout his epistle: 5

  • The statement “these things we write to you” (1:4) refers to what was just stated in verses 1:1-3.
  • The words, “these things I write to you, so that you may not sin” (2:1) refer to the teaching on sin in 1:5-10.
  • The statement, “These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you” (2:26) refers to the preceding discussion about antichrists (2:18-25).

To summarize the first two verses of I John: As the magnetic power of Jesus’ love draws us closer to Him (1:1), we are more motivated to tell others about Him (1:2). And as we proclaim Christ to others, we find ourselves drawn even closer to Him so that our fellowship or intimacy with Him deepens even more.

This is the purpose of I John: “That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” (I John 1:3). The “we” and “us” in this verse refer to the apostle John and the eleven other apostles who were eyewitnesses (“we have seen and heard”) to Jesus in the first century. The “you” represents John’s readers 6 who had not known Jesus in the flesh as John and the other apostles had. 7 You and I cannot “look upon” or “handle” (1:1) the Lord Jesus Christ physically as did the first-century apostles until we are in Jesus’ presence in heaven 8 (cf. I John 3:2; Revelation 4:1-5:14; 7:9-17).

The reason the apostle John and other apostles “declare” what they had “seen and heard” regarding the Lord Jesus is so their readers (“you”) “also may have fellowship with” them. The Greek word for “fellowship” (koinōnia) means a “close association involving mutual interests and sharing, … close relationship.” 9 John wants his readers to have close fellowship with him and the other apostolic eyewitnesses to Jesus Christ. 10 This is known as horizontal fellowship whereby believers in Jesus share what they have in common with other believers in Christ. 11

But John takes this concept of fellowship deeper. Ultimately, the purpose of fellowship with the apostolic eyewitnesses is to have fellowship with God the Father and God the Son. The apostle writes, “and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” (I John 1:3b). John longs for his readers to enjoy the intimate fellowship or closeness with God that the apostolic eyewitnesses enjoyed. 12

It is very important to observe that John repeatedly refers to his readers with terms that clearly indicate he considered them to be genuine Christians – “little children” (2:1, 12, 13b, 18, 28; 3:7, 18; 4:4; 5:21), “brethren” (2:7; 3:13), “I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake” (2:12; cf. 2:13-14), “you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things” (2:20; cf. 2:21, 27), “beloved” (3:2, 21; 4:1, 7, 11 ), and “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God” (5:13). Obviously, John did not intend his epistle to be used to convert his readers or assure them of their salvation because he knew they were already saved. What his readers needed was “fellowship” or closeness with the apostolic circle and with God Himself.

It is quite possible that the “antichrists” or false teachers were telling John’s readers that Jesus was not God’s promised Son (2:22-23), and they did not have eternal life simply by believing in Christ (2:25-26; cf. 5:9-13). 13 To doubt God’s promise of eternal life through believing in Jesus would undermine their assurance that they were God’s children. This would make them more susceptible to the influences of the world (2:15-16) and these false teachers (2:19-23). For if they doubted they were God’s children, then they would be more prone to act like non-Christians (cf. Proverbs 23:7a) which would jeopardize their fellowship with the apostles and with God Himself.

Notice I did not say this would jeopardize their salvation. As believers in Jesus, they could never lose the gift of eternal life which God had freely given them (cf. John 3:16; 4:10-14; 6:35-40; 10:28-29; Romans 6:23b; 11:29; Ephesians 2:8-9). But they could lose their “fellowship” or closeness with God which depended on walking in the light (1:7), confessing their sins (1:9), keeping God’s commandments (2:3-5; 3:24), abiding in Christ (2:6, 24, 27-28), loving one another (2:9-11; 3:11-23; 4:7-5:3), hating the world (2:15-17), acknowledging Jesus is God’s Son (2:23; 4:2-3, 4:15), practicing righteousness (2:29-3:10), listening to and obeying apostolic teaching (4:6), and avoiding idolatry (5:21).

Don’t miss the connection in verse 3 between fellowship with the apostolic eyewitnesses and fellowship with God Himself. John is saying he is part of a circle (the apostles) so intimate with God that if one has fellowship with his circle, one also has fellowship with God the Father and with His Son. To refuse to hear the apostles is to refuse to hear the Lord Himself (cf. 4:6). We cannot enjoy fellowship with God apart from the apostles who experienced the Lord Jesus Christ firsthand (1:1-3). Unfortunately, our modern world has lost respect for this apostolic authority. Skepticism and unbelief run rampant today. Our modern world thinks it knows more than “ignorant and unlearned men in the first century.” People who ignore what the apostles have to say about Jesus often create their own false teaching and spirituality. 14

This is what Muhammed, the founder of Islam did when he created the Quran. For example, instead of embracing what the apostolic eyewitnesses taught about the Lord Jesus Christ’s death on the cross (Matthew 27:31-66; Mark 15:21-47; John 19:16-42; I Corinthians 15:1-8), Muhammed listened to the beliefs and traditions of other faiths he had been exposed to while traveling with his uncle Talib on caravan journeys. 15 Some of those beliefs included second-century false teachings which denied Jesus was crucified on the cross, and therefore did not rise from the dead. 16

But how can we in the twenty-first century have fellowship with the apostolic eyewitnesses so we can enjoy the fellowship they had with Jesus? We do this through their written word as recorded in the New Testament. As we take the truth of the Bible and apply it to our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can experience deeper fellowship and spiritual intimacy with God. 17

Evans illustrates this when he writes, “Cities establish high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes to prevent having too many cars clogging up the interstates. In a sense, they want you to be in fellowship while traveling to work. God wants you traveling a HOV lane in life, and He also wants to be your companion in the car.” 18

The reason the apostle John writes about having fellowship with the apostolic eyewitnesses and ultimately with God Himself is so he and the other apostles may experience the fullness of joy. “And these things we write to you that our joy may be full.” (I John 1:4). 19 If John’s readers were to experience greater fellowship or intimacy with John (and the other apostles) and ultimately with God Himself, then he and the other apostles would experience greater joy. The apostles’ hearts were so much like Christ’s that their own joy was connected to the spiritual well-being of those to whom they ministered. 20

This is similar to what John wrote in 3 John 4: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” Nothing would give the apostle John more joy than seeing his readers walk in the truth of God’s Word so they could experience intimate fellowship with Christ.

Do we share Jesus’ concern for His people so that our own joy is bound up in the spiritual well-being of those we minister to? If not, we would be wise to ask the Lord Jesus to give us a heart for the spiritual development of other believers.

It is important to understand that the degree of intimacy we enjoy with Christ on the new earth may be directly proportional to the degree of intimacy we enjoy with Him now on the old earth. 21 For example, the ascended and glorified Lord Jesus says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.” (Revelation 2:17). Jesus motivates His followers on earth to live victoriously (“him who overcomes”) by promising a special intimacy 22 with Him in eternity which includes eating “the hidden manna” and receiving “a white stone” on which is “a new name written” on it. Eating hidden manna with Christ and receiving a new name from Him are both expressions of deeper love and spiritual intimacy with Him.

But the primary focus of John in his epistle is the greater “joy” we can have before eternity (1:3-4). Under the guiding power of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21), the apostle John has written this love letter from God so we may have a fullness of joy. After all, don’t love letters have a unique way of bringing us joy!?! 23

This reminds me of my first year of seminary when I would write to my girlfriend who was serving as a missionary in Costa Rica. Every day I would write in an aerogram about seminary life and how much I missed her. I would then mail the aerogram once a week, eagerly awaiting her reply. Her written responses were my lifeline during that first year of seminary. I couldn’t wait to check my mailbox to see if a letter from her was inside. When I received those letters, I would read them repeatedly. When I read how much she missed me and loved me, it restored my joy in view of her love for me.

This is one very important reason God has given us the book of I John. This “love letter” is in the Bible to restore our joy considering how much God loves us. John knows a lot more about God’s love than you and I do. He is known as the disciple “whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20). Perhaps this is why he has written so much about the Lord’s love in his gospel and epistles.

Anderson puts it well: “When the fires of our devotion to Christ are burning low, or we begin to forget just how much He really loves us, we can come running back to His inspired Word, His ‘love letters,’ and experience a fresh state of joy as we read again the old, old story of His love for you and me.” 24

Anderson shares the story of Christ’s love for us involving a little girl who had a great love for her dolls. He writes, “A man once came to her house to visit her mother and father. Her dad was not home from work yet, but her mother went into the kitchen to put together some refreshments while they waited for her husband to arrive. The little girl saw her chance. She coyly came up to the stranger as he waited in the living room and asked him if he liked dollies. Wanting to be polite, he assured her he did. ‘Would you like to see my dollies?’ the little girl asked. Not wanting to discourage her, the stranger said, ‘Of course.’

“So, the little girl began bringing out her collection of dolls. It was quite large and surrounded the coffee table. ‘Now which of these is your favorite?’ asked the visitor. ‘Are you sure you like dollies?’ queried the little girl. ‘Oh, yes,’ he confirmed. So, the little girl rushed back to her room and returned clutching an old Raggedy Ann dolly. She held it close and patted its head. The visitor was nonplused. This doll wasn’t nearly as impressive as the others. It had lost one leg; half its hair had fallen out; its belly button was missing, as well as part of an arm below the elbow. With astonishment in his face he asked, ‘But why is this your favorite dolly?’

“The little girl looked at him shyly and then back at Raggedy Ann. Then, holding the tattered doll very close, she said, ‘This is my favorite dolly… because if I didn’t love her… nobody would.’” 25

All of us are like that Raggedy Ann dolly. There is nothing about us that is worthy of God’s love. We are all ungodly sinners (no belly button, one arm and leg missing, hair torn out), yet God still demonstrated His love for us in that Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). That is true love. And that is what can restore our joy no matter how unlovable or unwanted we may see ourselves. The apostle John knows this and that is one reason he has written this love letter.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, if we are honest with ourselves and with You, we would have to admit there have been times in our lives when we viewed ourselves to be like that Raggedy Ann dolly – unlovable, unwanted, and unworthy of love. Yet Your love letter, the Bible, tells us how much You love us and delight in being with us. We thank You for the apostle John who wrote his epistle so we might experience an abundance of joy as we enter the deep and pervasive fellowship or spiritual intimacy that he and the other apostles had with You. May Your magnetic love draw us closer and closer to You so we may grow in our desire to tell others about You and Your love for them. Lead us to those who need to hear of Your radical love for them as demonstrated through Your death and resurrection so all who believe in You may have everlasting life. Give us Your heart for the spiritual well-being of others so we may see an even greater movement of Your Spirit in Your church and around the world. Thank You our Lord and our God for hearing our prayer. In Your mighty name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pg. 7; David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 28; 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 Locations 3367 to 3473; 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. 589; Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 2329-2333.

2. 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).

3. Constable, pg. 17.

4. Ibid., cites Robert W. Yarbrough, 1-3 John, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series(Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), pg. 46; Stephen S. Smalley, 1, 2, 3 John, Word Biblical Commentary series (Waco: Word Books, 1984), pg. 15; Gary W Derickson, “What is the Message of I John?” Bibliotheca Sacra 1 50:597 (January-March 1993), pp. 89-105.

5. Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 603; cf. Robert N. Wilkin, “‘Assurance: That You May Know’ (1 John 5:11-13a),” Grace Evangelical Society News 5:12 (December 1990), pp. 2, 4; Anderson, pg. 241; Hodges, Kindle Location 4070.

6. Anderson, pg. 28.

7. Constable, pg.14.

8. Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 589.

9. 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. 552.

10. Hodges, Kindle Locations 3460 to 3465.

11. Anderson, pg. 28.

12. Constable, pg. 14.

13. Hodges, Kindle Locations 3465 to 3469.

14. Evans, pg. 2332.

15. Daniel Janosik, THE GUIDE TO ANSWERING ISLAM: What Every Christian Needs to Know About Islam and the Rise of Radical Islam (Cambridge, OH: Christian Publishing House, 2019 Kindle Edition), pg. 15.

16. The Quran denies that Jesus died by crucifixion (4.157) which is the same teaching of a second-century gnostic false teacher named Basilides whose school of thought lasted for centuries after his death. (See Nabeel Qureshi, No God but One: Allah or Jesus? [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016 Kindle Edition], pp. 179-180 cites Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenaeus against Heresies,” in The Ante-Nicene Fathers: The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, [Buffalo: Christian Literature Company, 1885], pg. 349).

17. Evans, pg. 2332.

18. Ibid.

19. The majority of Greek manuscripts have the word translated “our” (hēmōn) in place of the word “your” (humōn) in the text.

20. Hodges, Kindle Location 3473.

21. Anderson, pg. 30.

22. Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings: Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pp. 959-960.

23. Anderson, pg. 30.

24. Ibid., pg. 31.   25. Ibid., pp. 31-32.